What does voting mean to you?

Is it a way to express your voice? Does it feel like a duty? Do you wish it were available to you?

Virtual Exhibit Tour

The History

Literacy levels rose across the country in the early 1800s. As women read about social, civil and religious ideas, they began turning their beliefs about suffrage, temperance, abolition and others social issues into action.

The Women's Rights Convention, held in Seneca Falls, N.Y., in 1848, was the first gathering of people interested in advancing rights for women. The attendees created a Declaration of Sentiments that included the right to vote. As they published and circulated this document, it inspired women acrossthe country to take action.

Women of Ohio were quick to respond, hosting the country's first statewide Women's Rights Convention in Salem in 1850 and the Ohio Women's Rights Convention in Akron in 1851. Ohio continued to play a role, hosting the fourth National Woman's Rights Convention in Cleveland in 1853 and the 6th National Woman's Rights Convention in Cincinnati in 1855.

After years of incremental progress achieved through state-by-state and national advocacy, the U.S. Senate passed the 19th Amendment in June of 1919. Three-quarters of the states ratified it by August 1920, constitutionally granting women the right to vote. Individual states imposed new restrictions to control who could vote. The fight would continue.

The caricatures of political cartoons offered relatable commentary on the question of women's suffrage. Anti-suffrage campaigns focused on how giving women the right to vote would upend traditional gender roles. Pro-suffrage images often made the case that women hold moral power, which is why they should have a say in important social issues being considered at the ballot box.

2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the adoption of the 19th Ammendment to the Constitution: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex." Finally, women nationwide had the constitutional right to legally vote.

This success followed years of organizing by women and their allies. Ohio women were leaders, both in the pro-vote (suffrage) and no-vote (anti-suffrage) campaigns. As in today's justice movements, coalitions were built, tested and frayed as different groups struggled to control who could participate.

"Is it not strange that the sons of men who rebelled against taxation without representation in 1776, and were willing to lay down their lives rather than submit to it, should be willing to practice the same tyranny over their own mothers, sisters, and daughters?" – Dr. Saraah Siewers as quoted in the Cincinnati Enquirer, Mark 1, 1908

Harriet Taylor Upton
As the daughter of a U.S. congressman from Ohio, Harriet Taylor Upton had opportunities to meet influential people. Susan B. Anthony inspired her to become active in the National Woman Suffrage Association, where Upton eventually served as treasurer.

Because of Upton’s involvement, the headquarters of the National Woman Suffrage Association moved to Warren, Ohio. Upton twice served as president of the Ohio Woman Suffrage Association and was elected to the Warren Board of Education and Republican National Executive Committee.

She unsuccessfully ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1926.

Progress For Ohio’s Women
Ohio granted women the right to vote in Board of Education elections in 1894. Statewide votes were held to consider women’s suffrage in 1912, 1914, and 1917, none of which succeeded. In 1917, Ohio women both gained and lost the right to vote in presidential contests. The state legislature passed the Reynolds Act to grant Ohio women the right to vote for president. Later that same year, Ohio put the Reynolds Act up for public vote, and the (all-male) electorate voted it down.

In 1919, the Ohio Assembly ratified the 19th Amendment just two weeks after its national passage. And they went even further, passing additional legislation ensuring women could vote in the 1920 presidential election, even if the 19th Amendment was not yet national policy.

Progress For Kentucky’s Women
In 1838, women in rural areas of Kentucky who were heads of households and taxpayers won the right to vote on matters of education and taxation. While this applied to a small number of women, Kentucky was a national leader in allowing women to vote.

In 1894, with their sisters across the Ohio River, the women of Covington, Newport, and Lexington won the right to vote in school board elections. The state legislature rescinded this right in 1902. In 1912, literate women were allowed to vote in school board elections. The literacy test was imposed to exclude black voters.

Kentucky became the 24th state to ratify the 19th amendment in 1920.

Seventy-two years after the Woman’s Rights Convention at Seneca Falls, Tennessee ratified the 19th Amendment, completing the three-fourths majority of states needed to make the Amendment law. Most of the early suffragists didn’t live to see the day. Their work inspired an intergenerational movement that continued the march toward voting for all.

