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League of Women Voters of Nebraska

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OUR HISTORY

The League of Women Voters of Nebraska was founded on June 15, 1920, at the Blackstone Hotel in Omaha. In 2020, the LWVNE is observed the centennial of its founding and the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution on August 26, 1920. The League is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion as we continue our commitment to empowering voters and defending democracy in our next 100 years.

NEBRASKA’S ROAD TO THE 19TH AMENDMENT HISTORICAL PANELS

As part of its centennial celebration, the LWVNE created panels/posters that tell the story of the long road to the 19th Amendment in Nebraska. 

MILESTONES OF THE WOMEN’S SUFFRAGE MOVEMENT IN THE UNITED STATES & NEBRASKA

The road to the 19th Amendment was a long one – stretching from 1848 to 1920. Most of the suffragists who began the march toward women’s enfranchisement did not live to see its passage. The ratification of the 19th Amendment was not the end of the movement toward universal suffrage. Chinese Americans, Asian Americans, Japanese Americans and Native Americans were not considered citizens until years after the 15th and 19th Amendments – which state that the rights of citizens to vote cannot be denied on the account of race or sex – were ratified. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 outlawed discriminatory voting barriers adopted in many Southern states, primarily to prevent African Americans from voting. However, in 2013, key provisions of the Voting Rights Act were struck down in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Shelby County vs. Holder. Today we still struggle to make sure that all U.S. citizens have the right to cast their ballots.

Read an article about the 19th Amendment co-authored by Dianne Bystrom, co-president of the LWVNE and director emerita of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University in The Conversation.

