History Essay 1861-1865

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Unit __ Writing Assignment

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Women’s Voting Rights (652), The Day the Suffrage Battle Was Won

 

<http://womenshistory.about.com/od/suffrage1900/a/august_26_wed.htm>

 

I searched many websites and this one held much valuable information about women’s suffrage. In addition to just stating the facts about the struggle, it included the personal stories of what women went through to gain the right to vote. From the very beginning up until the right to vote was won in 1920, women fought and pushed for the right to be equal members of society and not just relegated to their homes and children. There were many people for and against the issue and every battle was hard-fought on either side.

According to the book America: A Concise History, the women’s right to vote, which culminated with the ending of World War I, described the role women played on the home front. As women stepped up to work at the jobs recently vacated as men went off to war, women showed just what they were capable of doing. They could keep up their homes, keep their children fed and groomed, and were still able to work and be successful in those jobs. In working those jobs, women showed just how capable they were and that, therefore, they had earned the right to vote and be active members in what was previously a “man’s” world.[footnoteRef:1] The entire site was very interesting, but there were several things that stood out above everything else. [1: James Henretta et al, America, A Concise History, vol 2: Since 1865, (584).]

One interesting fact was how many men felt about women and society’s acceptance of what women could and couldn’t do. During WWI, women were taking over jobs in heavy industry and manufacturing which were considered jobs only men could do and many people were amazed at how well women performed in these jobs. Others were astonished at how physically strong women really were and realized women were not merely fragile, delicate, or helpless beings whose only ability evolved around cleaning their homes and raising their children.[footnoteRef:2] [2: Joan Johnson Lewis, “The Day the Suffrage Battle Was Won,” <About.Com Women’s History> (accessed September 26, 2013).]

Another interesting fact was a statement made by Carrie Chapman Catt, President of the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association, while speaking to President Woodrow Wilson; she clearly was not afraid or intimidated by great men in power. Catt said, in reference to women’s contributions to the war effort that, “women should be rewarded with recognition of their political equality.” President Wilson agreed, and he helped to sponsor the 19th Amendment which eventually gave women the right to vote.[footnoteRef:3] [3: <About.Com Women’s History> (accessed September 26, 2013).]

Finally, while reading through the site, I found the intriguing story of a young male Tennessee legislator–23 year old Harry Burn–who was opposed to giving women the right to vote. As fate would have it, when the Tennessee Legislature met in Nashville in the fall of 1920 to vote on whether to ratify the 19th Amendment, its members were deadlocked 48 in favor and 48 against it, with Burn being in the position of having to cast the tiebreaking vote. The stakes couldn’t have been higher because the amendment stood only one state’s approval away from the the 3/4 state majority needed for ratification. However, ratification was still in doubt as several southern states had voted to oppose the amendment. Thus, Tennessee’s legislature might very well decide the fate of women suffrage in the United States. Despite his public opposition to woman suffrage, and his knowledge of the publicity that would surround his casting the deciding vote, Burn voted in favor of ratification because his mother had written him and told him to “remember to put the rat in ratification.” On “August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th and deciding state to ratify the amendment.”[footnoteRef:4] [4: <About.Com Women’s History> (accessed September 26, 2013).]

The most interesting person I mat was Alice Duer Miller. She used humor as a tactic to show how important giving women the right to vote was. In 1915 Miller wrote a paper titled “Why We Don’t Want Men to Vote,” which was a spoof on what men of that time thought about women and the typical reasons they gave as to why women shouldn’t vote. A couple of Miller’s statements include, “Because man’s place is in the army. Because no really manly men wants to settle any question otherwise than by fighting about it.” Opponents of suffrage constantly made derogatory comments about women such as, women are too emotional; their place is in the home; women would lose their charm if they were allowed to vote and become members of the men’s society because of their interest in politics and the world, etc. Since women were treated like second class citizens, it appeared to be beyond a lot of men’s ways of thinking or understanding as to why women would even want to have this right. Most men believed women should just be happy taking care of the house and the children.[footnoteRef:5] Because Miller treated these negative stereotypes with humor and maturity, many people were able to see how ridiculous they really were. [5: <About.Com Women’s History> (accessed September 26, 2013).]

After reading through all the links the original site provided, besides the site itself, it was very apparent what an important issue woman suffrage was and why women were willing to go as far as they did—some even getting arrested for demonstrating–to finally achieve their goal. The right to vote which is such an important part of our citizenship today is often taken for granted by those of us who have had the right from the age of 18 on. We complain about the process, wonder why we even bother, say our vote really doesn’t count for much, etc., while never remembering there was a time when so many in our country did not have the right to participate in the political process that is such an important part of our lives. Women have come a long way since the ratification of the 19th amendment, and have achieved many great things– thanks to those ladies like Anthony, Mott, Catt and others who fought relentlessly for women’s political equality.