While the 19th Amendment recognized women’s voting rights – just as the 15th Amendment granted the vote to African American men – in practice, the reality was different. While the federal government legislated the right to vote, the states managed it. Many states imposed barriers to voting, particularly for African Americans, Native Americans and immigrants. Taxes, literacy tests, voter intimidation and violence all prevented full and equal access to the vote.

Former suffragists focused on new campaigns. Some women turned their attention to educating and supporting new voters: for example, founding the League of Women Voters. Other women continued to fight for fair access to the ballot for all U.S. citizens. Others advocated for literacy, education and property rights.

As states imposed voting restrictions, the fight shifted to the courts. In 1965, the Voting Rights Act passed, making voting discrimination illegal and punishable.

Cincinnati Scholars
In 1828, social reformer Frances Wright spoke at the Hamilton County Courthouse to advocate for women’s rights. She seems to have influenced several University of Cincinnati professors, including Timothy Walker, founder and first dean of UC’s Law School, and his colleague Edward Mansfield. While Mansfield advocated for women’s education, Walker commented on women’s legal status in his textbook Introduction to American Law (1837), used in law schools across the country at the time.

Mary Edith Campbell
In 1911, Mary Edith Campbell became the first woman elected to Cincinnati’s Board of Education. She rose into office with the endorsement of Ohio’s own President William Howard Taft, making Taft the first U.S. president to vote for a woman.

Campbell, a whirlwind change-maker, was also the first president of the Woman’s Club of Greater Cincinnati. She helped found the Cincinnati League of Women Voters, the Juvenile Protective Association and what would become the Urban League. She died in 1965, leaving her estate to Planned Parenthood of Cincinnati.

Many of the region’s most outspoken social reformers and suffragists were medical professionals. These doctors worked with families and came to understand their struggles. They used the privilege of their education, financial resources and access to people in power to advocate for the well-being of common people. They advocated for birth control and maternal health and served as leaders of causes related to public health, work conditions, anti-poverty efforts and others.

Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell (1821–1910)
Born in England and raised in Cincinnati, Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman to graduate from medical school in the U.S. In addition to blazing her own trail – graduating at the top of her class – she was also a lifelong advocate for medical education for women. She formed a medical school for women in the 1860s.

Dr. Louise Southgate (1857–1941)
Dr. Louise Southgate, an outspoken advocate of birth control and equal rights for women, practiced medicine in Northern Kentucky for 40 years. She addressed the 1910 Kentucky Equal Rights Association convention in Covington with a speech titled “The Sisterhood of Women.” She headed Hamilton County, Ohio’s suffrage headquarters in 1912.

In a time before YouTube and Facebook, books, speaker tours, and affinity organizations brought people together to learn from diverse perspectives and advance shared social causes. Several African-American women with ties to Ohio were among the most sought-after voices in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Dr. Elizabeth Campbell (1862–1945)
This 1895 graduate of the Medical College of the University of Cincinnati was the first woman elected to the staff of Christ Hospital and the first to serve as the vice president of the Academy of Medicine. Dr. Campbell served as chairperson of the Cincinnati Committee on Maternal Health. She organized and served as president of the Cincinnati Visiting Nurse Association and the Cincinnati Social Hygiene Society.

Hallie Quinn Brown (1850?–1949)
Hallie Quinn Brown was a graduate of Wilberforce University in Ohio. A teacher and sought-after public speaker, she eloquently made the case for racial integration and women’s rights. She was a U.S. representative to the 1899 International Congress of Women, held in London. In the U.S., she was active in the Colored Women’s League, which advocated on behalf of the needs black children, women and the urban poor.

Anna Julia Cooper (1858–1964)
Anna Julia Cooper was born to an enslaved mother but they secured freedom. Anna was able to attend school and graduated from Oberlin College.Cooper gave many public addresses and authored A Voice from the South, making the case for equal education for women and people of color.

The right to vote is more than permission to participate. It gives legitimacy, representation, and an equal voice to all who are enfranchised.

