Fighting for the Right to Vote in South Dakota

South Dakota Ratified the 19th Amendment on December 4, 1919

Over 100 years ago, Congress passed the 19th amendment, granting women the right to vote. While it was an uphill battle to pass the amendment on a national scale, each state had its own path to ratification, as well.

In fact, women in South Dakota had a long history of fighting for their right to vote.  In 1883, the door opened to women voting in school elections, and suffrage became a major political topic. National leaders in the suffrage movement, including Susan B. Anthony, Anna Howard Shaw and Carrie Chapman Catt, all traveled across South Dakota campaigning for a state amendment.  Legislation failed by increasingly slimmer margins in 1885, 1890, 1895, 1898, 1910, 1914 and 1916.  Each time the momentum behind the movement gained strength. 

Mary Shields “Mamie” Pyle started the South Dakota Universal Franchise League in 1911, campaigning for the vote. Pyle, who had never worked for temperance, distanced the suffragists from the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, believing that combining the two issues had hurt the suffrage movement in the past. This strategy would help neutralize the arguments of influential anti-suffragists in the state who were tied to the liquor industry.  The League printed a newspaper, The South Dakota Messenger, to get the message out to rural communities.

In June of 1919, the 19th Amendment passed Congress and looked to the states for ratification. On December 4, 1919—just past midnight in a special state legislative session—South Dakota became the 21st state to ratify the 19th Amendment.

The above article is summarized from the NPS website. Read the full article here