Women Suffrage: Locked and Loaded
One of the earliest encounters with women's rights were those of Abigail Adams and Judith Sargeant Murray. Later, the two Grimke sisters took their part against slavery. Sarah and Angelina Grimke spoke in front of large crowds, many with men. They were unaccepted though because they were women. They realized this and linked their slavery arguments with the rights of women. These examples of the struggle for the rights of women took place between the 1770s and the early 1800s. But the most effective campaigns started in 1848, during the Seneca Falls convention held in Seneca Falls, New York. This was the first convention concerned towards the rights of women. The convention was organized and planned by Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
Lucretia Mott, the older one, was born on Nantucket Island in 1793. She was a Quaker (someone who believed in equality, the simple life, and was against war) who taught school as a teenager. This allowed her to realize the differences in the salaries of women and men for the same jobs. She married James Mott and began her life fighting against slavery.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton was born in 1815 in Albany, New York. She had more education than a typical woman could receive at her time. When she grew up, she got married to an abolitionist leader, Henry Stanton. Elizabeth spent a lot of time as a child in her father's office. Because her father was a judge, women commonly came in his office asking for help, because their drunken husbands abused them and their children, or their husbands took their children and left them without money or property. But Elizabeth's father couldn't do anything because the law at that time had offered very little rights for women.
The two women first met at the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention in London. They arrived to find the members debating about whether the few women that had come should be allowed to sit with the other members. They later ruled that all women, including Mott and Stanton, would sit in the back gallery where they could barely see, hear, and couldn't participate.
So Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton started planning the Seneca Falls Convention. Stanton read the American Declaration of Independence to herself and wished that one day she could add the word women to a sentence, making it say, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal". This soon became part of the Declaration of Sentiments - a document to be introduced in the Seneca Falls convention, - which included a list of demands including women's right to own property, to control her own earnings, to share in the custody of her children, and to enter a profession. These, and many other rights, could be earned with the help of the right to vote. The Seneca Falls Convention went as planned with three hundred guests, forty of them men. People came from fifty miles around.
Lucy Stone joined the struggle when she took part in the National Woman's Rights Convention in 1850. Lucy was born in western Massachusetts in 1818. Her parent's, just like Stanton's parents, cried out when Lucy was born, that they wished she was a boy. They knew how hard life was for a girl at that time. When married, she became the first woman to keep her name rather than take her husbands last name. Women that do this are now known as Stoneites.
Susan Brownell Anthony took her place in the suffrage movement soon after Lucy Stone. Susan was born to a Quaker family in Adams, Massachusetts in 1820. Like Lucretia Mott, she noticed the difference in wages as a teacher. She spent some of her time in the temperance movement, the movement to ban the sale of liquor. She met Stanton in 1851 and became a suffragist.
One way women addressed the public was through a newspaper published by Amelia Bloomer called The Lily. Bloomer introduced a new dress design and called them "bloomers". They were more comfortable compared to typical women's clothing. The Turkish pantaloons soon proved to be futile when women who wore the costume experienced abuse from the public.
Susan Anthony was left to do most of the traveling and campaigning, because Elizabeth Stanton was married with children. Although not able to travel, Stanton took the role of philosopher, writing speeches and all she could at home. Lucy Stone was now married to Henry Blackwell and took her role as the orator. The three formed the American Equal Rights Association (ERA).
Although Elizabeth Stanton's husband, Henry, fought for equal rights himself, he wasn't too supportive of Elizabeth. Henry told Elizabeth that if she didn't stop her work with women's suffrage (the right to vote), he would leave town. Elizabeth continued her work and Henry left town.
At this time, the ERA had some arguments within itself. The women debated about whether they should also try and win rights for slaves and vote for blacks. The group soon fell low on money. Anthony and Stanton looked towards George Train, a millionaire who was known to be foolish. He wanted to become the President of the United States some day, and supported women's suffrage. With his money, Anthony and Stanton started a newspaper called the Republic, which wasn't too successful. Lucy Stone knew Anthony and Stanton attracted large crowds and thought that Train was using them to help his political status. At this time, the ERA was encouraging the Fifteenth Amendment, which allowed blacks to vote. Anthony and Stanton didn't like seeing their work only benefit men. The ERA then split to two in 1869. Anthony and Stanton formed the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), followed by Lucy Stone and her Husband Henry Blackwell forming the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA). The AWSA started a successful newspaper known as the Woman's Journal.