Suffragists and their allies coordinated efforts on behalf of their causes. They wrote letters to the editor and published pamphlets and newspapers on behalf of the suffrage movement. They organized public displays, such as parades and protests in front of the White House. Women were arrested for taking part in these protests and tortured while in custody. Their hardship increased sympathy for their cause.

Woodhull & Claflin's Weekly was founded in 1870 by Ohio-born sisters Victoria Woodhul and Tennessee Celeste Claflin. It was one of the first newspapers in the country to be run by women. Its pages promoted women's rights, labor reforms and the right to marry and divorce without state involvement.

Votes for Women
The National Woman's Party adopted the colors purple, white, and gold. Each carried symbolism, with purple signifying loyalty to the cause, white the purity of their purpose and gold the light that guides the movement.

Collective Action
Political organizers serve as witnesses to injustice, write editorials, organize rallies and coordinate legal campaigns. Today, organizations and communities such as the International Women’s March, Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ+ people, Indigenous Rights movements, and environmental justice groups use these tools, just as the Suffragists did before them.

The U.S. Constitution did not initially define who was eligible to vote, leaving that responsibility to the states. Constitutional amendments and acts of Congress have established national standards and protections from discrimination, based upon race, sex, age, ability or residence abroad.

Citizenship is a requirement of voting in U.S. elections. Federal control of citizenship status affects whose voices are heard at the ballot box. In the 20th century, the U.S. regulated the citizenship of Native Americans and immigrants from China and Japan to limit their rights.

Today, residents of Puerto Rico and most other U.S. territories are U.S. citizens at birth, but they do not have the right to vote in federal elections, including for U.S. president. Residents of Washington, D.C. can vote for president, but do not have representation within the U.S. Congress.

Social issues don't occur in a vacuum. Building coalitions between groups with similar missions can be one way to accomplish shared goals.

Historians call the period from the 1890s through the 1920s the Progressive Era because it was a time of significant social and political reforms. Causes, such as access to education and promoting healthy workplaces were inextricable linked to women’s suffrage.

Today there are still many active campaigns doing the work of making people’s voices heard. Some groups are breaking new frontiers, others persist in the fight over inequalities our country has uncomfortably lived with throughout our history.

Abolition
This movement worked to abolish slavery and recognize black citizens with full and equal rights. It made significant progress with the passage of the 15th Amendment, which specified the vote should not be denied based upon race, color, or previous condition of servitude. However, this 15th Amendment didn’t mention sex, and many states prevented African Americans from exercising their full legal rights.

Temperance
The social movement against the consumption of alcohol often found supporters among the suffragists. The Temperance movement helped pass the 18th Amendment, which prohibited the production, sale or transportation of alcoholic beverages. With Cincinnati’s fortunes closely tied to beer-making, the suffragists’ engagement with Temperance causes received a cold reception in much of Cincinnati.

Mary Church Terrell (1864–1954)
Oberlin College graduate, Mary Church Terrell, helped found the National Association of Colored Women (NACW), and served as its first president, from 1896 to 1901. Her autobiography, A Colored Woman in a White World, reflects her perspective as a person who belonged “to the only group in this country that has two such huge obstacles to surmount…both sex and race.”

National Association Of Colored Women (NACW)
Black women were often excluded from male-led anti-segregation groups and predominantly white suffrage groups. Black women responded by organizing their own organizations, which coordinated nationally through the NACW. The organization’s motto was “Lifting as We Climb.”

Civil Rights
Passage of the 19th amendment marked one significant step toward equality, but a lot of work remained to make ours a “more perfect union” for all citizens. The Civil Rights Movement grew in response to this need. Active from the 1940s through the 1960s, it sought to end racial discrimination and to secure equal rights for African Americans.

19th century suffragists and abolitionists passed the baton to generations of organizers who worked for equality. In the middle of the 20th century that included campaigns for Civil Rights, voter registration and the Equal Rights Amendment. Today, organizations and campaigns such as Black Lives Matter, the Women’s March, the Indigenous People’s Movement, the Disability Rights Movement and LGBTQ+ civil rights groups are advancing this work.

