Long before the United States …
Long before the United States had its freedom from Great Britain, women have been fighting to have the same equal rights as men. This paper focuses on the Women’s Suffrage Movement which was an outgrowth of the Women’s Right’s Movement that began in the United States in 1848 at the Seneca Falls Women’s Convention and goes through the 1920’s and the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. I will also discuss several groups and organizations that assisted and supported their endeavors to bring about change as well as, give my own personal reaction to this movement. (1, 2, 3, 4) The first Women’s Conference was held in Seneca Falls, New York in July 1848, this meeting kicked off the Women’s Suffrage Movement and was under the control of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott with input from Martha Coffin Wright, Mary Ann M’Clintock and Jane Hunt.
The convention was held to discuss the rights of women, particularly their social, civil and religious rights. Stanton and Mott had previously met at the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention in London. While at the convention, it was ruled that women were unfit for public and business meetings and they were barred from the floor (Lewis, 2017). This infuriated the two, and was the founding force of the Women’s Movement in the United States. The Women’s Movement was also developed from several social reform groups such as the temperance movement, social purity and the abolition of slavery. During this time, women realized if they expected to see changes for their causes, they would need to form their own organizations, dealing specifically with the rights of women. Therefore, at the home of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, near Seneca Falls, Stanton and Mott along with several other women, sent out a message by word of mouth and by a publication in the newspaper that a meeting would be held to discuss the rights of women.
The meeting drew widespread attention, and contributed to unifying women of the time around a number of issues that were viewed as fundamental rights. (3) During the first Women’s Conference, the Declaration of Sentiments and Grievances, drafted by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, was read. The document was based on the Declaration of Independence and stated that women and men are created equal and therefore women should have legal and social equality with men, including voting rights. This declaration put into writing the inequality women in the United States had been facing for years, as well as called for women to petition and stand up for their rights. On the second day of the convention, the day men were allowed to attend, The Declaration of Sentiments and Grievances was adopted by the assembly. Twelve resolutions, which called for equal rights for women were passed. Some of these included, property rights, equality in divorce, access to higher education, the right to participate and be represented in government, employment equality, and voting rights (Cokely, 2017).
The only resolution that did not immediately pass was the one that called for women’s suffrage, allowing women the right to vote. After a long debate, that included the support of Frederick Douglas, the resolution passed. The passage of this last resolution that called for allowing women to vote, was met with much backlash. Some supporters of women’s rights even revoked their support over the passage of this resolution. This movement marked the beginning of the women’s suffrage movement in the United States. The women’s suffrage movement felt strongly that women should have equal voting rights as men and that no individual should be denied the right to vote based on sex, race, or color. (4) Many women’s conventions were held and organizations formed, in the coming years that supported women’s suffrage as well as, many other rights for women.
These organizations and conventions not only gained notice but also brought about change. In 1850, the first National Women’s Rights Convention was held in Worcester, Massachusetts. The meeting attracted over 1,000 participants. This meeting set a standard and established a committee which marked the start of organized work for women’s rights. By this time women’s suffrage was a large part of the movement. The National Women’s Rights convention continued to be held yearly until 1860 (Imbornoni).(2, 4)In 1869, two women’s suffrage organizations were formed.
The first was the National Woman Suffrage Organization, which was formed by Elizabeth Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. They were a radical organization that sought to have an amendment ratified for women’s suffrage. The other organization, The American Women’s Suffrage Organization, led by Lucy Stone, was more on the conservative side and sought each state to grant women the privilege of voting. The two organizations differed on their views of the 15th Amendment, which granted African American men the right to vote. The National Woman Suffrage Association objected to the 15th Amendment. They believed if black men were allowed to vote, women should be allowed to do so too.