Years of Conflict
The same year that the ERA split to the AWSA and the NWSA, the Wyoming territory was developing. A woman named Esther Morriss suggested that women be allowed to vote in the new territory. The men agreed. Although many women were afraid to vote because of possible mobs, a woman known as Louisa Swain stepped up and took her place as the first women in the United States to legally vote. When Wyoming joined the Union and became a state, it became the first state with women suffrage. In 1896, women's suffrage was adopted in Colorado, Idaho, and Utah.
At the elections of 1872, in Rocester, New York, Susan B. Anthony, her sister, and around 150 other women, attempted to vote. Remarkably, they had no problem registering, for Anthony threatened the registrars that she would sew them. Their defense was the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments that stated that the right of citizens to vote could not be denied on account of race. Anthony assumed that women were citizens, and therefore allowed to vote. They voted safely in the election, but on Thanksgiving Day, the United States Chief Marshall came to Anthony's home. The marshal was somewhat shy, for Anthony was very popular. He allowed Anthony to dress into her public clothes, and Anthony came out with her arms behind her back, allowing the marshal to handcuff her. He refused and told her she could go with no cuffs. The other women who had voted were also arrested along with the men who allowed them to vote. Anthony and the men were the only ones charged. But their trials were unfair. The judge had dismissed the jury and found Anthony guilty by himself. She was charged a fine of one hundred dollars. Anthony said she wouldn't pay a penny of her fine. If someone who's been charged refused to pay, it was typical that the person be jailed. But Anthony's lawyer paid the fine himself, saying he didn't want to see a loyal women be put in jail. Anthony wasn't happy about this, because without paying, she had the right to take the case to the US Supreme Court. The men who allowed them to vote were also charged. They too, refused to pay their fines. Anthony told them not to worry and that she would take care of everything. Protests were held in front of the prison until the men were released.
At this time, many women were now working towards the temperance movement. In 1873, one hundred women marched towards the nearest saloon in Hillsboro, Ohio. They knelt down and prayed that the saloonkeepers would close their shops. The press gave the event so much publicity, that the saloon soon went out of business. Through 1874, 3,000 saloons temporarily closed. The Women's National Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) was formed. They saw the need of women's right to vote in order to help them achieve the banning of alcohol. The WCTU soon started working with the suffrage associations.
In 1890, the NWSA and the AWSA came together and formed the National-American Woman's Suffrage Association (NAWSA). Elizabeth C. Stanton was named the first president of the NAWSA, but resigned in 1892. A year later, Lucy Stone died. Another year later, Stanton died.
A New Generation Finishes the Job
Anthony took the presidency of the NAWSA for another eight years. Anthony wanted her assistant, Anna Shaw, to become the president. But Carrie Chapman Catt was more promising and therefore took the job. Catt was married to a very rich man, therefore could make more money available for the NAWSA. Not long after, in the year 1902 and at the age of eighty-six, Susan B. Anthony died. Her last public words were "Failure is impossible".
Catt resigned her job in order to move to Europe for her husband's benefit. Anna Shaw took her place, but wasn't the kind of leader the suffrage movement needed. Her ideas were old-fashioned, and she reacted with suspicion as people had requests. Meanwhile Emmeline Pankhurst worked towards women's suffrage in England. She formed the Women's Social and Political Union. Pankhurst was known for her radical moves to achieve public attention. One woman threw herself in front of a horse as it was winning the Derby. Women paraded outside the Prime Minister's residence. Women were jailed from resisting arrest, and force-fed in jail.
