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5 facts about women’s suffrage

The Postal Service previously honored the 19th Amendment with a 1998 Celebrate the Century stamp.

The Postal Service will release a stamp this week to mark the centennial of the 19th Amendment, which guarantees women the right to vote. Here are some things about the constitutional amendment you might not have known.

1. Women’s suffrage doesn’t refer to suffering. The 19th Amendment was passed by Congress in 1919, ratified on Aug. 18, 1920, and certified on Aug. 26, 1920. The landmark amendment followed a decades-long fight for women’s suffrage, a term that derives from the Latin word “suffragium,” meaning a vote or a right to vote.

2. Some American women voted before 1920. Before 1776, women had the right to vote in several of the Colonies that would later become the United States, but by 1807, every state outlawed women’s suffrage. The women’s rights movement steadily gained momentum during the 19th century, eventually leading to a convention in Seneca Falls, NY, in 1848 that resulted in the Declaration of Sentiments calling for voting rights for women. Prior to 1920, many U.S. territories and states — primarily in the west — had already granted women the right to vote, with Wyoming leading the way in 1869.

3. Abolitionists and suffragists were intertwined. As The Washington Post noted this month, the women’s rights movement sprang from the pre-Civil War anti-slavery movement, but the relationship was often uneasy. Some felt women should be able to vote before Black men, or vice versa. Others insisted everyone get the vote simultaneously. And some wanted to bar African Americans from the women’s movement, fearing their involvement would turn Southern legislators against the cause.

4. The 1918 flu pandemic and World War I may have helped the cause. Because the war effort and the flu disproportionately affected the male population, more women moved into the U.S. workforce. This undermined the arguments that women weren’t as smart or as capable as men, helping to galvanize the movement for suffrage and other rights.

5. Women’s suffrage has been commemorated on several stamps. The new 19th Amendment: Women Vote stamp, which USPS will release Aug. 22, is the latest offering to honor the suffrage movement. In 1948, a 3-cent stamp honored notable suffragists, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton. A 6-cent stamp honoring the 50th anniversary of women receiving the right to vote was issued in 1970, followed by a 32-cent stamp for the 75th anniversary in 1995 and a 32-cent Celebrate the Century stamp in 1998.

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