In recent years, several states have purged voter rolls, making a case that duplicate registrations , deceased people and felons serving their sentences should not be on the voter lists. Ohio has purged registered voters for not having voted in the past two elections and failing to return a mailer. Mistaken removals have disproportionately affected communities of color, the poor and the elderly.

Throughout our nation’s history, a patchwork of state-based laws has controlled access to the ballot. Even following the passage of Constitutional Amendments granting the vote regardless of race or sex, requirements of property ownership, literacy and taxes were common restrictions that limited people’s voting rights. Several acts of Congress, beginning with the 1965 Voting Rights Act, secured national standards and widened accessibility of the vote.

In 2021, new maps will establish voting districts that last until 2031. In 2019, the Supreme Court ruled that drawing voting districts based upon political party affiliation was a political, not legal issue. This ruling left state politicians in control of setting voting districts without further guidance. The issue of gerrymandering — creating voting districts that give one party disproportionate power — continues to be a hot topic.

Students
Students who will be away from their home county on election day may request an absentee ballot from their home county’s county clerk, or they may re-register in the county where they reside while attending school.

Trans People
Gender identity does not affect the right to vote in the U.S. Neither Ohio or Kentucky requires a photo I.D. for proof of identity when voting.

Felons
Ohio is one of 18 states which allow ex-felons to vote once they’ve served their sentence or been released from prison. People on probation or parole may vote in Ohio.

In December, 2019, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear issued an executive order that restored voting rights to an estimated 140,000 citizens who have completed their sentences for non-violent felony convictions from the Kentucky state court.

Voting with Disabilities
The Help America Vote Act requires all states to ensure that everyone can vote privately and independently. This includes physical access to a polling place, as well as ballots that support voters with a range of abilities. Voters may seek assistance from a trained poll worker or bring someone to help them vote.

The word democracy has Greek origins, meaning power or rule of the people. We hold votes so that the full range of public opinions can make important decisions. For local and state offices and ballot measures, majority votes set priorities and determine the future. Higher participation means that election outcomes better reflect our shared priorities. In Ohio and Kentucky, midterm (non-presidential) elections often attract fewer than 50% of registered voters.

Presidential elections rely upon an electoral college process in which voters cast their ballots for a candidate’s electors. There are 18 electors for Ohio and 8 for Kentucky. In most states, including Kentucky and Ohio, all the state’s electors go to the winning candidate. The electors vote for their candidate, and the U.S. Congress certifies the vote count, which determines the president.

A typical election ballot includes a mix of people running for office and proposed legislation. This range of issues and positions can be a lot to process and prepare for. Voters can attend rallies, listen to debates and review voting guides. The non-partisan League of Women Voters prepares guides tailored to voting districts nationwide at Vote411.org.

Voting in Ohio
Ohioans who are U.S. citizens and will be at least 18 years old by the date of the election may register to vote. Registration closes 30 days before an election.

All Ohio voters may request an absentee ballot, at least three days before an election. Voters must postmark their ballots by the day before the election or return them to the county board of elections before the close of the polls on Election Day.

Every voter must announce his or her full name and current address and supply proof of identity. Examples of acceptable forms of identification include:
• An unexpired photo ID issued by the state of Ohio or the U.S. government
• A recent bank statement, utility bill, or paycheck with the voter’s name and address
• A government-issued document with the voter’s name and address, including fishing and marine equipment operator’s license, court papers, or grade reports or transcripts.

Voting in Kentucky
In Kentucky, U.S. citizens who are at least 18 years old by the general election can vote. Voters must be residents of the county where they plant to cast a ballot and be registered at least 28 days before the election.

Kentucky law requires voters to provide valid identification, which may include:
• personal acquaintance of precinct officer
• driver’s license
• Social Security card
• credit card

Know your voting rights
Voters can get up to two replacement ballots if they make a mistake.

Voters who are told they can’t vote can request a provisional ballot.

Volunteer attorneys serve as witnesses and offer assistance at many polling places. If one is not available voters may call the National Election Protection Hotline for help, 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

Literacy levels rose across the country in the early 1800s. As women read about social, civil and religious ideas, they began turning their beliefs about suffrage, temperance, abolition and others social issues into action.