Harriet Stanton Blatch, the daughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, moved to the US to help the suffrage situation. She was a follower of Pankhurst, and had started the Woman's Political Union in 1907. She had organized an annual parade down Fifth Avenue, in which she invited the NAWSA to join. Carrie Catt now returned form Europe and formed the Woman Suffrage Party. California became a suffrage state in 1911. Although there was a massive force moving towards women's suffrage, there were many anti-suffrage groups working against women's suffrage. The antis (as they were called) bribed government officials to vote against suffrage. The alcohol industry worked with the antis, for they believed that if women had the right to vote, they would outlaw alcohol. The government used the alcohol industry as an excuse not to vote too, for they depended on the taxes gathered from the sale of alcohol products.
In 1913, President Woodrow Wilson arrived in Washington for his inauguration. He found that not many people were there to greet him. He later learned that many were watching the suffrage parade along Pennsylvania Avenue.
A new suffrage leader, Alice Paul, came to the US from Europe, as a follower of Pankhurst. She formed the Congressional Union, a branch of the NAWSA. The Congressional Union, later known as the Woman's Party, split from the NAWSA over an argument of whether they should or shouldn't oppose the Democrats. Paul put together a headquarters near the White House, known as Lafayette Square. By now, President Wilson approved of the Anthony Amendment (as the amendment came to be known). However, Alice saw the President's speeches as meaningless. The Anthony Amendment was voted in the House of Representatives and the Senate but lost by a large margin. During 1917, Paul started White House picketing. Suffrage women camped in front of the White House promoting women's suffrage. When World War I started, Paul noticed that the US was fighting for democracy over seas, when there weren't equal rights at the US itself. She ignored the war and continued her picketing. Many saw the suffragists as unpatriotic, and fights broke out in front of the White House. The government saw this as unacceptable and threw all the picketers in jail. But as picketers were thrown in jail new shifts were always there to take their place. Carrie Chapman Catt was now the new president of the NAWSA. She believed in supporting her country and joined the Woman's Committee of the Council of National Defense.
The treatment the picketers received in the jails was poor, and headlines were displayed as the public grew more aware of the suffrage cause. Women were force-fed after going on hunger strikes. Alice Paul was arrested herself and there were reports that she was left to sleep with handcuffs on. Eventually, in 1917, President Wilson ordered that all the picketers be set free. New York had at this time become a suffrage state.
The House of Representatives agreed to vote on women's suffrage, and the date was set for January 10, 1918. Some members took large steps towards attending the voting session. Mr. Ireland was caught in a train wreck, Mr. Crosser was sick, Mr. Barnhart was in the hospital, and Mr. Hick's wife had suddenly died.
In order for the amendment to pass, two thirds of the House had to vote yes. After everyone had showed up, the Anthony Amendment had passed by two votes. Now it was the Senate's turn. The anti-suffrage organizations worked at more schemes. President Wilson campaigned for the amendment. Suffrage groups called officials and politely and briefly convinced them to be on their side.
The vote was taken on February 10, 1919. The amendment had lost by one vote. The NAWSA worked hard to convince the government officials, while Alice Paul continued her picketing. In May, the House of Representatives and the Senate voted again. The amendment passed in the House, this time 304 to 90. It had also passed in the Senate. But all the suffragists needed now was the approval of thirty-six states. Both the antis and the suffragists worked hard. Thirty-five states had finally approved. The campaigning was now based in Tennessee. It passed in August 1920. The 19th amendment officially declared that the right to vote could not be denied on account of gender. Women throughout the United States finally had the right to vote. It had taken 56 referenda campaigns and a total of 757 campaigns.
After women got the right to vote they formed new goals. Alice Paul wondered what had happened to the other rights women demanded. A new amendment, known as the Lucretia Mott Amendment, was introduced in Congress in 1923. It stated, "Equality of rights under the law shall not be abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex." The amendment wasn't successful.
Carrie Catt made use of the NAWSA, turning it into the League of Women Voters. The organization taught women about citizenship, showed them how to mark their ballots, telephoned women reminding them to vote, distributing pamphlets describing the candidates, and on election day, they drove women to the polls.