Women's Suffrage | Prairie Public Broadcasting

Women's Suffrage

When the Federal Suffrage Amendment passed in the U.S. House and Senate on June 4th, 1919, there were many calls in North Dakota for a special session so North Dakota could ratify the amendment. However, Nonpartisan League Governor Frazier did not want the expense of a special session just for the sake of suffrage.

Women's Vote 1920

Nov 18, 2020


On November 2, 1920, eligible men and women around the country were able to vote equally in the election for the first time. According to the census bureau, approximately 26 million women were now able to vote. However, there were still an estimated 1.5 million women considered ineligible.

Militant Suffragists

Nov 10, 2020


Suffragists Alice Paul and Lucy Burns learned about militant protest tactics from suffrage efforts in England. They felt such tactics could help in the United States, but the National American Woman Suffrage Association did not approve, so they founded a separate group, the National Woman’s Party, under Alice Paul’s leadership.


North and South Dakota officially became states on this date in 1889, at a time when suffrage was a hot topic of conversation. The year began with suffragists requesting the right to vote at the territorial legislative session. In July, members of the constitutional convention met in Bismarck and discussed whether the right for women to vote should be written into the state constitution. Neither of these proved fully successful, but women were able to retain their right to vote for matters relating to schools.


North Dakota’s 4th Annual Industrial Exposition took place in Bismarck in October 1914, and the city was bustling with activity. The Bismarck Tribune proudly exclaimed, “Never in the history of the state was there such an elaborate, … extensive, and … excellent display of the state’s products. … Not only is there quantity, but also a quality which is perfection itself, accompanied by beauty unsurpassed.”  

1914 marked the 25th anniversary of statehood, so a special State and Anniversary day was planned for the exposition. Other special days occurred almost every day during the two-week run. On this date, it was suffragist day.  


On this date in 1912, excitement grew as plans were made for Jane Addams to speak in the state.

Addams was a well-known suffragist, activist, and social reformer. In 1889 she had co-founded Hull House in Chicago, a secular settlement house. She and other residents provided a number of services that were helpful for the community, including kindergarten and day care for working mothers; an employment bureau; an art gallery; libraries; and classes in English, citizenship, theater, music and art.


In 1914, suffragists increasingly campaigned for the right to vote as the election on the matter approached. Speakers of some renown came to North Dakota — including Mrs. Antoinette Funk, a suffrage leader from Illinois. It was a visit that led to her arrest. The reason? She was speaking in the street without a permit.


On this date in 1914, last minute preparations were underway in Garrison as participants set up for the Garrison Corn Show, which was organized by the Garrison Industrial Association. This was the second year of the show, and folks were preparing for the big get-together. The Bismarck Daily Tribune noted, “The merry clatter of carpenters’ hammers resounds at the new corn show building proclaiming the coming event as one of the most important in the history of Garrison. Never before has a community been aroused to active interest in agricultural affairs as that for many miles around Garrison, where the work of the Garrison Industrial Association in its campaign for more and better farmers, is reaching its height in getting ready for the second annual corn show.” 


On November 3 of 1914, voters in North Dakota had the opportunity to pass woman’s suffrage, and on this date, suffragists were actively campaigning for this change. 


Various club and group activities in September noted increasing activities for the suffragists. In Fargo, local suffragist Kate S. Wilder gave suffrage addresses in several WCTU districts. At a state tennis tournament held on the Island park courts there, large yellow umbrellas protecting the judges from the sun advertised, “Votes for North Dakota Women, Nov. 3, 1914.”


In 1919, suffragists around the country called for special state legislative sessions to gain the necessary majority to ratify it. However, in North Dakota, Nonpartisan League Governor Frazier was not keen on the idea, saying it would be an extra expense, and just to address suffrage, wasn’t necessary.