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Constitutional FAQ Answer #156

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Q156. "The Constitution never says that women can't vote. So why was the 19th Amendment necessary?"

A. The problem wasn't that the Constitution prevented women from voting itself. The problem was that the Constitution did not mandate that women could vote. Since all the power in government was concentrated in men, and only men selected those in government, there was little incentive for those in power to call for women's suffrage, even though any state could have granted women the vote at any time. Wyoming, in fact, did grant universal suffrage when it was a territory, in an attempt to attract more settlers, a right that carried over when it became a state, long before the 19th Amendment was passed. To get all of the states to grant the right, though might have taken decades (some women, in fact, had called for women's suffrage at the same time black men were ensured of the right in the 14th Amendment). By motivating a movement for women's suffrage and affecting change with an amendment, all states had to comply even if the power base was unwilling to do so on its own.

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