Friday, June 17, 2011

Women's Suffrage

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Women’s Suffrage � An Unfinished Battle

The womens suffrage movement lasted over 70 years, from the first formal womens convention in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York, to the passage of the 1th Amendment to the United States Constitution. Changing social conditions and the idea of equality for women led to the birth of the women’s suffrage movement during the early 1800s. Women started to receive more education and to take part in reform movements, which involved them in politics. Women began to ask why they were not also allowed to vote. In the 150 years since the first landmark Womens Rights Convention, women have made clear progress in the areas addressed by the women’s rights pioneer, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, in her revolutionary “Declaration of Sentiments”. Since then, women have won the right to vote and are being elected to public office at all levels of government. By 171, however, three generations later, women were still less than three percent of our congressional representatives. Today women hold only 11% of the seats in Congress, and 1% of the state legislative seats. Yet, in the face of such small numbers, women have successfully changed thousands of local, state, and federal laws that had limited womens legal status and social roles.

One of the first public appeals for women’s suffrage came in 1848. Two reformers, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, called a womens rights convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y., where Stanton lived. The men and women at the convention adopted a list of grievances that called for women to have equal rights in education, property, voting, and other matters. Elizabeth Cady Stanton used the Declaration of Independence as the framework for writing what she titled a Declaration of Sentiments. Stanton connected the campaign for womens rights directly to that powerful American symbol of liberty. The same familiar words framed their arguments We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Then the document went into addressing specific injustices women faced

· Married women were legally dead in the eyes of the law

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· Women were not allowed to vote

· Women had to submit to laws when they had no voice in their formation

· Married women had no property rights

· Husbands had legal power over and responsibility for their wives to the extent that they could imprison or beat them with impunity

· Divorce and child custody laws favored men, giving no rights to women

· Women had to pay property taxes although they had no representation in the levying of these taxes

· Most occupations were closed to women and when women did work they were paid only a fraction of what men earned

· Women were not allowed to enter professions such as medicine or law

· Women had no means to gain an education since no college or university would accept women students

· With only a few exceptions, women were not allowed to participate in the affairs of the church

Elizabeth Cady Stantons draft continued Now, in view of this entire disenfranchisement of one-half the people of this country, their social and religious degradation, -- in view of the unjust laws above mentioned, and because women do feel themselves aggrieved, oppressed, and fraudulently deprived of their most sacred rights, we insist that they have immediate admission to all the rights and privileges which belong to them as citizens of these United States.” Suffrage quickly became the chief goal of the womens rights movement. Leaders of the movement believed that if women had the right to vote, they could use it to gain other rights. Most people who opposed suffrage for women believed that women were less intelligent and less able to make political decisions than men. Opponents argued that men could represent their wives better than the wives could represent themselves. In ridicule, the entire text of the Declaration of Sentiments was often published, with the names of the signers frequently included. Just as ridicule today often has a squelching effect on new ideas, this attack in the press caused many people from the Convention to rethink their positions. Many of the women who had attended the convention were so embarrassed by the publicity that they actually withdrew their signatures from the Declaration, but most stood firm. And something the editors had not anticipated happened. Their negative articles about the womens call for expanded rights were so widespread that they actually had a positive impact far beyond anything the organizers could have hoped for. People in cities and isolated towns alike were now alerted to the issues, and joined this heated discussion of womens rights in great numbers.

In 186, suffragists formed two national organizations to work towards the right to vote. One was the National Woman Suffrage Association, and the other was the American Woman Suffrage Association. The National Woman Suffrage Association, led by Stanton and another suffragist named Susan B. Anthony, was the more radical of the two organizations. Its chief goal was an amendment to the Constitution giving women the vote. In 187, Anthony and a group of women voted in the presidential election in Rochester, N.Y. She was arrested and fined for voting illegally. At her trial, which attracted nationwide attention, she made a stirring speech that ended with the slogan Resistance to Tyranny Is Obedience to God. The American Woman Suffrage Association, led by the suffragist Lucy Stone and her husband, Henry Blackwell, was more conservative. Its main goal was to induce individual states to give the vote to women. The two organizations united in 180 to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association.

During the early 100s, a new generation of leaders brought a fresh spirit to the woman suffrage movement. Some of them, including Carrie Chapman Catt and Maud Wood Park, were skilled organizers who received much of their support from middle-class women. These leaders stressed organizing in every congressional district and lobbying in the nations capital. Other leaders, including Lucy Burns, Alice Paul, and Stantons daughter Harriet E. Blatch, appealed to young people, radicals, and working-class women. This group of leaders devoted most of their efforts to marches, picketing, and other active forms of protest. Followers even chained themselves to the White House fence. The suffragists were often arrested and sent to jail, where many of them went on hunger strikes.

The womens rights movement of the late 1th century went on to address the wide range of issues spelled out at the Seneca Falls Convention. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and women like Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, and Sojourner Truth traveled the country lecturing and organizing for the next forty years. Eventually, winning the right to vote emerged as the central issue, since the vote would provide the means to achieve the other reforms. The campaign for woman suffrage met such staunch opposition that it took 7 years for the women and their male supporters to be successful.

