The women’s suffrage movement was a decades-long fight to win the right to vote for women in the United States. It took activists and reformers nearly 100 years to win that right, and the campaign was not easy: Disagreements over strategy threatened to cripple the movement more than once.

But on August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was finally ratified, enfranchising all American women and declaring for the first time that they, like men, deserve all the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. August 26, 2020 will mark the 100th anniversary of this giant step for women in America.

The James Stewart Chapter NSDAR is pleased to be able to share our chapter’s first place American History Essay Contest winner’s entry on the women’s suffrage movement. She chose to write her essay in the form of a letter to her aunt.

“The Women’s Suffrage Campaign”

By Milly Criswell, 8th grade, Heard County Middle School

September 22, 1919

Dear Aunt Jane,

We had class elections in school today, and for the first time in our school’s history, a girl was voted to be the president! But that is not even the best part! I was chosen to be the president! Our teacher said that America has a lot to learn from our school’s small election because it is time that women are treated as equals in politics, as well as society.

While I am extremely honored to be elected as the leader for my class, it angers me to look at all of the boys in my class as they laugh at girls and do not take us seriously. It is time that men recognize that women are beginning to be taken seriously. Obviously, some men realize this since congress has recently passed a law which enables women to vote, and hopefully, this will be a firm foundation for women to stand on as we fight for equality. Although women in LaGrange, as well as the rest of the women in Georgia, will not be able to cast a vote in an election until 1922, the fact that a national law was voted on by men to allow women to vote is satisfaction enough, for the moment.

I am excited to set an example for my younger sisters to let them know that in their futures, women will have a voice. Along with being the leader of my class, I will have the responsibility to give every one of my classmates a voice. In the past, the male presidents have unfairly ruled the classroom. The problem with this method is that the president should, first of all, be fair, but he should also be a leader instead of being a ruler. That is the great thing about America – its citizens have the right to a voice in an election instead of being ruled by an unfair leader. Woodrow Wilson has proved himself to fit the qualifications for a great leader of America, in my opinion, especially last year in congress when he publicly supported women’s rights to vote.

Mother and I have been talking lately about our right to vote, and we believe that it is just a stepping stone for women in America. Because we can elect officials and presidents, we can use our votes to elect people who will stand up for women’s rights as citizens. Maybe your daughters, my sisters, and I will grow up to live in a country that recognizes the importance of women. If the women of the present can work hard enough to show our worth, we can make this country a more welcoming place for the women of the future. I know that you want the best for Hallie and Ellie, just as my mother wants the best for her daughters, so I write to you to encourage you to stand strongly as a woman. We have gotten our right to vote, which is outstanding, but there is so much more to work towards!

I know that living in Washington D.C. is a prime spot for women to rally or protest, and since you live there, please continue to join in the cause! You are lucky to have a husband who cares about the same issues that you do, just as my mother is since father advocates women’s rights. Therefore, you should take advantage of that! Join in the rallies, just as you did in the women’s suffrage parade a few years ago in 1913. You, along with the other thousands of suffragists who marched that day made an impact on the leaders in Washington to give us the right to vote, and I am delighted to tell people that my own aunt was a part of the reason women can participate in elections.

I hope that this letter has stirred you to continue to fight for equality for us and all women. I realize that I will not be able to vote for a few more years because I am only 16, but I am ecstatic that I will be able to in the future. Everything that women have worked for, fought for, and believed would come true in order to be able to vote has met our expectations. Even though I appreciate everything that women have done in protests and rallies, the fight for women’s equality and right to vote has taken place everywhere in the past few years. Take my classroom and school, for example. All of the girls that I go to school with have withstood being made fun of by boys and men because we supposedly “know nothing of politics” and “should not have voice in elections”. We have all endured the hardships that have led to the ultimate victory – the right to have a voice in our own country. Please continue to fight for our rights, and thank you for your voice to help all women in the struggle for equality in America.

Your loving niece,

Annie Wilson