Happy 19th Amendment Day

Thanks to Garrison Keillor and Madi Green for this: On this date in 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, giving women the right to vote. There had been strong opposition to woman suffrage since before the Constitution was drafted in the first place; people (mostly men) believed that women should not vote or hold office because they needed to be protected from the sordid world of politics. Abigail Adams asked her husband, John, to “remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors,” but to no avail.

A more organized woman suffrage movement arose in the 19th century, hand in hand with the abolitionist movement, and in July 1848, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott organized a women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York. Stanton drafted a Declaration of Sentiments, modeled after the Declaration of Independence, demanding the right of women to have an equal say in their government if they were to be bound by its laws; attendees — women and men — signed the Declaration of Sentiments to show their support, although some later asked that their names be removed when they experienced the media backlash.

In the latter half of the 19th century, states began gradually loosening restrictions on voting rights for women. Wyoming was the first state to grant women the full right to vote, which it did when it gained statehood in 1890. The first national constitutional amendment was proposed in Congress in 1878, and in every Congress session after that. Finally, in 1919, it narrowly passed both houses of Congress and was sent to the states to be ratified. Most Southern states opposed the amendment, and on August 18, 1920, it all came down to Tennessee. The pro-amendment faction wore yellow roses in their lapels, and the “anti” faction wore red American Beauty roses. It was a close battle and the state legislature was tied 48 to 48. The decision came down to one vote: that of 24-year-old Harry Burn, the youngest state legislator. Proudly sporting a red rose, he cast his vote … in favor of ratification. He had been expected to vote against it, but he had in his pocket a note from his mother, which read: “Dear Son: Hurrah, and vote for suffrage! Don’t keep them in doubt. I noticed some of the speeches against. They were bitter. I have been watching to see how you stood, but have not noticed anything yet. Don’t forget to be a good boy and help Mrs. Catt put the ‘rat’ in ratification. Your Mother.”

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