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Ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in Minnesota

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League of Women Voters swearing in new members or registering women to vote, ca. 1923.

League of Women Voters swearing in new members or registering women to vote, ca. 1923.

Minnesota’s suffragists worked tirelessly to win the vote beginning in the late 1850s, when Mary Colburn delivered what is believed to be the state’s first women’s rights speech. After a long struggle, the dream of equal suffrage took a big leap forward on September 8, 1919, when the state legislature voted to ratify the woman suffrage amendment, making Minnesota the fifteenth state to do so.

Governor J. A. A. Burnquist opened the 1919 Minnesota legislative session on January 8 with his inaugural address, expressing his desire to send a memorial to the US Senate in support of the federal woman suffrage amendment. The US House of Representatives had passed the amendment the previous January.

The majority of Minnesota suffrage supporters, following the lead of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, clearly favored seeking the federal amendment. They recognized the difficulty of getting such a controversial state constitutional amendment passed by public vote, though a small number of suffragists continued to push for a state amendment.

On January 9, Representative Charles H. Warner of Aitkin introduced a state constitutional suffrage bill. The House passed the bill ninety-six to thirty but it failed in the Senate by a margin of nineteen votes. Senators Frank L. Cliff of Ortonville and James E. Madigan of Maple Lake sponsored a similar bill in the senate that never reached a vote.

In response to the governor’s address, Representative Theodore Christianson, Jr. of Dawson introduced a concurrent resolution to Congress to approve the federal woman suffrage amendment on January 13. The House of Representatives adopted the resolution on January 22 by a vote of 100 to 28. The senate passed the resolution the next day with a vote of forty-nine to seven. Governor J. A. A. Burnquist signed it two days later. In spite of this effort, the US Senate voted down the federal suffrage amendment by just one vote on February 10.

Perhaps anticipating this, Representative Christianson introduced a bill on January 23 granting women the right to vote for presidential electors, regardless of the outcome of the federal suffrage amendment. The bill did not give women the right to vote for state, county, or municipal offices, which would only come with full federal suffrage. Both bodies of the legislature passed the bill.

The state senate considered two other pieces of legislation pertaining to female voting rights. One bill proposed extending woman suffrage to primary elections. A second bill offered women “the right to vote for certain offices and on certain propositions and matters pertaining to women.” Both bills were postponed indefinitely.

On May 21, the US House of Representatives passed the Nineteenth Amendment resolution a second time by a vote of 304 to 90. The US Senate followed suit on June 4, with a vote of fifty-six to twenty-five. Suffragists nationwide turned their efforts to lobbying state governments to gain the three-fifths majority of states needed for federal ratification.

In Minnesota, supporters met on the steps of the state capitol on June 9 to celebrate the the congressional victory and to encourage state lawmakers to meet in a special session to ratify the amendment. An estimated 1,500 women braved pouring rain to attend the event, which featured parades and speeches by Governor Burnquist, Maria Sanford, Senator Ole Sageng, and others.

Governor Burnquist was reluctant to call a special session for the suffrage amendment until he felt assured that enough states were committed to meet the thirty-six-state approval requirement. By early August, he was confident of success and called for a special session to begin September 8.

On the first day of the special session, both the House and Senate passed the suffrage bill by a total vote of 180 to 11, ratifying the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution. Jubilant suffragists held a parade to the capitol where they served a chicken dinner to thank legislators for their support, followed by a women’s banquet at the St. Paul Hotel. Suffrage leaders witnessed the governor’s signing of the bill on September 12.

It would be nearly a year before federal ratification of the amendment took place. Though it technically allowed all women to vote, barriers like literacy tests and poll taxes continued to keep many women of color disenfranchised in the decades to come.

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M508 reels 9 and 17
Association records, 1894–1923
Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association
Description: Correspondence, minutes and other record books, subject files, printed materials, scrapbooks, and miscellany of this organization formed to promote equal voting rights for women.
http://www2.mnhs.org/library/findaids/00756.xml

Catt, Carrie Chapman. Why the Federal Amendment?< /em> New York: National Woman Suffrage Publishing Co., 1917.

