Women make masks in the pandemic.
Women make masks in the pandemic.

1918: The Flu and the Vote

A flu pandemic had a big effect on the 19th Amendment.

The world is in the middle of a pandemic. The coronavirus is changing people’s lives. It’s not the first time this has happened though. There have been pandemics before. One almost ruined American women’s chance to vote!

Women in the United States got the right to vote 100 years ago in 1920. In 1918, they were fighting for that right. That’s when an outbreak of Spanish flu shocked the world. This flu was deadly. Like today, it was not safe for people to gather in large groups. The suffrage movement had been holding events such as marches and meetings. The Spanish flu stopped these.

Suffragists got creative to share their message! They started petitions, hung up flyers, and took out ads in newspapers. They called people on the telephone and wrote letters. These women respected safety rules to stay healthy. But they didn’t give up on their goals.

There was also another challenge taking the world’s attention. Many men from the United States were away fighting in World War I. Other men got sick or died from the flu. This left empty spots in the job market. Who took over these jobs? Women!

American women handled all kinds of jobs while men were away. Female nurses and volunteers were the caregivers of the pandemic. Women may not have been fighting in the war — but they kept the nation going.

Women had a lot going on in 1918. The battle for suffrage was in trouble. But in the end, the war and the pandemic helped in some ways. Women were celebrated as patriots for their work during the war. They had a strong case to demand their rights!

Allison Lange is a professor who studies women’s suffrage. She said the pandemic made “women more visible workers in support of the nation.” Government leaders saw the important work women were doing. They knew it was time to let women vote. The women’s suffrage movement didn’t just survive the pandemic. It came out stronger!

On August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment became official. Later that year, many American women were able to vote in their first election. In 2020, the country faces a similar situation. There’s an election and a pandemic. Some voters will send in their picks by mail. Others will still vote in person.

It’s a good time to ask: What would suffragists do? Lange believes they “would say that we should vote and pay attention to civic participation.” Like the suffragists of the 1900s, today’s voters must adapt to new conditions. It’s still very important to vote — whether by mail or with mask!

Updated August 19, 2020, 5:02 P.M. (ET)
By Idone Rhodes

1918: The Flu and the Vote

A flu pandemic had a big effect on the 19th Amendment.

Women make masks in the pandemic.
Women make masks in the pandemic.

The world is in the middle of a pandemic. The coronavirus is changing people’s lives. It’s not the first time this has happened though. There have been pandemics before. One almost ruined American women’s chance to vote!

Women in the United States got the right to vote 100 years ago in 1920. In 1918, they were fighting for that right. That’s when an outbreak of Spanish flu shocked the world. This flu was deadly. Like today, it was not safe for people to gather in large groups. The suffrage movement had been holding events such as marches and meetings. The Spanish flu stopped these.

Suffragists got creative to share their message! They started petitions, hung up flyers, and took out ads in newspapers. They called people on the telephone and wrote letters. These women respected safety rules to stay healthy. But they didn’t give up on their goals.

There was also another challenge taking the world’s attention. Many men from the United States were away fighting in World War I. Other men got sick or died from the flu. This left empty spots in the job market. Who took over these jobs? Women!

American women handled all kinds of jobs while men were away. Female nurses and volunteers were the caregivers of the pandemic. Women may not have been fighting in the war — but they kept the nation going.

Women had a lot going on in 1918. The battle for suffrage was in trouble. But in the end, the war and the pandemic helped in some ways. Women were celebrated as patriots for their work during the war. They had a strong case to demand their rights!

Allison Lange is a professor who studies women’s suffrage. She said the pandemic made “women more visible workers in support of the nation.” Government leaders saw the important work women were doing. They knew it was time to let women vote. The women’s suffrage movement didn’t just survive the pandemic. It came out stronger!

On August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment became official. Later that year, many American women were able to vote in their first election. In 2020, the country faces a similar situation. There’s an election and a pandemic. Some voters will send in their picks by mail. Others will still vote in person.

It’s a good time to ask: What would suffragists do? Lange believes they “would say that we should vote and pay attention to civic participation.” Like the suffragists of the 1900s, today’s voters must adapt to new conditions. It’s still very important to vote — whether by mail or with mask!

Updated August 19, 2020, 5:02 P.M. (ET)
By Idone Rhodes

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