Miller Center

Presidential Key Events

Woodrow Wilson

 

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Woodrow Wilson - 02/14/1919: President Wilson presents his draft for the League…
President Wilson presents his draft for the League of Nations covenant to the Paris Peace Conference. February 14, 1919

Woodrow Wilson - 03/03/1919: The Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of…
The Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of the Espionage Act in Schenck v. United States, establishing that civil liberties can be restricted by the government if there is a “clear and present danger” to law and order. March 03, 1919

Woodrow Wilson - 05/19/1919: Congress adopts the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.…
Congress adopts the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving women the franchise. The joint resolution reads: “The right of citizens of the U.S. to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” May 19, 1919

Woodrow Wilson - 07/10/1919: After failing to secure a peace without rancorous …
After failing to secure a peace without rancorous provisions from his fellow Allied leaders, President Wilson submits the Treaty of Versailles and League of Nations to the Senate for ratification. Senatorial deliberation on the treaty will last longer than the Paris Conference itself. July 10, 1919

Woodrow Wilson - 08/31/1919: The Communist Labor Party of America is founded in…
The Communist Labor Party of America is founded in Chicago and adopts the platform of the Third International as its own. August 31, 1919

Woodrow Wilson - Wilson Embarks on League of Nations Tour

On September 3, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson boarded a train to begin a transcontinental speaking tour to try to build support for the League of Nations and the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I. He gave his first speech in Columbus, Ohio, on September 4.

President Wilson had traveled to Europe in December 1918 to attend the Paris Peace Conference with representatives from Britain, France, and Italy. Germany signed the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, and Wilson returned to the United States on July 8. Two days later, he submitted the Treaty of Versailles to the Senate for ratification. Senatorial approval of the treaty faced an uphill battle. A number of senators remained skeptical of the League of Nations Covenant contained with the treaty. To make matters more difficult for the President, Republicans had regained control of both houses of Congress in 1918.

Senate resistance to the treaty came from a variety of sources. So-called “irreconcilable” progressive senators like Idaho's William Borah and California's Hiram Johnson rejected the treaty as a mechanism to preserve the British Empire through the League of Nations. Midwestern progressives like George Norris and Robert LaFollette, with large German constituencies, recoiled against the treaty's punitive measures. Senator James Reed of Missouri complained that the equal representation that all nations enjoyed in the League's assembly placed control of the body in the hands of the racially unfit.

The most damning opposition to the treaty, however, came from Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Lodge despised Wilson's idealism and attacked Article 10 of the League of Nations Covenant. Article 10 held members to a collective security agreement, and Lodge believed it was an indefensible infringement of American sovereignty. Lodge argued that the Senate should only ratify the treaty if it were modified to operate within the checks and balances system of the Constitution of the United States. He also insisted that implementing the collective security clause of the League Covenant required congressional approval as did declarations of war.

President Wilson headed out on his speaking tour against his doctors' wishes and the advice of some of his political advisers to try to win public support for the treaty and thus pressure senators to approve it. Over a period of three weeks, Wilson made forty addresses on the importance of the League of Nations, traveling to more than twenty-nine cities and covering a distance of almost 10,000 miles. The President rightly believed that the majority of the country supported both the peace treaty and the League of Nations but his speaking tour was unable to build any political momentum for ratification. Exhausted and worn out from his arduous journey, the President collapsed in Pueblo, Colorado, on September 25. He cut his tour short and headed back to Washington. Wilson suffered a serious stroke on Oct 2.

Wilson's Herculean efforts were not enough to make a dent in the considerable coalition of critics in the Senate. On November 19, the Senate rejected the treaty 38 to 53. Wilson's stroke prevented him from participating in a compromise treaty, and the Senate approved a separate peace treaty with Germany in July 1921. By not ratifying the Treaty of Versailles and rejecting the League of Nations Covenant, the Senate illustrated the strong feeling of isolationism that existed in the United States after World War I.

September 03, 1919

Woodrow Wilson - 09/04/1919: Against the advice of his doctors and advisors, Pr…
Against the advice of his doctors and advisors, President Wilson opens his nation-wide speaking tour to promote the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations in Columbus, Ohio. September 04, 1919

Woodrow Wilson - 09/09/1919: Police in Boston walk out on s…
Police in Boston walk out on strike. September 09, 1919

Woodrow Wilson - 10/02/1919: President Wilson suffers a serious stroke in Wichi…
President Wilson suffers a serious stroke in Wichita, Kansas, in the middle of his national speaking tour and returns to Washington, DC. October 02, 1919

Woodrow Wilson - 10/28/1919: Congress passes the Volstead Act over President Wi…
Congress passes the Volstead Act over President Wilson's veto to provide enforcement power to the Eighteenth Amendment. October 28, 1919

Woodrow Wilson - 11/19/1919: After a lengthy national debate, the Treaty of Ver…
After a lengthy national debate, the Treaty of Versailles fails to achieve ratification in the Senate by a vote of 53 to 38. November 19, 1919

Woodrow Wilson - 12/22/1919: Foreign-born radicals arrested by the Department o…
Foreign-born radicals arrested by the Department of Justice in the “Red Scare” raids of 1919 are deported, leaving from New York harbor on the U.S. transport Buford, popularly referred to as the “Soviet Ark,” bound for the U.S.S.R. December 22, 1919

Woodrow Wilson - 01/02/1920: Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer stages the mos…
Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer stages the most extensive series of raids of the entire “Red Scare,” arresting nearly 2,700 people in 33 cities. January 02, 1920

Woodrow Wilson - 03/19/1920: The Senate defeats a resubmitted version of the Tr…
The Senate defeats a resubmitted version of the Treaty of Versailles with reservations added by Foreign Relations Committee chairman Henry Cabot Lodge. March 19, 1920

