Women's Suffrage in the 19th Term Paper

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The authors further point out that at the time, NWSA did not accept male membership as its focus was firmly trained on securing the voting rights of women nationwide. As their push for the enfranchisement of women at the federal level became more and more untenable, NWSA shifted its focus to individual states. In so doing, it planned to create a ripple effect that could ease the attainment of its agenda across other states. It is however important to note that despite adopting similar approaches, these two groups had to contend with quite a number of challenges particularly in the 1880s. For instance, both NWSA and AWSA were unable to attract and maintain the much needed broad support particularly from male politicians. The support the two groups had from women was also not guaranteed. Indeed, as Horowitz points out, the average American woman was not really concerned with the ideals of the formations at the time (2009, 221). At some point, Susan B. Anthony and a coauthor observed that the enfranchisement of women was being hindered by their own inactivity and indifference. In their own words, they pointed out that "in the indifference, the inertia, the apathy of women, lies the greatest obstacle to their enfranchisement" (Horowitz 2009, 221). The leaders of the two groups therefore had to redouble their efforts to ensure that in addition to reaching out to the possible supporters of their cause, they also maintained the commitment of members.

Things however changed for the better during the late 1880s after more and more women, particularly middle-class women, began to volunteer for the cause. Professional societies as well as several groups of activists also helped in the advancement of the agenda during this period by volunteering for the cause. For this reason, the activities of the suffrage movement were rejuvenated. With their newfound momentum, both groups merged in what led to the formation of the National American Woman Suffrage Association -- NAWSA. Under not only the worthy but also able leadership of Stanton (and later on by Anthony), NAWSA immediately started to extend its influence by amongst other things reaching out to various formations and organizations including but not limited to the National Consumer's League - NCL, and the Woman's Christian Temperance Union - WCTU, amongst others. The newly formed association also trained its sights on winning the voting rights at the state level in what would create the ripple effect I have mentioned elsewhere in this text. It should however be noted that at the beginning, NAWSA had to contend with a number of organizational challenges such as lack of coordination as well as managerial difficulties. Although this could have initially limited the pace of its progress, it did not stand in the way of its success in the long-term. With Wyoming having been the very first state to grant women the right to vote in 1869, a number of other states including Idaho and Utah followed suit in 1896.

The 1900s in Brief

Although only four states had advanced voting rights to women by 1910, the increased intensity of lobbying by the NAWSA saw a number of other states enfranchise women. It is however important to note that not everyone was pleased with the pace of reform. In an attempt to advance the reform agenda faster, Alice Paul and a number of other radical suffragists borrowed a leaf from the English suffrage movement and came up with their own formation which later on came to be known as the National Woman's Party. Unlike the NAWSA, the National Woman's Party embraced a rather confrontational and militant approach in the presentation of its demands for enfranchisement (Schenken 1999, 524). For instance, in seeking to enhance public awareness for its cause, the group deemed it fit to picket and organize public rallies. For its rather unconventional approach, Paul's group became particularly poplar with younger women. With Carrie Chapman Catt - an able and astute mobilizer at the helm, NAWSA played a critical role in the final push for the enfranchisement of women across the U.S. In the final analysis, it is through the efforts of these two suffrage formations and the contribution of other individuals who shared the same vision that the right of women to actively participate in elections was entrenched in the constitution through an amendment in 1920.

Suffrage in Other Countries in the 1800s

In Great Britain, the most visible and active suffrage movements in the 1800s and early 1900s were The National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) and The Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU). The latter is largely remembered for its utilization of militant tactics in seeking to put across its agenda. The efforts of these two groups paid off after the complete enfranchisement of women in 1928. Other countries that also extended the right to vote to women in the 20th century include but they are not limited to Iceland, Denmark, and Finland.


Based on the discussion above, it is clear that the rights women enjoy today have surely come a long way. This is particularly the case when it comes to their voting rights. Credit should be given to all those brave and passionate men and women who overcame tremendous legal and social barriers to ensure that women were allowed to actively participate in electoral matters. For their efforts (and those of quite a number of men who supported their cause), women can today play their rightful role in shaping this great country's destiny.


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