As I walked into the Crowne Plaza on the Ventura promenade on November 2, 2010, I was preparing to vote. I walked into the polling room, gave my name and identification, and was handed a voting sheet just as I had every other time I went to vote. I think this was the first time that I really contemplated about how lucky I was to live in a time where my voice has meaning. So many of my friends ask me “why do you vote, it doesn’t matter” and to me it is this kind of attitude that we need to as a society reflect on and regroup our thoughts on this issue. We forget that their was once a time that woman were not only not allowed to vote, but looked down upon for thinking that they had the right to do so.Order now
During the fall semester of 2010 I then enrolled in a sociology class at Ventura College. Not only did we touch on the topic of voting, but also many other woman’s issues plaguing our society throughout the decades. Then, as we started our marriage and family unit in this English class I found myself intrigued once again. I just felt really drawn to find out how women once were perceived and how far we have come since that time. It just makes no sense that a man who might not even read up on the issues at hand during voting time would be able to give an opinion, but a woman who is educated, passionate, and worldly would have been turned away. In such a male dominated world at the time of the suffrage movement these woman who started it all must have been strong willed and passionate about their cause, and I feel like I just need to know more.
There is so much information I want to ascertain while conducting my research for this paper. First and foremost…Who were the women of the time that began this amazing movement; that shifted the course of woman’s history forever? Were these women of money or of meager means just trying to get their voice heard in a man’s world? I always find it interesting to find out about the people behind something. What drove them, where they came from, and what kind of upbringing they had. I have found the way someone is or is not raised can be a driving force in a passionate topic.
From beginning to end I also want to find out the steps to the suffrage movement. What first event started it all? Did it begin with a meeting of like minded people working towards a common goal? Or, was it considered to have begun with a rally or political gathering. I would also like to find out what climatic event is to be considered the turning point in allowing woman to get the vote. I also want to find out more about the nineteenth amendment, such as who signed it into legislation, what were the voting number on it, as well as when it was signed and added to the constitution. I think that finding out about these important events can help better understand who we are as a society and how far we have come in our thought process.
Another important factor I want to really concentrate on when researching the woman’s suffrage movement is what kind of world rural early 1900 America was like. Why at that point in time were women so overlooked and undermined. As a whole, where was our society in the respect of how we view and value woman. Perhaps it is that mind set at the time that held woman back from moving forward in our culture.
In my opinion, any good search for information begins in an adequate library. Although some feel that written books can be a bit outdated and time consuming to find, a well stocked library hold so much knowledge and information that it can make your hunt for information a “one-stop” shop. I first searched the subject of women’s suffrage movement, and s many titles came up…things with the words “Elizabeth Cady Stanton”, and “Seneca Falls”. Other’s included “Harriet Blatch” as well as “parade” and “Susan B. Anthony.” With these ever expanded words I was able to search even more books with regards to my subject matter. In that trip alone, I was able to find four solid book leads with so much information in them. Next, I turned to the internet. The Ventura College library has some really amazing reference links on their website. Not only can you type in any word and find hundreds of articles, but the database called Proquest, will also pull up an endless amount of scholarly journals, magazine articles, encyclopedia articles and so much more. It made it very helpful if I wanted to find a specific event or year that was mentioned, and I did not have to thumb through a four-hundred page book to find my answers.
After gathering all of sources together, I decided over a two week period, to skim and read through the now five accumulated texts as well as article I had flagged on the internet, and take detailed notes. With every piece of information that I jotted down I made sure to divide each book onto their own page and notated the page numbers as well. This I figured would make it much easier when I went back to make my bibliography later. Finally, the last source I acquired during this search was a face-to-face interview with an expert in the topic of woman’s rights and suffrage. Obviously most people in general from this era are no longer alive, so I needed to find someone who was both well educated on the matters, but also seemed intrigued and interested by the subject. At first I did not know who would possess these qualities, but then it hit me…a women’s history teacher would be a great choice. I e-mailed a few prospects that either taught at Channel Islands State University or right at our school, Ventura College. He first person to get back to me was Ms. Colleen Coffey, women’s and American history teacher here at our own Ventura College. I found her insight to very helpful, because it made me take a second look at certain aspects of events that I had already researched. With this added knowledge I was able to go back and prioritize what I felt was really important to this movement.
