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What Should We Know About Women's Suffrage

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Background

In the late 1800s women of America were suffering under the relentless hands of oppression. They were not seen as equal beings; they were seen as lesser beings. Women were not allowed to own property, work at “men’s” jobs, vote, or speak as opinionated individuals in public (or households). All of American society was patriarchal and women were left wanting more with their lives. A woman was told that she was not a “true” woman unless she was a submissive wife and a perfect homemaker (The Fight For…). By 1848 women began to take a stand against the oppression. This stand is now known as the women’s suffrage movement.

The Movement

During the year of 1848 dozens of women and a few men met at Seneca Falls, New York to discuss the future of women’s rights (History.com). The majority of the people agreed that women deserved more than what they were getting and that something should be done publicly to address the issue. One of the organizers of the women’s convention, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, created a declaration of issues and goals the women of the movement planned to achieve. From that day forward women began supporting the women’s civil rights movement.

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The movement began by addressing issues that stunted women’s rights such as: roles within the family, lack of educational opportunities, lack of economic opportunities, and no political power (Office of the Historian). Elizabeth Cady Stanton was able to meet Susan B. Anthony in 1850 and began conquering the issue of women’s rights one problem at a time. By 1869 the women leading the movement had created two distinct sectors of women’s rights advocacy. The first sector that was created by the two women was the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA). The NWSA focused on changing federal law and opposing the fifteenth amendment of the constitution since it did not include women (Office of the Historian). The second sector was created by a woman by the name of Lucy Stone. She created the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) which also focused on opposing the fifteenth amendment since it excluded women. (Office of the Historian). A campaign for women’s suffrage was introduced to Congress in 1878 but the campaign stalled. In due time, the two organizations (AWSA and NWSA) decided that it would be best to begin reform within states and hope it would eventually spread to a federal level.

Luckily, the movement was able to pick up momentum in the late 1880s and 1890s. There was a great amount of women that felt the need to support the cause. Women wanted to do more than just be a housewife; they wanted to make a difference in the world. This momentum of participation united the NWSA and the AWSA. They were inspired to combine the organizations and form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). (Office of the Historian). Now that the organizations were joined and more determined than ever it was time to make serious changes in the country.

The NAWSA worked for the next 20 years on getting women the right to vote. In 1869 they were successful; Wyoming granted women the right to vote. Three states followed shortly after Wyoming – Colorado granted women voting rights in 1893; Utah in 1896; and Idaho in 1896 (Office of the Historian). There was a period of non-momentum for women’s rights until 1910. An Illinois woman, Ruth Hanna McCormick, managed to bring suffrage to Missouri in 1913 (Office of the Historian). In 1917 Arkansas and New York granted voting rights, respectively, which caused President Wilson to urge Congress into passing a voting right amendment. Thankfully, President Wilsons’ desires were answered and on August 26, 1920 the nineteenth amendment was passed (Office of the Historian). This amendment gave voting rights for all the women in America.

Why It Matters

The women’s suffrage movement and the nineteenth amendment had amazing impacts all over America and even in other countries as well. For the first time ever women were taking a stand and being treated comparable to that of men. The women’s suffrage movement had social, political, and economic effects on America. While some were small, others were quite large.

Social

Women were no longer seen as just homemakers and perfect wives. They were expected to do more and say more in social situations. Women were expected to get an education and even attend college. Over time they began entering the career fields of male dominated professions (“Effects…”). Women were now more than just a baby-maker or a trophy; they were being treated as people that were capable of changing the world.

Economic

Economically speaking, women’s suffrage did not change a whole lot, but the few changes that did take place were very exciting at that time. Since women were entering more and more professions, there was an increase in consumption; households had a higher income, so they could purchase more. After women gained voting rights and general respect, they were able to begin making greater salaries as well (“Effects…”). Granted, women did not make as much as the men did, but earning any sort of substantial income was a great stride during this time.

Political

The largest political effect of the woman’s suffrage movement was clearly the nineteenth amendment; women were now allowed to legally vote. They were able to vote on state decisions as well as on federal Presidential elections (“Effects…”). Women were now a voice in political arguments as well. While they were not allowed to hold a place in office, their opinion was beginning to matter. Women were influencing important executives, political parties, and even Presidents.

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