The Women's Rights Convention, held in Seneca Falls, N.Y., in 1848, was the first gathering of people interested in advancing rights for women. The attendees created a Declaration of Sentiments that included the right to vote. As they published and circulated this document, it inspired women acrossthe country to take action.

Women of Ohio were quick to respond, hosting the country's first statewide Women's Rights Convention in Salem in 1850 and the Ohio Women's Rights Convention in Akron in 1851. Ohio continued to play a role, hosting the fourth National Woman's Rights Convention in Cleveland in 1853 and the 6th National Woman's Rights Convention in Cincinnati in 1855.

After years of incremental progress achieved through state-by-state and national advocacy, the U.S. Senate passed the 19th Amendment in June of 1919. Three-quarters of the states ratified it by August 1920, constitutionally granting women the right to vote. Individual states imposed new restrictions to control who could vote. The fight would continue.

The caricatures of political cartoons offered relatable commentary on the question of women's suffrage. Anti-suffrage campaigns focused on how giving women the right to vote would upend traditional gender roles. Pro-suffrage images often made the case that women hold moral power, which is why they should have a say in important social issues being considered at the ballot box.

2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the adoption of the 19th Ammendment to the Constitution: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex." Finally, women nationwide had the constitutional right to legally vote.

This success followed years of organizing by women and their allies. Ohio women were leaders, both in the pro-vote (suffrage) and no-vote (anti-suffrage) campaigns. As in today's justice movements, coalitions were built, tested and frayed as different groups struggled to control who could participate.

"Is it not strange that the sons of men who rebelled against taxation without representation in 1776, and were willing to lay down their lives rather than submit to it, should be willing to practice the same tyranny over their own mothers, sisters, and daughters?" – Dr. Saraah Siewers as quoted in the Cincinnati Enquirer, Mark 1, 1908

Harriet Taylor Upton
As the daughter of a U.S. congressman from Ohio, Harriet Taylor Upton had opportunities to meet influential people. Susan B. Anthony inspired her to become active in the National Woman Suffrage Association, where Upton eventually served as treasurer.

Because of Upton’s involvement, the headquarters of the National Woman Suffrage Association moved to Warren, Ohio. Upton twice served as president of the Ohio Woman Suffrage Association and was elected to the Warren Board of Education and Republican National Executive Committee.

She unsuccessfully ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1926.

Progress For Ohio’s Women
Ohio granted women the right to vote in Board of Education elections in 1894. Statewide votes were held to consider women’s suffrage in 1912, 1914, and 1917, none of which succeeded. In 1917, Ohio women both gained and lost the right to vote in presidential contests. The state legislature passed the Reynolds Act to grant Ohio women the right to vote for president. Later that same year, Ohio put the Reynolds Act up for public vote, and the (all-male) electorate voted it down.

In 1919, the Ohio Assembly ratified the 19th Amendment just two weeks after its national passage. And they went even further, passing additional legislation ensuring women could vote in the 1920 presidential election, even if the 19th Amendment was not yet national policy.

Progress For Kentucky’s Women
In 1838, women in rural areas of Kentucky who were heads of households and taxpayers won the right to vote on matters of education and taxation. While this applied to a small number of women, Kentucky was a national leader in allowing women to vote.

In 1894, with their sisters across the Ohio River, the women of Covington, Newport, and Lexington won the right to vote in school board elections. The state legislature rescinded this right in 1902. In 1912, literate women were allowed to vote in school board elections. The literacy test was imposed to exclude black voters.

Kentucky became the 24th state to ratify the 19th amendment in 1920.

Seventy-two years after the Woman’s Rights Convention at Seneca Falls, Tennessee ratified the 19th Amendment, completing the three-fourths majority of states needed to make the Amendment law. Most of the early suffragists didn’t live to see the day. Their work inspired an intergenerational movement that continued the march toward voting for all.

