Battle for the Ballot: Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of American Women's Right to Vote

Battle for the Ballot

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On June 4, 1919, the 66th US congress passed the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which would give American women the legal right to vote (although social pressures and local laws denied women of color the franchise for several decades more). However, the historic moment was only a steppingstone from the rocky, 152-year battle for the ballot to a 14-month journey for the Amendment’s ratification.

By mid-August 1920, 35 of the 36 necessary states had ratified the 19th Amendment. The morning of August 18, Tennessee governor Albert H. Roberts called the state legislature into special session to consider ratification. At 24-years old, the legislature’s youngest member, Harry Burn, showed up to work that day with a red anti-suffrage rose pinned to his lapel. Preliminary votes throughout the morning brought the expected tally to a tie: 48 to 48. It looked like suffrage would not pass in Tennessee.

After an hour of arguing, the Speaker forced a vote. Names were called in alphabetical order. Burn was 7th on the list. So far, everyone voted as they had earlier that day. But Burn grew nervous sitting in the stuffy room. He knew that it could all come down to a single man, a single vote, a single question: yes or no? So, when the clerk called his name, Burn shocked his peers. He voted yes. The final tally was 47 to 49. The all-male Tennessee legislature had changed US history forever and granted women the right to vote.

But the battle for the ballot, as author Winifred Conkling noted in her JLG Gold Standard book Votes for Women!: American Suffragists and the Battle for the Ballot, had started long before that fateful August morning. Over 150 years before Harry Burn muttered a nervous “aye,” American women set to work to gain suffrage. Meeting in Seneca Falls, NY in 1848, the first-ever Women’s Rights Convention was packed full of boisterous supporters. But it was another 2 years before American women officially organized to work towards national and local suffrage legislation.

Organizing a Movement

On the quiet morning of April 19, 1850 in the small town of Salem, Ohio, women from all over the state packed tightly together in a small church to discuss their rights. The rules were simple: only women could participate, and they weren’t leaving until they had agreed on a plan for their fight for the ballot. After 2 days of deliberation, the women in attendance had agreed on 22 resolutions about the legal, social, and educational rights of women. The men in attendance were shocked, having been silenced throughout the discussion. One woman who attended jokingly noted in a local paper that “never did men so suffer… For the first time in the world’s history, men learned how it felt to sit in silence when questions in which they were interested were under discussion.”

Following the 1850 Salem Convention, women of Ohio formed the first statewide suffrage organization which sparked women in other states to start their own local chapters. Within a few months, national women’s suffrage groups were formed and women all over the country began systemically working towards national and local suffrage laws.

Over a century later, that single syllable muttered by the young Tennessee legislator brought to fruition the hard work and dedication of American suffragists. In November 1920, American women voted in the presidential election for the first time. This August 18th, we celebrate 100 years of American women’s suffrage.

More Women in History

However, even outside of the 1848-1920 suffrage campaigns, women around the globe worked as brazen rebels to induce change and progress in their nations. Winifred Conkling’s story of American suffragists’ battle for the ballot is only one of many Nonfiction titles JLG has selected celebrating women and their tremendous acts in the face of uncertainty and difficulty. Look below for some recent JLG Gold Standard Nonfiction titles all about incredible women in history!


To share our excitement about this historic moment, we are doing a FLASH SALE for Nonfiction titles! Use the coupon code below to get $8 Nonfiction titles off the backlist from now until August 28th!*

Take me to the backlist




Fight of the Century: Alice Paul Battles Woodrow Wilson for the Vote
By: Barb Rosenstock
Illustrated By: Sarah Green
Category: Nonfiction Elementary Plus

Instructions Not Included: How a Team of Women Coded the Future
By: Tami Lewis Brown and Debbie Loren Dunn
Illustrated By: Chelsea Beck
Category: Science Nonfiction Elementary Plus

Mother Jones and Her Army of Mill Children
By: Jonah Winter
Illustrated By: Nancy Carpenter
Category: Biography Elementary Plus

Lift As You Climb: The Story of Ella Baker
By: Patricia Hruby Powell
Illustrated By: R. Gregory Christie
Category: Character Building Elementary

Women Inventors Hidden in History
By: Petrice Custance
Category: Series Nonfiction History Grades 3-5

Seeking the Right to Vote
By: LeeAnne Gelletly
Category: Series Nonfiction History Grades 3-5

Shirley Chisholm Is a Verb!
By: Veronica Chambers
Category: Biography Elementary Plus

Noisemakers: 25 Women Who Raised Their Voices & Changed the World
By: Kazoo Magazine
Category: Nonfiction Elementary Plus




Finish the Fight!: The Brave and Revolutionary Women Who Fought for the Right to Vote
By: Veronica Chambers & the staff of the New York Times
Category: Biography Middle Plus

Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History (Young Reader’s Edition)
By: Keith O’Brien
Category: Nonfiction Middle

Women’s Right to Vote: History Smashers
Category: Nonfiction Middle

Code Girls: The True Story of The American Women Who Secretly Broke Codes in World War II (Young Readers Edition)
By: Liza Mundy
Category: Nonfiction Middle

Give Us the Vote!: Over Two Hundred Years of Fighting for the Ballot
By: Susan Goldman Rubin
Category: Nonfiction Middle

The Radium Girls: Young Readers’ Edition: The Scary but True Story of the Poison that Made People Glow in the Dark
By: Kate Moore
Category: Biography Middle Plus

Changing the Equation: 50+ US Black Women in STEM
By: Tonya Bolden
Category: Biography Middle Plus

Eleanor Roosevelt, Fighter for Justice: Her Impact on the Civil Rights Movement, the White House, and the World
By: Ilene Cooper
Category: Biography Middle Plus




Votes for Women!: American Suffragists and the Battle for the Ballot
By: Winifred Conkling
Category: History High

The Factory Girls: A Kaleidoscopic Account of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire
By: Christine Seifert
Category: Nonfiction High Plus

Brazen: Rebel Ladies who Rocked the World
By: Pénélope Bagieu
Category: Graphic Novels High Plus

Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation
Adapted by: Ari Folman
Illustrated by: David Polonsky
Category: Graphic Novels High Plus

History vs. Women: The Defiant Lives That They Don’t Want You to Know
By: Anita Sarkeesian & Ebony Adams
Category: History High

Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women
By: Kate Moore
Category: Adult Crossover Nonfiction Plus

Ms. Gloria Steinem: A Life
By: Winifred Conkling
Category: Biography High Plus

Marie Curie: A Life of Discovery
By: Alice Milani
Category: History High

Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc
By: David Elliott
Category: History High

*All members must be logged in to access sale prices. Books must ship to a school or library address. Offer valid for book purchases only. Processing items may be purchased at regular prices. Offer excludes special order titles, audiobooks and current/forthcoming JLG selections. Offer may not be combined with other offers or special discounts. Apply coupon in cart to view savings. Titles made available June 2020 and more recently are not eligible. Become a member.