When was the last time you voted? Of course, if you’re under 18, you’ve never voted in a local, state or national election.

But that doesn’t mean you haven’t voted at other times. Perhaps you have voted on an issue in your classroom at school.

And what about at home? Has your family ever voted on what to do for fun on a Sunday afternoon? Maybe you’ve even voted for your favorite song by calling a local radio station.

There are many people who believe that the right to vote — called “suffrage” — is the most important right that Americans have. What do you think?

Did you know that there are many places in the world where citizens do not have the right to vote?

Today, all American citizens who are 18 or older have the right to vote in local, state and national elections. When people vote, they make their voices heard and help to choose the leaders who will represent them in local, state and national governments.

You might be surprised to learn that some people have not always had the right to vote in America.

For example, women did not receive the right to vote until 1920. Of course, there are many places around the world where women still do not have the right to vote.

In America, the fight for women’s suffrage was a long battle. Activists, including Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, fought for nearly 100 years to win the right to vote.

Their efforts began in the decades before the Civil War. Although the movement gained some attention early on, it lost its momentum when the country became focused on the Civil War.

After the Civil War, the 15th Amendment to the Constitution gave African-American men the right to vote in 1870. It would be another 20 years before a couple of western states — Idaho and Utah — gave women the right to vote just before the end of the 19th century.

The women’s suffrage movement continued to move slowly, though, as it encountered plenty of opposition from groups who did not want to extend the right to vote to women. Although the women’s suffrage movement saw its progress slowed by another war — World War I — it also used that war and women’s work on behalf of the war effort to argue in favor of women’s suffrage.

Finally, on August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified (approved), giving American women the right to vote. This was an important step in securing equal rights for all Americans.

Today, many people take the right to vote for granted. In recent national elections, as few as 51 percent of eligible voters have voted in elections.

This means that only about half of the people able to vote are choosing who will govern everyone. It’s a hard-won right of U.S. citizens. Will you do your part and vote when you have the chance?

 

14 Join the Discussion

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    • Hi, Kadoodle! We’d LOVE to hear what your favorite Wonder of the Day® is!

      Did you know there are several ways you can “VOTE” for your favorite Wonder? You can “rate” each Wonder by choosing how many “stars” (from 1 to 5) you think it should receive. You can leave us a comment (like you did today) and tell us what you thought about each day’s Wonder. You can also send an email to us at hello@wonderopolis.org and tell us what your favorite Wonder is! :-)

    • Thanks for visiting Wonderopolis and sharing your view on the women’s suffrage movement timeline, John! We hope you learned some new things about the right to vote by exploring today’s Wonder of the Day®! :-)

    • Thanks for suggesting your idea for a future Wonder of the Day®, John! Did you know that there are LOTS of Wonders about music to explore already? There are so many, we gave them their own category! You can explore all the MUSIC-related Wonders by clicking on this link: http://wonderopolis.org/category/music/. :-)

  1. Dear Wonderopolis,

    A strange thing happened in our school district yesterday. Our moms and dads voted on our school levy. There were 14,611 votes against the levy and 14, 605 votes for the levy. The vote is so close that the Board of Elections is going to count the votes again. We found out that one vote can make a big difference in Ohio.

    Mrs. Johnson’s class

    • WOW! Thank you for sharing this with your friends in Wonderopolis today, Mrs. Johnson’s third grade! It is very exciting that this happened in your school district and that the officials are going to recount the votes! It is a real-time example of the importance of EVERY single vote! :-)

  2. I thought it was really cool how that one guy’s vote changed the whole U.S. I also found it funny how his mom told him to do that. Apparently, their voting back then was different because they used roses for their voting and today we use technology to vote. Do you think that if that guy didn’t change his vote that today women still wouldn’t be allowed to vote? Also would you have voted for women to vote? I would have. I thought that this wonder was really cool!

    • You did some really great thinking about the things you learned from this Wonder, Luke! We’re happy to hear that! We would have voted to give women the right to vote…every Wonder Friend deserves that right! Thank you for sharing that you would have voted that way, too! :-)

  3. Greetings, Wonderopolis. If I had to vote for my top wonder, this would be at the top of the list. I am happy girls got to vote because if women did not get to vote, we would only have half the country’s vote. It’s so funny how a man voted for the woman. But the man’s mom told him to do it (right vote). Oh well, nobody beats moms. It’s like they’re unstoppable. Anyways, I think this was a wonderful wonder. Thanks for more knowledge, your wonder friend, Ethan TEAM.

  4. Women and people of color at one time had no right to vote, but it’s so good that that has changed. We are all equal. Being that women and African Americans had it hard, I think now is the time to make your vote count!!

    • Great historical point, Jeff! Equality is important and we are so happy that you are WONDERfully interested in our suffrage Wonder! Thanks for your SUPER comment! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What is suffrage?
  • When did women receive the right to vote in the United States?
  • Can one vote really make a difference?

Wonder Gallery

vote_shutterstock_9687217Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Ready to make your voice heard? If you think that your voice — or your one vote — doesn’t matter, think again! Visit PBS KIDS GO! to learn the difference that one vote can make.

If you’re not yet 18, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get involved in how we choose our government. There are plenty of ways for future voters to get involved today.

For example, you can discuss the current elections being held and make sure your parents get out and vote!

Here are some other ways you can choose to participate:

  • Get your family involved. Talk about voting with your parents and encourage them to make sure they participate in elections. Ask them about the issues they think are important to your family.
  • Get your school involved. Ask your teachers to teach you about important local, state and national issues at stake in today’s elections. If you know any local leaders, invite them to speak at your school. You could even hold a mock election at school to practice for the future.
  • Get your community involved. If there’s a local cause or candidate you support, let your community know about it. Even if you cannot vote yet, you can still campaign and volunteer at a local level. You’ll learn a lot in the process. You might even be able to help out with local campaigns to register young voters.

 

Still Wondering

Check out the Winning the Vote for Women activity from Smithsonian’s History Explorer to learn more about the women’s suffrage movement.

 

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