In the book, Century of Struggle, I got a lot of answers as to why this movement took so long to come into the foreground. For me, I just didn’t understand why women hadn’t spoken up sooner about wanting equal rights, but this book really set things straight. Prior to 1865, women were consumed with housework. (Flexner, 174) With the industrialization of canning goods through machine, making ice to keep things cold, and having to “live of the land” less and less women were now able to have free time to think and contemplate real issues in the world. (Flexner, 174) I guess this makes better sense now. If you don’t have time to think about or educate your self on issues then why would you even think that you had that right in the first place. So many women of that time were just doing the only things they were ever taught to do. Only thinking the same thoughts they were ever taught to think. I’m sure to be an independent thinker outside of what was considered the “norm” was to make you an outsider. Elizabeth Cady Stanton once said, “The woman is uniformly sacrificed to the wife and mother,” which is exactly how women of the 1800’s and prior felt surely. They ate, slept, and breathed their families with little to no regard for them as human beings.
During my search, three main women’s names continued to be mentioned when talking about the early activities of the suffrage movement; Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucrieta Mott, and Susan B. Anthony. These three women seemed to spearhead the women’s rights and suffrage movements through their sheer passion for the issue. Elizabeth Stanton was born November 12, 1815 and had the greatest of upbringings. She seemed to attain the greatest of education, unlikely for that time, and was always supported by her family. The daughter of a Judge and congress man, was often described as strong willed. Lucretia Mott on the other hand seemed to have a modest upbringing. The second of seven children, she was born into a Massachusetts Quaker family. (wikipedia) As a young teen, she became a school teacher and soon learned that women earned far less than men doing the same work. (Flexner, 72) Unfortunately, this still holds true today. In 2008 a study showed that women earned $.77 for every dollar a man made; and improvement from the $.58 for every dollar they made in 1968. (Smith) This injustice seemed to be what sparked her crusade for women’s rights.
In 1840 after attending the World Anti Slavery Convention in London with their spouses, Elizabeth Stanton and Lucretia Mott were disgusted to find that once they got their only male delegates would be heard on the issues. Instead they were seated behind a glass partition only to watch the proceedings. (Flexner, 71) After this the women seemed to become close friends and eventually discussed to meeting of a Women’s Rights Convention. Then, on July 14, 1848 the two women posted an announcement in the Seneca County Courier that read: “Women’s Rights Convention— A Convention to discuss the social, civil and political rights of women will be held in the Wesleyan Chapel, Seneca Falls, New York, on Wednesday and Thursday, the 19th and 20th of July current; commencing at 10a.m. During the first day the meeting will be held exclusively for women, who are earnestly invited to attend. The public generally are intived to be present on the second day, when Lucretia Mott of Philadelphia and other ladies and gentlemen will address the convention.” (Flexner, 74)
A bold move on their part, I’m sure the ladies felt though that they were making steps in the right direction. Next, I found that the women needed to address what they wanted. With this idea, Mrs. Stanton drafted what came to be known as the “Declaration of Sediments.” This document was modeled after the Declaration of Independence. It asserted women’s equality with men and protested against the “long train of abuses” that “reduce women under absolute despotism.” The convention unanimously passed a series of resolutions that challenged women’s current status. They opposed women’s exclusion from the rights of citizenship; rejected their second-class legal position; objected to the moral double standard; and inveighed against their inability to obtain the same educational and professional opportunities as men. (Zagarri) In addition to the many issue discussed at Seneca Falls, this is where Mrs. Stanton demanded the ballot, a move that Lucretia Mott felt would “hurt the movement in its infancy”. (Kraditor, 1) From this point forward, I found that women’s suffrage started to make leaps and bounds; although it was a slow process until the 19th amendment was ratified.
