Posted by Ancestry Team on March 3, 2020 in Website

As We Approach the Centennial of the 19th Amendment Ratification, 

Ancestry® Invites You to Make Them Count

Just 100 years ago, many women could not cast a ballot due to discriminatory laws in their home states. This upcoming August 26 marks the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which removed discrimination in voting “on account of sex” and ultimately granted many women the right to vote for the first time on a national stage. 

In order to inspire future generations of women voters, we first need to understand the multidimensional history of how our right to vote came to be. While the 1920 ratification of the 19th Amendment was a key achievement in women’s suffrage, the road to voters’ rights spanned generations – from the early efforts of suffragists and abolitionists in the 1800s to breaking down barriers to voting for women of color in the mid-1900s. Ancestry®’s unparalleled records collection helps bridge the road to progress in America.

To truly understand the full picture of women’s right to vote, we turned to experts and authors to help shape our narrative, like Susan Ware, historian, biographer and author of Why They Marched: Untold Stories of the Women Who Fought for the Right to Vote, and Lisa Tetrault, Ph.D, associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University, specializing in the gender, race, and the history of American democracy. 

Dr. Lisa Tetrault, associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University and women’s rights expert, has studied the movement and its progress over the years. She speaks about the significance of this centennial: “2020 is an important time for us to reflect back on the fight for voting access, remembering that the 19th Amendment was one part of a long, multi-generational movement fueled by diverse, incredible women. Ancestry plays a unique role in helping people find their personal connection to that past and highlights the untold stories of countless individuals who shaped our nation’s suffrage story.” 

Commemorating the Milestone

To honor the trailblazers who came before us and recognize the importance of voter equality — Ancestry® is shining a light on the many people and moments that shaped women’s suffrage and the ratification of the 19th Amendment. We hope to elevate the stories of the generations of women who carried the torch, and to connect today’s voters with those who cast the first votes (or in some cases may not have been able to at all).

Finding Personal Connections 

Starting today, offers the opportunity for you to explore your personal connections to this moment in history and learn more about the movement. A discovery can be as easy as starting with one name. For those who do not find a direct connection to the women’s suffrage movement, our tools show family members who lived in that time and offer a window into what life was like during this remarkable chapter in history.  

And consider this for a moment — women in your family tree who died before 1920 likely never got the chance to cast a vote in a national election. 

Descendants’ Stories

Descendants of voters rights advocates have made powerful discoveries about their connection to the movement, discussing how their ancestors’ legacy and values helped shape their past and future, and they are honoring the many contributions each made on the path to the voter’s booth. 

  • Ida B Wells
    • Dan Duster is the great grandson of Ida B Wells, an activist, journalist, and one of the founding members of the NAACP. Based in Chicago, Dan grew up upholding his great-grandmother’s fight for justice, change and equality, which led him to become a professional speaker and anti-harassment trainer.
  • Jeannette Rankin
    • Janet and Shoshana Schiff’s ancestor, suffragist Jeannette Rankin, was the first woman elected to Congress in the United States – elected in 1916 (before the 19th amendment was passed in 1920). She served in the United States House of Representatives as a representative of Montana for two terms (elected in 1916 and again in 1940). Rankin is a great-aunt and great-great-aunt to Janet and Shoshana, and Janet has many memories of Jeannette both from when she was a young child and when she was an adult. Both women reside in New Jersey and Shoshana is a practicing attorney who is inspired every day by her aunt’s legacy as a “woman first.”
  • Febb Ensminger Burn
    • Tyler Boyd is a great-great grandson and Jack Burn is a great-grandson of Febb Ensminger Burn, who is known as the “The Mother Who Saved Suffrage.” Febb wrote a famous letter to persuade her son, Harry Burn, an elected official with the Tennessee State Legislature, to vote in favor of the ratification of the 19th amendment. Harry was the deciding vote and the legislation was officially passed in August 1920. Both Tyler and Jack draw strength from their ancestors’ experiences, and Tyler was even inspired to write a book that chronicles the life and legacy of Harry Burn. Tyler resides in Tennessee and Jack lives in Alabama.
  • Charlotta Pyles
    • Cathy Hughes is the founder and chairwoman of Urban One Inc. and the great-granddaughter of Charlotta Pyles, a Kentucky-born abolitionist. Charlotta escaped slavery in Kentucky in the 1850s to start a new life in Iowa, Minnesota, and Missouri — where she became a key advocate for African American rights in the US, befriending Frederick Douglass, Susan B Anthony, and Lucretia Mott.



Multi-Faceted Storytelling Beyond the 19th

The centennial of the 19th amendment ratification will ignite a rich exploration of women’s history, and throughout 2020, Ancestry will continue to share the untold stories of diverse individuals, their families and key advocates who worked tirelessly protesting, petitioning and insisting on equal voting rights.

We invite you to search for your own personal links to women’s voting rights history for free by visiting throughout 2020.

*Brookings Institute, “What does high voter turnout tell us about the 2020 elections?” Galston, W.A., Nov. 20, 2019.