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Women’s Suffrage: Creation of the 19th Amendment

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My topic of choice is the background behind the 19TH Amendment of the United States. Voting is important in the United States because its shows that we’re a part of a movement that allows us to vote for whose best for running our country. Well what if you were denied this right not because of your race, but your gender? Women were denied the right to vote for years because men felt that they weren’t an important part of decision making in America. They believed we were already busy with raising children, taking care of the home, and “serving” our husbands, that we shouldn’t have to deal with the pressure of voting. Choosing a topic on the 19th amendment being created was natural for me. Discussing how thousands of women marched, petitioned, and risk their life just for my right to vote is mind-blowing to me. These women made history because they were so devoted to their cause and demanded that women be treated as equal as men. But if it wasn’t for people like them, Americans wouldn’t have any rights that we have today. By researching and learning on women’s suffrage, I believe that it will better inform me and you on the importance of women voting.

By reading my paper, I hope to enlighten you all on the history of the 19th amendment and why it is so significant to women and American history. During women’s suffrage, there were so many sacrifices made for women like you and me to have equality and treated equal in the world we live in today. Also, I would like you to think if you were placed in their shoes, how it would feel being treated like trash and abused when you’re trying to stand up for rights as an American citizen. If anything, that would be the most important thing to take back from reading this paper. Beginning of the Movement

“Beginning in the mid-19th century, several generations of woman suffrage supporters lectured, wrote, marched, lobbied, and practiced civil disobedience to achieve what many Americans considered a radical change in the Constitution” According to Archives.org The two leading woman in this movement were Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. They proposed an amendment for the right for woman to vote and run in office. Forty years later, it was ratified and became the 19th Amendment of the United States. Unfortunately, they were not alive to see their life’s work achieved. But with the women who succeeded them, Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, they carried the movement and made a better future for women today.

In history, there was one woman who was recorded to be the first woman to vote in the United States. Her name was Lydia Taft. Her husband, Mr. Josiah Taft, was a wealthy farmer, local official, and Massachusetts legislator. He served several terms as a member of the Board of Selectmen, as town clerk, as town moderator, and in the Massachusetts General Court. Not to mention he was Lieutenant and Captain during the French and Indian War but also the largest tax payer in Uxbridge, Massachusetts. Unfortunately he died before an important vote on the town’s war effort in the French and Indian War. Since the vote was so important, the status of Josiah Taft, and the fact that their son was a minor, the town allowed Lydia to vote. She voted in an official New England Open Town Meeting, at Uxbridge, Massachusetts, on October 30, 1756 and became the first woman to vote on anything in the nation.

Women’s voting privileges were soon taken away after 1807. They were taken off a voters roll because male suffrage was put into place. Since women weren’t allowed to vote anymore, many women such as Frances Wright and Ernestine Rose, both immigrants, supported and petitioned for women’s suffrage. They hosted many conventions addressing votes for women. The Seneca Falls convention was the most famous convention and became the start of the women’s suffrage movement. It was held in Seneca Falls, Newyork and Lucretia Mott, Mary Ann M’Clintock and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were the hosts. According to about.com, “In the interim between the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention and the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, Elizabeth Cady Stanton composed the Declaration of Sentiments a document declaring the rights of women modeled on the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Sentiments contained several resolutions including that a man should not withhold a woman’s rights, take her property or refuse to allow her to vote.” There were around 300 suffragists that attended including Fredrick Douglass, who revised the paper. When people discovered this convention took place, it became very controversial. Elizabeth Cady Stanton even threatened to move out of town.

The Seneca Falls convention was the first of many for the women’s suffrage movement. For years, Lucy Stone, Paulina Kellogg Wright Davis, Abby Kelley Foster hosted the National Women’s Rights Convention. It was annually held in Akron, Ohio and brought together women all over who supported women’s suffrage and women’s rights. The women gave speeches, discussed their views, and planned ways to further their cause. One speech that Lucy Stone gave persuaded Susan B. Anthony to join the movement. Sojourner Truth presented her speech “Ain’t I A Women” that left her crowd speechless and amazed. She was a former slave who was an advocate for Negro suffrage. In her speech, she proclaimed that equal rights were either given to only intelligent white men and women. This convention eventually brought Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony together and with the two of them as a team, made them the strongest and most important people in the women’s suffrage movement. Early Years

