How did the passage of the 19th amendment change the role of women in the Untied States?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is very hard to say how the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment changed the role of women in the United States.  There were many factors that contributed to changing the status of women and it is not clear that the passage of this amendment was the most important of these factors.  Let us look at what has changed about the role of women since the passage of this amendment and then let us consider the extent to which these changes were caused by the amendment.

Women’s roles in the US have changed dramatically since 1920.  At that time, women were largely expected to keep out of public life.  They were not supposed to be involved in politics.  It was preferable that they should not work.  They were not allowed to do things like serving on juries.  Socially and legally, women were also supposed to be subordinated.  Women did not have the same rights as men in terms of things like property and custody of children.  Women were expected to be demure and submissive.  They were expected to wear very modest clothing and people typically held Victorian attitudes about women and sex.

All of this has changed since 1920.  Very few people would now argue for keeping women out of politics or keeping them from working.  Discrimination against women is largely illegal.  Socially, women and men are not strictly equal, but they are much more so than they were in 1920.  Women are not expected to be as deferential to men.  They are not expected to be as modest.  The double standard between men and women in sexual matters has decreased greatly.

But what has caused these changes?  Did the Nineteenth Amendment actually change things?  It is hard to say.  We can certainly argue that the changes have come about for other reasons.  Women work more now, we can argue, because there are fewer jobs that demand greater physical strength than women have.  Women are able to have careers because of the widespread availability of contraceptives and the decrease in family size that goes with that.  Factors like the change in the US economy and the changes in medical technology have arguably had a greater effect than the Nineteenth Amendment did.

However, we can also say that this amendment surely contributed to all of these changes.  By giving women the right to vote, the US was essentially saying that women deserved to be equal to men in a very important and very fundamental way.  This made it much more likely that people would start to think that women should have a much more expansive role in society.  Thus, we can say that the Nineteenth Amendment helped people to believe that women were equal and that it, thereby, helped allow women to play much more of a role in our society.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It can be said that the passage of the 19th Amendment changed the course of history. For one thing, in the election of 1960, John F. Kennedy defeated a conservative Richard M. Nixon because of the women's vote. Kennedy's assassination then led to Lyndon B. Johnson's having become president. Under the Johnson administration, Civil Rights legislation was enacted and Johnson's "Great Society" begun, a system that has led to vigorous legislation regarding hiring practices, aid to dependent families, etc. He also engaged the U.S. into a civil war in Viet Nam as an effort to prevent Communism. Years later, historical findings have pointed to the war's having been a war escalated to promote the military industrial complex in which 58,000,000 men were killed needlessly with others injured and/or subjected to Agent Orange. Viet Nam was and is not any threat to the United States.

In the 1996 presidential election, it was again the women's vote that determined the election as Bill Clinton won with women and lost with men. In the 2008 election women composed 53% of the voters and they determined who won in the Congressional elections as well as the Presidential. Certainly, after the 2008 election, the United States witnessed some major transformations in the operation of government with the consent of a majority in Congress of the party of the president.


With women deciding the presidential election and with record numbers of women in both the House and the Senate, policies helping women must now be on the front burner. Women determined the outcome of the way the government looks, and it is time for lawmakers to answer the call of the majority of voters in the country and make sure economic fairness, pay equity, and issues of work-family balance are on the top of the policy agenda.

--Margie Omero, president and founder of Momentum Analysis

Chantelm | Student

The 19th amendment allowed women the freedom to vote for the first time

Jyotsana | Student

Women have come a long way,” said Rachel Krinsky of the League of Women Voters. “They fought hard for their right to vote, and today, they fight for places in office.” The League of Women Voters was formed immediately after the passage of the 19th Amendment by those who fought for suffrage.

The 19th Amendment played a pivotal role in promoting reproductive rights for women, ushering in a new voting population with a political agenda that would ultimately legalize contraception and abortion. Women also experienced economic progress as a result, with the increased availability of family-planning services and supplies allowing more women to enroll in higher education and enter professional occupations.