Back Maud Wood Park, “A Perfect Moment”

Maud Wood Park (1871–1955)
From American Women’s Suffrage: Voices from the Long Struggle for the Vote 1776–1965

National Woman’s Party activists, including Mabel Vernon (seated far left) and Anita Pollitzer (standing, right), watch Alice Paul sew a star onto the NWP Ratification Flag, representing another state’s ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. National Photo Co., Washington, D.C., 1919–20. (Library of Congress)

A century ago today, on August 26, 1920:

“The Secretary has signed the proclamation, and he wants us to go over to his office and see it before he sends it out.”

Tennessee ratified the Nineteenth Amendment on August 18, but another six days passed before Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby could certify the document and issue the proclamation making it the law of the land. Suffrage movement leaders knew that opponents would try everything possible to prevent its enactment, and they all but escorted the document into Colby’s hands. “We were fearful that any delay would give opportunity for further injunctions to be brought by the antisuffragists, who were leaving no stone unturned in their efforts to hold up the announcement of ratification,” writes Maud Wood Park.

First, Tennessee legislators introduced a motion to reconsider their vote. When it was apparent the motion would fail, thirty-eight legislators tried fleeing to another state to prevent a quorum. The maneuver caused a three-day delay. When the motion was defeated, a state judge immediately issued an injunction against forwarding the certificate of ratification to Colby, and another two days were spent getting the injunction dissolved. The certificate finally arrived at four in the morning at Colby’s residence. He had waited up all night for it and, four hours later, told suffragist leaders to meet him at his office to see his proclamation.

In “A Perfect Moment,” our Story of the Week selection, Park presents her account of their relentless fourteen-month marathon from U.S. Senate ratification through thirty-six states to Colby’s desk.

Read “A Perfect Moment” by Maud Wood Park

Library of America

A champion of America’s great writers and timeless works, Library of America guides readers in finding and exploring the exceptional writing that reflects the nation’s history and culture.

Learn More

From poetry, novels, and memoirs to journalism, crime writing, and science fiction, the more than 300 volumes published by Library of America are widely recognized as America’s literary canon.

Browse our books Subscribe

With contributions from donors, Library of America preserves and celebrates a vital part of our cultural heritage for generations to come.

Support our mission