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The Women's Movement In America

The Road To Suffrage

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From Seneca Falls to the Nineteenth Amendment

Song-"Suffrin' for Suffrage" by School House Rock

 

Colonial life had ignited the idea of equal rights for women. The demanding lifestyle of the frontier forced women to take roles in the household which were generally seen as men's work. This broke down the old world barriers on employment, and women took their first step toward suffrage in the United States. Unfortunately, it would end there. The constitution did not defend or provide for universal suffrage, and women's suffrage disappeared. None the less, famous heroine appeared and began the effort to earn suffrage. Starting with the Seneca Falls convention, women's suffrage fought alongside with abolition until the fifteenth amendment where the two groups were forced to split, and activists made the final push for the right to vote for women.

senecafalls.jpg
http://www.npg.si.edu/col/seneca/senfalls1.htm

Seneca Falls was the home of the first Woman's Rights Convention on July 19-20, 1848. The idea of the convention started eight years earlier when both Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott met at the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London. The convention refused to seat the women, and they decided to have a convention of their own in return.(Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery) In July of 1948, Mott was visiting her sister Martha C. Wright in Waterloo, New York. Stanton then lived just a short distance from Seneca Falls. Mott, Wright, Stanton, Mary Ann McClintock, and Jane Hunt all met and decided that the time to act was then. The group desired equality in property rights, employment, education, religion, marriage, family, and suffrage. With this, Stanton began work on the Declaration of Sentiments which would define the conference.(Susan B. Anthony Center for Women's Leadership) Designed to resemble the Declaration of Independence, she used the line “All men and women are created equal”, and went on to list 18 grievances from women towards men, the same number of grievances Jefferson used from the colonies to England. With this effort the groundwork was laid for the Seneca Falls Convention. (Smithsonian National Portriat Gallery) As July 19th approached, the group felt that the convention would be rather small. A single advertisement in the local newspaper was the only notification sent out, and at that point in the farm season free time was minimal. None the less, three hundred people came from five miles around for the convention. Mostly women, none of the female organizers felt comfortable presiding so the role was given to James Mott. Ten of the resolutions passed unanimously, with only the resolution suffering to suffrage failing. Thankfully, one of the crowd was Frederick Douglass. The editor of the North Star, and a freedman, his eloquent speech swayed the crowd to support suffrage. With that the crowd also accepted the Declaration of Sediments, and one hundred people signed their names. The convention ended, but soon after a meeting in Rochester, New York came about to ridicule the activities of Seneca Falls. Sarcasm came in a torrent, but the attacks were taken well by Stanton, who simply saw it all as publicity. The Seneca Falls convention marks the beginning of the effort for universal suffrage, and from it the women's suffrage movement was born. (Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery)


Abolition and Women's suffrage were battles that fought as one up until the civil war. Stanton and Mott were both famous abolitionists, as was Frederick Douglass. The two battles became unified throughout the 1850's, until the civil war when Stanton and Susan B. Anthony temporarily suspended activities in order to successfully complete the 13th amendment, outlawing slavery in the United States. In 1869, the group split over the issue of the 15th amendment. Suffragists like Anthony and Stanton refused to support the amendment as it did not provide for universal suffrage, but rather only universal male suffrage. Others, including Lucy stone and Julia Ward Howe, felt that universal male enfranchisement was a step along the path of gaining the vote for women.(National Women's History Museum)

jwsa.jpg
http://images.search.yahoo.com/images/view?back=http%3A%2F%2Fimages.search.yahoo.com%2Fsearch%2Fimag

Resulting from this, two groups formed. The National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) (Pictured To The Left)nbsp;was started by Anthony and Stanton. Some considered the group to be radical, refusing to support the 15th amendment, but rather the group desired only to have universal enfranchisement and the guarantee women the ballot. Beyond demanding a constitutional amendment, their goals also included equal education and employment opportunities for women. Opposing this group was the American Woman Suffrage Association(AWSA), established by Lucy Stone. A more grassroots organization than the NWSA, their goal was not a constitutional amendment, but rather for each state to grant suffrage. Unlike the NWSA, their goals were narrower, but the group still became a prominent women's group. In 1890, after the 15th amendment had passed, both groups unified as the National American Woman Suffrage Association(NASWA) (Pictured Below) and began the final push for universal suffrage.(League of Women Voters)


nawsa.jpg
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ycsocio/3272542329/

The National American Woman Suffrage Association became the primary tool in suffragists in their final effort to win the ballot. Formed in 1890, its first president was Cady Stanton. The organization unified in order to achieve both state by state and constitutional suffrage for women. This new group began to see success around. Wyoming became a state in 1890, the first state to allow women the right to vote. In 1893, Colorado enfranchised women, followed by Utah and Idaho in 1896. This state by state method continued, and by 1918 Washington, Kansas, California, Arizona, the Alaskan Territory, Oregon, Montana, Nevada, New York, Michigan, South Dakota, and Oklahoma had all granted women the right to vote.(Essortment) While this state by state manner of suffrage was successful, the members of the NAWSA all knew that at some point a constitutional amendment would be necessary. In 1878, Susan B. Anthony began work on what would later be known as the Anthony Amendment, the amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote.(Lakewood Public Library) The amendment failed to achieve the necessary two-thirds majority on its first appearance to congress, but suffragists refused to yield. In 1912, militant suffragists used parades and hunger strikes in New York to protest for suffrage. The activists met violent resistance, and were often jailed or abused as a result of their opinion. None the less, in 1917 New York adopted woman suffrage, and with that Woodrow Wilson pledged his allegiance to their goals. Support then turned in favor of Anthony's Amendment. On May 21, 1919 the House of Representatives passed the amendment, and two weeks later Senate followed. In on August 18, 1920 Tennessee became the 36th State to pass the amendment, crossing the three-fourths mark of state support. The amendment was ratified and on August 26, 1920 it was verifies by Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby, making the amendment law. The face of American culture was forever changed, as half of the nation earned the right to vote.(The National Archives)


The road to suffrage was a long and tiresome road. The old world prejudices that had held women to their spheres; the home, education, and the family. Politics was considered beyond the knowledge of women, making political change almost impossible. Stereotypes needed to shift in order for women like Anthony or Stanton to be able to even propose an amendment. None the less, from 1848 till 1920, women fought alongside men to break their chains, and to win the ballot for half of the American population.


 

 

Works Cited

Essortment. “The Women's suffrage movement in the United States” Essortment. 19 May 2009. http:/www.essortment.com/all/womenssuffrage_rcfa.htm.

Lakewood Public Library. “Susan Brownell Anthony” Women In History. 19 May 2009 http://www.lkwdpl.org/wihohio/anth-sus.htm.

League of Women Voters. “The History of Women's Suffrage” The History of Women's Suffrage. 19 May 2009. http://lwvnet.org/tn/nashville/files/the_history_of_womens_suffrage.pdf.

National Women's History Museum. “Post Civil War and The Emergence of Two Movements” Rights for Women. 19 May 2009. http://www.nwhm.org/RightsforWomen/twomovements.html.

Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. “The Seneca Falls Convention” The Seneca Falls Convention. 19 May 2009. http://www.npg.si.edu/col/seneca/senfalls1.htm.

Susan B. Anthony Center for Women's Leadership. “Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y.” Susan B Anthony Center for Women's Leadership. 19 May 2009. http://www.rochester.edu/SBA/suffragewomensrights.html.

The National Archives. “The 19th Amendment” Constitution of the United States. 19 May 2009. http:// www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_amendment_19.html.

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