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Women Suffrage Essay, Research Paper
Women?s rights in America have always been a major issue throughout history.
Women?s rights have been closely linked with human rights throughout . This violation of
Women?s rights is apparent in the fight for suffrage in the late 1800?s-early 1900?s . It can
be said that the government denying the vote to women is a human right offense because
the right to vote is a natural right that comes with citizenship. To deny a certain group
based on race, age, or gender is deny them of their basic rights and therefore taking the
stance that they are second-class citizens if they are citizens at all. . The fight for suffrage
was a human rights struggle for more than just the right to vote. They were also striving
for a right to equal treatment as men politically. Women wanted to be recognized as being
a political force able to change the country if they so chose.
Suffrage can be documented as starting as far back as 1776, with Abigail Adams.
She wrote to her husband John, who was attending the Continental Congress, asking that
he and the other men ?remember the ladies? In response, the Declaration is worded as ?all
men are created equal:? Although this was seen by the men as a joke between husband
and wife, it was a blatant refusal of women as citizens of the country.
In he 1800?s women?s rights were furthered by the Married Woman?s Property
Act which was passed by Maryland in 1839. This law gave women the right to retain
personal property even within marriage. Now, the husband could not come into control of
the women?s property and sell it when married. This law was important because it
recognized the fact that women had the right to personal property even if there was a man
attached to them.
The origins of what we would determine as the suffrage movement began in 1848
with the Seneca Falls Convention, which was held in Seneca Falls New York in July of
1848. Many of those who attend sign a ?Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions? that
outlines the main issues and goals for the emerging women?s movement. Included in the
?women?s Declaration of Independence? was the goal of the right to vote, but that was
looked upon by most of the women as a radical unachievable goal.
The passage of the Fifteenth Amendment in 1869 caused a rift in the suffrage
movement. Elizabeth Caty Stanton and Susan B Anthony form the National Woman
Suffrage Association (NWSA). Lucy Stone, Henry Blackwell, and Julia Ward Howe
formed the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA). The NWSA did not support
the 15th Amendment, it pushed for an alternative 15th Amendment granting women?s
right to vote. They were considered the more radical of the two groups.. The AWSA was
in support of the 15th amendment, while still working for women?s enfranchisement, more
on a state level. The NWSA thought it was more important to attack the issue on a
national scale while the AWSA thought that if you worked within the states and perhaps
got state by state suffrage, the goal could be attained.
IN 1872 Susan B Anthony attempted to vote for the elections in New York. She
and several other women were successful in their attempts. Anthony was arrested and
found guilty of ?knowingly, wrongfully, and unlawfully voting for a representative to the
Congress of the United Sates.. The courts were afraid to jail her , fearing riots. She was
issued a fine which she refused to pay.
In the West suffrage was doing well about this time, several of the western
territories enfranchised women in hopes that they would emigrate westward. These areas
included Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and Idaho. This was also a source of unrest for the
East. The fat that westerners could vote while the women who were campaigning so hard
could not was a blatant slap in the face from the government.
The suffrage ties to the temperance movement gained them both a great many
supporter and some enemies. As the suffragettes were seen as ?unwomanly? this linking
of crusades brought them back tot he home and religion aspects that they were said to
have forgotten in their quest for political power. The Women?s Christian Temperance
Union endorsed suffrage and this helped them because this made the e suffrage movement
seem less radical. Through their joining with the Union, the suffragettes also made
powerful enemy in the liquor industry who considered that women suffrage was a threat to
be stopped at all costs.
In 1890 The Unity was restored and the NWSA and the AWSA joined together to
form the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Elizabeth Cat Stanton was
elected President and Susan B Anthony was elected Vice President. Anthony would take
over the presidency from 1892-1900. This united the campaigning forces and redoubled
The Suffrage Movement has historically been linked with abolition. This was not
always the case, the first strategy of the women?s movement was to appeal to the South .
The suffragists argued that the adoption of women suffrage with educational or property
qualifications that would disqualify most black women, would allow the South to restore
white supremacy in politics without having to disfranchise black men and risk
Congressional repercussions. This was the tact taken by the NAWSA from 1895-1903.
They held the 1985 NAWSA convention in Atlanta, and asked that their longtime partner,
Frederick Douglas to stay away. By 1903 is was obvious that this strategy had failed,
because the southern politicians refused to cower behind petticoats. After 903 The
movement recognized the need for universal women suffrage even across racial barriers
and became active in the black rights crusade s well.
The Progressive Movement which began around 1900 became important for the
suffragettes. The section that supported Progressive reforms realized that women?s votes
could help them secure these reforms Many labor unions became advocates of suffrage
during this time. Because of this they gained more enemies, not only was the liquor
industry against them, so was the cotton textile industry from the south.
In 1911, the strong opposition came into play. This began the formation of The
National Association Opposed to Women Suffrage. This Association included many
wealthy influential women and some Catholic clergy men.
IN 1912 Alice Paul returned from England and began the radical movement
toward suffrage. Some of her tactics included burning President Wilson?s wartime
speeches in rallies in front of the White House. On March 3 1913 Alice Paul organized a
suffrage parade that was held in Washington. The publicity from this even provides
further momentum for the suffrage campaign. It was held the day before President
Wilson?s inauguration . When the incumbent arrived at the train station in Washington his
welcoming party was scanty because the majority of people were over on Pennsylvania
Ave. watching the suffragettes demonstrate.
WW1 slows the efforts on many levels. The suffragettes push the issue of
becoming involved in war work. They believe that this will make them seem as thought
they are more patriotic and perhaps give them more leeway with the government,. It also
slowed up the movement because of the implications of war time law.. In January 1917,
American activists began to picket the White House peacefully. Four months later,
Congress voted to take the country into war. (The first woman elected to Congress,
Jeanette Rankin of Montana voted against the war resolution) At this point, peaceful
picketing became treason. Suffragists carried signs questioning whether the United States
could truly lead a crusade for democracy if its own women were disenfranchised for this
they were assaulted by crowds and arrested by police. Ultimately almost three hundred
women, representing are truly extraordinary range of individuals, from munitions workers
to wives of Congressmen, were arrested for civil disobedience. As the number of arrests
and length of sentences increased, jailed suffragists fought back with hunger strikes and
demands that they be treated as political prisoners. Prison officials responded with painful
?forced feeding,” using a tube running through the nose into the stomach. In November
1917, Alice Paul herself was arrested and placed in the prison?s psychopathic ward.
However, the arrests actually increased public pressure to solve the suffrage issue.
Governmental intimidation were not the only players women had to contend with.
There was also the issues of the individual women, aside form the group. Although this
was called a ?bloodless revolution? and no one lost a life, there was also a slew of violence
that is not often mentioned in history. Women who joined the movement were often fired
and blackballed from their jobs. They were beaten during demonstrations and even when
not demonstrating. Their houses were vandalized and signs were put out in their yards,
there were a few cases of burning crosses, when the movement because involved with
abolition. Then there were the more horrifying cases of rape, and savagery with in
marriages. Husbands of women in the movement if they were not supportive would often
use spousal abuse and inter-marital rape to force the women to drop out of the protest.
This was an effective method of diminishing the movements numbers.
Finally, all the campaigning paid off. In the summer of 1919 the nineteenth
amendment passes both the house and the senate. After a few more years of campaigning,
on August 26 the Nineteenth Amendment was adopted after the thirty-six states ratify it.
The struggle for suffrage was an important one because it showed that through
peaceful protest one can obtain political power. Perhaps it was only because they were
women that they were not put down by the government, but in any event they
accomplished an important feat that took precedent for the women?s movement for
centuries to come.
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