The American Women’s Suffrage Organization supported the amendment they believed that women would win the vote soon. Eventually the two combined forced to form the National American Women’s Suffrage Organization in 1890 (National, 2016).(4, 5) In an effort to gain attention to women’s suffrage, in 1872, in Rochester, New York, Susan B Anthony, along with 15 other women demanded to register and vote in the presidential election. During this time, women were not allowed to vote in New York and their requested was refused. The women registered and cast their ballet anyway and two weeks later were arrested. A year later, they were found guilty of illegal voting (Peck, 1989). Although she was arrested, convicted and fined, she refused to pay the fine and the case was dropped.
Eventually the determination of these women, began to wear down the government and several states began to allow women to vote. Wyoming became the first in 1869, Colorado in 1893, Utah in 1895 and Idaho in 1896 (Lewis, 2017). The voting boundaries for women were greatly expanding. (2,4) In 1916, the National Woman’s Party, led by Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, felt they needed to handle the matter of women’s suffrage with a more extreme approach than past parties. After meeting with President Woodrow Wilson, and having the matter of women’s suffrage dismissed. In an effort to gain public attention and bring about change, members of this party marched, staged civil disobedience acts and even picketed the White House (Woman, 2010). During these acts of disobedience, several were arrested for picketing and blocking traffic.
(5) In 1917, World War I began, and women contributed at home to the war effort, which also helped end the remaining resistance to women’s suffrage. By 1919, 37 states had given women suffrage or partial suffrage. In 1920, the women’s suffrage amendment, the 19th Amendment, was ratified. This ratification gave American women the right to vote, and ended almost a century of struggle (Seneca, 2010). (5) Prior to the women’s movement and its outgrowth, the women’s suffrage movement, women were looked down upon, politically, socially and economically. They were denied many basic rights and viewed as less than men. Many people during this time believe that a woman’s role was to clean, cook and care for her family.
Educational opportunities were lacking, they had few job opportunities, their pay was very low, and a lot of the time they were working in hazardous conditions. They were severely discriminated against and denied many rights such as voting. Once women began to be involved in reform movements, it inspired other women to do so as well and to fight for equal rights as men. The movements opened many doors for women and ultimately challenged women’s place in society. It also gave women a voice to make a difference in the world around them, something they had never experienced before. They formed Organizations and leagues that helped themselves and other women in the United States obtain equal rights and suffrage. The 19th Amendment granted women suffrage and with that, the opportunity to have a part in public affairs of society through political and civil avenues.
The passing of this amendment gave them a voice in public elections, by granting them the right to vote. The women’s suffrage movement, along with the women’s right’s movement, ultimately changed the world for women today. Today women can vote, own property, have a career, pursue an education and pretty much achieve whatever goals they set for themselves. (6)Changes that took place due to the women’s movement and the suffrage movement can be attributed to several hard working, determined women who pushed and pushed and never gave up on the dream of equal rights for women. Although women such as Susan B Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott were not actually deemed social workers during this time, by today’s standards, today they would have most likely been. They signed and circulated petitions, made speeches, publically advocated for equal women’s rights and suffrage in state legislature, women’s conventions and women’s social organizations, marched in parades, picketed and staged civil events and argued for their cause. It was a very long and difficult battle which consisted of many challenging factors for women, specifically obtaining suffrage.
Each woman who participated, was committed to the enfranchisement of American women. They were committed to changing society and making a better world for themselves and future generations of women. (7) As a woman myself, I am extremely grateful to these women, who many years ago, stood against social standards that were holding women back. Their efforts made it so women today have the freedom to vote, own property, have careers, obtain an education, receive fair wages and so much more. One of the biggest reasons I have chosen this subject to write about is so I can become better informed about what exactly these brave, courageous women of the past did to make a difference not only in their own lives but in the lives of so many future generations of women. These women, stood strong on their beliefs, gained the attention of the government and the United States population and changed history for so many women. The battle was not easy, but they continued onward and in the end were victorious.
In this essay, I have focused on the women’s suffrage movement which sprang from the women’s rights movement that began at the Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Convention in 1848, and ended with the ratification of the 19th Amendment that granted American women voting rights. I have also discussed several groups and organizations that assisted and took action to support them in their endeavors to bring about change. Lastly, I have given my personal reaction to this particular movement.