WOMEN'S SUFFRAGE-WHY IT TOOK SO LONG
FOR WOMEN TO ACHIEVE THEIR GOAL.
The traditional view of women in society was to stay at home, clean, raise children , and to help with
the family farm. This view started to change around the late 19th century and during the
industrial revolution. Male domination kept women at home but in the early 19th century, legislatures
and educators began expanding the opportunities of women in education. Though there were exceptions
and problems with women and education was women's first step considering they could now get jobs in medicine
and law. During the Civil War, women took over their husbands jobs and temporarily stopped fighting
for suffrage. They started helping the black slaves achieve freedom. The antislavery movement,
the 15th amendment, pushed women further down the trail leading to suffrage. Although it took three
amendments later and 90 solid years of hard fighting for women to obtain the 19th amendment.
They finally did achieve their goal.
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