Fight for Women’s Rights: Women’s Suffrage Part 2

by CJFosdick on May 24, 2010

Women in America have had a long hard struggle to get to where we are today. It is easy for the current generation to think the rights of American women have now has always been true in America. It hasn’t. Even when our founding fathers wrote the Constitution, a few women were trying to get equal rights with their male counterparts. In the year the Declaration of Independence was written, 1776, Abigail Adams wrote her husband, John Adams, asking him to remember the ladies in the new code of laws for America. John replied the men will fight the tyranny of the petticoat. They didn’t. In 1777, women lost the right to vote in New York, one of the more liberal colonies of the time. Other colonies followed suit, denying women the right to vote. When the United State’s Constitution was written in 1787, women in all states except New Jersey lost the right to vote, and New Jersey followed suit in 1807. American women who had run the farms and businesses when their men were fighting for America’s freedom, who held families together, who cast bullets, loaded rifles, patched uniforms, did laundry, all the things that helped the war run more smoothly, and who sometimes even donned uniforms and fought beside the men, these women were denied the right to vote. Male dominance prevailed. This is understandable. When in power, it isn’t logical to give some of the power to another big voting block. Definitely, the men were in charge.

But the ladies would not be silenced. Even though many women took a strong stand against the evils of slavery, in the 1830s and 1840s, these same women were denied the right to speak out at public meetings and were even barred from participating on account of their sex. Women had strong feelings about slavery, but had no say and no power. They could not even attend meetings about slavery. By 1848, women held their First Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York. The main subject was Equal Suffrage (Right to vote.) During the 1850s, several women’s Rights Conventions were held across the nation. Women broadened their scope to include liberating divorce laws. The names, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, will always be connected with the Women’s Rights Movement as the prominent movers and shakers.

During the Civil War, 1861 to 1865, the ladies put aside their suffrage activities to concentrate on the War effort. After the Civil War, the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution passed Congress, defining a US citizen as “male”, the first use of the word, “male”, in the Constitution, thus giving Black Males equal protection under the law and the right to vote. BUT NOT BLACK WOMEN. Nor did it give white women the right to vote. So, universally, women across America were still second-class citizens. In 1868, women in New Jersey attempted to vote, but their ballots were ignored.

In 1870, Utah gave women the right to vote, but in 1887, the state repealed this right. In 1886, women were denied the right to even go to the Dedication of the Statue of Liberty. Remember the words at the base? “Give me your tired and poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free.” Hollow words when half of America’s population, the women, couldn’t ever attend such an inspiring event.

But the winds of change were in the air. In the years to follow, up to the start of the twentieth century, women stayed active and made some gains toward equality, but nothing at the national level. Between 1900 and 1919, several states, mostly in the West, passed Women’s Suffrage Laws, but not much happened on the Federal level. Again, women divided their interests during these years. Instead of concentrating on equal rights for women, they also took a strong stand against “Demon Liquor”. Largely through women’s efforts, the Eighteenth Amendment prohibiting all alcohol in America passed in 1918. Women’s voices would not be silenced. Following close on this amendment, came the Nineteenth Amendment, passed in 1919, and ratified in 1920, finally giving women the right to vote in America. The long, hard struggle for Women’s Suffrage was finally won. But, these dry facts don’t tell of the blood and hardships women had getting the Nineteenth Amendment passed. Part 3 of this series will be telling of these hardships and the continuing battle for true equality for women today.

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