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Getting Mr. Wilson’s Attention

The Nineteenth Amendment was passed by Congress and ratified in 1920.6 What would women do with their hard-won voting rights? The answer was awaited anxiously by politicians and feminists. In fact, a women’s voting bloc did not appear at the national level, at least not in the calculations of politicians in the 1920s. And the initial interpretations of those first elections in the 1920s created a myth about women as political actors that affected their influence for decades. The myth goes something

promised a powerful voting bloc cians initially were ready to consider reform proposals from the leaders of these new voters. But the bloc never materialized and suffragists’ threat of revenge against anti-suffrage senators at the polls proved to be hollow. According to this version, the first elections after 1920 showed that women were not interested in politics because it was foreign to their primary domestic roles in the family. If they did vote, they voted like their husbands, making little difference in the outcomes of elections. This myth that women need not be taken seriously as voters was supported by the claim that after women got the right to vote, voter participation dropped precipitously.