The right to vote.

Grandfather clause
Legal stratagem to exempt individuals from certain requirements on the basis of their ancestors' status prior to enactment of the requirements. Until 1915, Southern states used it as a means of exempting white voters from the literacy or poll-tax tests that they established to keep blacks from voting.

Literacy test
Requirement that a voter be able to read a section of the Constitution. One of the first devices used to circumvent the Fifteenth Amendment, it was largely eliminated by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Poll tax
Head, or capitation, tax that was made a prerequisite for voting. Used in some states to disfranchise poor black voters, it was outlawed in federal elections by the Twenty-Fourth Amendment (1964) and at the state level by a 1966 Supreme Court decision.

White primary
Primary election in which voting was reserved for whites. Since the Southern states voted solidly Democratic from the time of Reconstruction until the 1970s, the real choice of candidates was made at the primary stage. The Supreme Court finally disallowed the white primary in 1944.

Seneca Falls Convention
First women's rights assembly in the United States, held in upstate New York in 1848. The call for women's suffrage was one of the twelve resolutions adopted.

Voter registration
To prevent fraud, local election authorities maintain a list of all individuals who are qualified to vote; registration is the process of getting onto that list. Once another tool of discrimination, registration is now so simple that it can be done while getting a driver's license.

Suffrage is the right to vote, and modern democracies, including the United States, extend that right to almost all responsible adult citizens, a condition known as universal suffrage. Indeed, "one person, one vote" is seen as a hallmark of representative democracy. It was not always so, however. In the United States two groups in particular, African Americans and women, were long excluded from the franchise, and their struggles to achieve the right to vote were long and hard fought. The U.S. Constitution made no statement concerning the right to vote, leaving that determination to the states. And at the time the Constitution was written, not only was suffrage restricted to white males, but it was further limited by religious, property, and taxpaying qualifications. By the time of the Civil War the principle of unrestricted white male suffrage was established, and it was mentioned in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. In theory, African American men achieved suffrage with the adoption of the Fifteenth Amendment, but in fact some states threw up barriers to black voting that persisted into the 1960s. American women did not win their struggle for suffrage until ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, but unlike African Americans, they did not then have to continue the fight against state attempts to circumvent the law. A final extension of suffrage took place in 1971 when the Twenty-Sixth Amendment lowered the voting age from 21 to 18.

Here are some topics to explore that relate to women's suffrage. Looking at the articles, images, and other materials in this Research Starter may give you more ideas. Each topic has one or more articles to start you on your research, but remember that it takes more than one article to make a research paper. Continue your research with our list of articles below.

Why did the Founding Fathers not define suffrage rights in the Constitution?
Women's Suffrage

Trace the history of the African American struggle for the vote from the Fifteenth Amendment to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Voting Rights Act
15th Amendment

Trace the history of women's efforts to achieve the vote in the United States.
Women's Suffrage

What are the present-day requirements for voting in the United States? What purpose do any restrictions serve?

Suffrage may be considered a right, a privilege, or a duty. How do these interpretations differ and with what implications?

Civil Rights
Voting Rights Act
Civil Rights Movement
Women's Suffrage
Women's Rights Movements
Women's Suffrage Achieved
15th Amendment
19th Amendment

Civil Rights and Discrimination
Cornell Law School's Legal Information Institute provides primary and secondary materials relating to civil rights and constitutional law.

U.S. Constitution
Hypertext version from Emory University Law School includes some explanatory notes as well as amendments never ratified.

American Government & Politics at
Outstanding online textbook on the history of American government and politics. Maintained by Dr. Jonathan Mott, a political science instructor and writer. Recommended for students, teachers, and general audience.

League of Women Voters
Official site of the League of Women Voters provides information about the organization and its many civic and community activities, particularly with elections.

Vote Smart Web
An outstanding, searchable site that provides detailed information on U.S. federal and state governments, elections, and politics. Check "Issue Links" to many other political and social sources on the Web.

National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) — Home Page
Documentary materials from the libraries of members of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, relating to the campaign for U.S. woman suffrage (1848-1921). Part of a collection presented to the Library of Congress by Carrie Chapman Catt.

Feminist Internet Gateway
An exemplary site with extensive information, including mediated links.

National Organization for Women (NOW)
NOW's Web site provides information about the organization and its activities, key issues, news, and links to related sites.

United States Code Chapter 20
Site provides a hypertext version of the US Code, including Chapter 20 which embodies the Voting Rights Act of 1965.