The Women’s Rights Movement Women’s Suffrage is a subject that could easily be considered a black mark on the history of the United States. The entire history of the right for women to vote takes many twists and turns but eventually turned out alright. This paper will take a look at some of these twists and turns along with some of the major figures involved in the suffrage movement. The first recorded instance in American history where a woman demanded the right to vote was in 1647.
Margaret Brent, a property owner in Maryland wanted two votes in the newly formed colonial assembly to represent her vote and the vote of Lord Baltimore whom she held power-of-attorney. (Pleck, 2007) The governor eventually turned down her demands. The 1790 constitution of New Jersey allowed women property owners the right to vote through a loophole that stated that “all inhabitants” that met property and residence requirements could vote.
This loophole was closed in 1807 by a state legislator that had almost lost an election due to a women’s voting bloc. Other than these isolated incidents the first organized women’s suffrage movement can be traced back to the mid 1800’s with the Seneca Falls Convention. The organized movement started at Seneca Falls, NY with a meeting called by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott. (National Women's History Museum, 2007) Both women received their start in the women’s suffrage movement by being active in the abolitionist movement.
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Elizabeth Cady Stanton was an important element of the Women’s Rights Movement, but not many people know of her significance or contributions because she has been overshadowed by her longtime associate and friend, Susan B. Anthony. However, I feel that she was a woman of great importance who was the driving force behind the 1848 Convention, played a leadership role in the women’s rights movement for the next fifty years, and in the words of Henry Thomas, “She was the architect and author of the movement’s most important strategies ad documents. ” Elizabeth Cady Stanton was born in 1815 into an affluent family in Johnstown, New York.
Now, while Stanton was growing up, she tried to imitate her brother’s academic achievements due to the fact that her parents, Daniel and Mary Livingston Cady, preferred their sons to their daughters. In trying to copy her male siblings, she got an extraordinary education: she went to Johnstown Academy and studied Greek and mathematics; she learned how to ride and manage a horse; she became a skilled debater; and she attended the Troy Female Seminary in New York (one of the first women ‘s academies to offer an advanced education equal to that of male academies) where she studies logic, physiology, and natural rights philosophy.
However, it wasn’t her education, but watching her father, who was a judge and lawyer, handle his cases, that cause her to become involved in various women rights movements. Stanton and Mott attended the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840 and were refused seating for being women. After this incident the two women started seeing a connection between the plight of slaves and the treatment of women in the United States. The women’s movement took a back seat to the slavery movement during the American Civil War as the women turned their attention to working through the war.
However, after the war was over the women’s movement thought they were in a good position to win some key battles due to their war work and the attention being paid to equal rights at the time. This was not to be so as the Republicans in power believed that women’s suffrage would hurt their chances to push forth rights for freed slaves because of the widespread unpopularity of women’s rights. (National Women's History Museum, 2007) After the war the women’s movement split into rival factions with Stanton and Susan B.
Anthony forming the National Woman’s Suffrage Association and Lucy Stone and Julia Ward Howe forming the American Woman’s Suffrage Association. The NWSA did not support the passing of the 15th amendment because the amendment did not address the giving of equal rights to women as well as blacks and fought against the passing of the amendment as a result. The AWSA supported the 15th amendment and wanted to fight for women’s rights in the states separately. Pleck, 2007) The two movements eventually reunited in 1890 to become the National American Woman Suffrage Association led by Susan B. Anthony until 1900 when Carrie Chapman Catt took over. Catt was integral in the strategy to work for women’s suffrage on both the federal and state level upon her re-election to president of the NAWSA in 1915 which led to another faction split between the NAWSA and a group led by Alice Paul who believed that the major push of the fight needed to be focused at the federal level. About. com, 2007) Finally all the hard work of the women’s movement paid off in the summer of 1920 with the ratification of the 19th amendment. This was not an easily won victory however. Congress first took up the issue in 1915 but the bill lost in the voting and was shelved for almost three years. ("Women's Suffrage," 2007) On the eve of the vote President Wilson made a widely publicized appeal for the passage of the bill and this time the bill barely passed with the need two-thirds majority.
However, the bill failed to gain the necessary votes to pass the Senate even with another of President Wilson’s appeals for the passage of the bill. The bill would be voted down twice over the following year before finally gaining enough votes to pass due to Congress’ interest in having the issue solved prior to the presidential elections slated for 1920 and on June 4, 1919 the Senate voted to pass the bill to add the amendment to the constitution securing women’s rights. The effects of the 19th amendment on the United States can be seen everywhere.
More women now hold public office and the United States even has a woman running for the Democratic nomination for president. The women’s voting block is one politicians cannot forget about and still have hopes of being successful. The ability of women to vote, even though sparsely used until the 1980s, changed how companies did business and what legislation was passed for respect of the potential voting power of women. More women friendly policies exist, both in the workplace and in general life, which can be attributed to the hard work of the pioneers in the women’s movement.
Knowing that men controlled the ability of women to vote and that a way of life would be drastically changed makes the gains of women to vote even more amazing. I can stand back now and admire the bravery of the women who fought for what was and is rightfully theirs and for the bravery of the men to do the right thing by allowing women equal rights. You can just reflect about today’s life and affairs to see that the shift from legal rights to suffrage was successful.
Our public offices consist of many great female leaders, and the future for America is brighter with collaboration of men and women alike. The efforts of Alice Paul and Lucy Burns were indeed not in vain as they rallied up people to protest in unison and the results are evidenced by the American political structure today. References About. Com. (2007). Women's History: about Carrie Chapman Catt. Retrieved November 25, 2007, from About. com Web Site: http://womenshistory. about. com/library/bio/blbio_catt_carrie_chapman. htm
National Women's History Museum. (2007). Women's Suffrage exhibition. Retrieved November 25, 2007, from National Women's History Museum Web Site: http://www. nwhm. org/exhibits/tour_02-02d. html Pleck, E. (2007). Women's Suffrage. Retrieved November 24, 2007, from Scholastic Web Site: http://teacher. scholastic. com/activities/suffrage/history. htm Women's Suffrage. (2007, November 26). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved November 26, 2007, from http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/History_of_women's_suffrage_in_the_United_States
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