Contested Franchise

Yet the legislation had obvious shortcomings. Instead of broadly granting voting rights to citizens, all it did was prevent states from denying or abridging the vote based explicitly on race.

Since it did not specify women as protected from voting restrictions, they continued without the franchise. Susan B. Anthony fumed, calling the Amendment a “humiliation,” leaving women “the only human beings outside of state prisons and lunatic asylums adjudged incompetent” to vote. Elizabeth Cady Stanton went further, complaining that the Amendment will “place… the Southern Negroes as rulers over our educated women.”

Just as critical, and just as ominously, by not including a ban on non race-based qualifications like education, literacy, or payment of taxes, the 15th Amendment left a wide open opportunity for states to continue restricting voting rights. Southern states took advantage.

(Above) Political cartoon warning of the growing women’s suffrage movement. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. (Left) Susan B. Anthony passionately argued for women to be included in the 15th Amendment’s voting rights provisions. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.