“Christiansen [sic] Suffrage Bill Passed by Senate.” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, March 22, 1919.

“Colby Signs Suffrage Act.” Minnesota Daily Star (Minneapolis), August 26, 1920.

“The Governor and Ratification.” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, June 11, 1919.

Inaugural Message of Governor J. A. A. Burnquist to the Legislature of Minnesota. Minnesota: N.p., 1919.

Journal of the House of the Forty-First Session of the Legislature of the State of Minnesota, 1919. St. Paul: McGill-Warner Company, State Printers.

Journal of the Senate of the Forty-First Session of the Legislature of the State of Minnesota, 1919. St.
Paul: McGill-Warner Company, State Printers.

“Law Makers Open Session for Quick Work.” The Daily People’s Press (Owatonna), September 9, 1919.

“Legislature is Ready for Real Business Today.” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, January 9, 1919.

“Legislature to Sit 8 Days if Work Speeded.” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, August 12, 1919.

Message of Governor J. A. A. Burnquist to the special session of the Legislature of Minnesota, September 1919. St. Paul: N.p., 1919.

Minnesota Historical Society. Gale Family Library LibGuide: Women’s Suffrage in Minnesota.
https://libguides.mnhs.org/suffrage

Minnesota Legislative Reference Library. Christianson, Theodore, Jr.
https://www.leg.state.mn.us/legdb/fulldetail?ID=11653

Minnesota Legislative Reference Library. Cliff, Frank L.
https://www.leg.state.mn.us/legdb/fulldetail?ID=11733

Minnesota Legislative Reference Library. Erickson, Emil M. (E. M.).
https://www.leg.state.mn.us/legdb/fulldetail?ID=12723

Minnesota Legislative Reference Library. Madigan, James E. (J. E., Jim). https://www.leg.state.mn.us/legdb/fulldetail?ID=13861

Minnesota Legislative Reference Library. Warner, Charles H. (Chas.).
https://www.leg.state.mn.us/legdb/fulldetail?ID=11990

National Park Service. Women’s History: State-by-State Race to Ratification of the 19th Amendment.
https://www.nps.gov/subjects/womenshistory/womens-suffrage-timeline.htm

111.F 12.6F, Box 85
Records of Governor J. A. A. Burnquist, 1915–1927
Government Records Collection, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul
Description: General correspondence, telegrams, subject files on public policy matters, and other documentation of Governor Burnquist.
http://www2.mnhs.org/library/findaids/gov033.xml

“Review of the World’s Great Events in the Year 1919.Congress Passes Suffrage.”

“St. Paul Girl First to Vote in U.S. Under Nineteenth Amendment.” Minnesota Daily Star (Minneapolis), August 27, 1920.

“Schools of Instruction Planned for Minnesota Women Voters.” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, April 11, 1920.

Minnesota Legislative Reference Library. Session Laws of Minnesota for 1919, Chapter 89–H.F. No. 222. https://www.revisor.mn.gov/laws/1919/0/Session+Law/Chapter/89/pdf/

Minnesota Legislative Reference Library. Special Session Laws of Minnesota for 1919. Joint Resolution No. 1– H.F. No. 1.
https://www.revisor.mn.gov/laws/1919/1/Session+Law/Resolution/1/pdf/

“Representative Warner Presents Suffrage Bill.” Aitkin Independent, September 13, 1919.

“Senate and House Favor Suffrage.” Tower Weekly News, January 31, 1919.

”The Special Session.” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, September 9, 1919.

“State Senate Passes Federal Suffrage Plea.” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, January 24, 1919.

“State Women Celebrate as Suffrage Wins.” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, September 9, 1919.

Stuhler, Barbara. Gentle Warriors: Clara Ueland and the Minnesota Struggle for Woman Suffrage. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1995.

“Suffrage Amendment Loses by One Vote.” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, February 11, 1919.

“Suffrage In Minnesota.” Duluth News Herald, January 27, 1919.

