BOISE — It wasn’t until a century ago that some American women were able to cast their first votes, but Idahoans were ahead of the curve. Idaho gave women the right to vote for state and local candidates in 1896, as part of a group of western states that expanded voting rights over two decades before the 19th Amendment was adopted in 1920. Women nationwide, for at least the past three decades, have registered and exercised their right to vote at higher rates than men, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. The Gem State’s vote to allow women to participate in democracy and the nation’s amendment of the Constitution were the first steps in ensuring all Americans were able to cast their ballots, but discriminatory roadblocks for women of color across the country remained for years afterward. To celebrate the centennial of the 19th Amendment, the Idaho State Historical Society and the city of Boise have focused their research on Idaho and Boise’s efforts to secure the right to vote for women. Idaho State Historian HannaLore Hein said the anniversary of the amendment itself is important, but so is recognizing the decades of hard-fought advocacy to get to that point. “It took 70 years to get the 19th Amendment in 1920, but that is a drop in time in terms of the history of the world,” she said. “I think recognizing that was not easy, and it took enormous effort at a time when they were against a lot of odds is something everyone should be remembering,and it’s a reminder to continue to exercise the right our ancestors fought so hard to give us.” Wyoming kicked off the trend of giving women the right to vote in 1869, followed by Utah, Washington, Colorado and then Idaho. The Gem State had an opportunity to become the second territory to pass women’s suffrage in 1870 after eastern Idaho Representative Joseph William Morgan proposed a bill, but it died in a tie vote in the House of Representatives. Abigail Scott Duniway, a famous Pacific Northwest suffrage activist, came and spoke to the Idaho Legislature in 1887 about voting rights for women, but a proposed bill to give women the right to vote still died. In 1893, Idaho’s first suffrage advocacy organization was founded in Hagerman by Elizabeth Ingram, and other organizations sprang up soon after. CONFLICTING INTERESTS Leading up to the 1896 constitutional amendment and public vote on suffrage, there were several conflicting interests in the state. Mostly male mining communities were concerned about giving women the right to vote because women were active in the movement to ban alcohol. Major supporters for suffrage included members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who were banned entirely from voting in Idaho between 1884 and 1892 because of anti-Mormon sentiments in the state. After securing the right in their own state for women to vote, Idahoans worked to support the national suffrage cause up through the passage of the 19th Amendment. Although Idaho’s legislators were strongly in support of the vote for women, it was the 30th state to ratify the 19th Amendment because the Legislature only met every other year at that time and a special session needed to be called. Hein said legislators needed to be persuaded to come back to Boise and vote on the amendment on their own dime outside of the normal session. Idaho Gov. D.W. Davis convinced lawmakers to come back for the vote. “It took about seven months to convince everyone it was absolutely critical to the movement, and without Idaho’s vote of ratification there was the possibility it would not pass,” Hein said. “So on Feb. 11, 1920, that Legislature came together and voted in favor of ratification.” RACISM IN THE MOVEMENT The women’s suffrage movement started with the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 in New York State, where women gathered to discuss and organize for advocacy efforts. From there, the movement spread throughout the country, sprang up in different social clubs for both white women and women of color and spilled onto the streets in parades of supporters until two generations of women’s advocacy culminated in a majority of legislatures approving the amendment. However, although the text of the 19th Amendment said anyone regardless of sex would be able to vote, it was mostly white women who were able to cast their ballots until the Civil Rights Movement. Jill Gill, a history professor at Boise State University specializing in race issues, said there were rampant racist views in the suffrage movement. “There’s an assumption that one group fighting for its rights will automatically have empathy for another group that’s fighting for the same rights,” Gill said. “We think of it as a white movement without questioning that. We don’t tend to include the fact that there were white women who were part of the suffrage movement that were willing to throw black women under the bus.” Southern states with a deep history of slavery were tough to get on board with the idea of votes for women. Gill said white suffrage activists were supportive of including black women activists when they needed large numbers of supporters, but leaders of the movement like Carrie Chapman Catt used the argument that if southern states passed the 19th Amendment it would lead to even more power for white people. Any man regardless of race was permitted to vote by the 15th Amendment following the American Civil War, but just like the 19th Amendment those rights were only on paper for most men of color in America. This was especially prevalent in the South where a variety of intimidation techniques and domestic terrorism used to suppress the vote. “(Suffrage activists were) desperate, they’ve been working for 72 years,” Gill said. “They started pulling out arguments to convince the white South, ‘Don’t worry, you can use the same tactics you’ve used on black men on black women, and white women’s votes will buttress white supremacy.’” Idaho is historically connected to the legacy confederacy because of the migration of southerners to the state after the war, but Gill said black people in the state did not face the same kind of discrimination at the ballot box as in the South. This is because the population of black Idahoans was only .2% at the time, which she said was not enough to worry the political establishment that black voters could significantly offset the political balance at the time. Instead, Gill said advocates in the black community in Idaho were more focused on pushing for anti-lynching legislation and repealing Jim Crow policies that prevented black people from living in certain neighborhoods and segregated public spaces. Latino Idahoans also were discriminated against during this time. Ana Maria Nevárez-Schachtell a cultural activist and educator, said it was likely that middle class Latina women in urban areas could have voted because they were often categorized as white at the time. However, she said Latinos in agricultural areas working in low-paying agriculture jobs were most likely disenfranchised from society entirely and not casting votes. “I can imagine that the women in those groups were not invited and included to vote because they were lower income,” Nevárez-Schachtell said, about Latina farmworkers. “They were not involved. Maybe they were involved in their own community, but you have to consider the Mexican women or Latina women were twice a minority. They were not only part of an ethnic group, but they were also women, so they faced double discrimination.” On the other hand, Nevárez-Schactell said middle class Latina women were often thought of as “white” in the community and did not face as much discrimination. Dolores Urquides, a well-known women in the Latina community Boise during the early 20th century, registered to vote in April 1919, according to records researched by Nevárez-Schactell with the help of the city of Boise’s Arts & History Department. Brandi Burns, Boise’s history programs manager, said racist beliefs were recorded in several suffrage groups notes, including those in Idaho. “For the Idaho Equal Suffrage Association it sounds like a nice story, ‘Oh yay, we’re campaigning for women’s suffrage.’ But for their minutes to organize, they call out that Chinese men can vote over native born white women,” Burns said. “There’s some parts of the story that are really not pleasant there.” There was a broad range of experiences women had voting in Idaho and around the country, but in many instances the lives of women of color were not recorded in history. Burns said a major focus on the city’s research on the topic was on women who were discriminated against at the time, either for their race or class. “Women aren’t really well represented in archives,” she said. “Often it’s men, and when you look for women of color and try to include more diverse stories, they’re just not represented and you have to really dig for it. That’s what we’re trying to do here and look for the women who are left out, and that boils down to a story of class and race and privileges they didn’t have access to.” Going forward, Burns will be researching Boise women from all walks of life to learn more about their stories during the time period of women’s suffrage activism.

