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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: January 2020

Chapter 1 - Women at the Polls


The Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified in August 1920, setting off a flurry of speculation about how newly-enfranchised women would vote in the upcoming presidential election. Although women in fifteen states already enjoyed the right to vote by 1920, politicians and observers nonetheless expressed uncertainty about what to expect. “Women’s Vote Baffles Politicians’ Efforts to Forecast Election” claimed one newspaper. Another reported that “anxious politicians of both parties are sitting up nights worrying about [women’s votes].” Appeals to new women voters emphasized issues specific to women, such as equal pay and maternity care, and issues related to women’s roles as mothers, such as child labor and education. In the aftermath of the election, many claimed that women had handed the election to Republican Warren G. Harding, for reasons ranging from his good looks to the Republican party’s support of women’s suffrage. Others attributed the Republican advantage to specific groups of women; the women many considered most likely to turn out to vote in 1920 – suffrage activists – tended to be native-born white women, who like native-born white men, were expected to vote Republican.