Women's Suffrage Essay
The fight for women's suffrage, or voting, went on for about seventy years. The fight first officially started in 1848 with the first women's rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York. This was the start of a long, complicated battle.
The woman's rights issue was actually first motivated by another cause, anti-slavery. There were meetings that women weren't allowed to vote in. At the World's Anti-slavery Convention, women weren't allowed in. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, later suffrage leaders, were two of the women who were excluded admittance.
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Many people opposed to the idea of women's rights. Men, of course, being the majority of it. They thought that women weren't as smart. They thought they could represent women better than women themselves. There were also women who thought that women in politics would be the end of family life.
In May 1869, two women's suffrage organizations formed. The first was the National omen's Suffrage Organization formed by Stanton and Anthony. This group was the more radical of the two, their goal being to have an amendment ratified for women's suffrage. The other was the American Women's Suffrage Organization, the conservative one. Their goal was to get individual states to grant women the right to vote. Later, in 1890, the two joined together to make the National American Women's Suffrage Organization.
For over fifty years, these women were determined to win voting rights. So determined in fact, that in 1872, Susan B. Anthony and 50 other women went to register to vote in the presidential election. They were refused at first, but demanded to be able to register. Fifteen women along with the inspectors who allowed them to register were arrested and tried with a $500 bail.
The unwavering determination of these women was starting to wear down the all-male government. First came Wyoming in 1869. The next was Utah in 1870 and then Colorado in 1893. The boundaries of women were expanding. By 1919, 37 states gave women full or partial suffrage. In 1918, the suffrage amendment, which was proposed in 1878 but left unchanged, was defeated and then a year later. But in 1920, the women's suffrage amendment was finally ratified.
After a very long battle, the women's struggle paid off. Their long-awaited goal was granted. This was official with the nineteenth amendment. After suffrage was granted, women continued working on women's rights.
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In the 1820s men were in power. In their homes, in the workplace, and everywhere else. The men philosophy included these ideas. First, it was accepted that women are possessions of their husbands, and therefore they must agree with everything they say. Second, it was believed that most women were uneducated, or stupid, so women were automatically assumed to be incapable of voting for president. Also, because women were unschooled and ignorant, their say was unimportant. And finally that they were superior and that they should stay that way. This was a difficult philosophy for women to overturn. This is one reason why women's suffrage took so long to obtain. (Dickey, 1995)
In addition to male domination, women hurt their own cause. The public believed that suffragists were connected with scandal-mongerers such as the Claflin sisters. Consequently, most suffragists limited their work to conventional topics and scorned radical view points. For example, "When Anthony Comstock of Boston and Josiah W. of Philadelphia undertook crusades against obscenity, feminists applauded and approved the formation in 1895 of the American Puritan Alliance." Which was why women hurt their own cause. (pg. 151, Leonard Pitt, We Americans, 1987)
However, women helped their cause gathering up the Seneca Falls Convention. The Seneca Falls Convention, in 1848, "stated the injustices suffered by women." These injustices included " the denial of the right to vote, the fact that a married woman gave control of her property to her husband, the exclusion of women from the professions, and the nearly absolute legal control of women by men. (pg.305, Conlin) In addition to their conservative views, most suffragists were elitists, that is they were not common people. For example, Pitt writes "...the leaders were white college educated, and middle class. They were an elite and a minority within that elite." As a result, suffragists were taken less seriously by the common people. (pg 152, Leonard Pitt, "We Americans, 1987)
It took an international crises, World War II, for the claims of the suffragists to be taken seriously. Only when the labor of women was need in war time, did the federal government act on considering national suffrage for women. Even though the suffragist movement progressed slowly, their efforts did have an effect on the government. The movement brought the inequality of voting restrictions to public attention. This public attention combined with the heroic service of women in industry during World War I resulted in the passage of the 19th amendment to the Constitution of the United States, in 1920. The 19th Amendment provides men and women with equal voting rights. After 90 years, the goal of suffragists was achieved. (Grolier encyclopedia, Electronic Publishing, Inc., 1995)
It may have taken women a long time to achieve the right of suffrage in spite of their conservative views. Men were threatened by women who wanted to move forward. Since males dominated the United States, they knew they had the power to keep women from getting the vote. Certain states, such as Wyoming, gave women the right to vote in state elections as early as 1869. Male domination played a big part in the whole concept of women getting the right to vote. Now, women are considered to be equals with men. Even though women were "considered" to be lesser than men, they never really were, were they? (Encarta Encyclopedia, 1993).
Conlin, Joseph. A History of the United States, Our Land and Time. 1985.
Dickey, Sara. Unpublished interview, 1995.
Encarta, Microsoft Corporation, "Women's Rights," 1993
Grolier Electronic Encyclopedia. 1995.
Gruver, Rebecca. "An American History" 1985
Pitt, Leonard. We Americans, 1987