While the 19th Amendment recognized women’s voting rights – just as the 15th Amendment granted the vote to African American men – in practice, the reality was different. While the federal government legislated the right to vote, the states managed it. Many states imposed barriers to voting, particularly for African Americans, Native Americans and immigrants. Taxes, literacy tests, voter intimidation and violence all prevented full and equal access to the vote.

Former suffragists focused on new campaigns. Some women turned their attention to educating and supporting new voters: for example, founding the League of Women Voters. Other women continued to fight for fair access to the ballot for all U.S. citizens. Others advocated for literacy, education and property rights.

As states imposed voting restrictions, the fight shifted to the courts. In 1965, the Voting Rights Act passed, making voting discrimination illegal and punishable.

Cincinnati Scholars
In 1828, social reformer Frances Wright spoke at the Hamilton County Courthouse to advocate for women’s rights. She seems to have influenced several University of Cincinnati professors, including Timothy Walker, founder and first dean of UC’s Law School, and his colleague Edward Mansfield. While Mansfield advocated for women’s education, Walker commented on women’s legal status in his textbook Introduction to American Law (1837), used in law schools across the country at the time.

Mary Edith Campbell
In 1911, Mary Edith Campbell became the first woman elected to Cincinnati’s Board of Education. She rose into office with the endorsement of Ohio’s own President William Howard Taft, making Taft the first U.S. president to vote for a woman.

Campbell, a whirlwind change-maker, was also the first president of the Woman’s Club of Greater Cincinnati. She helped found the Cincinnati League of Women Voters, the Juvenile Protective Association and what would become the Urban League. She died in 1965, leaving her estate to Planned Parenthood of Cincinnati.

Many of the region’s most outspoken social reformers and suffragists were medical professionals. These doctors worked with families and came to understand their struggles. They used the privilege of their education, financial resources and access to people in power to advocate for the well-being of common people. They advocated for birth control and maternal health and served as leaders of causes related to public health, work conditions, anti-poverty efforts and others.

Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell (1821–1910)
Born in England and raised in Cincinnati, Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman to graduate from medical school in the U.S. In addition to blazing her own trail – graduating at the top of her class – she was also a lifelong advocate for medical education for women. She formed a medical school for women in the 1860s.

Dr. Louise Southgate (1857–1941)
Dr. Louise Southgate, an outspoken advocate of birth control and equal rights for women, practiced medicine in Northern Kentucky for 40 years. She addressed the 1910 Kentucky Equal Rights Association convention in Covington with a speech titled “The Sisterhood of Women.” She headed Hamilton County, Ohio’s suffrage headquarters in 1912.

In a time before YouTube and Facebook, books, speaker tours, and affinity organizations brought people together to learn from diverse perspectives and advance shared social causes. Several African-American women with ties to Ohio were among the most sought-after voices in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Dr. Elizabeth Campbell (1862–1945)
This 1895 graduate of the Medical College of the University of Cincinnati was the first woman elected to the staff of Christ Hospital and the first to serve as the vice president of the Academy of Medicine. Dr. Campbell served as chairperson of the Cincinnati Committee on Maternal Health. She organized and served as president of the Cincinnati Visiting Nurse Association and the Cincinnati Social Hygiene Society.

Hallie Quinn Brown (1850?–1949)
Hallie Quinn Brown was a graduate of Wilberforce University in Ohio. A teacher and sought-after public speaker, she eloquently made the case for racial integration and women’s rights. She was a U.S. representative to the 1899 International Congress of Women, held in London. In the U.S., she was active in the Colored Women’s League, which advocated on behalf of the needs black children, women and the urban poor.

Anna Julia Cooper (1858–1964)
Anna Julia Cooper was born to an enslaved mother but they secured freedom. Anna was able to attend school and graduated from Oberlin College.Cooper gave many public addresses and authored A Voice from the South, making the case for equal education for women and people of color.

The right to vote is more than permission to participate. It gives legitimacy, representation, and an equal voice to all who are enfranchised.

Suffragists and their allies coordinated efforts on behalf of their causes. They wrote letters to the editor and published pamphlets and newspapers on behalf of the suffrage movement. They organized public displays, such as parades and protests in front of the White House. Women were arrested for taking part in these protests and tortured while in custody. Their hardship increased sympathy for their cause.

