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Women's Equality Day Marks 99 Years Since 19th Amendment Passed

North Dakota became the 20th state to ratify the 19th Amendment in December 1919. (Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons)
North Dakota became the 20th state to ratify the 19th Amendment in December 1919. (Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons)
August 26, 2019

BISMARCK, N.D. – This is Women's Equality Day, marking 99 years since the U.S. government allowed women the right to vote.

It commemorates the adoption of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in 1920, which barred states from denying U.S. citizens voting rights based on sex.

To highlight the state's history, the co-chair of the North Dakota Women's Suffrage Centennial Committee, Susan Wefald, says the state has nominated four locations for markers on the National Votes for Women Trail.

She says one important location is the deLendracie Building in Fargo, headquarters for the North Dakota Votes for Women League when the state voted on a 1914 suffrage referendum.

"Women already thought they had the right of suffrage so I don't want to imply that women were just given this by the men, but that's what the men were doing,” she states. “They were voting whether women had the right of suffrage in 1914. Unfortunately, that vote lost but it doesn't mean that their work was in vain."

Other nominees for the trail include Grand Forks, which hosted the state's first women's suffrage club in 1888; Valley City, home of influential suffragist Elizabeth Preston Anderson and the western North Dakota town of Beach, final destination of a whistle stop campaign across the state in support of the 1914 referendum on suffrage.

Wefald notes the 19th Amendment did not immediately mean all women could vote. Native American women weren't allowed to vote until 1924 – when Native Americans were recognized as U.S. citizens – and black women still were denied the right to vote despite the amendment.

Another important part of suffrage was the ability for women to hold elected office.

In 1992, Wefald became the first woman appointed to the North Dakota Public Service Commission and was later elected to the position. She says women in office are essential to our democracy.

"It's important to have those different voices,” she stresses. “Our people have more confidence in our democracy if they can see that they're represented in the decision making."

North Dakota became the 20th state to ratify the 19th Amendment on Dec. 1, 1919.

Wefald says there will be an event on Dec. 1 this year at Bismarck's North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum to mark the ratification's centennial.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND