Okay, it was 90 years ago.
An op-ed in the NYT by Christine Stansell commemorates the 90th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment, Women’s Suffrage. Though I should have known, I had no idea how much resistance there was to the idea that a woman should be able to vote. The most persistent opposition occurred in the South. The story gets pretty dramatic:
Thirty-six of the 48 states then needed to ratify [the amendment]. Western states did so promptly, and in the North only Vermont and Connecticut delayed. But the segregated South saw in the 19th Amendment a grave threat: the removal of the most comprehensive principle for depriving an entire class of Americans of full citizenship rights. The logic of women’s disenfranchisement helped legitimize relegating blacks to second-class citizenship.
Female voters would also pose practical difficulties, described bluntly by a Mississippi man: “We are not afraid to maul a black man over the head if he dares to vote, but we can’t treat women, even black women, that way. No, we’ll allow no woman suffrage.”
Nine Southern states joined by Delaware forced ratification to a halt, one state short. Only Tennessee was left, and the opposition had good reason to think it would line up with the rest of the region. But after a nine-day special session in the heat of August 1920, a legislator pledged to the nays jumped ship — he later said it was because his mother told him to — and the 36th state was in.
That wasn’t the end of the struggle, by any means:
Even then, in several Southern states, die-hards went to court to invalidate the amendment, stopping only after the Supreme Court in 1922 unanimously dismissed their arguments.
In 1923 Delaware ratified belatedly to join the rest of the country, but the Southern states waited decades: Maryland in 1941, Virginia in 1952, Alabama in 1953. Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina and South Carolina came along from 1969 to 1971, years after the Voting Rights Act of 1965 had passed. Mississippi brought up the rear, not condoning the right of women to vote until 1984.