BOISE — It wasn’t until a century ago that some American women were able to cast their first votes, but Idahoans were ahead of the curve.

Idaho gave women the right to vote for state and local candidates in 1896, as part of a group of western states that expanded voting rights over two decades before the 19th Amendment was adopted in 1920.

Women nationwide, for at least the past three decades, have registered and exercised their right to vote at higher rates than men, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

The Gem State’s vote to allow women to participate in democracy and the nation’s amendment of the Constitution were the first steps in ensuring all Americans were able to cast their ballots, but discriminatory roadblocks for women of color across the country remained for years afterward.

To celebrate the centennial of the 19th Amendment, the Idaho State Historical Society and the city of Boise have focused their research on Idaho and Boise’s efforts to secure the right to vote for women. Idaho State Historian HannaLore Hein said the anniversary of the amendment itself is important, but so is recognizing the decades of hard-fought advocacy to get to that point.

“It took 70 years to get the 19th Amendment in 1920, but that is a drop in time in terms of the history of the world,” she said. “I think recognizing that was not easy, and it took enormous effort at a time when they were against a lot of odds is something everyone should be remembering,and it’s a reminder to continue to exercise the right our ancestors fought so hard to give us.”

Wyoming kicked off the trend of giving women the right to vote in 1869, followed by Utah, Washington, Colorado and then Idaho. The Gem State had an opportunity to become the second territory to pass women’s suffrage in 1870 after eastern Idaho Representative Joseph William Morgan proposed a bill, but it died in a tie vote in the House of Representatives.

Abigail Scott Duniway, a famous Pacific Northwest suffrage activist, came and spoke to the Idaho Legislature in 1887 about voting rights for women, but a proposed bill to give women the right to vote still died. In 1893, Idaho’s first suffrage advocacy organization was founded in Hagerman by Elizabeth Ingram, and other organizations sprang up soon after.

CONFLICTING INTERESTS

Leading up to the 1896 constitutional amendment and public vote on suffrage, there were several conflicting interests in the state. Mostly male mining communities were concerned about giving women the right to vote because women were active in the movement to ban alcohol.

Major supporters for suffrage included members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who were banned entirely from voting in Idaho between 1884 and 1892 because of anti-Mormon sentiments in the state.

After securing the right in their own state for women to vote, Idahoans worked to support the national suffrage cause up through the passage of the 19th Amendment. Although Idaho’s legislators were strongly in support of the vote for women, it was the 30th state to ratify the 19th Amendment because the Legislature only met every other year at that time and a special session needed to be called.

