The 19th Amendment …coming a long way!
“You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby” may have been an advertising hit, but we know now about the end results. Those Virginia Slims looked cool, modern and gave women the ideas that they no longer had to have a life of drudgery, but a life of freedom. No one talked about the cancer and suffering that would come along with this new life. No matter how misleading these words may be, there were other women who did come a long way, but it was a difficult road.
Women have fought for the rights to do whatever men can do for a very long time. Most people if asked what the 19th Amendment is probably could not tell you.
The 19th Amendment (1920) to the Constitution of the United States provides men and women with equal voting rights. The amendment states that the right of citizens to vote “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
Practicing civil disobedience to get attention to a cause or problem is nothing new. The women who wanted equality to men in the political area by casting a vote began in the mid 19th century. They marched, lobbied and stood where they were forbidden to change the Constitution of the United States of America. Theirs would be a radical change and some women even became militant, going as far as hunger strikes.The records of the National Archives and Records Administration reveal much of this struggle:
In July 1848 Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott organized the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, NY, and launched the woman suffrage movement. Many of the attendees to the convention were also abolitionists whose goals included universal suffrage. In 1870 this goal was partially realized when the 15th amendment to the Constitution, granting black men the right to vote, was ratified.
Little by little our Constitution and laws of our land have been changed to make freedom for all a realization. Years ago no one would have thought there would ever be changes to our laws such as gays or transgenders being part of our military. States are fast changing rules that have been long-standing to include all people in restrooms and public facilities of their choosing. Age, appropriateness or family choice may seem to be going out the window for many. These are highly controversial as every generation has had to experience. Not everything that is brought to the public’s attention by demonstration or law suits means that change will happen. It will mean that leadership will have to decide on what is the right thing. Remember, we choose our leaders. The people’s votes are the best thing.
We have seen by the votes of Americans that most are compassionate, believing that all people should have the chance to be anything they can be, whether it is the President of the U.S.A.or some other goal. Gender or race should not stand in the way. The credit for this modern day thought can be traced back to those, like the women suffragettes or those in the civil rights movement, who were unwilling to stand back and let things remain the same. A prominent African American also took up the cause:
Frederick Douglass, a former slave and leader of the abolition movement, was also an advocate for the right of women to vote. He attended the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, and in an editorial published that year in The North Star, wrote, “. . . in respect to political rights, . . . there can be no reason in the world for denying to woman the elective franchise, . . .”
The rights and liberty of all people is a given in most thinking, but when one challenges whether we as Americans are giving serious thought to ethics and character of those wanting to serve as leaders to the masses, it becomes an unpopular stance. Trustworthiness should be a major factor in decision making. Unfortunately it is difficult to detect. One knows that their choice may be a correct one or it may turn out to not be, for political talk is cheap.
The marchers for Women’s rights were straight forward. The put their high top shoes and petticoats out where all could see. Carrying their signs, they knew that they would not be unnoticed. 1869 would turn out to be a big year for the leaders of the movement for women to vote. Susan B. Anthony and others organized the National Woman Suffrage Association and the following year the ratification of the 15th amendment petition was sent to the Senate and House and they were granted the privilege of being heard on the floor of Congress.
Many of the women who had been active in the suffrage movement in the 1860s and 1870s continued their involvement over 50 years later. Mary O. Stevens, secretary and press correspondent of the Association of Army Nurses of the Civil War was one such woman. In 1917 she asked the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee to help the cause of woman suffrage
Today we hear strong statements made about the fact that nothing is getting done in Congress. It is interesting to point out that when opposing viewpoints were dividing the Women’s Movement, they were actually able to rise up from their differences and to become one.
This is how it happened according to our National Archives: The ideological and strategic differences that grew among suffrage leaders during and immediately after the Civil War formally split the women’s movement into two rival associations. Stanton and Anthony, after accusing abolitionist and Republican supporters of emphasizing black civil rights at the expense of women’s rights, formed the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) in May of 1869. The American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA), founded 6 months later by Lucy Stone, Julia Ward Howe, and Thomas Wentworth Higginson, protested the confrontational tactics of the NWSA and tied itself closely to the Republican Party while concentrating solely on securing the vote for women state by state. In 1890 the two suffrage organizations merged into the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). Stanton became its president, Anthony became its vice president, and Stone became chairman of the executive committee.In 1919, one year before women gained the right to vote with the adoption of the 19th amendment, the NAWSA reorganized into the League of Women Voters. ( I would add here that I have a close friend who has been active in the League of Women Voters. Thanks, Beth.)
Because states had to approve their own ratification, there were delays. For instance: Early in 1919, the House of Representatives passed the 19th amendment by a vote of 304 to 90, and the Senate approved it 56 to 25. Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan were the first states to ratify it. Tennessee delayed in 1920, but finally reaffirmed its vote, delivering the 36th ratification for final adoption. After the amendment became part of the law of the land, Maryland did not ratify until 1941, and did not transmit the ratification document to the State Department until 1958.
Yes, it takes time for many to decide what is right. It is even harder for Americans to get on the same page in their beliefs and commitment of conscience because we are such a diverse society. Our modern day America is no different than the days it took our country to do what was right for women and minorities. No matter how hard it is, look for the candidate that you feel will best represent you and you can trust with your future and the future of your family. Most of all, as we trust God who has calls us to “humble” ourselves and pray, He will “heal” our land…and our world.
Prayer: “Oh God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” The Book of Common Prayer 1979 p.815
Women in the 1800’s stood up and spoke their mind for themselves and those of us in their future. They let nothing stand in their way. Voting is now one of our special rights because of the courage of others. Let’s hope that this will be remembered in November. Every woman (and man) should take advantage of this privilege.