Women's Right to Vote in the 19th Century Term Paper

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Women Suffrage 19th Century

However novel it may appear, I shall venture the assertion, that, until women assume the place in society which good sense and good feeling alike, assign to them, human improvement must advance but feebly," (Wright). Fanny Wright may have presaged the deplorably slow progress the women's rights -- and women's suffrage -- movements would make throughout the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Although the Declaration of Independence of the United States heralded a new era of democratic self-rule, both it and the Declaration of the Rights of Man excluded females from its blanket ideas. Moreover, the democratic ideals espoused in the French and American Revolutions did not apply equally to blacks, who were slaves in the United States until the late 1860s. Fanny Wright's ideas, which marked a semi-official beginning of the women's suffrage movement in the 19th century, were met with lukewarm success. It would be nearly a century after Wright wrote "Course of Popular Lectures" that women in the United States would be able to vote or run for public office: in short, to participate fully in society and be counted or treated like a human being.

Until the 20th Century, "a man virtually owned his wife and children as he did his material possessions," ("Women's History in America"). Women and men are alive today who knew of a time during which women could not work, attend college, or vote like their male counterparts could. 19th century suffragists like Fanny Wright, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony fought long and hard for their human and civil rights, which would begin with their earning the right to vote in public elections. Although their methods differed, each suffragist and the organizations they belonged to championed the rights of women.

Moreover, the women's suffrage movement in the 19th century linked itself with ancillary civil rights causes including the abolition of slavery and labor rights. Women's suffrage should therefore be included among general human rights movements, transcending gender and applying to all oppressed persons. For example, Dorothea Dix rallied for prison reform as well as for reforms in the mental health care system. Suffragist Jane Addams worked in a similar capacity, founding Chicago's Hull House in 1889. Many women suffragists felt strongly about labor reform and the populist agrarian ideals as well as about earning the right to vote.

Susan B. Anthony and scores of other prominent suffragists rallied as much for the cause of abolition as for women's rights. One of the most notable companion causes of 19th century suffragists was the temperance movement. In fact, suffragist Frances Willard had been intimately involved in the Christian Temperance movement and in 1891 became president World's Woman's Christian Temperance Union. The temperance movement's primary objective was the reduction in alcohol abuse, and in 1872, the Prohibition Party became the "first national political party to recognize the right of suffrage for women in its platform," ("Women's History in America"). Therefore, the women's suffrage movement did not exist in isolation of other social, economic, and political causes.

Not all men opposed the right of women to vote. In fact, many male activists promoted the suffragist cause and directly assisted their female counterparts. Frederick Douglass, whose slave narratives and political writings have become central to America's historical record, supported the right of women to vote, as did William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, and Nathan Sprague. Garrison paid more than lip service to the suffragist cause: he "refused his own seat and joined the women in the balcony" during the World's Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840 as a display of his solidarity ("Women's History in America").

Elizabeth Cady Stanton may be the most significant contributor to the suffragist movement and its ideology in the 19th century. Stanton and fellow suffragist Lucretia Mott organized the most historic event in American suffragist history: the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848. Essentially having "launched the women's suffragist movement," Stanton and Mott's work brought into public awareness the problem of women's oppression. Stanton would later refer to "the caste of sex" in the Woman's Rights Petition to the New York Legislature issued in 1854.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Women's Right to Vote in the 19th Century.  (2006, August 1).  Retrieved January 20, 2020, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/women-right-vote-19th-century/1489247

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