Woodhull & Claflin's Weekly was founded in 1870 by Ohio-born sisters Victoria Woodhul and Tennessee Celeste Claflin. It was one of the first newspapers in the country to be run by women. Its pages promoted women's rights, labor reforms and the right to marry and divorce without state involvement.

Votes for Women
The National Woman's Party adopted the colors purple, white, and gold. Each carried symbolism, with purple signifying loyalty to the cause, white the purity of their purpose and gold the light that guides the movement.

Collective Action
Political organizers serve as witnesses to injustice, write editorials, organize rallies and coordinate legal campaigns. Today, organizations and communities such as the International Women’s March, Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ+ people, Indigenous Rights movements, and environmental justice groups use these tools, just as the Suffragists did before them.

The U.S. Constitution did not initially define who was eligible to vote, leaving that responsibility to the states. Constitutional amendments and acts of Congress have established national standards and protections from discrimination, based upon race, sex, age, ability or residence abroad.

Citizenship is a requirement of voting in U.S. elections. Federal control of citizenship status affects whose voices are heard at the ballot box. In the 20th century, the U.S. regulated the citizenship of Native Americans and immigrants from China and Japan to limit their rights.

Today, residents of Puerto Rico and most other U.S. territories are U.S. citizens at birth, but they do not have the right to vote in federal elections, including for U.S. president. Residents of Washington, D.C. can vote for president, but do not have representation within the U.S. Congress.

Social issues don't occur in a vacuum. Building coalitions between groups with similar missions can be one way to accomplish shared goals.

Historians call the period from the 1890s through the 1920s the Progressive Era because it was a time of significant social and political reforms. Causes, such as access to education and promoting healthy workplaces were inextricable linked to women’s suffrage.

Today there are still many active campaigns doing the work of making people’s voices heard. Some groups are breaking new frontiers, others persist in the fight over inequalities our country has uncomfortably lived with throughout our history.

Abolition
This movement worked to abolish slavery and recognize black citizens with full and equal rights. It made significant progress with the passage of the 15th Amendment, which specified the vote should not be denied based upon race, color, or previous condition of servitude. However, this 15th Amendment didn’t mention sex, and many states prevented African Americans from exercising their full legal rights.

Temperance
The social movement against the consumption of alcohol often found supporters among the suffragists. The Temperance movement helped pass the 18th Amendment, which prohibited the production, sale or transportation of alcoholic beverages. With Cincinnati’s fortunes closely tied to beer-making, the suffragists’ engagement with Temperance causes received a cold reception in much of Cincinnati.

Mary Church Terrell (1864–1954)
Oberlin College graduate, Mary Church Terrell, helped found the National Association of Colored Women (NACW), and served as its first president, from 1896 to 1901. Her autobiography, A Colored Woman in a White World, reflects her perspective as a person who belonged “to the only group in this country that has two such huge obstacles to surmount…both sex and race.”

National Association Of Colored Women (NACW)
Black women were often excluded from male-led anti-segregation groups and predominantly white suffrage groups. Black women responded by organizing their own organizations, which coordinated nationally through the NACW. The organization’s motto was “Lifting as We Climb.”

Civil Rights
Passage of the 19th amendment marked one significant step toward equality, but a lot of work remained to make ours a “more perfect union” for all citizens. The Civil Rights Movement grew in response to this need. Active from the 1940s through the 1960s, it sought to end racial discrimination and to secure equal rights for African Americans.

19th century suffragists and abolitionists passed the baton to generations of organizers who worked for equality. In the middle of the 20th century that included campaigns for Civil Rights, voter registration and the Equal Rights Amendment. Today, organizations and campaigns such as Black Lives Matter, the Women’s March, the Indigenous People’s Movement, the Disability Rights Movement and LGBTQ+ civil rights groups are advancing this work.

In recent years, several states have purged voter rolls, making a case that duplicate registrations , deceased people and felons serving their sentences should not be on the voter lists. Ohio has purged registered voters for not having voted in the past two elections and failing to return a mailer. Mistaken removals have disproportionately affected communities of color, the poor and the elderly.

