Voting Before the 19th

Before the 19th amendment, many American women had opportunities to vote in a handful of western states. In Illinois, an important early expansion of women’s voting rights occurred in 1891 when the state legislature passed a school suffrage bill, allowing women to vote in school board elections. Both the “home protection” argument and partial ballot strategies worked to persuade legislators that since women were already involved in schools as both teachers and administrators, and overseeing their children's education as mothers, school suffrage made sense for women. 

Many American women already had some opportunities to vote in certain elections, thanks to the efforts of early suffragists. In some cases, these voting victories were more symbolic than actually practical. Opinions were divided--some people thought that accepting partial voting rights was settling, and would slow down progress towards full suffrage. However, others saw partial voting rights as steps in the direction of full suffrage and hoped that opportunities to vote would encourage women to become more involved in the election process, as well as prove that women could be responsible voters.