Earnestine Rose argues before the Michigan legislature that women should have the right to vote – two years before the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y.
Michigan Senate committee, led by Senator Rix Robinson of Ada, proposes a universal suffrage amendment granting voting right to women and African Americans. No action is taken because of the “unusualness” and “needlessness” of women having the vote.
State’s first bill on woman suffrage is defeated by one vote.
Michigan Legislature grants women taxpayers the right to vote in school elections but rejects total woman suffrage.
Michigan State Suffrage Association (MSSA) forms in Battle Creek. The group actively campaigns and speaks to the state legislature for several years.
MSSA convinces legislature to consider a women’s
suffrage amendment but the all-male legislature rejected it and the association disbands.
Michigan Equal Suffrage Association (MESA) forms in Flint and focuses on women’s right to vote in municipal elections. This proposal is rejected twice in the following years.
State Legislature finally passes the proposal, but Michigan Supreme Court declares it unconstitutional because it creates “new classes of voters.” MESA Membership declines but they continue to circulate literature, organize speeches, sponsor essay contests and campaign at state and county fairs.
State constitutional convention convenes in January. MESA and other pro-suffrage groups present arguments before convention delegates impressing many but the majority vote no fearing the male voters would reject the 1908 constitution if women’s suffrage is one of the amendments.
Michigan voters consider women’s suffrage amendment which was defeated. Voter fraud by liquor interests is alleged—alcohol producers, distributors and salesmen are well aware the many Prohibition supporters are women.
Michigan Association Opposed to Equal Suffrage is founded. Women’s suffrage amendment is again rejected. Lower voter turnout may be the reason since 1912 was a Presidential election year bringing more voters to the polls.
Michigan votes for statewide prohibition making the liquor interests arguments moot. (National Prohibition follows in 1920.)
The work done by women during World War I convinces many men to vote yes to a women’s state suffrage law being on the state ballot. In November the law is passed by Michigan voters.
Michigan is one of the first three states to ratify the national amendment.
Nineteenth amendment to U.S. constitution is passed.
Michigan Steps Up
In Michigan, women petitioned the legislature for the ballot as early as 1855. After the Civil War, Michigan women won limited school board suffrage. Suffragists continually fought for expanded voting rights but saw repeated state constitutional amendments and ballot initiatives defeated over the next decades. Michigan became one of the first states to ratify the amendment on June 10, 1919. It passed unanimously. By August of 1920,
Groups like the Michigan State Suffrage Association in Battle Creek and the Michigan Equal Suffrage Association in Flint held rallies and gave lectures about the importance of women’s suffrage. Michigan women formed suffrage organizations in towns and cities across the state, from Battle Creek to Flint.
They also pressured politicians to hold a constitutional convention in 1908. Politicians debated on whether to change the state constitution to include women’s voting rights.That January, suffragists gathered at the State Capitol Building in Lansing. They made arguments for their suffrage rights in front of the constitutional convention delegates.
Why Did Equal Suffrage Lose in the 1912 Election?
Anti-suffragists worked just outside the booths and placed their literature inside the booths. Some election inspectors working with those unable to read marked “no” on the ballot even when the voter declared “yes”. In some instances, the suffrage ballot, which was a separate piece of paper, was not given out or in rural districts, where pro-suffrage was strong, there were not enough ballots.
When it was reported that the amendment had passed despite all these factors, there was an attempt to have the votes of two counties thrown out on a technicality. A recount was demanded in Wayne, Saginaw, and Kent Counties. In Wayne County more than 10,000 ballots were not initialed as well as 5,000 in Kent County. Some ballots were marked both ”yes” and “no” in different colored pencils—110 in just one precinct.
Some ballots were burned, and unused ballots were not accounted for. The pro-majority turned into the majority against and the amendment was defeated.
Top photo: Woman suffrage tent at the 1912 Michigan State Fair
Click on the link to learn about the most important moments in the fight for woman’s suffrage that occurred in Michigan’s three Capitols.Woman’s suffrage didn’t happen suddenly in 1920, when the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified. It was a difficult, fraught, and frustrating process that played out in states and state capitol buildings across the country.
In Michigan, several generations of women and men devoted over seventy-five years and untold resources to the movement. Along the way, they organized multiple campaigns, celebrated some important incremental victories, and mourned many defeats.
Michigan Roots - National Reach
Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, (1847-1919) who grew up in Michigan, attended Albion College and was the first woman ordained as a Methodist minister. She became president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association in 1904.
Many Michigan women expanded their efforts to include national as well as statewide suffrage efforts. After years of activism, the women of Michigan won the vote in 1918 through a state constitutional amendment. Congress passed the 19th amendment in 1919.
First Woman Elected to the Michigan Senate
After women won the vote, Michigan women served in the State Capitol as well. Eva McCall Hamilton (1871-1948) was elected to the state senate in 1920.
Her work as a Senator included advocacy for women and children, work she continued after she finished her term and joined the Michigan League of Women Voters.
First Woman Elected to the Michigan House of Representatives
Cora Reynolds Anderson (1882-1950) ran for the Michigan House of Representatives, in 1925 and won. She was the first woman elected to the Michigan House and the first Native American woman to serve in a state legislature.
She served one term from 1925 to 1926, losing her seat to a redistricting. While in office Anderson was appointed the chair of the committee overseeing the Industrial Home for Girls, and focused on public health issues
Gallery of Michigan and National Suffrage Ephemera
The Michigan Equal Suffrage Association was formed in May of 1884 in Flint, and worked tirelessly for the passage of the franchise until it was passed by the legislature in 1893. However, the State Supreme Court struck down the law on the basis that it would create a “new class of voters.” Activists worked especially hard in campaigns in 1912 and 1913, but lost both times, perhaps because of voter fraud the first year and low voter turnout the second. Michigan women were finally given the right to vote in 1918, two years before the National Amendment.
June 11, 1919 Detroit Free Press
Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan become the first three states to ratify the 19th Amendment.
Michigan in the 1913 Suffrage Parade in Washington DC
This practice ballot for Michigan’s (successful!) 1918 vote on women’s suffrage instructs voters how to go about marking their ballots – conveniently showing them how to vote NO if they “desire to vote against Woman Suffrage.” No bias there, of course. (Andrew Lundeen, a Special Collections Librarian at MSU)