October 23rd, 1850 & 1915 – US Women’s Suffrage

Today-In-History

October 23rd, 1850 saw the first National Women’s Rights Convention begin in Worcester, Massachusetts, United States. Exactly 65 years later, on October 23rd, 1915 25,000-33,000 women march on Fifth Avenue in New York City to advocate their right to vote.

Suffrage_pageant_Washington_1913

In June 1848, Gerrit Smith made women’s suffrage a plank in the Liberty Party platform. In July, at the Seneca Falls Convention in upstate New York, activists including Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony began a seventy-year struggle by women to secure the right to vote. Attendees signed a document known as the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments, of which Stanton was the primary author. Equal rights became the rallying cry of the early movement for women’s rights, and equal rights meant claiming access to all the prevailing definitions of freedom.

In 1850 Lucy Stone organized a larger assembly with a wider focus, the National Women’s Rights Convention in Worcester, Massachusetts. Susan B. Anthony, a resident of Rochester, New York, joined the cause in 1852 after reading Stone’s 1850 speech. Stanton, Stone and Anthony were the three leading figures of this movement in the U.S. during the 19th century: the “triumvirate” of the drive to gain voting rights for women. 

suffrage 680Women’s suffrage activists pointed out that black people had been granted the franchise and had not been included in the language of the United States Constitution‘s Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments (which gave people equal protection under the law and the right to vote regardless of their race, respectively). This, they contended, had been unjust. Early victories were won in the territories of Wyoming (1869) and Utah (1870). John Allen Campbell, the first Governor of the Wyoming Territory, approved the first law in United States history explicitly granting women the right to vote. The law was approved on December 10th, 1869. This day was later commemorated as Wyoming Day. Utah women were disenfranchised by provisions of the federal Edmunds–Tucker Act enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1887.

The push to grant Utah women’s suffrage was at least partially fueled by the belief that, given the right to vote, Utah women would dispose of polygamy. It was only after Utah women exercised their suffrage rights in favor of polygamy that the U.S. Congress disenfranchised Utah women. By the end of the 19th century, Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming had enfranchised women after effort by the suffrage associations at the state level; Colorado notably enfranchised women by an 1893 referendum.

During the beginning of the 20th century, as women’s suffrage faced several important federal votes, a portion of the suffrage movement known as the National Woman’s Party led by suffragist Alice Paul became the first “cause” to picket outside the White House. Paul and Lucy Burns led a series of protests against the Wilson Administration in Washington. Wilson ignored the protests for six months, but on June 20th, 1917, as a Russian delegation drove up to the White House, suffragists unfurled a banner which stated: “We women of America tell you that America is not a democracy. Twenty million women are denied the right to vote. President Wilson is the chief opponent of their national enfranchisement”.

Rose-Sanderson-Votes-for-Women 680Another banner on August 14th, 1917, referred to “Kaiser Wilson” and compared the plight of the German people with that of American women. With this manner of protest, the women were subject to arrests and many were jailed. On October 17th, Alice Paul was sentenced to seven months and on October 30th began a hunger strike, but after a few days prison authorities began to force feed her. After years of opposition, Wilson changed his position in 1918 to advocate women’s suffrage as a war measure.

The key vote came on June 4th, 1919, when the Senate approved the amendment by 56 to 25 after four hours of debate, during which Democratic Senators opposed to the amendment filibustered to prevent a roll call until their absent Senators could be protected by pairs. The Ayes included 36 (82%) Republicans and 20 (54%) Democrats. The Nays comprised 8 (18%) Republicans and 17 (46%) Democrats. The Nineteenth Amendment, which prohibited state or federal sex-based restrictions on voting, was ratified by sufficient states in 1920.

“Today in History” on The Pandora Society dot com is primarily focused on Victorian and Edwardian history and does not always have a direct connection to Steampunk, Dieselpunk, or whatever punk; in fact it rarely does, but it is our hope that in sharing these historical events they might serve as some inspiration to the writers in our community to create potential alternative history stories which we look forward to reading 🙂


 

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