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Friday, June 19, 2009

The 19th Amendment to the US Constitution

NOTE: This blog first appeared on my own blog on Feb. 26, 2009

On August 18, 1920, women were finally given the federal right to vote with the ratification of the 19th amendment. But the fight didn't end there. An evident appeal (because a quick google search is not finding the information I want) to the courts on the the constitutionality of the amendment ended on February 27, 1922 with the court ruling that the amendment giving women the right to vote was indeed constitutional.

The amendment reads:

Section 1. The right of the citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

And it took from 1776 until 1920, and thousands of women and men, to get the right to vote for women.

Abigail Adams, wife of the future president, wrote to her husband John, who was then a member of the Continental Congress, to “Remember the Ladies.” But he shouldn't be thought of too badly when he didn't. The right vote, at that time, was not as equal as it is now, not even for white men, but that's another story.

In 1848, Seneca Falls, NY hosts the first womens rights convention in the United States. A “Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions” is signed by participants. The declaration outlines the issues, concerns and goals of the woman's movement. Seneca Falls was the first of many woman's rights meetings.

In 1869, Wyoming organizes with a woman's suffrage provision. When it's admitted into the Union in 1890, the provision intact. Wyoming is the first state to allow women to vote.

In 1872, Susan B. Anthony is arrested in Rochester, NY for attempting to vote in the Senatorial election. She is tried in June of 1873 and found guilty by a judge who made up his mind before the trial had even started. Judge Hunt declares, "The Fourteenth Amendment gives no right to a woman to vote, and the voting by Miss Anthony was in violation of the law." For a detailed description of this case check out The Trial of Susan B. Anthony.

In 1878 A Woman Suffrage Amendment is introduced into Congress. It does not pass.

In 1893, Colorado adopts a state amendment enfranchising women.

By 1912, nine western states have adopted women suffrage legislation. Others have challenged male-only voting laws in the courts.

Montana elects and sends to Congress the first female Representative, Jeannette Ranks in 1916.

On May 21, 1919, the House of Representatives passes the amendment first introduced in 1878. It is relatively unchanged from when it is first brought before Congress. Two weeks later, the Senate follows suit. Tennessee is the 36th state to ratify the amendment on August 18, 1920, thus making it law.

It is not to be thought, however, that this was an easy road, from introduction to ratification. Susan's arrest and trail was only one of many hardships women faced in their pursuit to equal voting rights. Perhaps the most shocking was the arrest of protesters by the command of none other than the President of the United Sates, Woodrow Wilson.

From the day before he takes into office on March 13, 1913, suffrage supporters hound him. Alice Paul manages to gather 5,000 people from every state in the union to march on Washington the day before the inauguration. Through the next several years, Paul organizes the protests outside the White House with banners reading “Mr. President, what will you do for woman suffrage?” and the like. The police stood by and watch as angry crowds punch, kick, choke and drag the protesters.

First harassed, then arrested, the protesters are sent to a work house for 60 days as punishment. There, they suffer beatings, forced feeding, and unsanitary conditions. When Paul goes on a hunger strike to protest her treatment, she is forced fed with a tube and threatened with commitment to an insane asylum. All because she wants to vote. Paul remains unfaltering in her belief. Wilson is forced to realize he is in a political land mine and needs to act.

The U.S. involvement in the World War I actually helps the movement. How can we claim we are bringing freedom to the world, while deny half our population the fundamental right to vote? Between the human rights we claim to be giving in the war and the treatment of the suffragans at home, Wilson finally declares his support for the amendment.
For more information and Wilson and Paul's actions during this time, check out PBS's page on Wilson and the Alice Paul page.

Here's a detailed timeline of the history of suffrage.
Leave a comment and be eligible for a drawing to win an inspirational plaque: Live the Life You Have Imagined.

Anna Kathryn Lanier


Gwynlyn said...

The History Channel had program on this a while back. What these ladies suffered is an atrocity. We owe them a great debt.

Skhye said...

Great post. I should burn a bra today in memory of the suffrage supporters. But bras cost so dang much! :(

unwriter said...

Women are allowed to go to the polls to put an x in a box. A simple act. But for them to do so meant that women were recognized as human and that could not happen. It has been that way for thousands of years. Women have not been given credit for anything yet they are expected to do everything a man demands.

I for one am deeply ashamed of my gender because I feel that women are just as capable as men in every way. What makes the female less human? Sorry, I could go on but I'll stop my rant at this point. It has always been a sore point with me anyway.

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Ron, I think it is ironic how women have done so much, and given so little credit. We hear about the 'frontiermen' but very little of the women, who were hacking out a living right next to them. In BLEED, BLISTER and PURGE, Volney Steele, M.D. says, "Since antiquity, women have shouldered much of the responsibility for health care....It is an enigma why men who were born of women and cared for by women through injury and sickness still held the female to be inferior in the lofty fraternity of the medical profession." (202)

It's sad, but true and not only in the history of the medical profession. But for centuries, a woman was a non-person, belonging to first her father and then her husband, both who could think for her.


Elaine Cantrell said...

The 19th amendment finally passed, but the Equal Rights Amendment which Congress approved in 1972 couldn't get enough support from the states. The amendment needed 38 states to ratify, and it fell three states short. Gains have been made, but I think we still have a way to go.

Susan Macatee said...

It's amazing in how long it took for women to get the right to vote. These ladies who fought for this basic right were truly heroines!!

joyce moore said...

Anna: Very interesting post. My hat's off to those persistent women. Shows what the fairer sex can do when they make up their minds to something!

Unknown said...

Very interesting post! I am with unwriter and agree with her all the way. Yes women are aloud to vote but they are not treated equal. A lot of times they are paid less for doing the same thing a man does. A job the is for a women always pays less even it they work harder then a man. Believe me when I say women work harder then men. I work circles around my husband and yes he makes sure of it. I could go on and on but I will quick ranting now and I can say that I am not proud to be a women because we are still not treated right to this very day, so has times really changed, not really when you think about it. A women can do anything a man can do only better because she will work harder at it.

Unknown said...

Sorry I ranted so much I forgot to leave my e-mail.


Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Congrats to Viginia, she won the daily drawing for the inspirational plaque.

Thanks for everyone who stopped by and commented. I enjoyed reading your thoughts.


Carol L. said...

Hi Kathryn,
A very interesting post. Women have suffered horribly through the centuries and these women who made it possible for us to vote should never be forgotten because of the atrocities they endured.
Carol L.