MILESTONES OF THE WOMEN’S SUFFRAGE MOVEMENT IN THE UNITED STATES & NEBRASKA

  • 1848 – The first Women’s Rights Convention is held in Seneca Falls, NY, on July 19-20. Organized by abolitionists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, the convention was attended by 200 women and 40 men, including Frederick Douglass. Among the 11 resolutions approved was achieving women’s “sacred right to the elective franchise.” However, it was the only resolution not to receive unanimous approval.
  • 1866 – Stanton, Douglass and Susan B. Anthony establish the American Equal Rights Association, which was dedicated to equal rights and suffrage for all regardless of race, color or sex.
  • 1856 – Iowa suffrage leader Amelia Jenks Bloomer speaks to the Nebraska Territorial Legislature on Jan. 8. On Jan. 25, the Nebraska Territorial House passes women’s suffrage, but the session ends without a vote in the Upper House.
  • 1869 – Nebraska becomes the second state to grant its women the right to vote in school district elections when a law approved by the Legislature in 1867 takes effect. The law was amended in 1875 to include only male citizens and unmarried women. In 1881, the law was extended to include women with school age children.
  • 1869 – The American Equal Rights Association splits over disagreements about whether to support the 15th Amendment that enfranchised black men in 1870 while avoiding the question of women’s suffrage.
  • 1869 – The National Woman Suffrage Association and American Woman Suffrage Association are founded. The NWSA, led by Stanton and Anthony, focused on achieving the vote through a federal constitutional amendment and pushed for other women’s rights issues. The AWSA – led by Lucy Stone and Henry Blackwell – focused on amending individual state constitutions to achieve women’s suffrage.
  • 1871 – Delegates write a constitution for the new state of Nebraska, which included an amendment granting women’s suffrage. The proposed constitution is turned down by voters with the suffrage proposal getting just 22% of support.
  • 1875 – Nebraska male voters approve a state constitution that denies voting rights to criminals, the mentally ill and women.
  • 1878 – The women’s suffrage amendment is first proposed in the U.S. Congress: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”  Its language remained the same for the next 42 years.
  • 1881 –The Nebraska Woman Suffrage Association is founded.
  • 1882 – Nebraska male voters reject an amendment approved by the Legislature in 1881 to remove “male” from the state constitution, which would grant suffrage to women.
  • 1883 – Clara Bewick Colby of Beatrice, NE, begins publishing the Woman’s Tribune, a national suffrage newspaper. She served as president of the Nebraska Woman Suffrage Association from 1885-1898.
  • 1890 – Jessie Hale-Moss establishes the Negro Women’s Christian Association in Omaha to provide educational programs and social activities, advocate for women’s voting rights, and build community among the city’s African American neighborhoods.
  • 1890 – The NWSA and AWSA merge to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association with a primary focus on securing state suffrage. Wyoming is admitted to the Union with a state constitution granting women’s suffrage.
  • 1893 – Colorado adopts women’s suffrage.
  • 1896 – NAWSA members Mary Church Terrell and Ida B. Wells-Barnett found the National Association of Colored Women, which advocated for women’s rights, including suffrage, as well as uplifting and improving the status of African Americans.
  • 1896 – Utah joins Union with full suffrage for women. Idaho adopts women’s suffrage.
  • 1910 – Washington state adopts women’s suffrage.
  • 1911 – California adopts women’s suffrage.
  • 1912Oregon, Kansas and Arizona adopt women’s suffrage.
  • 1913 – Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, who advocated for more militant tactics, organize NAWSA’s March 3 suffrage parade in Washington, DC. They founded the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage in 1913 and broke with NAWSA in 1914. The CU became the National Woman’s Party in 1916.
  • 1914 – Nevada and Montana adopt women’s suffrage.
  • 1914 – Nebraska’s male voters defeat a women’s suffrage amendment placed on the ballot through a petition drive by 53% to 47%. The primary opposition came from the Nebraska Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage and the Catholic Church.
  • 1916 – NAWSA president Carrie Chapman Catt announces her “Winning Plan” at the organization’s national convention in Atlantic City, NJ, to “make the Federal Amendment our ultimate aim and work in the States a program of preparedness to win nation-wide suffrage by amendment of the National Constitution.”
  • 1917 – Members of the National Woman’s Party begin picketing the White House in January. In June, suffrage protesters were arrested, imprisoned and often force-fed when they went on hunger strikes. The “Silent Sentinels” included Paul, Burns and Omaha-born Doris Stevens, who published a book, “Jailed for Freedom,” in 1920.
  • 1917 – New York adopts women’s suffrage.
  • 1917 – A limited suffrage bill giving Nebraska women the right to vote in municipal elections and for presidential electors passes the Legislature with the support of pro-suffrage Governor Keith Neville. Anti-suffrage efforts to put a referendum repealing the bill on the ballot for the 1918 election fails when members of the Nebraska Woman Suffrage Association, led by Katherine Sumney and Grace Richardson, found many signatures on the petition were fraudulent.
  • 1918 – Michigan, South Dakota and Oklahoma adopt women’s suffrage.
  • 1919 – At the NAWSA national convention in St. Louis, president Catt calls for “a League of Women Voters to ‘Finish the Fight,’ and to aid in the reconstruction of the Nation.” Catt outlined the purpose and goals of the League, that it be “non-partisan and non-sectarian” with the goals to “secure the final enfranchisement of the women of every state,” “remove the remaining legal discriminations against women in the codes and constitutions of the several states,” and “make our democracy so safe for the Nation and so safe for the world, that every citizen may feel secure and great men will acknowledge the worthiness of the American Republic to lead.”
  • 1919 – Nebraska women vote in local elections. More women than men cast votes approving sewage bond in Geneva.
  • 1919 – During a joint meeting on June 13, 14 and 15 at the Blackstone Hotel in Omaha, the Nebraska Woman Suffrage Association dissolves and the Nebraska League of Women Voters is founded. Margaretta Shaw Stewart Dietrich of Hastings was the last president of the Nebraska Woman Suffrage Association and first president of Nebraska League of Women Voters.
  • 1919 – The U.S. House of Representatives votes to approve the 19th Amendment by a wide margin on May 21. The U.S. Senate concurs on June 4 and the ratification process begins in the states.
  • 1919 – Nebraska becomes the 14th state to ratify the 19th Amendment on Aug. 2.
  • 1920 – The League of Women Voters is founded on Feb. 14 at the NAWSA national convention in Chicago.
  • 1920 – Tennessee becomes the 36th and final needed state to vote to ratify the 19th Amendment on Aug. 18.
  • 1920 – The 19thAmendment is ratified on Aug. 26 when the U.S. Secretary of State certifies the Tennessee Legislature’s vote.


Prepared by Dianne Bystrom, Ph.D.

Co-president, League of Women Voters of Nebraska

July 8, 2020

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