The National Women’s Rights Convention was held yearly until the Civil War began. According to Wikipedia.org,” In Indiana, divorces could be granted on the basis not only of adultery, but on desertion, drunkenness, and cruelty. In New York, Indiana, Maine, Missouri, and Ohio, women’s property rights had expanded to allow married women to keep their own wages.” It seem like the movement was actually making some progress, but because of the civil war, it was basically put to a stop. African-American suffrage became a main focus of Americans instead of the women’s suffrage movement. So, the New England Woman Suffrage Association (NEWSA) was created in 1868 to only get suffrage for women. It was a republican based unisex group, with men in the head positions. The group was later driven to promote rights for black men. The cause of the association had completely changed at this point. At its first convention, Fredrick Douglass said that women’s suffrage wasn’t as important as black suffrage. Civil War

After the war was ended, the 14th and 15th amendment was passed in 1868 and later in 1870. It gave the protection of the constitution to all citizens (citizens being male) and gave African-Americans the right to finally vote. Since blacks were now able to vote, women thought it was there time to get the right to vote as well. On History.com, it states, “They refused to support the 15th Amendment and even allied with racist Southerners who argued that white women’s votes could be used to neutralize those cast by African-Americans.” Because of the difference views over African American suffrage, the movement split. Mrs. Stanton, Miss. Anthony and other women suffragists believed in this and later created the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1869. This time the group had mostly female members. For the others that disagreed with Stanton and Anthony who believed in the movement being put aside until African-Americans had the right to vote, they became a part of the American Women’s Suffrage Association. The difference between the two is one fought for a suffrage amendment in the constitution and wanted to take it straight to congress, while the other wanted to win the suffrage amendment states constitution.

With all the complications and changes that happened during the movements, a breakthrough finally happened. Wyoming became the first state to pass a bill on women’s suffrage. This now gave women the right to serving on juries in the court. With this progress the two separate movements merged back together to form the National American Women’s Suffrage Association (NAWSA) in 1890. Elizabeth C. Stanton was president until 1894, when a new leader, Carrie Chapman Catt, stepped in after she retired. According to History.com, it states, “By then, the suffragists’ approach had changed.

Instead of arguing that women deserved the same rights and responsibilities as men because women and men were “created equal,” the new generation of activists argued that women deserved the vote because they were different from men. They could make their domesticity into a political virtue, using the franchise to create a purer, more moral “maternal commonwealth.” There were many mixed views and opinions on their new strategy, but it ended up working for the better. They continued with the ideas of the previous movement, American Women’s Suffrage Association, to go state-by-state. With their new strategy, by 1893, Colorado was the first state to give women the right to vote. Colorado influenced many states to start passing amendments giving them the right to vote and by 1918 including Utah, Idaho, Washington, California, and 11 other states.

Creation of Movements
Many other movements were created after the two main suffrage movements combined together. The National Association of Colored Women (NACW) and the National Women’s Trade Union League (WTUL) were formed to better women. In 1896, the NACW placed hundreds of groups/clubs of African-American women that fought for black women suffrage together on a national level. One of the main leaders was Mary Eliza Church Terrell. She was a suffragist and also the president of the National Association of Colored Women. Years later in 1903, the WTUL was created in efforts of improving working conditions for women. Their goal was to improve wages and working conditions such as in sweatshops. Formation of the Congressional Union

A decade later, Alice Paul and Lucy Burns formed the Congressional Union. They worked towards the big goal of giving women the right to vote a law in the United States Constitution. The congressional union was known in history for their strategy of protesting and picketing outside the White House, having frequent arrests, and going against the president. NAWSA was primarily made of older women. The younger or “fresher” women were tired of how slow they were achieving things. Spartacus Educational states, “While studying at the School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) in London, Alice Paul, joined the militant Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). Like other members of the WSPU, Paul’s activities resulted in her being arrested and imprisoned three times. Like other suffragettes she went on hunger strike and was forced-fed.” Alice Paul then came to the United States in 1913 to bring back the ideas of the WSPU. She was accompanied by famous women such as Helen Keller, Mary Ritter Beard, and Lucy Burns to create the Congressional Union for Women Suffrage or (CUWS). This suffrage group was different because they practiced the tactics of Miss. Paul and were more hands on/aggressive.

Alice became famous for her work in England in the Women’s Social and Political Union. There she was force fed on multiple occasions for refusing to eat when placed in jail. When she returned to the U.S., that event had made her famous. (Butler 47) says that Paul argued that women were better off in an industrial economy than they were when their responsibilities were centered solely on the home….Paul believed that the attainment of woman suffrage would continue the evolution of women’s status, and that she could effectively influence that process. Women and men respected her ideas and acts of bravery that she was asked by Jane Addams to join the NAWSA. As a member of the association, she used her leadership skills to conduct a women’s suffrage parade on Pennsylvania Avenue on March 3, 1913 which happened to be the same day President Woodrow Wilson was sworn into office.

It gathered many women’s suffrage groups and associations together in Washington, DC, which drew a huge crowd. This procession didn’t go peacefully because of the negative views of some of the spectators. They harassed and assaulted the marchers, while the police did little to help. With everyone’s focus on the women and not the president, it proved that the right to vote is more important and they should be given the 19th amendment. With the success of the parade, Alice’s next objective was to pressure the president along with congress into giving women the right to vote.

This is the reasoning for creating the Congressional Union for Women’s suffrage. She began this movement after four years in NAWSA. (Butler 48) states that to achieve her goals, Paul called for blaming the party in power as a means to force the president and the Democratic Party to support the Nineteenth Amendment and push it through Congress. To effectively lay blame on the Democratic Party for the failure to support woman suffrage, Paul launched a campaign to organize suffragists at the state level, especially suffrage states in the West. This plan would strengthen the movement and show how serious they are. The CU was technically still associated with NAWSA and accepting these new plans were against how peaceful they wanted to be. But when the CU failed to show records of financial reports, Alice stepped down as leader and Alva Belmont became president. The National Women’s Party

By 1917, Alice Paul and Lucy Burns turned the Congressional Union into the National Women’s Party (NWP). This time the group was entirely made of women and the one goal was for the passage of the 19th Amendment. They again tried blaming the president and the Democratic Party for the reason that the 19th amendment had not been passed, but reached no avail. Luckily a new idea emerged called Silent Sentinels. These women protested and picketed non-violently outside the gates of the White House in purple, gold, and white banners. The banners would ask what the president’s plan was on the 19th amendment or it would state facts about the women’s suffrage movement. No matter the weather, the women were very passionate about their cause and they didn’t let rain or snow stop them. (Butler 51) says From January to June, the District police allowed the women to gather outside of the White House. As wartime concerns pervaded public opinion, however, public impatience with the NWP mounted.

Overtime, negative opinions were formed and there now were potential threats of the women getting arrested. With the government tired of the negative view on the president, they created a reason for the women to get arrested saying that they were “obstructing traffic”. Hundreds of suffragists were arresting in June of 1917 and sent to the Distract Jail, a workhouse, or the Occoquan Prison in Virginia. There sentencing varied from three days to seven months. All of the women were sent to court and offered to pay ten dollars or go to jail, but decided to deny the offer because if they accepted it, then they would be admitting they did something wrong. Alice Paul did not believe in this treatment because they were exercising their freedom of speech. She then decided to deliberately go to the White House and protest along with other women on October 29, 1917. When arrested they were sentenced seven months in a workhouse. The facility did not have adequate living conditions that the other prisons or workhouses had.

Alice Paul and a select few of other women decided to starve their selves in protest of having edible food, air, exercise, newspapers, etc. She was then placed in a cell away from everyone else because of her influence on the rest of the cell mates. When Alice still refused to eat, she was placed in a mental ward and once again was force fed on several accounts. Her actions became publicized and began to scare the public on the treatment of her and the other inmates. President Wilson soon changed his mind about women’s suffrage and eventually had The United States Court of Appeals declare that the arrests of all 218 suffragists to unconstitutional and they were released from jail. They might have been freed now, but women still didn’t have the right to vote. With the help of Carrie Chapman Catt (president of NAWSA at the time), she created a strategy called “The Winning Plan” to get the vote by bringing suffrage associations across the U.S. to influence the non-suffrage states.

Wilson took all these ideas into consideration and in 1918 proposed a suffrage amendment for the constitution. History.com says,” I regard the extension of suffrage to women as vitally essential to the successful prosecution of the great war of humanity in which we are engaged.” Although we believed in the 19th amendment being passed, he wasn’t the only one voting. The amendment went to the Senate only to lose by two votes. Congress reviewed the amendment again the following year on May 21, 1919 and was passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate. The bill was now on its way to the states so it could be ratified. Ratification of the 19th Amendment

By June 16, 1919, several states including Kansas, New York, and Ohio had ratified the 19th Amendment. In March of 1920, there were a total of 35 states that had ratified the amendment. Tennessee now became the only state preventing the amendment being passed since there’s two-thirds requirement of votes for the amendment. Southern states didn’t believe in women’s suffrage and have already voted no on the ratification. When it was time for Tennessee to vote, it became a tie, 48-48, between the legislators. According to history.com, “The state’s decision came down to 23-year-old Representative Harry T. Burn (1895-1977), a Republican from McMinn County, to cast the deciding vote.

Although Burn opposed the amendment, his mother convinced him to approve it. (Mrs. Burn reportedly wrote to her son: “Don’t forget to be a good boy and help Mrs. Catt put the ‘rat’ in ratification.”) Mr. Burn listened to his mother and voted and the 19th Amendment was finally ratified on August 26, 1920. Over ninety years of hard work by many generations of women finally paid off. Women had the right to vote! On Election Day, November 2, 1920, over eight million women across the United States exercised their right to vote. For the other twelve states that didn’t ratify the 19th Amendment, it took over sixty years for it to be passed. Mississippi took even longer by not passing the 19th Amendment until March 22, 1984. Relation to Government

Now I wouldn’t have learned about the importance of the 19th Amendment if it was for government class. We learned about several of the amendments and what they do in the United States Constitution. The 19th Amendment, along with other amendments, is one with a strong background on how it was created. With the perseverance and dedication of these women, they granted the right of women finally voting. Across the world, women aren’t treated as equally as in the United States. In England, their women’s suffrage movement influenced American women to stand up for the equal rights they deserved. Since America and England were successful on created rights for women, we could stand as a worldly example for people to follow. In any country around the world, women could start a revolution and give their people rights like we did in the United States. Sometimes it takes that one to be an example for others. There are many things that affect the way the world is set up today. The 19th Amendment could very well be why women are now more involved in fighting for equal rights. Women will constantly be under men for obvious reasons, but we’ve come a long way from a hundred years ago. When you hear about women protesting for equal wages or job opportunities, this could be caused by the passing of the 19th Amendment. Relation To My History

Without the 19th Amendment being ratified, many women, including myself, would not be able to have a voice in their government by voting. This affects my life dramatically because by myself being a black woman, I would have had many setbacks trying to vote. Just imagine if the amendment wouldn’t have passed. I believe by the 19th Amendment being in the constitution, it paved the way for the other rights we were granted. Without this, our rights might of been setback a couple decades or worst of all, they wouldn’t have exist. If we ponder on the idea of the 19th Amendment never being created, that’s effecting the lives of not only my own, but billions of women across the world. Without women voting, the faces of the president we know today could have changed. With changed presidents, that affects the country we live in. We could have been involved in several wars; the country could have been taken over, etc. Now if we didn’t suffer from dramatic changes, I restate my previous point of women’s suffrage being postponed. Conclusion

Overall, women’s suffrage changed the way women were viewed in the United States. It gave a new found respect that was well deserved and earned with hard work and dedication. There’s nothing missing from history when it comes to the United States. The passing of the amendment has already influence so many things in our history. If I was learning even more about this topic, I would want to know what made women decide “Oh now’s the time we should start fighting for our rights”. What exactly became the last straw for them to embark on a 90 year journey of creating an amendment? But with their heroic effort of fighting for equal rights, they gave women like you, me and others a chance to fully enjoy life as an American Woman.


1. Baker, Jean H. Votes for Women: The Struggle for Suffrage Revisited. Cary, NC: Oxford University Press, 2002. Ebrary. Web. December 16, 2012 2. Butler, Amy E. Two Paths To Equality : Alice Paul And Ethel M. Smith In The ERA Debate, 1921-1929. State University of New York Press, 2002. eBook Collection. Web. December 16, 2012 Movie

Perf. = performers/actors names
3. Iron Jawed Angels. Katja Von Garnier. Perf. Hilary Swank, Anjelica Huston, Frances O’Connor. HBO, 2004, DVD Websites
4. “Women’s Suffrage in the United States.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Dec. 15, 2012. Wikipedia Foundation, Inc. from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women’s_suffrage_in_the_United_States 5. “The Fight for Women’s Suffrage.” 2012. The History Channel Website. Dec. 5, 2012, http://www.history.com/topics/the-fight-for-womens-suffrage 6. Imbornoni, Ann-Marie. “Women’s Rights Movement in the U.S. : Timeline of Key Events in the American Women’s Rights Movement 1848 – 1920.” Information Please Database. 2007. Pearson Education, Inc. http://www.infoplease.com/spot/womenstimeline1.html 7. “19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Women’s Right to Vote (1920).” Archives.gov. December 16, 2012. http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true&doc=63 8. “Congressional Union for Women’s Suffrage.” Spartacus Education. December 16, 2012. Spartacus Educational Publishers Ltd. http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAWcuws.htm#source

9. Kelly, Martin. “Seneca Falls Convention – Background and Details.”
About Guide. December 16, 2012. http://americanhistory.about.com/od/womenssuffrage/a/senecafalls.htm 10. “19th Amendment.” 2012. The History Channel website. Dec 16, 2012. http://www.history.com/topics/19th-amendment.

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