Woodrow Wilson - 04/01/1920: U.S. forces cease their operations in support of c…
U.S. forces cease their operations in support of counter-revolutionary forces in Siberia and are withdrawn. April 01, 1920

Woodrow Wilson - 04/15/1920: Shoe factory employees Frank Parmenter and Alexand…
Shoe factory employees Frank Parmenter and Alexander Berardelli are murdered in a robbery in South Braintree, Massachusetts. Immigrant laborers Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti are arrested three weeks later for the crimes in what becomes one of the most politically charged murder cases of the early twentieth century. April 15, 1920

Woodrow Wilson - 05/20/1920: Congress passes a joint resolution declaring an en…
Congress passes a joint resolution declaring an end to the war with Germany. President Wilson vetoes the resolution. May 20, 1920

Woodrow Wilson - 06/08/1920: Republicans gather in Chicago to select candidates…
Republicans gather in Chicago to select candidates for the presidential and vice presidential elections. After party leaders break the convention deadlock in what one attendee calls a behind-the-scenes deal “in a smoke-filled room,” Ohio Senator Warren G. Harding is nominated for the presidency. Massachusetts governor Calvin Coolidge receives the vice-presidential nomination. June 08, 1920 - June 12, 1920

Woodrow Wilson - 06/28/1920: Ohio governor James M. Cox and Franklin Delano Roo…
Ohio governor James M. Cox and Franklin Delano Roosevelt of New York receive the nominations for President and vice president at the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco. June 28, 1920

Woodrow Wilson - Nineteenth Amendment Ratified

On August 18, 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was ratified. The amendment gave women the right to vote.

Women activists in the United States had agitated for equal political rights since the mid-nineteenth century. Reformers in the Progressive Era succeeded in making suffrage a significant political issue, and four western states granted women the right to vote in state constitutions. However, business groups and conservative women's organizations opposed women's suffrage and blocked federal efforts.

During World War I, women contributed greatly to the war effort through their labor and volunteer efforts. Women activists capitalized on women's newfound economic prominence during the war to agitate further for suffrage. Activist organizations such as the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), which had pursued women's suffrage since 1890, connected the issue of a lasting peace with the extension of voting rights to women. As NAWSA campaigned through established political channels, the National Woman's Party (NWP) engaged in acts of civil disobedience in Washington, DC. The NWP staged hunger strikes and daily protests in front of the White House throughout 1917. Activists from NWP called President Woodrow Wilson's fight for democracy in Europe hypocritical while he denied women their voting rights in the United States. The well-publicized protests of the NWP embarrassed Wilson throughout the year.

By 1917, the political wind for suffrage had shifted. Thirteen additional states had passed women's voting measures, and pressure was mounting on Congress to consider a national women's suffrage amendment. President Wilson came around to the idea of a constitutional amendment for women's suffrage in 1916 when he decided that women could form a crucial voting block that would support his progressive agenda. Britain granted women the vote in 1917, adding international pressure for congressional action. When the special session of Congress sat in April 1917, activists added voting rights to the legislative docket. After the measure bypassed the House Judiciary Committee, the women's suffrage amendment passed the House on January 10, 1918. President Wilson appeared in the Senate as the body debated a bill to advocate the passage of the amendment. The suffrage amendment fell two votes short of ratification in an October 1918 vote. Congress revisited the issue in a special session in May 1919. The amenndment passed the House on May 21 and the Senate on June 14, 1919.

After congressional approval, the suffrage amendment entered into a tenaciously contested battle for ratification in state legislatures. The amendment faced its greatest opposition in the South, where conservative Protestants of both genders resisted women's voting rights as a challenge to traditional values and the institution of white supremacy. States in the North and West provided the bulk of support for the amendment, but Southern support in a few states was still needed for ratification. After the thirty-fifth state ratified the amendment in early 1920, President Wilson leaned heavily on Tennessee governor Albert Roberts to call a special session of the state legislature that summer. With heavy local and national pressure bearing down on the legislature, the Tennessee legislature passed the amendment by two votes on August 18, 1920, securing its ratification as the nineteenth amendment to the Constitution.

August 18, 1920

Woodrow Wilson - 08/26/1920: The Nineteenth Amendment, granting women the right…
The Nineteenth Amendment, granting women the right to vote, officially becomes law. August 26, 1920

Woodrow Wilson - 08/28/1920: In a speech given from his front porch in Marion, …
In a speech given from his front porch in Marion, Ohio, Harding denounces the League of Nations. August 28, 1920

Woodrow Wilson - 11/02/1920: Warren G. Harding is elected the twenty-ninth Pres…
Warren G. Harding is elected the twenty-ninth President of the United States with an overwhelming 404 electoral votes (60.3 percent of the popular vote to Democratic rival James Cox's 127 electoral votes (only 34.1 percent of the popular vote). Eugene V. Debs garners nearly one million popular votes for the Socialist Party despite his imprisonment for violating the Espionage Act the previous year. The election splits the North and South, with Cox winning all states (except for Tennessee) below the Mason-Dixon line and Harding winning the rest. November 02, 1920

Woodrow Wilson - 11/20/1920: Woodrow Wilson wins the Nobel Peace Prize for his …
Woodrow Wilson wins the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to secure a lasting peace after the Great War. November 20, 1920

Woodrow Wilson - 01/13/1921: The U.S. Census Bureau reports that for the first …
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that for the first time in American history, 51 percent of Americans live in cities and towns of more than 2500 people. January 13, 1921

Woodrow Wilson - 01/13/1921: The U.S. Census Bureau reports that for the first …

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that for the first time in American history, 51 percent of Americans live in cities and towns of more than 2500 people.

January 13, 1921

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