“Remember the ladies,” wrote boldly by the soon to be First Lady Abigail Adams to her husband John Adams in March 1776. Abigail Adams’s words were one of the first noted mentions in the United States foreshadowing the beginning of an extensive suppressed battle towards women’s suffrage. The fight for women suffrage was a movement in which women, and some men included, pleaded for equal rights regarding voting and women’s voice within the political realm. Women’s suffrage was not a matter of instant success; it endured a prolonged time to achieve. It was not until August 1920, about 14 decades subsequent after Abigail Adam’s words that the 19th amendment which had provided everyone the right to vote regardless of a person’s “sex”, had passed. Although the 19th amendment nationalized equal voting rights throughout the country in 1920, many states ratified this amendment in even later years. The lengthy period and long complex battles towards victory were the result of many obstacles between suffragists and anti-suffragists; obstacles which hindered the movement’s progress and which are not limited to: traditionally accustomed values, religion, split arguments within the movement, and other national political setbacks. If these setbacks were handled differently in a more urgent manner, women suffrage might have achieved earlier than 1920 or in a shorter amount of a gruesome activism period.Order now
First and foremost, in order to understand the struggles and the urges of the women seeking equal rights, one must understand the history of what caused them to be left out of the voting world in the first place. Needless to say that “Equality” has always been a major topic throughout the history of numerous civilizations. The demand for equality signifies that either a group of people or a particular featured type of individuals based on factors such as class and race holds more power than another group and/or seen as more powerful. Hence was the case between gender’s differences: inequality between a man and a woman. This notion meant that one of these two groups hold more prestige than the other one. These matters of power, perceived differences, and inequality boggled many psychologists, historians, writers and philosophers to analyze, while activists were determined to take actions to the next level by seeking reforms.
As mentioned before, historians have long tried to determine the origins of the inequality between men and women. They tested whether biology, nature, religion, or perhaps, a universal factor influenced the view that women are inferior to men. Meanwhile, some historians date the concept of equality back to the Greek civilization and their methodologies. Since the United States was formed based on a democratic government which was derived from the Greeks, many of the same traditional views persisted; women are inferior to men. The notion of inferiority played one of the most crucial roles at delaying the women’s suffrage movement in the United States given the fact that many were so accustomed to this concept. Although traditional thinking’s perpetuated in the United States, many argued that the origin of gender inequality should not matter as much as why inequality is still going or why absolute equality had yet to be achieved. Author Robert Max Jackson describes this excuse as “a grave error.” In his journal titled Analyzing the Persistence of Gender Inequality: How to Think about the Origins, Jackson states that: “Efforts to explain gender inequality sometimes ignore a crucial distinction between explaining the origins of gender inequality and explaining its perpetuation.” Thus, this accustomed notion of inferiority should not have been of the major reasons why many could not let go to the traditional values.
Similarly, the political world was male-dominated with women having almost no voice whatsoever. Men were considered to be the head of households while women were considered to be possessions of their husbands, holding the duty of taking care of their family and other domestic aspects. Women were an image of sexual stereotypes in which society placed their roles on the idea of “The Cult of True Womanhood”. According to the historian Barbara Welter, the idea of The Cult of True Womanhood was that the virtues of a true woman resided in piety, purity, submissiveness and domesticity. Thus, men and women were thought be from “separate spheres.” With this fact, many (both men and women) resisted the idea of granting women the right to vote. Some believed that, if women were giving a say in politics, traditional family structures would be disturbed. As for Diane Atkinson, she stated the reasons that some antis proposed were that: “If women became involved in politics, they would stop marrying, having children, and the human race would die out.” She also stated the antis claimed that because of women’s “delicate” nature, “Women would be corrupted by politics and chivalry would die out. Comparing these arguments with Welter’s cult of womanhood, it is evident why many opposed the idea of granting women suffrage and why it took longer for many to let go of these perceptions. Due to the supposedly “delicate” nature of women, they were regarded as less intelligent and emotional creatures whose voting capabilities would not be rational. Many antis feared that women would vote in large groups which in return would affect the outcomes of future elections. Moreover, women were seen to be in general geared towards conservatisms. That means that most of their votes would have gone towards candidates who showed conservatism values; an idea that politicians and Republicans feared at the time.
