Thanks to These Ladies, Women Have the Right to Vote
June 4th of this year will mark the one-hundredth anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment to the Constitution, the amendment that granted all American women the right to vote. The ratification of the 19th amendment came about as a result of the efforts, diligence, and hard work of a handful of progressive women. Here’s a look at the ladies we should thank for securing the right to vote for all American women.
Susan B. Anthony
When you think of the suffrage movement, the one name that immediately pops to mind is Susan B. Anthony. Anthony began advocating for women's voting rights after she was banned from speaking at an 1852 temperance conference because of her gender. She co-founded the American Equal Rights Association in 1866 and campaigned for the rights of both women and African Americans. Anthony was jailed a few times over her advocacy, but she was determined. She understood that women would never be taken seriously in politics and public affairs until they were granted voting rights. Sadly, Anthony did not live to see the culmination of her work. She died in 1906, at the age of 86, but the work she did laid the foundation for other suffragists that followed.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
A friend of Susan B. Anthony’s, Elizabeth Cady Stanton is credited with officially kicking off the women’s rights movement when she organized the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848. This event, held in Seneca Falls, New York, attracted more than 300 people, including abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who spoke at the convention. Stanton wrote and recited her Declaration of Sentiments at the Seneca Falls Convention, a document that declared that men and women were equals and, therefore, women had all the rights that were granted to men, including the right to vote. Like Anthony, Stanton died before the passage of the 19th amendment, but her work is remembered for contributing to the suffrage movement.
Although the British Emmeline Pankhurst didn’t work on behalf of suffrage for American women, her work in England led to the passage of the Parliament Qualification of Women Act of 1918 which gave women in Great Britain the right to vote. In the eleven years since this event and the passage of the 19th amendment in the United States, American men and woman looked to England as a sort of test subject to gauge the repercussions of women voting in national elections.
A Quaker, Lucretia Mott had loftier goals than just securing the right to vote for women. She hoped to change the role of women in society and the attitude that men held toward women in general. She argued for broader-reaching women’s rights and full equality for women. She envisioned women pursuing intellectual and academic endeavors, women in professions, women in political offices, and women running businesses. She believed that women should have choices and control over their own future without having to seek the approval and permission of men. Mott’s views were revolutionary and dangerous at the time and she was accused of trying to undermine the sanctity of marriage.
Carrie Chapman Catt
Unlike several of her predecessors, Carrie Chapman Catt did witness the ratification of the 19th amendment. As the president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and the founder of the League of Women Voters, Catt’s work was instrumental in convincing Congress to pass the 19th amendment. During the early 20th century, Catt was easily one of the most well-known and influential women in the United States.
Alice Paul fought two prominent battles over equal rights in the United States. As an activist, suffragist, and feminist in the early part of the twentieth century, Paul helped lead the push for the passage of the 19th amendment. It wasn’t an easy fight. Paul was jailed for her activism. When she went on a hunger strike to protest the deplorable condition at the prison – poor sanitation, spoiled food, insect and rat infestations – she was transferred to a mental hospital and fed raw eggs through a feeding tube. Still, she persisted. After the 19th amendment passed, Paul took the reins of the National Woman’s Party and, in the sixties, she worked with civil rights leaders and lawmakers for the inclusion of women to the list of groups protected from discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Lucy Burns enjoyed a privileged upbringing. She attended Vassar, Columbia, and Yale, then continued her studies in Europe. While she was aware and supportive of the suffrage movement in the United States, it was a meeting with Emmeline Pankhurst in England that set Burns on a life of activism. Back in the U.S., she worked with various groups and committees to persuade lawmakers to pass the 19th amendment. When she was unsuccessful, she co-founded the National Woman’s Party. Like many suffragists, Burns was jailed for her participation in political protests but was undeterred. The National Woman’s Party was gaining power and momentum and the pressure the group applied to Congress eventually led to the passage of the 19th amendment.
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