Women’s Right to Vote in the U.S.
Women’s right to vote in the U.S.
The movement for women’s right to vote began intensely in the decades preceding the Civil War. In the early 1820s and 1830s, for instance, majority of the states in America had extended the permission to every white man, regardless of his income or property owned. At around this time, there were all sorts of reformation groups proliferating across the U.S. These included temperance clubs, moral-reform societies, religious movements, and anti-slavery organizations. Women played prominent roles in many of the organizations.
/> Meanwhile, many women in America opposed the notion that "true" women were pious, submissive mothers and wives who concerned themselves exclusively with the family and home. All these factors contributed to novel ways of defining what it really meant for one to be female in United States.
In 1848, some abolitionist activists, most of them female, gathered in New York Seneca Falls, to discuss problems relating to women rights. They had received an invitation from Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Most of them agreed that American women were independent individuals who had a right to their own political identity. Women were allowed to help set up polling stations but not to vote. This seemed very unfair. They agreed men and women were indeed equal and had certain inalienable rights, including liberty, life, and the right to pursue happiness. They also concluded women should have a right to vote, if they so wished.
During the 1850s, women rights movement began to gather steam, but soon lost momentum due to the Civil War. After the end of the war, the 15th and 14th Amendments to the American Constitution raised some familiar questions regarding suffrage and citizenship. According to the 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868, Constitutional protection was extended to all citizens- but defined "citizens" as "male." The 15th Amendment ratified in 1870, guaranteed black men of the right to vote.
Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and other women supporting the suffrage, believed they had gotten a chance to push for a truly universal suffrage. They refused to help support this 15th Amendment and some of them even allied with the racist Southerners who said that the votes of white women could help neutralize the ones cast by the African-Americans. This faction formed the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1869 and began fighting for universal-suffrage amendments to the federal Constitution.
However, there were people who argued that they were endangering black enfranchisement by trying to tie it to the obviously less popular crusade for female suffrage, and that was unfair. This movement, which was pro-15th-Amendment, formed the group American Woman Suffrage Association. They fought for this franchise differently, one state at a time.
The Progressive Campaign in Support of Women’s Voting Rights
This animosity between the two groups eventually faded. In 1890, these two groups merged and formed the National American Woman Suffrage Association with Elizabeth Cady Stanton as the first president of the organization. By this time, the suffragists' approach to this issue had changed. As a substitute for their former argument, which stated women deserved similar responsibilities and rights as men because men and women were "created equal," this new activist’s generation argued women deserve to vote because they differed from men in several aspects. Suffragists would use their domesticity as a political virtue that they would use the franchise to come up with a purer and moral "maternal commonwealth."
The new argument served several political agendas: for instance, for the temperance advocates, women having the vote would mobilize a huge voting bloc for their cause. Many white people in the middle-class were swayed once more by the notion that this enfranchisement of the white women would make sure that there was immediate and durable, honestly attained white supremacy.
Arguments Made against Women's Right to Vote
Men were not the only ones who were opposed to women voting. Some women also opposed the idea. They gave many reasons for women not to vote. Some argued that politics was not a woman’s sphere, and that matters of government should be handled forcefully, which women were not capable of. Some people also argued that most women were not interested in politics or voting, and it was therefore foolish to pursue such a venture. Some people also feared that should women be allowed to vote, they would soon start demanding positions in the government, which was absurd.
Some people also argued that introducing women into political matters would weaken politics and the government as a whole. Others argued that past legislations had proved beyond doubt that women’s interests were safe and better off if left in the hands of men. Other people simply dismissed the idea of gender equality as preposterous. They argued that by their physical nature, women were not fit to compete with men. They were also unfit to make correct political decisions due to their emotional nature. They believed men were superior in every sense, and were therefore more qualified in political matters.
Many other people did not understand the sudden women to start voting. They thought that if women started voting, they would lose their interest in their natural roles, stop getting children and lead to the end of the human race.
Arguments Made for Women's Right to Vote
Suffragists argued that allowing women to vote was necessary because they were the majority. This would ensure that the voice of the people was heard. It would also ensure that the wishes of the women were included in parliamentary decisions. This was especially true for laws concerning children and women. They also argued that matters concerning these domestic legislations were best left to women, as they were better suited for this role.
Depriving women of this right to vote also implied that they were inferior to men, and this was unconstitutional. Educated and intelligent women should also participate in making national and local decisions, and this could be done better if they had a right to vote. It would also give the women a greater sense of responsibility, especially regarding matters of public importance.
Winning at Last
The First World War slowed down the suffragists' campaign, although it helped them advance many of their arguments nonetheless. The work of women for these war efforts, activists pointed out, showed that they were as patriotic and as deserving of American citizenship as the men. On 26 August 1920, the 19th Constitutional Amendment was finally ratified, and women were allowed to vote.
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