on this day 8/26 1920 – The 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution went into effect. The amendment prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex in the voting booth. 

55 B.C. – Britain was invaded by Roman forces under Julius Caesar.

1498 – Michelangelo was commissioned to make the “Pieta.”

1842 – The first fiscal year was established by the U.S. Congress to start on July 1st.

1847 – Liberia was proclaimed as an independent republic. 

1873 – The school board of St. Louis, MO, authorized the first U.S. public kindergarten.

1896 – In the Philippines, and insurrection began against the Spanish government.

1920 – The 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution went into effect. The amendment prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex in the voting booth.

1934 – Adolf Hitler demanded that France turn over their Saar region to Germany.

1937 – All Chinese shipping was blockaded by Japan.

1939 – The first televised major league baseball games were shown. The event was a double-header between the Cincinnati Reds and the Brooklyn Dodgers.

1939 – The radio program, “Arch Oboler’s Plays”, presented the NBC Symphony for the first time.

1945 – The Japanese were given surrender instructions on the U.S. battleship Missouri at the end of World War II.

1947 – Don Bankhead became the first black pitcher in major league baseball.

1957 – It was announced that an intercontinental ballistic missile was successfully tested by the Soviet Union.

1957 – The first Edsel made by the Ford Motor Company rolled of the assembly line.

1961 – The International Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto opened.

1973 – A U.S. Presidential Proclamation was declared that made August 26th Women’s Equality Day.

1978 – Sigmund Jahn blasted off aboard the Russian Soyuz 31 and became the first German in space.

1981 – The U.S. claimed that North Korea fired an antiaircraft missile at a U.S. Surveillance plane while it was over South Korea.

1987 – The Fuller Brush Company announced plans to open two retail stores in Dallas, TX. The company that had sold its products door to door for 81 years.

1990 – The 55 Americans at the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait left Baghdad by car and headed for the Turkish border.

1991 – Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev promised that national elections would be held.

1992 – A “no-fly zone” was imposed on the southern 1/3 of Iraq. The move by the U.S., France and Britain was aimed at protecting Iraqi Shiite Muslims.

1998 – The U.S. government announced that they were investigating Microsoft in an attempt to discover if they “bullied” Intel into delaying new technology.

1973 – A U.S. Presidential Proclamation was declared that made August 26th Women’s Equality Day.

The 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote nationally on August 18, 1920, so why is Women’s Equality Day on August 26th each year?

The simple answer is that even when a constitutional amendment has been ratified it’s not official until it has been certified by the correct government official. In 1920, that official was U.S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby. On August 26, 1920, Colby signed a proclamation behind closed doors at 8 a.m. at his own house in Washington, D.C, ending a struggle for the vote that started a century earlier.

The New York Times ran the story about the document’s signing on its front page and noted the lack of fanfare for the historic event.

Colby had been asked by women’s suffrage leaders Alice Paul and Carrie Chapman Catt to allow groups in Colby’s office for the document’s signing and to film the event. Instead, Colby told reporters that “effectuating suffrage through proclamation of its ratification by the necessary thirty-six States was more important than feeding the movie cameras.”

The Times explained that Colby was concerned about the rivalry between Paul and Catt and wanted to avoid a public scene at the signing.

“Inasmuch as I am not interested in the aftermath of any of the friction or collisions which may have been developed in the long struggle for the ratification of the amendment, I have contented myself with the performance in the simplest manner of the duty devolving upon me under the law,” Colby said.

A package of documents from the state of Tennessee had arrived by train in Washington around 4 a.m. It included the official ratification document from the state legislature.

How Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment on August 18, 1920, was a story in itself. Congress had passed the proposed amendment a year earlier, and it was supported by President Woodrow Wilson.

By the middle of 1920, 35 states had voted to ratify the amendment, but four other states—Connecticut, Vermont, North Carolina and Florida—refused to consider the resolution for various reasons, while the remaining states had rejected the amendment altogether.

So, Tennessee became the battleground to obtain the three-fourths of states needed to ratify the amendment. Harry T. Burn, a 24-year-old legislator, was set to vote against the amendment, but switched his vote on the Tennessee state house floor at the urging of his mother, assuring the 19th amendment’s ratification.

Yet, even after Burn’s deciding vote, anti-suffrage legislators tried desperately to nullify the previous vote.

In 1971, Representative Bella Abzug championed a bill in the U.S. Congress to designate August 26 as “Women’s Equality Day.” The bill says that “the President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation annually in commemoration of that day in 1920, on which the women of America were first given the right to vote.”

As a footnote, the amendment certification process has changed since 1920. Now, the Archivist of the United States, who heads the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), is responsible for finalizing the ratification process.

Back in 1920, Secretary Colby’s attorney reviewed the documents that arrived from Tennessee. Today, NARA’s Office of the Federal Register reviews the documents and writes the proclamation for the Archivist of the United States to sign.

Section 106(b) of the United States Code spells out the finality of the process:

“The Archivist of the United States shall forthwith cause the amendment to be published, with his certificate, specifying the States by which the same may have been adopted, and that the same has become valid, to all intents and purposes, as a part of the Constitution of the United States.”

Filed Under: 19th Amendment

resource: constitutioncenter.org