Although it might be hard to imagine, 100 years ago, American women were not allowed to vote. In June 1919, Congress passed the 19th Amendment, prohibiting the government from denying citizens the right to vote based on their sex. But the amendment couldn’t take effect until three-fourths of the states approved it—which didn’t happen for many months, in August 1920. 

The victory didn’t come easy. For more than a century, prior generations of women known as suffragists protested, lobbied lawmakers, and even picketed the White House trying to secure the right to head to the polls. They drew attention to their cause by marching in parades, including one in 1912 in New York City (above).

Suffragists’ efforts paid off faster in some parts of the country. Nine western states let women vote in local or state elections by 1912. New York followed suit five years later, ultimately paving the way for the nationwide change.