The first White House picketers were suffragists. Through a world war and a flu pandemic, they held up signs with slogans like, “Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?”
“They wanted to be the first thing the president saw every morning and the last thing he saw at night,” said Veronica Chambers, the lead editor on a Times project commemorating the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.
A century ago today, the United States ratified the 19th Amendment, enshrining a woman’s right to vote in the Constitution. But the decades-long struggle didn’t end there. For years after 1920, many women, including Native Americans and Chinese immigrants, were not able to vote. And for many others, especially African-Americans, casting a ballot was extremely difficult.
“Many historians talk about the suffrage movement continuing at least until 1965,” when the Voting Rights Act passed, Veronica said. “The timeline of how long women in the U.S. have had political power and independence is not as long as we tend to think it is.”
The Times is commemorating the centennial of women’s suffrage by focusing on lesser-known women who were crucial to the fight, from L.G.B.T.Q. participants in the movement to female political cartoonists.
Here’s a visual history of the suffragist movement, which coincided with the birth of photography.
Black suffragists recognized the power of photographs as a political tool and crafted images that became critical documents for insisting on racial equity and agency.
To understand the suffragists, and why their battle took so long, you also have to understand the anti-suffragists.