Throughout our nation’s history, a patchwork of state-based laws has controlled access to the ballot. Even following the passage of Constitutional Amendments granting the vote regardless of race or sex, requirements of property ownership, literacy and taxes were common restrictions that limited people’s voting rights. Several acts of Congress, beginning with the 1965 Voting Rights Act, secured national standards and widened accessibility of the vote.

In 2021, new maps will establish voting districts that last until 2031. In 2019, the Supreme Court ruled that drawing voting districts based upon political party affiliation was a political, not legal issue. This ruling left state politicians in control of setting voting districts without further guidance. The issue of gerrymandering — creating voting districts that give one party disproportionate power — continues to be a hot topic.

Students
Students who will be away from their home county on election day may request an absentee ballot from their home county’s county clerk, or they may re-register in the county where they reside while attending school.

Trans People
Gender identity does not affect the right to vote in the U.S. Neither Ohio or Kentucky requires a photo I.D. for proof of identity when voting.

Felons
Ohio is one of 18 states which allow ex-felons to vote once they’ve served their sentence or been released from prison. People on probation or parole may vote in Ohio.

In December, 2019, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear issued an executive order that restored voting rights to an estimated 140,000 citizens who have completed their sentences for non-violent felony convictions from the Kentucky state court.

Voting with Disabilities
The Help America Vote Act requires all states to ensure that everyone can vote privately and independently. This includes physical access to a polling place, as well as ballots that support voters with a range of abilities. Voters may seek assistance from a trained poll worker or bring someone to help them vote.

The word democracy has Greek origins, meaning power or rule of the people. We hold votes so that the full range of public opinions can make important decisions. For local and state offices and ballot measures, majority votes set priorities and determine the future. Higher participation means that election outcomes better reflect our shared priorities. In Ohio and Kentucky, midterm (non-presidential) elections often attract fewer than 50% of registered voters.

Presidential elections rely upon an electoral college process in which voters cast their ballots for a candidate’s electors. There are 18 electors for Ohio and 8 for Kentucky. In most states, including Kentucky and Ohio, all the state’s electors go to the winning candidate. The electors vote for their candidate, and the U.S. Congress certifies the vote count, which determines the president.

A typical election ballot includes a mix of people running for office and proposed legislation. This range of issues and positions can be a lot to process and prepare for. Voters can attend rallies, listen to debates and review voting guides. The non-partisan League of Women Voters prepares guides tailored to voting districts nationwide at Vote411.org.

Voting in Ohio
Ohioans who are U.S. citizens and will be at least 18 years old by the date of the election may register to vote. Registration closes 30 days before an election.

All Ohio voters may request an absentee ballot, at least three days before an election. Voters must postmark their ballots by the day before the election or return them to the county board of elections before the close of the polls on Election Day.

Every voter must announce his or her full name and current address and supply proof of identity. Examples of acceptable forms of identification include:
• An unexpired photo ID issued by the state of Ohio or the U.S. government
• A recent bank statement, utility bill, or paycheck with the voter’s name and address
• A government-issued document with the voter’s name and address, including fishing and marine equipment operator’s license, court papers, or grade reports or transcripts.

Voting in Kentucky
In Kentucky, U.S. citizens who are at least 18 years old by the general election can vote. Voters must be residents of the county where they plant to cast a ballot and be registered at least 28 days before the election.

Kentucky law requires voters to provide valid identification, which may include:
• personal acquaintance of precinct officer
• driver’s license
• Social Security card
• credit card

Know your voting rights
Voters can get up to two replacement ballots if they make a mistake.

Voters who are told they can’t vote can request a provisional ballot.

Volunteer attorneys serve as witnesses and offer assistance at many polling places. If one is not available voters may call the National Election Protection Hotline for help, 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

previous arrow
next arrow
Slider

Thank You

Cincinnati Museum Center thanks Katherine Durack for her help with this exhibition.

Support from the Charlotte R. Schmidlapp Fund made this exhibition possible.

Additionally, this exhibition is made possible, in part, by Ohio Humanities, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this exhibition do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.