“Suffrage Part of Law, Amendment is Now Park of Constitution of Country; Secretary Colby Signs Up.” Rochester Daily Post and Record, August 26, 1920.

“Suffrage Is Ratified.” The Tomahawk (White Earth, Minnesota), September 18, 1919.

“Suffrage Leaders See Burnquist Sign Act.” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, September 12, 1919.

“Suffrage to Be Live Issue in Senate Session.” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, February 26, 1919.

“Suffrage Rally to Be Held at State Capitol.” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, September 3, 1919.

“Suffrage Victory Celebrated by 1,500 Women at Capitol.” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, June 10, 1919.

“Suffragists Plan for Big Demonstration at Capitol.”Minneapolis Morning Tribune, August 28, 1919.

“Suffragists Planning Victory Celebration.” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, June 5, 1919.

“Suffragists Plan Second Celebration at Capital.” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, September 11, 1919.

“Suffragists Show Gratitude to Legislators.” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, September 9, 1919.

“The Supreme Court Decision.” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, June 2, 1920.

“Tennessee is Carried for Suffrage.” The Daily People’s Press (Owatonna, Minnesota), August 19, 1920.

US House of Representatives. The House’s 1918 Passage of a Constitutional Amendment Granting Women the Right to Vote.
https://history.house.gov/Historical-Highlights/1901-1950/The-House-s-1918-passage-of-a-constitutional-amendment-granting-women-the-right-to-vote/

“Women Martyrs Break Records Getting Jailed.” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, January 16, 1919.

“Women Sanguine of Presidential Vote.” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, December 29, 1919.

“Women Will Attend Ratification Session.” Minneapolis Sunday Tribune, September 7, 1919.

“World Awaits Treaty Decision, Wilson Tells Minneapolis Audience.” Minneapolis Morning Tribune, September 10, 1919.

Related Images

League of Women Voters swearing in new members or registering women to vote, ca. 1923.
League of Women Voters swearing in new members or registering women to vote, ca. 1923.
Woman-suffrage meeting at Rice Park, St. Paul, 1914.
Woman-suffrage meeting at Rice Park, St. Paul, 1914.
March for woman suffrage, Madison, Minnesota, ca. 1916.
March for woman suffrage, Madison, Minnesota, ca. 1916.
Maria Sanford, 1918. Photo by Lee Brothers
Maria Sanford, 1918. Photo by Lee Brothers
Woman-suffrage banner, ca. 1918.
Woman-suffrage banner, ca. 1918.
Official portrait of Minnesota Governor J. A. A. Burnquist, 1919. Painted by Carl A. Bohnen.
Official portrait of Minnesota Governor J. A. A. Burnquist, 1919. Painted by Carl A. Bohnen.
Minnesota's Ratification of the 19th Amendment, September 8, 1919. Committee Papers, 1919–1920; Records of the US House of Representatives, Record Group 233; National Archives Building, Washington, DC. Public domain.
Minnesota's Ratification of the 19th Amendment, September 8, 1919. Committee Papers, 1919–1920; Records of the US House of Representatives, Record Group 233; National Archives Building, Washington, DC. Public domain.
Governor Joseph A. A. Burnquist and Mary Louise Burnquist, with President Woodrow Wilson and Edith Wilson, 1919.
Governor Joseph A. A. Burnquist and Mary Louise Burnquist, with President Woodrow Wilson and Edith Wilson, 1919.
Representative Theodore Christianson, Jr., 1919. From the Forty-First Minnesota Legislative Session Manual.
Representative Theodore Christianson, Jr., 1919. From the Forty-First Minnesota Legislative Session Manual.
Representative Frank L. Cliff, 1919. From the Forty-First Minnesota Legislative Session Manual.
Representative Frank L. Cliff, 1919. From the Forty-First Minnesota Legislative Session Manual.
Senator James E. Madigan, 1919. From the Forty-First Minnesota Legislative Session Manual.
Senator James E. Madigan, 1919. From the Forty-First Minnesota Legislative Session Manual.
Representative Charles H. Warner, 1919. From the Forty-First Minnesota Legislative Session Manual.
Representative Charles H. Warner, 1919. From the Forty-First Minnesota Legislative Session Manual.
Senator Ole O. Sageng, “The Napoleon of Woman Suffrage.” From the Forty-First Minnesota Legislative Session Manual.
Senator Ole O. Sageng, “The Napoleon of Woman Suffrage.” From the Forty-First Minnesota Legislative Session Manual.
Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association pageant, ca. 1920. Photo by C. J. Hibbard.
Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association pageant, ca. 1920. Photo by C. J. Hibbard.
Clara Ueland, 1920. Photo by Moffett Studio Photography.
Clara Ueland, 1920. Photo by Moffett Studio Photography.
Suffrage cartoon by A. T. Reid from the Minneapolis Tribune, showing the tally of suffrage states by political parties as of July 16, 1920. The man represents southern Democrats who had a reputation for being anti-suffrage.
Suffrage cartoon by A. T. Reid from the Minneapolis Tribune, showing the tally of suffrage states by political parties as of July 16, 1920. The man represents southern Democrats who had a reputation for being anti-suffrage.
Minnesota Governor J. A. O. Preus and Idelle Preus voting, ca. 1920.
Minnesota Governor J. A. O. Preus and Idelle Preus voting, ca. 1920.
Woman-suffrage banner used by the St. Paul Political Equality Club, 1920–1936.
Woman-suffrage banner used by the St. Paul Political Equality Club, 1920–1936.

