Why Suffrage Fight Took 50 Years

If the constitutional amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote was first introduced in 1878, why didn’t it pass Congress until 1919? Four major reasons: women’s minds had to be changed, so did men’s, politics, and money.

1.) Women’s minds had to be changed.

In the beginning of the movement the entire world, including women, believed confidently that women were mentally, physically, morally, spiritually inferior to men, with minds incapable of education, capacities too rudimentary to permit of their even looking after their own property, bodies too feeble to perform the simplest tasks for which men earned wages.

2.) Men’s minds had to be changed.

The illerate, undeveloped man held the view of the cave man that the woman belonged to him to do with as he pleased. She existed for him to dominate. In the refined, educated man this primitive instinct developed into a chivalrous, high-minded spirit of protection.

To ask for a vote was equivalent to declaring the government of men a failure, because it connoted that a dependent class was so dissatisfied with it as to demand a share in remaking it.

3.) Politics.

It is necessary that the members of a Legislature or Congress voting to submit an amendment which aims to enfranchise a class are obliged to pass the amendment on to the electors before the class to be enfranchised has received its vote. Legislators are deprived thus of the support of grateful voters, newly enfranchised, while forced to meet the condemnation of that part of the existing electorate which does not approve an extension of the suffrage.

4.) Money.

Individuals, corporations, or groups with unscrupulous intention have found it to be a certain protection to their selfish interests, when threatened by legislation, to be on good terms with the parties in power and with leading men of Legislatures and Congresses. To this end they have made large contributions to political campaigns.

Where their special interests, as in the case of the liquor business, have become a powerful issue their contributions have gone to both parties. All such interests have unfailingly opposed woman suffrage and have prevented in consequence the normal movement within the political parties toward the recognition of woman suffrage as a great and growing issue.

What naturally follows is the opposite question: how did it eventually pass Congress in 1919?

The first two factors — misogyny among both men and women — was ameliorated because of the states which passed suffrage first proving the naysayers wrong, beginning with Wyoming in 1890.

The greatest educator in the removal of prejudice proved to be woman suffrage in operation. Although the whole world scorned the little pioneer border settlement of Wyoming in its brave endeavor to do justice to women, it nevertheless carried a greater influence than it is now possible to measure. Year after year the women voted. The testimony continued that they voted wisely and well; that they were independent; that they were high-minded and recognized the necessity of continued improvement in political methods.

The third factor — political logistics, like how only men who were often hostile to the cause could decide whether to give women the right to vote — changed by the aforementioned trends in public opinion.

In the long run, popular sentiment controls in this country. Votes may be bought and evil influences may round up such voters to defeat a question now and then, but in the long run sentiment will not tolerate that sort of thing. Our business, therefore, has been to arouse popular sentiment, to tell the real truth to the people, wherever there were ears to hear or eyes to read.

The fourth factor — moneyed interests being opposed — fell in large part once Prohibition had passed a few months earlier, in January 1919.

 The most hostile and effective opponent of woman suffrage has been the liquor interests of the country… The liquor dealers reasoned that, since women were not the manufacturers of liquor or the consumers of liquor, but were the greatest sufferers from its evils, a larger proportionate number could be depended upon to vote for prohibition than men.

Once Prohibition passed anyway, on the basis of men’s votes, the moneyed interests no longer had nearly the zeal towards preventing women from voting.

Why Suffrage Fight Took 50 Years: Leader Tells of Hindenburg Line of Germans Broken in West, Gives Political Sidelights, and Finds Causes for Victory’s Delay Why Suffrage Fight Took 50 Years (PDF)

Published: Sunday, June 15, 1919

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Written by Jesse

June 14th, 2019 at 1:31 pm

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