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The Alabama Equal Suffrage Association (AESA) formed in Birmingham on October 9, 1912. Organizers sought to renew the fight for the ballot that had been stymied for over a decade. Though the AESA allied with the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), the two organizations initially had different objectives; the AESA wanted an amendment on the state, not federal, level.

The AESA was populated by upper-class whites who advocated for white women’s suffrage. They argued that gaining the vote for white women would offset any ballots cast by African American men, most of whom had been disfranchised by state’s 1901 constitution.

Pictured left: Portrait of Pattie Ruffner Jacobs. Read more about her here.

Alabama Department of Archives and History


The Alabama Woman’s Anti-Ratification League (AWARL) formed in 1919 to oppose Alabama’s adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment. In a letter to the state legislature, the AWARL claimed to represent 80 percent of white women. The group implored the legislature “not to thrust them against their wills into the conflicts…and the coarsening [atmosphere] of politics.”

In addition to such appeals based on gender, the AWARL deployed a race-based argument that extending the vote to women would inevitably lead to universal suffrage. This would circumvent the will of the framers of Alabama’s 1901 constitution, which effectively deprived most black Alabamians the franchise.  The AWARL successfully prevented Alabama from ratifying the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920 but could not prevent it from being adopted in the U.S. Constitution. Alabama finally ratified the Nineteenth Amendment in 1953. 

Pictured right: Letter from the AWARL to Alabama Legislature. See the full letter here.

Alabama Department of Archives and History

Modern Suffrage

Alabama Department of Archives and History

Alabama women did not abandon their efforts to achieve equality after federal ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. Because of the state’s restrictive voter qualifications, African American and most poor white women were still denied access to the ballot box. After 1920, a generation of Alabama women served essential roles in breaking down these barriers. Some of these women changed the system from within, winning elections to a growing number of local and state offices. Others demanded more from their government by participating in, and leading, protest movements and advocacy groups throughout the state.  They organized local chapters of national civil rights groups and created grassroots organizations to fight for their rights. In battles great and small, from the Montgomery bus boycott to the Selma to Montgomery march, and in sit-ins, legal battles, and protests throughout the state, Alabama women fought a long battle for equal suffrage.


Beyond voting rights, women in Alabama have been active in advocating for equality in matters relating to the social and cultural improvement, public health, transparency in government, civic responsibility, and employment law, particularly pay equity, throughout the state and nation.

Pictured left: Woman preparing to vote in a ballot box. Read more about the image here.

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