Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Women's history month...............the right to vote

The History of Women's Suffrage:

In the early 19th century, women were considered second class citizens, whose existence was limited to the interior life of the home and care of the children. Women were considered sub-sets of their husbands, and after marriage they did not have the right to own property, maintain their wages, or sign a contract, much less vote. It was expected that women be obedient wives, never to hold a thought or opinion independent of their husbands. It was considered improper for women to travel alone or to speak in public. With the belief that intense physical or intellectual activity would be injurious to the delicate female biology and reproductive system, women were taught to refrain from pursuing any serious education. Silently perched in their birdcages, women were considered merely objects of beauty, and were looked upon as intellectually and physically inferior to men. This belief in women's inferiority to men was further reinforced by organized religion which preached strict and well-defined sex roles.

Women Unite:

With the side-stepping of women's rights, women activists became enraged, and the American Equal Rights Association was established by Stanton and her colleagues in 1866 in effort to organize in the fight for women's rights. In 1868, the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment proved an affront to the women's movement, as it defined "citizenship" and "voters" as "male", and raised the question as to whether women were considered citizens of the United States at all. The exclusion of women was further reinforced with the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870, which enfranchised black men.

In a disagreement over these Amendments, the women's movement split into two factions. In New York, Stanton and Anthony established the radical National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA). Lucy Stone, Julia Ward Howe, and Henry Blackwell organized the more conservative American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) in Boston. These two groups later merged in 1890 to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) under the leadership of Elizabeth Stanton.

Winning the vote:

Susan B. Anthony was arrested for attempting to vote for Ulysses S. Grant in the 1872 presidential election. Six years later, in 1878, a Woman's Suffrage Amendment was introduced to U.S. Congress. With the formation of numerous groups, such as the Women's Christian Temperence Union (WCTU), the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) ,the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) and, the Women's Trade Union League, the women's movement gained a full head of steam during the 1890's and early 1900's. The U.S. involvement in World War I in 1918 slowed down the suffrage campaign as women pitched in for the war effort. However, in 1919, after years of petitioning, picketing, and protest parades, the Nineteenth Amendment was passed by both houses of Congress and in 1920 it became ratified under the presidency of Woodrow Wilson.

Equal rights amendment:

Upon this victory of the vote, the NAWSA disbanded as an organization, giving birth to the League of Women Voters. The vote was not enough to secure women's equal rights according to Alice Paul, founder of the National Woman's Party (NWP), who moved to take women's rights one step further by proposing the Equal Rights Amendment (E.R.A.) to Congress in 1923. This demand to eliminate discrimination on the basis of gender failed to pass.

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