Attention Getter: Before the 20th Century, women were considered to be property of their husbands. They were nothing more than pretty objects that were polished at “finishing schools.” Their minds were considered delicate and inferior. When they were brave enough to voice their opinions, they were ignored.
Reason to listen: Today, I will inform the audience about the sacrifices and fighting that was done for women to have the right to vote.
Thesis Statement: Today, I’m going to explain what suffrage is, the women that were involved in the National Woman Suffrage Association, and how what they did has affected the U.S. today.
Credibility Statement: It wasn’t until 15 years of procrastinating after my 18th birthday, my former boss informing me about my legal right and responsibilities of voting, and then watching the movie “Iron-jawed Angels”, that I came to understand that it is an actual honor and privilege to be able to vote as a woman in the United States.
National American Woman Suffrage Association and how it got started, and
How the actions and sacrifices of these women still affect us today.
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Some of you may be like me and think that suffrage means suffering, but suffrage is defined as the right to vote in political elections. Suffragettes were members of women’s organizations in the late-19th and early-20th centuries which advocated the extension of the “franchise”, or the right to vote in public elections, to women.
For almost 100 years, women had been fighting to win that right: They had made speeches, signed petitions, marched in parades and argued over and over again that women, like men, deserved all of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, suffragettes on both sides of the Atlantic endured many hardships during their campaign for women’s right to vote. The National Woman Suffrage Association had some woman-suffrage advocates, among them Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, who believed that this was their chance to push lawmakers for truly universal suffrage. As a result, they refused to support the 15th Amendment and even allied with racist Southerners who argued that white women’s votes could be used to neutralize those cast by African-Americans. In 1869, this faction formed a group called the National Woman Suffrage Association and began to fight for a universal-suffrage amendment to the federal Constitution.
On March 3, 1913, Paul and her colleagues coordinated an enormous suffrage parade to coincide with and distract from President Wilsons inauguration. More marches and protests followed. The more conservative women at NAWSA soon grew frustrated with publicity stunts like these, and in 1914 Paul left the organization and started her own, the Congressional Union (which soon became the National Woman’s Party). Even after the U.S. entered World War I, the NWP kept up its flamboyant protests, even staging a seven-month picket of the White House.
For this unpatriotic act, Paul and the rest of the NWP suffragists were arrested and imprisoned. Along with some of the other activists, Paul was placed in solitary confinement; then, when they went on a hunger strike to protest this unfair treatment, the women were force-fed for as long as three weeks. These abuses did not have their intended effect: Once news of the mistreatment got out, public sympathy swung to the side of the imprisoned activists and they soon were released.
Among some of these activists were:
Susan B. Anthony who lived in a part of upstate New York. Susan was the daughter of a wealthy Quaker who believed that everyone had the right to equal opportunity and education. Anthony was denied a chance to speak at a temperance convention because she was a woman, and later realized that no one would take women in politics seriously unless they had the right to vote. She died in 1906, 14 years before the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was passed. It wouldn’t be until 14 years after Anthony’s death—in 1920—that the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving all adult women the right to vote, was passed. In recognition of her dedication and hard work, the U.S. Treasury Department put Anthony’s portrait on dollar coins in 1979, making her the first woman to be so honored. The Susan B. Anthony dollar was made in commemoration of her suffrage efforts. 1920 The Nineteenth Amendment, called the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, is ratified by Tennessee on August 18. It becomes law on August 26.
At an anti-slavery conference, she met, Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was one of the foremost women’s-rights activists and philosophers of the 19th century. Born on November 12, 1815, in Johnstown, New York, Elizabeth Cady Stanton was an abolitionist and leading figure of the early woman’s movement. An eloquent writer, her Declaration of Sentiments was a revolutionary call for women’s rights across a variety of spectrums. Stanton was the president of the National Woman Suffrage Association for 20 years and worked closely with Susan B. Anthony. In 1840 Elizabeth Cady Stanton married a reformer Henry Stanton (omitting “obey” from the marriage oath), and they went at once to the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention in London, where she joined other women in objecting to their exclusion from the assembly. With Lucretia Mott and several other women, Elizabeth Cady Stanton held the famous Seneca Falls Convention in July 1848. At this meeting, the attendees drew up its “Declaration of Sentiments” and took the lead in proposing that women be granted the right to vote. During the Civil War Elizabeth Cady Stanton concentrated her efforts on abolishing slavery, but afterwards she became even more outspoken in promoting women suffrage. In 1868, she worked with Susan B. Anthony on the Revolution, a militant weekly paper. The two then formed the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) in 1869. Stanton was the NWSA’s first president – a position she held until 1890. At that time the organization merged with another suffrage group to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Stanton served as the president of the new organization for two years.
