Women Closing the Bridges to Discrimination and Inequality Term Paper

Pages: 8 (2561 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 12  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Sports - Women

19th Amendment and Women's Issues

Sections 1 and 2 of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution read:

"The right of the citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex."

"Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."

(Thomson 2005)

The background of this amendment dates back to 1848 when 240 women, mostly educated and of high social status, gathered in Seneca Falls in New York to discuss and do something about the injustices committed against women (Nappi 2004). Most of all, they objected to their lack of power to vote for leaders who passed laws oppressive to them. These women were mocked by the newspapers of their day, when a woman's right to vote was as novel and odd keeping her own wages. A mother of seven, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, organized a convention of these women, who attended it in their traditional clothing. The two other foremost leaders were Susan B. Anthony and Lucy Stone and the three together exerted great influence on the movement until the 1890s. The women mostly originated from the white middle class of the North, were not only better educated than ordinary women of the time, but also had some means of livelihood of their own (Kolmer 1996).

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Eight years earlier, Stanton and Lucretia Mott attended an anti-slavery convention during which they were denied the right to speak or even sit in the same chairs as the men (Farber). Instead, they were placed in a balcony and screened from the proceedings. This experience and other experiences led them and the rest of the women to organize themselves into a convention to discuss women's rights. Their Declaration of Sentiments was published and quoted thus:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men and women are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

TOPIC: Term Paper on Women Closing the Bridges to Discrimination and Inequality Assignment

Three years later, 1,000 delegates attended their first National Convention for women's rights, which was organized by Stone and Mott. This event was followed by the publication of the first women's rights newspaper in Providence, Rhode Island. Lucy Stone married Henry Blackwell but did not use his name or promise to obey him. Their marriage contract read:

"We believe that personal independence and equal human rights can never be forfeited except for crime, that marriage should be an equal and permanent partnership and to be recognized by law, that until it is recognized, married partners should provide against the radical injustice of present laws by every means in their power."

A woman's suffrage amendment proposal evolved in Kansas in 1867 but the voters of Kansas turned it down (Farber). It was only when Wyoming and Utah territories granted women the right to vote was the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution passed in 1870. At that time, Victoria Woodhill was a candidate for president with African-American abolitionist Frederick Douglass as running mate. In her campaigns, Mrs. Woodhill commented:

"My campaign will open a door to be shut no more forever."

The following year, she became the first woman to address the members of a congressional committee on the issue of women's suffrage (Farber). Then, Susan B. Anthony voted for Ulysses S. Grant in the presidential election and got arrested for voting illegally, convicted and also fined $100 (Farber).

In the case of Bradwell v Illinois in 1873, the Supreme Court ruled that a state could prohibit a married woman from practicing law:

"The natural and proper timidity and delicacy, which belongs to the female sex evidently unfits it for many of the occupations of civil life."

But the Supreme Court changed its position two years later in the case of Minor v Happersett, when it described woman as "persons" and that women born in the United States belonged to "a special category of non-voting citizens (as qtd in Farber)." Later in 1876, Senator A.A. Sargent from California sponsored a women's suffrage amendment, but it was not voted on. Through a special congressional legislation in 1879, Belva Lockwood became the first woman lawyer allowed and certified to try a case before the Supreme Court. Eight years later in 1887, a women's suffrage amendment was voted on and against by 34 to 16 by the U.S. Senate, which also voted to ban polygamy in the Utah territory. Wyoming was admitted to the Union in 1890 and became the first state to grant women's right to vote. Three years later, Colorado did the same and Utah followed in 1896. In 1910, former President Grover Cleveland expressed the opinion that:

" ... sensible and responsible women do not want to vote."

yet the Washington gave women that right, so did the men of California in 1911, followed by Oregon, Kansas and Arizona in 1912. In 1913, a congressional union, the National Women's Party, began working on a national women's suffrage amendment and drew thousands of enthusiastic supporters in the main streets of New York. In 1914, Montana and Nevada also gave women the right to vote. The following year, President Woodrow Wilson said:

"I intend to vote for women's suffrage in New Jersey because I believe that the time has come to extend that privilege and responsibility to the women of the state, but I shall vote, not as a leader of my party in the nation, but only upon my private conviction as a citizen of New Jersey called upon by the legislature of the state to express his conviction at the polls. I think that New

Jersey will be greatly benefited by the change."

Two hundred members of the National Women's Party picketed the White House in Washington DC, holding signs and banners, but who were arrested and brutally treated by the police (Farber). New York joined the other states in granting women the right to vote. Montana elected Jeannette Rankin as the first woman member of the House of Representatives. Michigan, South Dakota and Oklahoma later joined the move. In 1919, both houses of Congress passed the 19th Amendment and, the following year, with ae of all the states ratified it. Pro-women suffrage advocates and supporters fought consistently and feverishly against those who opposed it. The advocates' struggle was finally rewarded by the decisive vote of just one legislator from Tennessee (Clift 2003), finally granting women of the United States the right to vote. Thereafter, women's votes continued and still continue to stir in women's issues and often help determine the results of elections. At present, 53% of the electorate consists of women.

The American woman of today does not have to wait quietly at home like she used to. She can choose a profession, business and other pursuits of her own (Brewer 2001). This was mainly the result of a long, difficult and complicated history that produced and culminated in the Enlightenment, which imbued a thoughtful and educated woman with a great amount of freedom without the need to manipulate. The concept of democracy has stood as the foundation of the United States and its revolutionary declaration of independence states and settles that what fixes one's status in society is not birth, race or parentage, but the mere endowment of reason. This was the dominant belief of the post-War years Aware of their status and capabilities, modern independent women want a democratic relationship with their husbands as equals, who will discuss issues with them and respect their opinion as they do theirs (Brewer).

From this awareness or enlightenment evolved the ideology of feminism, the most influential political idea, which advocates and supports to uplift the status and rights of women (Guianoulis 2002). Since its beginnings, feminism was both supported and condemned. It was held responsible for the breakdown of the nuclear family and the deterioration of the family in general. But it must be admitted that the work of feminist activists and reformers has greatly contributed to the huge improvements in the role and position of women in the U.S. In recent centuries. Although power structure in the world's government remains in the hands of men, feminism has changed the American culture and social order from the superficial aspects to the deepest, highest or farthest assumptions of science and religion.

The 18th and 19th centuries were the critical times when the new humanism addressed and focused on the rights of man (Guianoulis 2002). The French and American Revolutions in the latter part of the 1700s and the appearance of the Communist Manifesto in 1848 formed the background and atmosphere of a sense of brotherhood and justice. While white males discovered and enhanced their inalienable rights, their women remained fixed and trapped within the patriarchal family system and the economic and social requirements. Women were basically regarded as men's property and were not allowed to vote, own property, attend school, run a business, or make legal decisions about their children and the home. Politically aware… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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