8 – Drama in Dover, 1920

In Spring 1920, Delaware had the opportunity to become the thirty-sixth—and final—state to ratify the 19th Amendment. Under pressure, the Republican Governor, John G. Townsend, Jr., called a special session of the General Assembly in order to consider the issue. Both the Delaware Equal Suffrage Association and the National Woman’s Party mobilized for the session, with the DESA moving its headquarters to Dover for the duration. As its changing letterheads reveal (see section 8b in this exhibition), the group nimbly adapted to new circumstances, first pressing for a special session, and then assembling powerhouse teams of women from all parts of the state to lobby for ratification.

For several weeks, Dover was a center of national attention. Newspapers from across the country reported the ups and downs of the ratification struggle. “Everybody and his mother and sister is heading for the State Capitol,” noted the Philadelphia Inquirer on March 25. Hotels were packed. The streets were jammed. Leaders of both national suffrage organizations and the national anti-suffrage group joined the fray, rallying supporters and lobbying legislators.In the end, the Delaware Senate voted to ratify but the House adjourned on June 2 without following suit. The action moved to Tennessee which, on August 18, became the final ratifying state.