Posts Tagged ‘women’s suffrage’
“When my mother was born, women did not have the right to vote, so we’ve come,
in really just a few generations, having to fight for the right to vote
to finally a potential woman head of state.”
–Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton
The first efforts to achieve women’s suffrage began before the Civil War. In 1848, a group of over 300 men and women gathered in Seneca Falls, New York to hold the first women’s rights convention. It took more than 70 years for American women to eventually gain that right.
Passed by Congress on June 4, 1919, the 19th Amendment guarantees all American women the right to vote. Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment on August 18, 1920. On August 26, it was formally adopted into the Constitution by proclamation of Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby.
Though women finally achieved the right to vote, their struggle for equal representation in government has continued, and today they are still largely underrepresented in elected offices all across the nation. It took almost a full century for the first woman to be nominated for the office of president by a major political party, when Hillary Rodham Clinton secured the Democratic party’s nomination this year.
Below are a few more firsts by American women in government and politics:
1887: Susanna Medora Salter became the first woman elected mayor of an American town, in Argonia, Kansas.
1916: Montana Republican Jeannette Rankin carries the distinction of being the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress.
1924: Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming became the Nation’s first female governor when she was elected to succeed her deceased husband, William Bradford Ross.
1932: Hattie Wyatt Caraway of Arkansas is the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate.
1933: Frances Perkins is appointed secretary of labor by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, making her the first woman to serve as a member of a U.S. presidential cabinet.
1964: Senator Margaret Chase Smith from Maine becomes the first woman formally nominated for president of the United States by a major political party, at the Republican National Convention in San Francisco.
1981: Sandra Day O’Connor is appointed by President Ronald Reagan to the Supreme Court, making her its first woman justice.
1984: Democrat Geraldine Ferraro is the first woman nominated for vice-president on a major party ticket.
1993: Dr. Sheila E. Widnall was the first woman to head a branch of the U.S. military as Secretary of the Air Force. The first female U.S. attorney general, Janet Reno was confirmed 98-0 by the U.S. Senate.
1997: Madeleine Albright https://www.britannica.com/biography/Madeleine-Albright is sworn in as the first female U.S. secretary of state.
2007: Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is the first woman to be elected Speaker of the House of Representatives.
According to the World Economic Forum, 63 of 142 countries in the world have had a female leader at some point in the past 50 years, but the United States has never had one in its 240-year history. Why has it taken so long? And will 2016 finally be the year? We’ll find out on November 8!
At the core of any social movement are those who envision it, persuade others to join it, and propel it into social consciousness. The American women’s rights movement is no different. Many women contributed to its evolution and escalation throughout the 1800s and early 1900s. We can thank these women for its victories. We pay tribute to these women by continuing the struggle for women’s equality in the United States and around the world.
There are many unnamed women who struggled for women’s rights in the 19th and 20th centuries. They contributed their time, efforts, and wisdom, and helped generate outcomes that we may take for granted today. We can’t know every name and honor them accordingly. But there are a significant few who are worthy of our attention, and their lives and accomplishments deserve to be celebrated in the classroom.
We all know the names and accomplishments of Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Mott was a passionate abolitionist and a strident forerunner of the women’s rights movement. She helped to organize the Seneca Falls women’s rights convention of 1848, and also presided over the American Equal Rights Association. She inspired Anthony and Stanton, who, with other likeminded women, worked tirelessly for the women’s rights movement after Mott’s death in 1880. These two pioneering women cofounded the National Woman Suffrage Association and jointly published the women’s newspaper, The Revolution. They enacted changes in laws that empowered women, including one that allowed women to own property in their name. Mott, Anthony, or Stanton did not live to see the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, but these three leaders played crucial roles in its development and approval.
Sojourner Truth is a well-known advocate of both African American and women’s rights. She was a passionate abolitionist before and during the Civil War, speaking when and where she could against the inhumanity of slavery. When the Civil War concluded, she dedicated her life to obtaining rights for African Americans and for women. Despite her lack of formal education, her lectures powerfully impacted listeners and galvanized the women’s rights movement.
Julia Ward Howe may be best remembered for her Civil War folk song “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” but she also was very active in the women’s suffrage movement, was an editor of the Commonwealth newspaper, wrote poetry, authored books, and was the first woman elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She also helped to establish “Mother’s Day” in the United States in 1872.
Lucy Stone and her daughter, Alice Stone Blackwell, are 19th- and 20th-century women reformers, respectively, who made unique contributions to the movement. Not only did Lucy strive for slave emancipation, but she cofounded the American Woman Suffrage Association. She and her husband, also a fervent feminist, launched the weekly newspaper Woman’s Journal in 1870. Their daughter, Alice, continued their tradition of activism for women’s rights as a writer, editor, and suffragist.
Carrie Chapman Catt is a lesser-known, but no less important, figure in the women’s right’s movement of the 19th and 20th centuries. In 1920, at the time of the 19th Amendment’s ratification, she was president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). One year later, she founded the National League of Women Voters, which prepared women for citizenship. Her accomplishments go beyond voting laws: she was the first woman to be a superintendent of schools and she was an avid antiwar advocate.
During the month of March, join SKS and SIRS Discoverer in honoring these and other remarkable women who made lasting contributions to women’s rights. The SKS Spotlight of the Month and the SIRS Discoverer Spotlight of the Month feature articles, photos, and Web sites that emphasize the cultural, societal, and political influences of women today and throughout history.