In the 1820s men were in power. In their homes, in the workplace, and everywhere else. The men philosophy included these ideas. First, it was accepted that women are possessions of their husbands, and therefore they must agree with everything they say. Second, it was believed that most women were uneducated, or stupid, so women were automatically assumed to be incapable of voting for president. Also, because women were unschooled and ignorant, their say was unimportant. And finally that they were superior and that they should stay that way. This was a difficult philosophy for women to overturn. This is one reason why women's suffrage took so long to obtain. (Dickey, 1995)
In addition to male domination, women hurt their own cause. The public believed that suffragists were connected with scandal-mongerers such as the Claflin sisters. Consequently, most suffragists limited their work to conventional topics and scorned radical view points. For example, "When Anthony Comstock of Boston and Josiah W. of Philadelphia undertook crusades against obscenity, feminists applauded and approved the formation in 1895 of the American Puritan Alliance." Which was why women hurt their own cause. (pg. 151, Leonard Pitt, We Americans, 1987)
However, women helped their cause gathering up the Seneca Falls Convention. The Seneca Falls Convention, in 1848, "stated the injustices suffered by women." These injustices included " the denial of the right to vote, the fact that a married woman gave control of her property to her husband, the exclusion of women from the professions, and the nearly absolute legal control of women by men. (pg.305, Conlin) In addition to their conservative views, most suffragists were elitists, that is they were not common people. For example, Pitt writes "...the leaders were white college educated, and middle class. They were an elite and a minority within that elite." As a result, suffragists were taken less seriously by the common people. (pg 152, Leonard Pitt, "We Americans, 1987)
It took an international crises, World War II, for the claims of the suffragists to be taken seriously. Only when the labor of women was need in war time, did the federal government act on considering national suffrage for women. Even though the suffragist movement progressed slowly, their efforts did have an effect on the government. The movement brought the inequality of voting restrictions to public attention. This public attention combined with the heroic service of women in industry during World War I resulted in the passage of the 19th amendment to the Constitution of the United States, in 1920. The 19th Amendment provides men and women with equal voting rights. After 90 years, the goal of suffragists was achieved. (Grolier encyclopedia, Electronic Publishing, Inc., 1995)
It may have taken women a long time to achieve the right of suffrage in spite of their conservative views. Men were threatened by women who wanted to move forward. Since males dominated the United States, they knew they had the power to keep women from getting the vote. Certain states, such as Wyoming, gave women the right to vote in state elections as early as 1869. Male domination played a big part in the whole concept of women getting the right to vote. Now, women are considered to be equals with men. Even though women were "considered" to be lesser than men, they never really were, were they? (Encarta Encyclopedia, 1993).
Conlin, Joseph. A History of the United States, Our Land and Time. 1985.
Dickey, Sara. Unpublished interview, 1995.
Encarta, Microsoft Corporation, "Women's Rights," 1993
Grolier Electronic Encyclopedia. 1995.
Gruver, Rebecca. "An American History" 1985
Pitt, Leonard. We Americans, 1987
The Women’s Rights Movement, 1848–1920
The beginning of the fight for women’s suffrage in the United States, which predates Jeannette Rankin’s entry into Congress by nearly 70 years, grew out of a larger women’s rights movement. That reform effort evolved during the 19th century, initially emphasizing a broad spectrum of goals before focusing solely on securing the franchise for women. Women’s suffrage leaders, moreover, often disagreed about the tactics and whether to prioritize federal or state reforms. Ultimately, the suffrage movement provided political training for some of the early women pioneers in Congress, but its internal divisions foreshadowed the persistent disagreements among women in Congress and among women’s rights activists after the passage of the 19th Amendment.
The sometimes-fractious suffrage movement that grew out of the Seneca Falls meeting proceeded in successive waves. Initially, women reformers addressed social and institutional barriers that limited women’s rights, including family responsibilities, a lack of educational and economic opportunities, and the absence of a voice in political debates. Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, a Massachusetts teacher, met in 1850 and forged a lifetime alliance as women’s rights activists. Like many other women reformers of the era, they both had been active in the abolitionist movement. For much of the 1850s they agitated against the denial of basic economic freedoms to women. Later they unsuccessfully lobbied Congress to include women in the provisions of the 14th and 15th Amendments (extending citizenship rights and granting voting rights to African-American men, respectively).
The turning point came in the late 1880s and early 1890s, when the nation experienced a surge of volunteerism among middle-class women—activists in progressive causes, members of women’s clubs and professional societies, temperance advocates, and participants in local civic and charity organizations. The determination of these women to expand their sphere of activities further outside the home helped legitimize the suffrage movement and provided new momentum for the NWSA and the AWSA. By 1890, seeking to capitalize on their newfound “constituency,” the two groups united to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA).6 Led initially by Stanton and then by Anthony, the NAWSA began to draw on the support of women activists in organizations as diverse as the Women’s Trade Union League, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, and the National Consumers League.
About this objectBefore her House service, Ruth Hanna McCormick was a staunch suffragist who declared to men in her home state of Illinois: “This is our country no less than yours, gentlemen.” She helped pass the Illinois Equal Suffrage Act in 1913, which gave women the vote in municipal and presidential elections.
Despite the new momentum, however, some reformers were impatient with the pace of change. In 1913 Alice Paul, a young Quaker activist who had experience in the English suffrage movement, formed the rival Congressional Union, later named the National Woman’s Party.8 Paul’s group freely adopted the more militant tactics of its English counterparts, picketing and conducting mass rallies and marches to raise public awareness and support. Embracing a more confrontational style, Paul drew a younger generation of women to her movement, helped resuscitate the push for a federal equal rights amendment, and relentlessly attacked the Democratic administration of President Woodrow Wilson for obstructing the extension of the vote to women.
About this recordThe Women’s Christian Temperance Union was one of the most influential women’s movements at the turn of the 20th century. In 1886 the Nebraska WCTU urged Congress to pass a proposed constitutional amendment that “prohibited disenfranchisement on the basis of sex.”