“Our Women Have the Vote” read the headlines of the September 26, 1918 “St. Cloud Tribune”. But as quickly as they gained it, they lost it.
Seneca Falls, New York had the first gathering in 1848, for women’s rights in the United States. Numerous movements were attempted over the ensuing years but the turning point was in the late 1880s and early 1890s, when middle-class women became involved as volunteers in women’s clubs, professional societies, temperance movements and local civic and charitable organizations. Impatient with the slow pace of change, the women’s suffrage movement gained momentum.
The influx of Union Veterans in St. Cloud, Florida beginning in 1909, also brought wives and daughters from many of the northern states where women’s rights movements were more prevalent. The St. Cloud Ladies Improvement Club led the charge, asking the City Council to amend the city charter so it allowed women to vote in the city elections. It was decided to hold an election on September 24, 1918 on the matter. Adopted by a vote of 179 for and 82 against, it was soon put to the test. A recall election was scheduled for January 14, 1919, in which the women did vote. But it was soon determined by Judge James W. Perkins at a hearing in Kissimmee, that the amendment to the charter allowing women to vote was illegal and unconstitutional.
Undaunted, the St. Cloud women took their fight to the Legislature and Senate in Tallahassee, joining women across the nation in the continued effort to be granted the right to vote. After the war, the measure finally cleared Congress with the House voting its approval on May 21, 1919 and the Senate on June 14, 1919. On August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment, providing full voting rights for women nationally was ratified when Tennessee became the 36th state to approve it.
Sources: “St. Cloud Tribune” August 15 and 22, 1918, September 26, 1918, January 9, 1919, April 24, 1919, May 1, 1919; history.house.gov/Exhibitions-and-Publications/WIC/Historical-Essays/No-Lady/Womens-Rights/
Photo source: “Images of America St. Cloud” by Jim Robison and Robert A. Fisk