About the Author: Kathryn Speckart serves as Collections Manager for the U.S. Diplomacy Center.
What did the U.S. Secretary of State have to do with U.S. women winning the right to vote in 1920?
The Secretary of State is concerned with foreign affairs, not U.S. domestic duties, right? Actually, the Department of State, and therefore the Secretary of State, used to handle many domestic duties, including the ratification of Constitutional amendments. Back in 1920, U.S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby presided over the ratification of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution granting women the right to vote. By 1950, many of the domestic duties performed by the Department of State were transferred to other federal agencies, though some domestic duties were retained, such as the custody and operation of the Great Seal.
August 26, 2010 is "Equality Day" -- the 90th anniversary of U.S. women gaining the right to vote.
The Department of State supports free and fair elections and suffrage rights worldwide. U.S. diplomats often observe local elections in their host countries and report their observations to the State Department in Washington, DC. U.S. diplomats are especially interested in advancing universal suffrage -- including women's right to vote and to run for office. The Office of Global Women's Issues, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, and offices within the U.S. Agency for International Development, among many others, are active in the promotion of women's role in the political realm, in the achievement of good governance, and in civil society.
This is exactly what the U.S. suffragettes were fighting for in the 19th and early 20th centuries -- the “pivotal right” to vote and participate more fully in public life.