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U.S. Senate Historical Office

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In 1878 Senator Aaron Sargent became the first member of Congress to formally propose a constitutional amendment specifically to extend voting rights to women. The Senate never voted on Sargent’s proposal, but the idea and the suffragists who supported it persisted. Senators—some of them working closely with activists—continued to debate women’s political rights over the next four decades as suffrage lobbyists ramped up pressure on members of Congress. After several failed attempts, the Senate finally approved a constitutional amendment for woman suffrage on June 4, 1919. Ratified in 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution includes only 39 words, two sentences that represent the work of generations of activists and a dedicated group of congressional reformers.

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