For years, women in America had no rights. Any woman who demanded for equal rights was accused of blasphemy.They faced major setback from the men, government and among other women. A woman was not supposed to own property they were barred by law and customs. In 1848 a major meeting was called by Elizabeth C Stanton at Seneca Falls to end slavery and demand for their rights, issues that were addressed in the meeting were divorce, education and property rights and the right to vote was considered the most important.
Women wanted equal rights. Women had no right to vote. The right to vote was considered to be the ultimate right for men. Women were barred from voting by law and their culture. Women viewed the right to vote as their democratic right and if they achieved it, they would achieve the other rights as well. Elizabeth C Stanton advocated for the right to vote as it was the only way to other rights. Women demanded for the right to property, a woman were not supposed to own property according to their customs. The women demanded for the right to their bodies since they were sexually abused by men. They demanded for the right to their children, children greatly suffered since they couldn’t attend schools and their mothers wanted them tobe learned. Women also demanded for divorce rights to be amended in the constitution, since it was written by men, interpreted by men and only protected men.
Women had the right to call for the meetings and organise their demonstrations to demand for their rights. They matched in the streets carrying banners and placards indicated they demanded forthe right to vote and to be equal to their men. They formed two great suffrage movements under leadership of Elizabeth C Stanton and Susan Anthony. At the beginning of their movements they were greatly united, the white women associated with the black women to fight for a common goal, thus they had the right to associate witheach other, despite their colour.
Despite their unity the suffrage movement experienced oppositions from men/culture, government/courts and other women. Men accused women of engaging in politics, the decision to vote was a man’s right. Women suffered in the hands of drunkard men. Culture barred women from engaging in politics, it was basically considered as a man’s affair. Women could not own property, including the children they gave birth to.Once a woman was married everything she owned became her husbands and her rights seized to exist. Elizabeth C Stanton said “if you marry a poor man you become poor, if you marry a wealth man you become wealth.” It is these words that propelled the suffrage movement. The government enacted laws that only protected men, women found participating in the movement were arrested and tried in courts. The law barred women from voting. Susan Anthony was arrested for exercising her democratic right to vote. She was accused of voting and tried by male jury and could not testify because women were considered incompetent. However the court allowed her to make a statement “I have been tried by law made by men, interpreted by men, administered by men, in favour of men and against women. May it please you, your honour; I shall never pay a dollar of your unjust penalty. Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.” Despite the great unity among women they still faced disunity among themselves. Other women considered politics as corrupt and participating in voting was considered as a form of corruption and would tarnish their image in the society Women greatly divided in their mission, this was witnessed between the whites and the blacks. Mary ChurchTerrell urged the whites not to forget the blacks in the suffrage movement but could not find acceptance from the mainstreams.
Internal divisions of the movement werewitnessed. Disagreements arose between the leaders, Elizabeth C Stanton became impatient and more radical as she grew older and considered theright to vote as less important,While Susan B Anthony became more conservative, she advocated for the right to vote. She wanted to appear as the one who achieved the suffrage. Elizabeth C Stanton was frustrated by the women who failed to join the suffrage; she accused the church of being responsible for the oppression of women. Claimed that the Bible accused women of having brought sin and death into the world and could not believe that any man ever talked to God. She rewrote all the passages of the Bible that degraded women. She later translated the Bible into six languages. Her works of the Bible were greatly rebuked by the suffrage movement and brought major division in the movement. Women never turned up to vote against the suffrage.
The whites separated from the black despite the call by Mary Church Terrell not to forget the black women. The white women abandoned the black women. In 1896 the black people were seen as a victim of discrimination. There was much resistance to black women being part of the suffrage. Mary Church Terrell and other African American leaders supported them, despite their support the black women could not be accepted in the mainstreams. They organized supporters to half a million members. This brought greater disunity among them since the black women were supported by men. The white women believed that if immigrant men can vote, then educated white women should be allowedto vote.The white women demanded for the right to vote of new immigrants to be withdrawn from them, since they were considered of middle class.
Coolidge, Olivia. Women's Rights: The Suffrage Movement in America, 1848-1920. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1966