In 11, as the suffrage victory drew near, the National American Woman Suffrage Association reconfigured itself into the League of Women Voters to ensure that women would take their hard-won vote seriously and use it wisely.

After the 1th Amendment was ratified on August 6, 10, the organized Womens Rights Movement continued on in several directions. While the majority of women who had marched, petitioned and lobbied for woman suffrage looked no further, a minority - like Alice Paul - understood that the quest for womens rights would be an ongoing struggle that was not satisfied by the vote.

In 10, the Womens Bureau of the Department of Labor was established to gather information about the situation of women at work, and to advocate for changes it found were needed. Many suffragists became actively involved with lobbying for legislation to protect women workers from abuse and unsafe conditions.

In 1, Alice Paul, the leader of the National Womans Party, took the next obvious step. She drafted an Equal Rights Amendment for the United States Constitution. Such a federal law, it was argued, would ensure that Men and women have equal rights throughout the United States. A constitutional amendment would apply uniformly, regardless of where a person lived.

The second wing of the post-suffrage movement was one that had not been anticipated in the Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments. It was the birth control movement, initiated by a public health nurse, Margaret Sanger, just as the suffrage drive was nearing its victory. The idea of womans right to control her own body, and especially to control her own reproduction and sexuality, added a new dimension to the ideas of womens emancipation. This movement endorsed educating women about existing birth control methods. It also spread the conviction that meaningful freedom for modern women meant they must be able to decide for themselves whether they would become mothers, and when. It was not until 165 that married couples in all states could obtain contraceptives legally.

In the 160s a second wave of activism rose into the public consciousness. Esther Peterson was the director of the Womens Bureau of the Dept. of Labor in 161. She considered it to be the governments responsibility to take an active role in addressing discrimination against women. With her encouragement, President Kennedy convened a Commission on the Status of Women, naming Eleanor Roosevelt as its chair. The report issued by that commission in 16 documented discrimination against women in virtually every area of American life. Title VII of the 164 Civil Rights Act was passed, prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sex as well as race, religion, and national origin. The category sex was included as a last-ditch effort to kill the bill but it passed. With its passage, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was established to investigate discrimination complaints. Betty Friedan, the leaders of the various state Commissions on the Status of Women, and other feminists agreed to form a civil rights organization for women similar to the NAACP. In 166, the National Organization for Women was organized. In 17, Title IX in the Education Codes of 17, equal access to higher education and to professional schools, became the law. The long-range effect of that one legal passage beginning Equal access to education programs... has been powerful. The number of women doctors, lawyers, engineers, architects and other professionals has doubled and doubled again as quotas actually limiting womens enrollment in graduate schools were outlawed. Athletics has probably been the most hotly contested area of Title IX, and it has been one of the hottest areas of improvement, too. The rise in girls and womens participation in athletics indicates a significant change. One in twenty-seven high school girls played sports 5 years ago, one in three do today. In the world of work, large numbers of women have entered the professions, the trades, and businesses of every kind. Women have opened positions in the clergy, the military, and the newsroom. More than three million women now work in occupations considered nontraditional until very recently.

Women have accomplished so much, yet much still remains to be done. Substantial barriers to the full equality of Americas women still remain. But the Womens Suffrage Movement has clearly been successful in permanently changing the circumstances and hopes of women. The remaining injustices are being tackled daily in the courts and conference rooms, the homes and organizations, workplaces and playing fields of America.

Women and girls today are living the legacy of womens rights that seven generations of women before us have given their best to achieve. We have a lot to be proud of in this heroic legacy and have a great deal to celebrate for the more than 150 years since the founding of the Womens Suffrage and Women’s Rights Movements.

Women’s Suffrage Timeline

1776 Abigail Adams writes to her husband, John Adams, asking him to remember the ladies in the new code of laws. Adams replies the men will fight the despotism of the petticoat.

1777 Women lose the right to vote in New York.

1780 Women lose the right to vote in Massachusetts.

1784 Women lose the right to vote in New Hampshire.

1787 US Constitutional Convention places voting qualifications in the hands of the states. Women in all states except New Jersey lose the right to vote.

17 Mary Wollstonecraft publishes Vindication of the Rights of Women in England.

1807 Women lose the right to vote in New Jersey, the last state to revoke the right.

Women Join the Abolitionist Movement

180s Formation of the female anti-slavery associations.

186 Angelina Grimke appeals to Southern women to speak out against slavery.

187 The Pastoral Letter of the General Association of Massachusetts to the Congregational Churches Under Their Care is promulgated against women speaking in public against slavery, it is mainly directed against the Grimke sisters.

1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention in London. Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and other women barred from participating on account of their sex.

Women Begin to Organize For Their Own Rights

1848 First Womens Rights convention in Seneca Fall, New York. Equal suffrage proposed by Elizabeth Cady Stanton After debate of so radical a notion, it is adopted.

1850 Womens rights convention held in April in Salem, Ohio. First national womens rights convention held in October in Worcester, Massachusetts.

