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Evanston and the Fight for the Vote

Going National: The 19th Amendment


Suffragists from the National Women's Party picketing outside the White House, December 31, 1916.


Lenna Lowe Yost

Though the WCTU and other suffrage organizations had originally embraced a state-by-state approach to women's suffrage, by 1916 it was clear that that was not the most efficient or effective tactic. Alice Paul and the National Women's Party took a much more militant approach toward gaining the vote, picketing outside the White House and holding parades through major cities. Thanks to this more militant strategy, which brought additional visibility to the cause, and women's participation in World War One, the Susan B. Anthony Amendment was brought to Congress in 1919. It passed the House in May and the Senate in June, and the WCTU, along with the National American Women's Suffrage Association (NAWSA), kicked into high gear to ensure that the amendment would be ratified by the 36 necessary states as quickly as possible. 

In states across the country, WCTU women worked toward ratification. In West Virginia, Mrs. Lenna Lowe Yost was key to the ratification process. She had been President of the West Virginia WCTU and President of the West Virginia chapter of the NAWSA, as well as the WCTU's Washington correspondent for the Union Signal, their newspaper. Through her WCTU work she had made connections with most of West Virginia's politicians, and when it came time to ratify the amendment, she was put in charge of the ratification efforts by the NAWSA. Yost was responsible for persuading most of the West Virginia legislators to vote for the 19th Amendment. She pressured other women's groups to exert influence on legislators, and kept tabs on undecided lawmakers, encouraging them to vote in favor of the amendment. West Virginia was the 34th state to ratify the 19th Amendment, in large part because of the efforts of Lenna Lowe Yost and the West Virginia WCTU. 

The 19th Amendment became the law of the land when Tennessee, the 36th state, ratified it on August 18, 1920. And just as the WCTU had encouraged its members to participate in the fight for suffrage, they encouraged women to vote and actively participate in government. Alongside temperance literature, they printed pamphlets and articles about "Christian citizenship," and encouraged women to vote to enforce Prohibition and act on other social causes, like child labor, as part of their crusade "for God, home, and every land."