Alice Paul, born in 1885, was the leader of the most militant wing of the woman-suffrage movement. In 1920, Alice Paul proposed an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the Constitution. It read, “Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States”. The ERA has never been ratified.
Lucy Stone, born in Massachusetts in 1818, was a pioneering abolitionist and women’s rights activist, but she is perhaps best known for refusing to change her last name when she married the abolitionist Henry Blackwell in 1855. After she graduated from Oberlin College in 1847, Stone became a traveling lecturer for the American Anti-Slavery Society advocating, she said, not for the slave only, but for suffering humanity everywhere. Especially do I mean to labor for the elevation of my sex. She continued her activism on behalf of abolitionism and women’s rights until 1857, when she retired from the anti-slavery lecture circuit to care for her baby daughter.
Ida B. Wells, born in Mississippi in 1862, is perhaps best known for her work as a crusading journalist and anti-lynching activist. While working as a schoolteacher in Memphis, Wells wrote for the city’s black newspaper, The Free Speech. Her writings exposed and condemned the inequalities and injustices that were so common in the Jim Crow South: disfranchisement, segregation, lack of educational and economic opportunity for African-Americans, and especially the arbitrary violence that white racists used to intimidate and control their black neighbors. Wells continued to fight for civil rights for all until she died in 1931.
National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), headed by Carrie Chapman Catt, and formed the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage (CU) which in 1917 transformed itself into the National Woman’s Party (NWP). The group of ladies and suffragettes marched in parades, where they were harassed by men, had things thrown at them, attacked, and were arrested as a result. They stood with pickets in front of the White House and were arrested and imprisoned at Occoquan Workhouse Prison in Lorton, Virginia after refusing to be silent about their right to vote. Re-telling of stories of Occoquan Workhouse’s “Night of Terror,” November 15, 1917: Under orders from W. H. Whittaker, superintendent of the Occoquan Workhouse, as many as forty guards with clubs went on a rampage, brutalizing thirty-three jailed suffragists. They beat Lucy Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head, and left her there for the night. They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed, and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate Alice Cosu, who believed Mrs. Lewis to be dead, suffered a heart attack. According to affidavits, other women were grabbed, dragged, beaten, choked, slammed, pinched, twisted, and kicked. Alice Paul went on hunger strike because she was dissatisfied with the way she and her fellow inmates were being treated. She discovered the suffragists were being treated more poorly than the 17 murderers who were in the prison. They ate more poorly, were given less air and exercise, and were provided sheets and blankets that had never been washed. She demanded they be treated better, and took her stance by a hunger strike. This led to brutal force feedings, where Alice was held down by several staff, a steel gag put in her mouth to force it open, and a tube shoved down her nose and throat while they poured liquid into her stomach. She described the pain as “intense” and that the gag made her jaw open wider than they would go naturally. The tube was around four feet long, and made her sick immediately causing choking and vomiting. She would be soaked in her own vomit and then was told that it was too late to get any change of clothing due to the office being closed.
After the suffragettes were released, their stories started to unfold of the horrors they endured in the prison. In March 1918, their arrests, trials and punishments were judged to be unconstitutional and women were allowed to vote in the November 1920 national election. Because of the courageous and extreme acts of torture endured by these brave women, we are moving forward with the equality of rights as women in the United States. Today,
Almost half of the women in the U.S. vote.
Women are veterans.
Women are in congress.
Even though women like Alice Paul fought for women’s equality, there is still a significant gap in gender equality in today’s world. According to Time Magazine, “women today make up almost 60% of U.S. college students and earn the majority of doctorates and master’s degrees, and childless women in their 20s make more per dollar than their male peers”. Women still only earn a median weekly wage of 81% of a man’s weekly median wage. The percentage of managers who are women has risen from 35% to only 38% in the last 20 years. Women still do not hold as many top management positions as men. Today, in congress, women hold only 17 Senate seats out of the 100 and hold 92 out of the 435 House seats. It is clear gender is still an issue in our country and world, but women still continue to fight for our rights.
Memorial Statement: Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity. ~Quoted by a male doctor who examined Alice Paul when the government wanted her to be seen as suicidal for her hunger strike in an effort to gain women the right to vote.
“Women died for the right to vote-exercise yours!”