While reading Born for Liberty: A History of Women In America by Sara Evans, I found that in 1869 to major influences emerged for the suffrage movement; The National Women’s Suffrage Association (NWSA) and The American Women Suffrage Association (AWSA). ( Evans, 123-124) Through the efforts of these groups tides and ideas toward suffrage began to change and states began to allow suffrage for issues such as school elections. Then in 1890, Wyoming entered the Union as the first state with full suffrage for women. (Kraditor, 4) Colorado soon followed in 1893, then Utah and Idaho in 1896. Although there seemed to be a long period after that in which no one adopted new policies on suffrage, the women were not quiet. They continued to hold campaigns, spoke before voters and political hierarchy, and probably most popular; marched in parades. During a famous March 3, 1913 parade for suffrage there stretched a long line with nine bands, four mounted brigades, three heralds, about twenty-four floats, and more than 5,000 marchers. (Harvey) In my interview with Ms. Colleen Coffey I learned that Harriett Stanton Blatch, daughter of Elizabeth Stanton, was very precise about how she wanted these parades conducted. Apparently she insisted that each woman be dressed alike and stand uniformly. She also felt it important that each woman march in a certain uniformly fashion. Ms. Stanton Blatch once said “It is not reason and logic that convince, but an appeal to emotion.” (Scott) She felt that she could accomplish this through the parades.
After decades of strife and hard work, August 18, 1920, the 19th amendment was ratified into the constitution. This climatic and overdue event took place over seventy years after Elizabeth Stanton and Lucretia Mott stared it all at the Seneca Falls convention. Although these women had been dead for years their life’s work was not done in vain. Although the vote was taken many times before on the issue of women’s suffrage; a couple of times being in 1915 and again in 1918, both times being turned down, it had finally passed with a 56-25 vote from the senate and 42 more votes than needed from the house. (Wikipedia) This was not only a victory, but history in the making. Women now had the same right as any white or black male citizen of the United States, the right to have their voice heard.
Voting. What a simple everyday thing that so many take for granted in this day and age. It is so hard to imagine a time when a woman’s voice was nothing more than a mere whisper. During this whole experience I have found an even deeper appreciation and compassion for women like Elizabeth Stanton; outspoken and driven though many didn’t agree with what she had to say. She cared about all women, even those who did not think she was fighting a battle that should be fought. Ms. Stanton really believed with all of her heart that every woman has a voice, not just in a political sense, and that that voice should be heard if you want it to be. It really shows that perseverance pays off. It still baffles me to think that black men who we enslaved and degraded for years, we would hand the vote over to, yet a woman had to fight so hard. This topic really touched home for me and made me realize that there is so much information out there in the world that you don’t know. I found myself buried for hours in books on this topic and still can’t believe I hadn’t wanted to look into it before. I guess I just always thought that I had better things to do than mull around a library looking for information, when in fact information is so easily accessible and at your finger tips.
From this day forward I am going to have a different outlook on everything. I now realized that I have so many rights and freedoms that someone either fought for me to have. Not just political freedoms, but also social freedom, religious freedom…almost anything you can think of. I no longer will take these things for granted, but look upon them as gifts bestowed to me. Robert Frost once said, “ Freedom lies in being BOLD,” and that is what I am going to be always…BOLD.
Coffey, Colleen. Personal Interview. 26 April 2011.
“Elizabeth Cady Stanton – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2011. .
Evans, Sara M.. Born for Liberty: A History of Women in America. New York: The Free Press, 1989. Print.
Flexner, Eleanor. Century of Struggle. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1970. Print
Kraditor, Aileen S.. The Ideas of the Women’s Suffrage Movement: 1890-1920. New York: Columbia University Press, 1967. Print.
“Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2011. .
Scott, Mrs. William Forse. “Women Give Reason’s Against Suffrage: Mrs. Stanton Blatch is Accused by One of Being an Advertiser.” The New York Times. 30 April, 2011. < http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=F20F1EFA3B5E13738DDDAB0994DD405B828DF1D3>
Smith, Natalie. “Getting the Vote.” Scholastic News.(Edition 5/6). 15 Mar. 2010: pg6. Proquest. Web. 24 March 2011.
Zagarri, Rosemarie Dictionary of American History. Ed. Stanley I. Kutler. Vol. 7. 3rd ed. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003. p310-311. Gale Virtual Refrence Library. Web. 1 May, 2011