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Women's History Month: Arkansas Women and The Vote

Black background with text saying Women's History Month, Arkansas Women and The Vote, with photo of Hattie Caraway

Women's History Month provides a valuable opportunity to reflect on the strides women have made, including the evolution of women's voting rights. The struggle for women's suffrage was a long and arduous journey marked by resilience, determination, and unwavering commitment. In Arkansas, the suffrage movement gained momentum in the late 19th century, with women actively participating in campaigns, rallies, and advocacy work. In 1917, Arkansas granted women the right to vote in primary elections, a significant but partial victory.

Three years later, on the national stage, there was a turning point for women's suffrage. In 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, granting women across the United States the right to vote. Arkansas played a crucial role in this historic moment, as it became one of the 36 states to ratify the amendment, securing voting rights for women on a national scale.

Even with the right to vote secured, Arkansas women were not making waves in politics until 1922. The Encyclopedia of Arkansas says that the first woman elected to office in Arkansas was Frances Matthew Jones Hunt, who, in 1922, was elected to the General Assembly.

But the state made real political history when, in January 1932, Arkansas elected the first woman to serve in the U.S. Senate, Hattie Wyatt Caraway of Jonesboro. She was not only the first woman from Arkansas, but the first woman ever. In fact, Caraway was groundbreaking in that she was also the first woman to preside over the Senate and the first to chair a committee in the Senate. She won reelection in 1938, becoming the first woman to do so.

Hattie Caraway sits in a chair in this black and white photo from the Library of Congress
Hattie Ophelia Wyatt Caraway was the first woman elected as a U.S. senator. Courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Women have played vital roles in shaping our state's history. AARP Arkansas' commitment to civic engagement and voting rights is front and center during this election year. For information on Arkansas voting laws, election dates, and more, please refer to our website.


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