The first Iowa constitutions restricted the right to vote to white males. A women's suffrage convention in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York, issued a call for expanding political rights for women, including the right to vote, but the issue did not gain much visibility in Iowa until the years immediately after the Civil War. In 1894, the Iowa legislature granted women "partial suffrage," the right to vote on bond issues and similar matters but they still could not vote for candidates running for office.
The state legislature submitted to Iowa voters (still all men) a constitutional amendment in 1916 to remove the word "male" as a requirement to vote. Areas of the state strongly against prohibition, as well as the Catholic Church, opposed this change and these two groups worked to narrowly defeat the measure. However, the issue was winning support at the national level. In 1919, Congress approved a women's suffrage amendment and submitted it to the states. In 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify it, providing the necessary three-fourths and adding women’s right to vote as the 19th amendment.
- Women's Suffrage: Use this primary source set to view photographs, maps, documents and more cataloging the history of the women's suffrage movement in Iowa and the United States.
- Right to Vote: Use this primary source set to view photographs, maps, documents and more cataloging the histories of the women's, African American and American Indian suffrage movements in the United States.
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