WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 18: “Votes for women!” would have been a common phrase heard today 90 years ago, when the final vote was cast that ratified the 19th Constitutional amendment. (Wikipedia has details on the amendment.) Women were commonly taught to be submissive to men and to stay at home, but secretly—and then publicly—many were working hard to change American perspectives. (Learn more from The History Channel.) Following the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848, women spent more than seven decades getting jailed, fined and shackled to public buildings; holding hunger strikes, parades and public protests, all in the name of voting rights. Even when the amendment was introduced to Congress, in 1878, it would take decades more for the amendment to be ratified. It wasn’t until Aug. 18, 1920 that a young man named Harry Burn cast the final vote and—by the encouragement of his mother—voted in favor of women’s votes. The amendment was adopted a few days later, on Aug. 26. (OurDocuments.gov further explains the amendment and how it came to be.)
America was largely a Christian country during the suffragist movement, and many strict Christians argued that women were defying their role—their role according to the Bible, anyway—by requesting equality to men. Christian suffragists were quick to shoot back biblical passages in favor of equal rights for women, though, and the gender role war continued.
Perhaps because of her unusual upbringing, it was Quaker Susan B. Anthony who significantly made a mark in U.S. history. (The site devoted to Anthony’s home has a lengthy biography.) Unlike her fellow Christian suffragists, Anthony had been raised under the Quaker belief that men and women are fully equal, and she went on to practice this belief by co-creating the National Women’s Suffrage Association. (Gale Cengage Learning further explains the Quaker influence on Anthony’s views.) Three years before establishing the Association, Anthony began a newspaper with Elizabeth Cady Stanton; the two worked on establishing the Constitution’s “justice for all” as a phrase that included women, too.
(By ReadTheSpirit columnist Stephanie Fenton)
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