By fall of 1864, the United States government anticipated that it would win the Civil War. Knowing the Southern states would soon reenter the Union, Congress worked to pass a Constitutional amendment that would permanently abolish slavery in the United States. On January 31, 1865, Congress passed the version of the amendment that all Americans are familiar with:
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
However, before voting on this version of the amendment, the Senate considered a different draft. The alternate draft was proposed by Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner. Senators voted against it because the wording would have allowed women to claim equal citizenship status.
This is Charles Sumner’s proposed text for the Thirteenth Amendment. The opening statement, “all persons are equal before the law,” would have granted American women equal status as citizens of the United States. It would be another 55 years before the Nineteenth Amendment finally granted women full citizenship status.