Equal Suffrage written in federal Constitution

Former Governor of New York Alfred E. Smith, welcomes Carrie Chapman Catt, women’s suffrage leader, on her triumphal return from Tennessee, last state to ratify the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote, in New York, Aug. 27, 1920. Miss Catt carries a bouquet of blue and yellow flowers, colors of the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association.

This story was published in the Aug. 27, 1920, edition of the Lewiston Tribune.


Washington, D.C., Aug. 26. — Without pomp or ceremony, Secretary Colby today signed the proclamation declaring the woman suffrage amendment “to all intents and purposes, a part of the constitution of the United States.”

The secretary’s signature was affixed to the proclamation at his home at 8 a.m., a few hours after he had received from Governor Roberts of Tennessee the certificate that final favorable action had been taken by the legislature. The quiet manner in which Mr. Colby acted was a disappointment to some suffrage workers, who had hoped to make a ceremony of his act, but they contented themselves with their own jubilation ceremonies, including a mass meeting tonight. They united in statements that nothing now can be done to prevent the women from voting in November.

“The seal of the United States has been duly affixed to the certificate and the suffrage amendment is now the nineteenth amendment to the constitution,” Secretary Colby announced.

A desire to avoid the limelight and to prevent arousing the feeling among suffrage workers as to whom should be present, prompted the quiet setting. Mr. Colby explained also that his “only purpose was to pursue a simple duty.”

Mr. Colby was awakened at 3:45 a.m. by a state department employee, who notified him that the Tennessee certification had arrived. The secretary then called F. K. Neilsen, department solicitor, to examine the Tennessee papers, also instructing the solicitor to bring the proclamation to the secretary’s home at 8 o’clock.

“While it was my thought,” the secretary explained later, “to avoid undue eagerness in signing the proclamation, I found no reason to conspicuously loiter. I had an aversion to sign in the wee small hours of the night, and 8 a.m., I thought, was the earliest hour I would begin the function.”

When he reached the department, the secretary found several members of the national woman’s party, headed by its chairman, Alice Paul, awaiting to witness the signing. Their disappointment was not concealed when it was learned that he had acted and the secretary’s later invitation that they hear a statement was declined. Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt, president of the National American Woman Suffrage association, and some other suffrage workers, however, accepted.

Statement on Proclaiming.

Secretary Colby’s statement follows:

“The certified record of the actions of the legislature of the state of Tennessee on the suffrage amendment was received by mail this morning. Immediately on its receipt, the record was brought to my house. This was in compliance with my directions and in accordance with numerous requests for prompt action. I thereupon signed the certificate required of the secretary of state this morning at 8 o’clock in the presence of Mr. F. K. Neilsen, the solicitor of the state department, and Mr. Charles L. Cook, also of the state department. The seal of the United States has been duly affixed to the certificate and the suffrage amendment is now the nineteenth amendment of the constitution.

“It was decided not to accompany the simple ministerial action on my part with any ceremony or setting. This secondary aspect of the subject has, regretfully, been the source of considerable contention as to who shall participate in it and who shall not. Inasmuch as I am not interested in the aftermath of any of the frictions or collisions which may have been developed in the long struggle for the ratification of the amendment, I contented myself with the performance in the simplest manner of the duties developed upon me under the law.

“I congratulate the women of the county upon the successful culmination of their efforts which have been sustained in the face of many discouragements and which have now conducted them to the achievement of that great object.

“The day marks the opening of a great and new era in the political life of the nation. I confidently believe that every salutary forward and upward force in our public life will receive fresh vigor and reinforcement from the enfranchisement of the women of the country.

“To the leaders of this great movement. I tender my sincere congratulations. To everyone, from the president, who uttered the call to duty whenever the cause seemed to falter, to the humblest worker of this great reform, the praise not only of this generation, but of posterity will be freely given.”

The proclamation recounts the process by which the new article is of the constitution was presented and ratified, naming the ratifying states and continues:

“Now, therefore, be it known that I, Bainbridge Colby, secretary of state of the United States, by virtue in pursuance of section 205 of the revised statutes of the United States, do hereby certify that the amendment aforesaid has become valid to all intents and purposes as a part of the constitution of the United States.”

President Sends Message.

President Wilson sent to a mass meeting of women held tonight to celebrate the ratification of the nineteenth amendment an expression of his gratification at the enactment of equal suffrage. His message was delivered by Secretary of State Colby, the only male member who appeared before a great crowd of citizens, 90 percent of whom were women.

Mr. Colby said the president had called him a short time after he had signed the proclamation and asked him if he would “take the opportunity that will be afforded you to say that I deem it one of the greatest honors of my life that this great event, so stoutly fought for, for so many years, should have occurred during the period of my administration as president. And please tell my fellow citizens that nothing has given me more pleasure that the privilege of doing what I could to hasten the day when the womanhood of the nation would be recognized on the equal footing it deserves.”

Mr. Colby added that the president would be the last man to seek for his party the credit for the victory. Mr. Colby urged the women of America “not to use their vote in the creeping, crawling partisan spirit.”

Montana Celebrates Saturday.

Helena, Mont., Aug. 26. — Gov. S. V. Stewart has set aside the hour of noon Saturday in Montana for the observance of a celebration on the achievement of unrestricted suffrage for women in the United States. He asks that the people of the state celebrate by the ringing of bells or such other method as may appeal to them.

All Celebrate Saturday.

Chicago. Aug. 26. — Request has been made by Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt, president of the National American Woman Suffrage association, that every bell and whistle in Chicago be sounded at noon next Saturday in celebration of ratification of the suffrage amendment.

Mrs. Catt has sent similar requests throughout the country.

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