On August 18, 1920, American women were given suffrage (the right to vote) with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution . Women's suffrage rights had not come quickly or easily. Women had fought for suffrage for seventy-two years, beginning with the Seneca Falls Women's Rights Convention in New York in 1848. That conference marked the beginning of what would be a national revolution.
As America grew to be dependent upon industry in the mid- to late nineteenth century, middle and upper classes formed. This prosperity created a never-before-seen class of women who had time on their hands. Able to focus on social and cultural issues that mattered to them, many of the most dedicated women supported suffrage.
Among the more famous suffragists were Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815–1902) and Susan B. Anthony (1820–1906), considered the mothers of the suffrage movement. Lucy Stone (1818–1893) and Lucretia Mott (1793–1880) were among the earliest women's rights activists, and Carrie Chapman Catt (1859–1947) and Alice Paul (1885–1977) led the movement after Stanton and Anthony died.
America was slow to accept the idea that women should be recognized as first-class citizens. It was an era when men ran business and politics while women raised children and busied themselves within the home. Women were considered too fragile to understand and deal with anything political. Men could think of no reason to allow women to cast a vote.
Two organizations—the National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association—joined forces in 1890 to become the National American Woman Suffrage Association. America's entry into World War I (1914–18) helped forward the women's movement as Alice Paul asked President Woodrow Wilson (1856–1924; served 1913–21) how he could fight for democracy overseas while denying women in his own country the right to vote.