1850-1861 Annual Womens Rights conventions held. The last, in 1861, in Albany, New York lobbies for a liberalized divorce bill. Horace Greely opposes the bill, which loses.

1861-1865 Civil War. Over the objections of Susan B. Anthony, women put aside suffrage activities to help the war effort.

1867 Fourteenth amendment passes Congress, defining citizens as male; this is the first use of the word male in the Constitution. Kansas campaign for black and woman suffrage both lose. Susan B. Anthony forms Equal Rights Association, working for universal suffrage.

Suffrage Movement Divides Over Black vs. Woman Suffrage

1868 Fourteenth amendment ratified. Fifteenth amendment passes Congress, giving the vote to black men. Women petition to be included but are turned down. Formation of New England Woman Suffrage Association. In New Jersey, 17 women attempt to vote; their ballots are ignored.

186 Frederick Douglass and others back down from woman suffrage to concentrate on fight for black male suffrage. National Woman Suffrage Association formed in May with Elizabeth Cady Stanton as president. American Woman Suffrage Association formed in November with Henry Ward Beecher as president. In England, John Stuart Mill, economist and husband of suffragist Harriet Taylor, publishes On the Subjugation of Women. Wyoming territory grants first woman suffrage since 1807.

Civil Disobedience Is Tried

1870 Fifteenth Amendment ratified. The Grimke sisters, now quite aged, and 4 other women attempt to vote in Massachusetts, their ballots are cast but ignored. Utah territory grants woman suffrage.

1871 The Anti-Suffrage Society is formed.

187 Susan B. Anthony and supporters arrested for voting. Anthonys sisters and 11 other women held for $500 bail. Anthony herself is held for $1000 bail.

187 Denied a trial by jury, Anthony loses her case in June and is fined $100 plus costs. Suffrage demonstration at the Centennial of the Boston Tea Party.

1874 Protest at a commemoration of the Battle of Lexington. In Myner v. Happerstett the US Supreme Court decides that being a citizen does not guarantee suffrage. Womens Christian Temperance Union formed.

1876 On July 4, in Philadelphia, Susan B. Anthony reads The Declaration for the Rights of Women from a podium in front of the Liberty Bell. The crowd cheers. Later, the suffragists meet in the historic First Unitarian Church.

1878 Woman suffrage amendment first introduced in US Congress.

1880 Lucretia Mott, born in 17, dies.

188 The House and Senate appoint committees on woman suffrage, both report favorably.

1884 Belva Lockwood runs for president. The US House of Representatives debates woman suffrage.

1886 Women protest being excluded from the dedication ceremonies for the Statue of Liberty. Suffrage amendment reaches the US Senate floor, it is defeated two to one.

1887 Utah women lose right to vote.

180 The NWSA and the AWSA merge to form NAWSA. The focus turns to working at the state level. Campaign loses in South Dakota.

18 Matilda Joslyn Gage publishes Woman, Church and State. After a vigorous campaign led by Carrie Chapman Catt, Colorado men vote for woman suffrage.

184 Despite 600,000 signatures, a petition for woman suffrage is ignored in New York. Lucy Stone, born in 1818, dies.

185 Elizabeth Cady Stanton publishes The Womans Bible. Utah women regain suffrage.

186 Idaho grants woman suffrage.

Suffrage Activism Enters the 0th Century

100 Carrie Chapman Catt takes over the reins of the NASWA.

10 Elizabeth Cady Stanton, born in 1815, dies.

106 Susan Brownell Anthony, born in 180, dies.

107 Harriet Stanton Blatch, Elizabeths daughter, forms the Equality League of Self Supporting Women, which becomes the Womens Political Union in 110. She introduces the English suffragists tactics of parades, street speakers, and pickets.

110 Washington (state) grants woman suffrage.

111 California grants woman suffrage. In New York City, ,000 march for suffrage.

11 Teddy Roosevelts Progressive Party includes woman suffrage in their platform. Oregon, Arizona, and Kansas grant woman suffrage.

11 Womens Suffrage parade on the eve of Wilsons inauguration is attacked by a mob. Hundreds of women are injured and no arrests are made. Alaskan Territory grants suffrage. Illinois grants municipal and presidential but not state suffrage to women.

116 Alice Paul and others break away from the NASWA and form the National Womens Party.

117 Beginning in January, NWP posts silent Sentinels of Liberty at the White House. In June, the arrests begin. Nearly 500 women are arrested, 168 women serve jail time, and their jailers brutalize some. North Dakota, Indiana, Nebraska, and Michigan grant presidential suffrage; Arkansas grants primary suffrage. New York, South Dakota, and Oklahoma state constitutions grant suffrage.

118 The jailed suffragists released from prison. Appellate court rules all the arrests were illegal. President Wilson declares support for suffrage. Suffrage Amendment passes US House with exactly a two-thirds vote but loses by two votes in the Senate.

11 In January, the NWP lights and guards a Watchfire for Freedom. It is maintained until the Suffrage Amendment passes US Senate on June 4. The battle for ratification by at least 6 states begins.

10 The Nineteenth Amendment, called the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, is ratified by Tennessee on August 18. It becomes law on August 6.

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