What Does Suffrage Mean?

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Suffrage is the right to vote in political elections. It is a fundamental democratic principle that allows individuals to have a say in the decision-making process of their government. Suffrage has evolved over time, with different groups and demographics fighting for their right to vote. It has been a key part of social and political movements, such as women’s suffrage and the civil rights movement. Suffrage ensures that citizens have a voice in shaping the policies and laws that govern them, promoting equality and representation in a democratic society.

When was the most recent time you participated in an election? If you’re under 18, you haven’t had the chance to vote in a local, state, or national election. However, that doesn’t mean you haven’t had the opportunity to vote in other situations. Maybe you’ve voted on an issue in your school classroom or taken part in a mock election.

What about at home? Has your family ever voted on what to do for fun on a Sunday afternoon? Maybe you’ve even voted for your favorite song by calling a local radio station.

Many people believe that the right to vote, also known as suffrage, is the most important right that Americans possess. What is your opinion?

Currently, all American citizens who are 18 years old or older have the right to vote in elections. When people cast their votes, they make their opinions heard. They help select the leaders who will represent them in all levels of government.

However, this hasn’t always been the case for everyone in America. For example, women were not permitted to vote until 1920. It took a long and arduous struggle to change this. Activists such as Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Sojourner Truth fought for nearly a century to win suffrage for women.

Their efforts began in the decades before the Civil War. The movement gained attention early on, but it lost momentum during the Civil War. Women’s suffrage became a prominent issue again after the 15th Amendment granted Black men the right to vote in 1870. However, it would still be another 20 years before Idaho and Utah became the first states to grant women the right to vote, just before the end of the 19th century.

Despite this progress, the women’s suffrage movement faced significant opposition. There were many groups who did not want to extend the right to vote to women. Although the movement faced setbacks during World War I, it also used women’s contributions to the war effort to argue in favor of suffrage.

Finally, on August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, granting American women the right to vote. This was a crucial step towards achieving equal rights for all Americans.

Even after suffrage was granted to women, many still encountered obstacles at the ballot box. This was particularly true for women of color. Black women and men continued to be denied their right to vote through discriminatory practices such as poll taxes and literacy tests. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 played a significant role in further securing suffrage for them.

In recent national elections, as low as 51 percent of eligible voters have exercised their right to vote. This means that only about half of those eligible to vote are determining who will govern the entire population. Voting is a hard-earned right for U.S. citizens. Will you do your part and vote when you have the opportunity?

Give it a Try

Are you prepared to vote? Ask a friend or family member to assist you in exploring the following activities:

The Continued Fight for Voting Rights

The 19th Amendment’s passage didn’t mark the end of the struggle for voting rights. Explore more about these activists fighting for voting rights. Are you familiar with any of them already? Which one piques your interest the most? Share your newfound knowledge with a friend or family member.

Believe that one vote doesn’t make a difference? Take the time to discover The Power of One Vote. Does this change your perspective? Why do all votes matter? Discuss this with a friend or family member.

If you’re under 18, it doesn’t mean you can’t participate in shaping our government. There are numerous ways for future voters to get involved today. Can you engage your family and school in the process? What actions can you take in your community to influence the government? Compile a list of steps you can take to get involved right now. Then, share your list with a friend or family member and see if they can contribute anything.

Wonder Sources

  • https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/1900-suffrage/ (accessed 10 Mar. 2021)
  • http://www.homeworkspot.com/theme/womensuffrage.htm (accessed 10 Mar. 2021)
  • http://www.history.com/topics/the-fight-for-womens-suffrage (accessed 10 Mar. 2021)
  • https://www.loc.gov/classroom-materials/elections/right-to-vote/voting-rights-for-african-americans/ (accessed 10 Mar. 2021)
  • www.learnersdictionary.com (accessed 10 Mar. 2021)


1. What is suffrage?

Suffrage refers to the right to vote in political elections. It is an essential component of a democratic society, as it allows citizens to participate in the decision-making process and have a say in determining their leaders and representatives.

2. How does suffrage work?

Suffrage is typically granted to individuals who meet certain criteria, such as being of a certain age, possessing citizenship, and sometimes fulfilling residency requirements. The specific rules and regulations for suffrage vary from country to country, as each nation has its own laws and regulations regarding voting rights.

3. When did suffrage become widespread?

Suffrage has evolved over time, with many countries gradually extending voting rights to a larger portion of their populations. In the 19th and 20th centuries, suffrage movements gained momentum, leading to significant expansions in voting rights for women, minorities, and marginalized groups in many countries.

4. Why is suffrage important?

Suffrage is a fundamental right that ensures that all citizens have a voice in shaping their government. It allows individuals to express their opinions, promote their interests, and hold their elected officials accountable. Suffrage is crucial for maintaining a fair and inclusive democracy, as it ensures representation and equal participation for all members of society.

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