Turning Point

On September 8, the Minnesota state legislature meets in special session to approve the federal woman suffrage amendment.

Chronology

January 8, 1919

Governor J. A. A. Burnquist includes a memorial to Congress to ratify the woman suffrage amendment in his address to the state legislature.

January 13, 1919

Representative Theodore Christianson, Jr., introduces HF 61, a resolution to Congress to adopt the woman suffrage amendment.

January 16, 1919

Senators James Madigan of Maple Lake and Frank L. Cliff of Ortonville co-sponsor a bill (SF 45) for a state woman suffrage constitutional amendment. The elections committee recommends indefinite postponement of the bill on February 26.

January 22, 1919

The House passes the Warner Bill by a vote of ninety-six to thirty. The representatives also pass HF 61 by a vote of 100 to 28.

January 23, 1919

Representative Theodore Christianson, Jr. of Dawson introduces HF 222. The bill, allowing Minnesota women the right to vote for presidential electors regardless of whether the federal woman suffrage amendment is ratified.

January 23, 1919

The state senate passes the House resolution asking the US Senate to pass the 19th amendment under a suspension of the rules by a vote of 49 to 7.

January 24, 1919

Governor Burnquist signs HF 61, the resolution to Congress for woman suffrage.

March 4, 1919

Senator James E. Madigan introduces SF 661, a bill for an act extending the right to vote in primary elections to women. It is indefinitely postponed upon recommendation by the Elections Committee on April 11.

March 5, 2019

The House passes the Christianson presidential electors bill (HF 222) by a vote of 103 to 24 and it is sent to the Senate.

March 21, 1919

The Christianson presidential electors suffrage bill (HF 222) passes the Senate with a vote of forty-nine to eleven, after an attempt on March 18 to re-refer it to the Judiciary Committee. It is amended and re-passed by a vote of 51 to 0.

May 21, 1919

The US House of Representatives passes the Susan B. Anthony Amendment resolution by a vote of 304 to 90.

June 4, 1919

The US Senate passes the Susan B. Anthony Amendment resolution by a vote of fifty-six to twenty-five. Suffragists nationwide turn their efforts to getting the necessary thirty-six states on board.

September 8, 1919

In a special session, Joint Resolution No. 1 is passed by both bodies of the Minnesota legislature with a total vote of 180 to 11, ratifying the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution.

August 18, 1920

The Tennessee House votes to ratify 50 to 46, giving the amendment the thirty-six states needed to be added to the US Constitution. In spite of an attempt by anti-suffragists to block the passage, the ratification is deemed legal.

August 26, 1920

US Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby signs the 19th Amendment Proclamation granting American women full suffrage.