Women's groups push Bush to proclaim July 19 national Women's Suffrage Day

The League of Women Voters of Las Vegas Valley wants President George Bush to honor the efforts of all those who worked for passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote.

The group will hold a news conference Tuesday in Las Vegas to commemorate the final passage of that amendment 85 years ago.

Nevada wasn't the first state to ratify the amendment, but it was far from the last. The suffrage movement began in July 1848, when Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott organized the first women's rights convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y. The movement filed its first petition asking voting rights with Congress in 1969.

According to Reno historian Phillip Earl, Nevada's first official attempt to expand voting rights to women occurred that same year, when Storey County Assemblyman C.J. Hillyer raised the issue in the Legislature. During debate on the 15th Amendment granting the vote to freed black slaves, Hillyer called on fellow lawmakers to include women. The motion was killed by fellow legislators.

Women had more success in Wyoming that year when it became the first to give women voting rights. Utah did so when it became a state in 1896 - the same year Idaho approved suffrage.

Although the issue was raised nearly every legislative session through that period, Nevada lawmakers resisted until after California approved the vote for women in 1911.

With the support of Gov. Tasker Oddie, lawmakers approved suffrage in 1911 and 1913, sending the issue to a vote of the people in November 1914.

In his article for Nevada magazine, "Battle for the Vote," Earl said Anne Henrietta Martin led the Nevada effort to convince male voters they should support giving their wives and daughters the vote.

She stumped the state in a Model-T, taking her case to ranches, mining camps and rural communities in every corner of the state - even going underground to talk with miners who couldn't come out to hear her. She said she concentrated on those communities believing the opponents - including the liquor industry - would have more power in the urban centers of Reno and Las Vegas.

The liquor industry and saloonkeepers were among the most vocal opponents because a significant number of suffrage supporters were allied with the movement to ban alcoholic beverages. Both sides believed women would be much more likely to vote for prohibition.

Martin and her followers were successful. According to State Archivist Guy Rocha, when Nevada men went to the polls Nov. 3, 1914, 10,936 voted for the 19th Amendment and 7,258 opposed it.

The proposed amendment was introduced in the U.S. Congress in 1878, at the urging of Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, but didn't win approval until 1919, when the House approved it 304-90 and the Senate 56-25.

The 36th and final state needed to make the amendment part of the constitution was Tennessee, which formally approved the vote for women on Aug. 24, 1920.

Women voting alongside men was a reality, but that didn't stop some states from protesting, at least symbolically. Maryland didn't formally ratify the 19th Amendment until 1941, and didn't transmit that vote to the State Department until 1958. Earl said Mississippi didn't do so until the 1960s.

Although women have had the right to vote nationwide since 1920, the Center For American Women and Politics reports they are still dramatically underrepresented in both state and federal elective offices.

In Nevada, one-third of legislators - 21 of 63 - are women which, surprisingly, puts the state third in the nation. That percentage has held fairly steady for the past decade.

Nevada is also more progressive than many states in that women have been elected lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer and controller as well as to Congress.

The only offices women have not reached in Nevada at this point are governor and U.S. senator.

According to figures from CAWP, women are badly underrepresented in Congress. There are only 14 female senators and 66 women in the House - 15 percent of the members overall.

According to CAWP, that puts the United States at 61st among nations in the percentage of women in national legislative bodies. The group listed Rwanda first, followed by Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark.

Iraq, with its newly constituted national assembly, was ranked 15th.

n Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.

Suffrage timeline:

July 1848 - Women's suffrage movement organized in Seneca Falls, NY.

1869 - Wyoming becomes first state to grant women the right to vote. Nevada lawmakers reject the idea.

1911 - California grants women the vote.

1914 - Nevada voters grant women the vote.

1917 - Jeannette Rankin of Montana becomes first woman to serve in the House of Representatives.

1918 - Sadie Hurst of Reno becomes first woman elected to the Nevada Legislature (the Assembly).

1919 - Congress approves proposed 19th Amendment.

Aug. 24, 1920 - Tennessee becomes 36th state to approve 19th Amendment, making it part of the Constitution.

1922 - Rebecca Felton of Georgia becomes first woman to serve in the U.S. Senate.

1982 - Patty Cafferatta becomes first woman elected to statewide constitutional office in Nevada (State Treasurer).


current female office holders:

Senators (6 of 21)

Democrats - Minority Leader Dina Titus, Assistant Minority Leader Bernice Mathews of Sparks, Valerie Wiener and Maggie Carlton of Las Vegas.

Republicans - Barbara Cegavske of Las Vegas and Sandra Tiffany of Henderson.

Assembly members (15 of 42)

Democrats - Majority Leader Barbara Buckley of Las Vegas; Susan Gerhardt, Chris Giunchigliani, Marilyn Kirkpatrick, Ellen Koivisto, Kathy McClain, Genie Ohrenschall, Peggy Pierce of Las Vegas; Sheila Leslie of Reno; Bonnie Parnell of Carson City; and Debbie Smith of Sparks.

Republicans - Francis Allen and Valerie Weber of Las Vegas, Sharron Angle and Heidi Gansert of Reno.

Statewide office holders:

Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt

Controller Kathy Augustine

U.S. Congresswoman Shelley Berkley


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