First Women's Movement Term Paper

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Women's Movement

During the early 19th century, advocacy for equal suffrage was conducted by few people. Frances Wright first publicly advocated womens suffrage in an extensive series of lectures. In 1836, Ernestine Rose carried out a similar lecture series, which eventually resulted in a personal hearing before the New York Legislature. However, the petition contained only five signatures and was subsequently denied. The first true women's movement marks July 13, 1848 as its beginning. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and four female friends had a discussion regarding the limitations imposed upon them by society because of their gender. Several days later, this group picked a date to hold a convention to discuss the "social, civil, and religious condition and rights of woman." The gathering took place at the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls, New York on July 19 and 20, 1848 (Stodart, 1993).

Elizabeth Cady Stanton constructed a document entitled "Declaration of Sentiments." In this Declaration, Stanton detailed areas of life in which women were unjustly treated. A portion of the text read, "The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world." The document followed with several specifics including:

Married women had no property rights

Women were not allowed to vote

Women had to abide by laws, although they had no input in formation of those laws

Husbands had legal power over and responsibility for their wives to the extent that they could imprison or beat them with impunity

Divorce and child custody laws favored men, while providing no rights to women

Women were required to pay property taxes although they had no representation in the levying of these taxes

Most occupations did not hire women. If a women did work, she was paid a fraction of the salary a male would earn performing the same task

Women were not allowed to enter professional occupations such as medicine or law (Morgan, 2003)

Women were not provided a means to obtain an education because no college or university would accept female students

For the most part, women were not allowed to participate in church affairs

Overall, women were stripped of their self-confidence and self-respect, and were made completely dependent on men

The convention occurred as planned and the Declaration of Sentiments and 12 resolutions received unanimous endorsement. Soon after, the group was chastised by the media with the specific names of the women who signed the Declaration publicly printed. This public redicule caused several women to withdraw their name from the Declaration. However, most kept their names on this document. Soon after, Women's Rights Conventions were held regularly from 1850 until the start of the Civil War in 1861.

The womens rights movement continued through the late 19th century. In addition to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, women such as Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, and Sojourner Truth traveled the country lecturing and organizing for the next 40 years. These women were considered the pioneers of the 19th century women's rights movement. Another key figure during this period was Esther Morris who was the first woman to hold a judicial position in 1869. In 1869, suffrage supporters formed two national organizations to lobby for the right to vote: the National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association. These groups believed that suffrage should be brought about by constitutional amendments within the various states. From 1870 to 1890, there was a lull in the womens movement. However, several suffrage supporters continued their campaign. In Illinois, Elizabeth Boynton Harbert was responsible for starting New Era, which was a newspaper that published articles about suffrage, class issues, and temperance. The drive for womens suffrage gained strength after the passage of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, which gave black men the right to vote in 1870 (Ramirez & McEneaney, 1997). In 1872, Anthony and a group of women voted in the presidential election in Rochester, N.Y. She was arrested and fined for voting illegally. At her trial, which attracted nationwide attention, she ended her speech with the statement, "Resistance to Tyranny Is Obedience to God."

The first Territorial legislature of Wyoming granted woman suffrage in 1869. Utah followed the following year. In 1890, Wyoming came into the Union as the first woman suffrage State. In 1893 voters of Colorado made that state the second of the woman suffrage states. In 1895, Utah adopted a constitution in which woman suffrage was provided for. One after another, western states granted the right of voting to their women citizens, the only opposition being presented by the liquor interests and the machine politicians.

In 1873, the representatives from Pennsylvania voted against suffrage, but passed a bill that allowed women the right to hold school offices. During this period, other states attempted to pass womens suffrage legislation, but most failed. Wyoming let women vote for about 20 years before it became a state. In 1887, suffrage was brought before the Supreme Court, but was voted down. By 1890, 19 states had laws that gave some rights to women. Kansas was the most liberal state, but women were still not allowed to vote for congress, governor, or president. Colorado citizens were the first to elect three women to the House of Representatives in 1894. Also, in 1890, the National American Woman Suffrage Association was created, which was the result of a merge between the National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association. The National Woman Suffrage Association was led by Stanton and another suffrage supporter, Susan B. Anthony. The Association's primary goal was an amendment to the Constitution that would give women the right to vote.

Women continued to introduce constitutional amendments in the early 19th century, but they failed. Some women in New York formed a group called the New York Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage (Hektor, 1994). The opposition to the movement was strongest in the eastern United States. During the early 1900's, a new generation of leaders brought a fresh spirit to the woman suffrage movement. Some of them, including Carrie Chapman Catt and Maud Wood Park, were skilled organizers who received much support from middle-class women. These leaders stressed organizing in every congressional district and lobbying in the nation's capital. Other leaders, including Lucy Burns, Alice Paul, and Stanton's daughter Harriot E. Blatch, appealed to young people, radicals, and working-class women. This group of leaders devoted most of their efforts to marches, picketing, and other active forms of protest. Paul and her followers even chained themselves to the White House fence. The suffragists were often arrested and sent to jail, where many of them went on hunger strikes.

Meanwhile efforts to obtain an amendment to the Constitution had not abated. Finally, on January 12, 1915, a bill to this effect was brought before the House of Representatives, but was lost by a vote of 174 against 204. Jeanette Rankin was elected the first female to the federal House of Representatives from Montana in 1916. In the same year, many of New York's suffrage groups joined together to begin published advertisements and campaigns. Finally, on November 6, 1917, New York voted to give women the right to vote. The House of Representatives finally won a two-thirds majority to allow women the right to vote. Again a bill was brought before the House, on January 10, 1918. President Wilson made an appeal, and on September 30, 1918, the question was put to the vote, but two votes were lacking to make the two-thirds majority. The Senate failed again by one vote in 1919. There was now considerable anxiety among politicians of both parties to have the amendment passed and made effective before the…[continue]

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