Hein said legislators needed to be persuaded to come back to Boise and vote on the amendment on their own dime outside of the normal session. Idaho Gov. D.W. Davis convinced lawmakers to come back for the vote.

“It took about seven months to convince everyone it was absolutely critical to the movement, and without Idaho’s vote of ratification there was the possibility it would not pass,” Hein said. “So on Feb. 11, 1920, that Legislature came together and voted in favor of ratification.”

RACISM IN THE MOVEMENT

The women’s suffrage movement started with the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 in New York State, where women gathered to discuss and organize for advocacy efforts. From there, the movement spread throughout the country, sprang up in different social clubs for both white women and women of color and spilled onto the streets in parades of supporters until two generations of women’s advocacy culminated in a majority of legislatures approving the amendment.

However, although the text of the 19th Amendment said anyone regardless of sex would be able to vote, it was mostly white women who were able to cast their ballots until the Civil Rights Movement. Jill Gill, a history professor at Boise State University specializing in race issues, said there were rampant racist views in the suffrage movement.

“There’s an assumption that one group fighting for its rights will automatically have empathy for another group that’s fighting for the same rights,” Gill said. “We think of it as a white movement without questioning that. We don’t tend to include the fact that there were white women who were part of the suffrage movement that were willing to throw black women under the bus.”

Southern states with a deep history of slavery were tough to get on board with the idea of votes for women. Gill said white suffrage activists were supportive of including black women activists when they needed large numbers of supporters, but leaders of the movement like Carrie Chapman Catt used the argument that if southern states passed the 19th Amendment it would lead to even more power for white people.

Any man regardless of race was permitted to vote by the 15th Amendment following the American Civil War, but just like the 19th Amendment those rights were only on paper for most men of color in America. This was especially prevalent in the South where a variety of intimidation techniques and domestic terrorism used to suppress the vote.

“(Suffrage activists were) desperate, they’ve been working for 72 years,” Gill said. “They started pulling out arguments to convince the white South, ‘Don’t worry, you can use the same tactics you’ve used on black men on black women, and white women’s votes will buttress white supremacy.’”

Idaho is historically connected to the legacy confederacy because of the migration of southerners to the state after the war, but Gill said black people in the state did not face the same kind of discrimination at the ballot box as in the South. This is because the population of black Idahoans was only .2% at the time, which she said was not enough to worry the political establishment that black voters could significantly offset the political balance at the time.

Instead, Gill said advocates in the black community in Idaho were more focused on pushing for anti-lynching legislation and repealing Jim Crow policies that prevented black people from living in certain neighborhoods and segregated public spaces.

Latino Idahoans also were discriminated against during this time. Ana Maria Nevárez-Schachtell a cultural activist and educator, said it was likely that middle class Latina women in urban areas could have voted because they were often categorized as white at the time. However, she said Latinos in agricultural areas working in low-paying agriculture jobs were most likely disenfranchised from society entirely and not casting votes.

“I can imagine that the women in those groups were not invited and included to vote because they were lower income,” Nevárez-Schachtell said, about Latina farmworkers. “They were not involved. Maybe they were involved in their own community, but you have to consider the Mexican women or Latina women were twice a minority. They were not only part of an ethnic group, but they were also women, so they faced double discrimination.”

On the other hand, Nevárez-Schactell said middle class Latina women were often thought of as “white” in the community and did not face as much discrimination. Dolores Urquides, a well-known women in the Latina community Boise during the early 20th century, registered to vote in April 1919, according to records researched by Nevárez-Schactell with the help of the city of Boise’s Arts & History Department.

Brandi Burns, Boise’s history programs manager, said racist beliefs were recorded in several suffrage groups notes, including those in Idaho.

“For the Idaho Equal Suffrage Association it sounds like a nice story, ‘Oh yay, we’re campaigning for women’s suffrage.’ But for their minutes to organize, they call out that Chinese men can vote over native born white women,” Burns said. “There’s some parts of the story that are really not pleasant there.”

There was a broad range of experiences women had voting in Idaho and around the country, but in many instances the lives of women of color were not recorded in history. Burns said a major focus on the city’s research on the topic was on women who were discriminated against at the time, either for their race or class.

“Women aren’t really well represented in archives,” she said. “Often it’s men, and when you look for women of color and try to include more diverse stories, they’re just not represented and you have to really dig for it. That’s what we’re trying to do here and look for the women who are left out, and that boils down to a story of class and race and privileges they didn’t have access to.”

Going forward, Burns will be researching Boise women from all walks of life to learn more about their stories during the time period of women’s suffrage activism.