Bells were Ringing

We’ve come to THE week of this year-long suffrage celebration, which has unfortunately been overshadowed by other events! But I think we should all stop and recognize the anniversary, coming up on the 18th, of the constitutional ratification of the 19th amendment 100 years ago. Since the 1970s, Womens Equality Day has been commemorated on August 26, the day that the ratification was certified, but a century ago, everyone realized that the Tennessee vote on the 18th was the big moment: the suffragists themselves, the newspapers, and even the anti-suffragists! The photograph of Alice Paul extending the flag of 36 stars from a balcony, symbolizing the realization of the two-thirds majority, while her colleagues jump with joy (well I like to think they were jumping) below, captures this moment perfectly.

Suffrage-Celebration-ALice-Paul-2Library of Congress

I wanted to ascertain, and feel the local reaction to the ratification, so I checked out as many local papers as I could. We’re handicapped with 20th century history when it comes to newspaper coverage as the Salem Evening News is available only on microfilm and our public library has been closed since the pandemic, so I have relied primarily on Boston papers which covered the region. I’m sure I’m missing a lot of little anecdotal reactions, but here’s the slightly-bigger picture: rapid registrations, bells chiming out, a big celebratory evening at Faneuil Hall, and a Boston parade, of course. After celebration came deliberation: as the pundits tried to assess the impact of all these new voters on the upcoming election.

SUffrage Celebration 1 (2)


Suffrage BDG Collage



Suffrage Cel

Suffrage Bells Aug 28

Suffrage Victory Parade

Suffrage Straw Poll

Griswold VotesThe aftermath of August 18, 1920: headlines and editorials in the Boston Post and Boston Daily Globe, August 19 (I didn’t realize the Ponzi Scheme was in the news at this time!), primaries were coming up, so there was an immediate focus on registration, big victory celebration at Faneuil Hall on the 23rd; supposedly there was a national bell-ringing event on the 28th (?), the last Woman Suffrage Association parade in September; a straw poll in October and Mrs. Almira C. Griswold’s registration made NATIONAL headlines on September 11-13, 1920.

14 responses to “Bells were Ringing

  • JoAnn Shupe

    Oh, and by the way, what’s up with being the wife of a citizen? This can’t possibly be the case now, can it? Don’t you have to be a citizen in your own right?

    • Louise

      You do. I was a green card holder for many years, married to a US citizen, but could not vote until I became a citizen myself.

    • Brian Bixby

      At the time, a foreign woman who married a citizen, or who was the wife of a man who had been a foreigner but naturalized, was considered to have become a citizen even though she went through no naturalization process on her own. I suspect that explains the curious wording, letting women know who might otherwise be unsure that they are eligible to vote.

      As Louise already pointed out, that is no longer true, and has not been true for many years.

      It was once also the case in some parts of the United States that immigrants who said they intended to become citizens were allowed to vote. But I don’t think That was the case in Massachusetts, and it ceased to be the case anywhere in the U.S. sometime in the 1920s.

  • JoAnn Shupe

    Now I can prove I’m not nuts! There it is in print – in order to prove literacy you must read 5 lines from the Constitution! I did this in 1968 in Connecticut, and I was TOLD which lines to read, to avoid people memorizing a bit to pass. This must no longer be the case as people don’t believe me when I say you used to have to be literate in order to vote?

  • Isabella Jancourtz

    Thanks, Donna, for another great article!

    In case you missed it on PBS’ American Experience last month, check out “The Vote” a 4 hour, 2 part documentary on the decades long struggle to win the right to vote for all American women.

    It is truly awe inspiring to watch the actual footage of the many battles it took for women to finally attain full citizenship in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

  • artandarchitecturemainly

    I can almost understand why men grabbed the vote first. But once women demanded the vote for all citizens, I can’t imagine why so many men opposed them. Yet even by the time the first celebrations were taking place, the anti-suffragists were still active, as you noted.

  • Helen Breen

    Hi Donna,

    Loved the pic of Alice Paul (1885-1977) unfurling that stunning flag with 36 stars. Obviously she was a woman ahead of her time educationally:

    “Paul attended Swarthmore College, a Quaker school cofounded by her grandfather, graduating with a biology degree in 1905. She attended the New York School of Philanthropy (now Columbia University) and received a Master of Arts degree in sociology in 1907. She then went to England to study social work, and after returning, earned a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in 1910.”

    I hear you about not being able to access microfilm from the Salem Evening News to bring the story closer to home.

    I am waiting for the Lynn Public Library to open to trace how things “opened up” following the Spanish flu in 1918, back to school etc. At the time Lynn had two major dailies – Lynnfield none. Guess we will have to wait.

    I have enjoyed your series of the suffragettes. Kudos!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: