Sunday, 26 February 2012

Are American women going to be sent back to the 19th Century?

Tumbleweed sent me something about the struggle of pioneering women fighting for the right to vote. I did a bit of research and gathered some interesting material to go with Tumbleweed's contribution. (The body of the original e-mail is contained in the video.) Thank you, TW.

Let's start with some of the history:

The struggle to achieve equal rights for women is often thought to have begun, in the English-speaking world, with the publication of Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792). During the 19th century, as male suffrage was gradually extended in many countries, women became increasingly active in the quest for their own suffrage. Not until 1893, however, in New Zealand, did women achieve suffrage on the national level. Australia followed in 1902, but American, British, and Canadian women did not win the same rights until the end of World War I.

The United States

The demand for the enfranchisement of American women was first seriously formulated at the Seneca Falls Convention (1848). After the Civil War, agitation by women for the ballot became increasingly vociferous. In 1869, however, a rift developed among feminists over the proposed 15th Amendment, which gave the vote to black men. Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and others refused to endorse the amendment because it did not give women the ballot. Other suffragists, however, including Lucy Stone and Julia Ward Howe, argued that once the black man was enfranchised, women would achieve their goal. As a result of the conflict, two organizations emerged. Stanton and Anthony formed the National Woman Suffrage Association to work for suffrage on the federal level and to press for more extensive institutional changes, such as the granting of property rights to married women. Stone created the American Woman Suffrage Association, which aimed to secure the ballot through state legislation. In 1890 the two groups united under the name National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). In the same year Wyoming entered the Union, becoming the first state with general women's suffrage (which it had adopted as a territory in 1869).

As the pioneer suffragists began to withdraw from the movement because of age, younger women assumed leadership roles. One of the most politically astute was Carrie Chapman Catt, who was named president of NAWSA in 1915. Another prominent suffragist was Alice Paul. Forced to resign from NAWSA because of her insistence on the use of militant direct-action tactics, Paul organized the National Woman's Party, which used such strategies as mass marches and hunger strikes. Perseverance on the part of both organizations eventually led to victory. On August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment granted the ballot to American women.
[Scholastic - Resources for Teachers]

THE NIGHT OF TERROR - November 1917

Lucy Burns

Dora Lewis

Alice Paul

Pauline Adams

Edith Ainge

Berthe Arnold

Helena Hill Weed

There was a lot of propaganda against women's suffrage, on top of the violence:

In the last couple of centuries, women fought long and hard to achieve equal rights in many areas. The fight still goes on for equal pay. Certain politicians want to turn the clock back and take away many of these achievements, notably in the area of reproductive rights. It started with abortion, but now one of these politicians promises to legislate against contraception as well. What next? Take away women's the right to vote?

Can American women afford to be treated as mere chattels again?