Karlyn Kohrs Campbell
After 1900 and especially as 1920 approached, women's activism focused on obtaining the vote for all women. When the Nineteenth Amendment finally was ratified on August 26, 1920, the leadership of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) and of the National Woman's party (NWP) recognized that shifts in direction were necessary. NAWSA transformed itself into the nonpartisan League of Women Voters, which defined its task as educating the newly enfranchised. In 1921 the NWP rejected the broad agenda proposed by Crystal Eastman ( Sochen, 1973:117), and in 1923 it chose to devote all its energies to effect passage of an equal rights amendment (ERA), a decision that divided women activists along class lines and foreshadowed more contemporary schisms. The year 1925 was fateful because political struggles over child labor regulation revealed that there was no "women's vote." That is, when women voted (and they voted in smaller numbers than men), they cast their ballots on the same bases as men. As Nancy Cott ( 1987) notes, women were enfranchised when the vote was devalued by corrupt electoral practices and when systematic efforts were underway to reduce the eligibility of immigrants in the North through registration requirements and of poor whites and African- Americans in the South through poll taxes and literacy tests (101-104). Sixty years would pass before a "gender gap" would identify a distinctive women's vote, a gap that would persist through and influence the 1984, 1988, and 1992 elections.
This volume and the earlier companion volume have been divided roughly between activists whose work preceded or followed 1925. Although any chronological division is arbitrary and open to challenge, the events of 1925 can be used to mark the end of earlier women's activism and the beginning of processes that would lead to a second women's movement in the 1960s. However, the work of many activists, particularly those who were organizing women into labor unions and working for consumer rights and birth control, continued unabated.