Likewise, author and theologian Horace Bushnell argued that women shared a history of oppression and argues that women are subordinates of men. According to Bushnell, women’s suffrage was an insult to the natural laws of women just like the antis claimed, and he asserted that the suffrage movement contradicted the Bible. On this period, many were trying to settle Christian values in America. Religious values, as a result, created many antis within the devout believers. Some of these antis believed that women were second-class citizens. With the idea of women as the possessions of men and that their husbands already represented them when voting, many protested against suffrage. On the other hand, although Bushnell’s book was published later, ideas such as his challenged reformers to rethink and take action. These challenging ideas were what urged activists such as Elizabeth Canton and Lucretia Mott to hold the official debut of the women’s suffrage movement in a conference that is known as the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848. Yet, it would take 72 years later of activism following this convention for suffrage to be ratified in 1920.
Another reason behind the delay of the women’s suffrage movement was that many believed that the majority of women themselves did not truly want suffrage. Antis used that to argue that many women had no concerns in voting and only a few were interested in achieving that goal. Author Anne Myra Benjamin states in her book that: “In the heat of the campaign, no suffragist ever admits that the women are the real opponents of the “cause”. To do so, that would be fatal. After the smoke of the battle has cleared away, however, some suffragist occasionally gets up in meeting and tell the truth” Many women opposed the idea of suffrage because of the same-old traditions and customs they were used to. These anti-suffragists women believed that their role was to stay at home. Newspapers’ propaganda and antis used this fact to persuade others that granting women the right to vote would be ineffectual since only a fraction was interested in this cause. The movement would further be delayed because of different tactics that the women suffragists used within the movement.
The different approaches proposed by the women to achieve suffrage also caused a delay in the movement. These approaches were a result of the 15th Amendment which was ratified in 1870 after the Civil War of 1861 to 1865. The 15th amendment which states that: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude” caused a major stir and a split within the suffrage movement. Suffragists were not satisfied with this amendment because of the exclusion of the word “sex.” That meant that the amendment was not applicable to women. Thus, suffragists were divided between whether race was more important than gender. This also led to another issue for the African American-females whose struggles were doubled between race and gender. As a result, two different organizations were formed. They were the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) led by Elizabeth Candy Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, and the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) which was assisted by Lucy Stone and Antoinette Brown Blackwell. Susan B. Anthony’s campaigns favored a more national attention because she believed that many of the abolitionists were antis. NWSA’s failure to include all women underestimated the movement. While abolitionist feared that women’s suffrage would detriment their effort for equal rights for African Americans,
Although the two organizations were divided by methods, they were united in one common goal: women’s suffrage. NWSA tactics were more concerned about modifications of the 15th amendment to include women while ASWA supported the abolitionists and the Republicans while they sought state rather than national campaigns. Counter to these two groups, opponents formed the Woman’s Anti-Suffrage Association in order to disapprove the movement. Meanwhile, politicians and lawmakers claimed that abolition was nationally more important at the time. As a result, they aimed to focus rather on the civil war because it was seen as a bigger issue; thus delaying the suffrage movement.
Just like the abolitionist movement, women played a prominent role in many of the reforms during the 1820s and the 1830s. One of the supported reforms that women supported was the temperance movement. Women wanted prohibition as a way to alleviate family safety, less aggressive husbands and etc… Since women supported this cause, many antis were reluctant to grant suffrage because they believed that women would allow prohibition to be resulted. Last but not least, many women were not household holders or lodgers. If they were given the right to vote, men who are not householders would also want to be given the right to vote. Lawmakers were not ready for this reform. Thus women’s suffrage was delayed until further points were made.
In conclusion, many factors attributed to the extended lengthy period of betrayals and inequality. Ellen DuBois states in her book that: “The notion of political equality was so radical that for a long time it was virtually impossible even to imagine women suffrage”. Nowadays, women are holding powers in offices on a big scale; although men still outnumber them. It took long for women to have a voice in the political world. This was considered to be a tremendous achievement in the history of women given that they fought a battle without any major blood-shedding and violence. Nevertheless, the other question remains: how long it will take now for a woman to be dubbed the president of the United States of America? Will candidate Hillary Clinton impresses enough the nation and makes history to be the first even women president? Time will tell, and maybe we will have to wait many decades again for this milestone achievement.