10 Fascinating Facts About The Suffrage Movement; In Celebration of A Day Without A Woman

March 8, 2017

 

1) A woman ran for US President 50 years before women could legally vote.

 

With the backing of railroad tycoon, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Victoria Woodhull and her sister would open a stock brokerage firm, using their Wall Street profits to bankroll a controversial publication that supported causes such as legalized prostitution and free love. Victoria would argue on behalf of the suffrage movement before the House Judiciary Committee in early 1871, garnering her a nomination for US President in 1872. However, her detractors would have their way with her throwing her in jail on Election Day for adultery. She was later acquitted of all charges.

 

2) Suffragettes were seen as being ‘unladylike’ and ‘unnatural.’

 

Many in America saw the suffrage movement as the antithesis of the “natural order” and women involved in the movement were considered unladylike and anything but “normal,” failing the ultimate goal in life: marriage and motherhood. Instead they were seen as spinsters, masculine, plain, and bitter. Their presence, alone, was considered an influence that would ultimately feminize men.

 

3) The Abolition movement; root of the U. S. women’s suffrage movement.

 

It was the abolition movement of the 1830’s that would ultimately introduce and inspire most supporters of women rights, many of them originated as members of the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS) led by William Lloyd Garrison. It was in this movement women would cut their teeth in organizing, speaking, and writing on behalf of slaves. 

 

4) After the Civil War, many abolitionists and women’s rights activists parted ways over the question of female suffrage and their equality to men.

 

It was more than just voting rights that women were demanding, they were also asking for equal employment and education, equality in marriage, the right to own wages and property, as well as custody over children and, yes, control over one’s body. Many men, including those involved in the abolitionist movement, felt this had crossed a line.

 

5) Fifteen women including, Susan B. Anthony, voted illegally in Rochester, New York, in the US Presidential election of 1872. Anthony was subsequently tried and convicted of violating the 14th Amendment.

 

In 1872 Susan B. Anthony led a group of 16 women to the polls in Rochester, New York, demanding they be registered and announcing their intention to cast their votes in the national elections. All the women would be arrested and only Anthony would be tried for violating the 14th Amendment, which guaranteed “the right to vote… to any of the male inhabitants” of the United States over the age of 21.

 

Judge Ward Hunt would not allow Anthony to take the stand in her own defense, ultimately directing the jury to issue a guilty verdict. Anthony refused to pay the court ordered $100 fine and challenged the judge to hold her in custody or send her to jail. Hunt declined knowing this would allow her to appeal her case to the U.S. Supreme Court. The judge dropped the case. Ultimately this case would earn Anthony national recognition.

 

6) Suffragettes were subjected to force-feeding during hunger strikes.

 

The Cat and Mouse Act of 1913, while attempting to address hunger strikes, ultimately demeaned and seriously injured women while given disproportionately long sentences for minor offences such as protesting, resisting arrest, or smashing a window. This Act ultimately created a nasty cycle that caused women to be so injured they would be released from jail to recover and then be returned to prison when they were fit again to finish their sentence.

 

7) The suffrage movement had its own fashion craze.

 

 

A knee-length skirt with full Turkish-style pantaloons gathered together at the ankles were debuted in 1851 by Elizabeth Smith Miller of Geneva, New York.  Women in the suffrage movement were encouraged to abandon their bulky hoop skirt to reveal that ‘they actually had legs under their skirts.” These bloomers made it easier to access carriages and trains, and travel over muddy streets. This fashion attire became so popular that activist Susan B. Anthony abandoned the style after concluding it was getting more attention than the movement itself.

 

 

8) Susan B. Anthony would never see the passing of the 19th Amendment.

 

While “Aunt Susan” was synonymous with the suffrage movement, garnering her widespread respect and inspiring a generation of younger women, she would never have the satisfaction of seeing the 19th Amendment ratified 14 years after her death.

 

9) Women did not get the vote on the same terms as men in 1918

 

The People Act of 1918 abolished property qualifications for men over the age of 21 and gave the vote to women over 30, but only if they met the minimum property qualifications or were married to a man who did.

 

Women who went to university could also vote only if they had graduated.  The age difference between men and women was to guarantee that following the loss of men during the war women did not become majority voters.

 

It was not until a decade after the People Act of 1918 that women were given the vote on the same terms as men.

 

10) The 29 words that ultimately became the 19th amendment were penned in Nevada City, CA by resident, Senator Aaron Sargent, his wife Ellen, and their close friend, Susan B. Anthony.

 

Interestingly enough, before the 19th amendment nothing in the original Constitution directly barred women from voting. However, extra steps had to be taken to ensure women equal standing.

In New Jersey, women who were unmarried were allowed to vote from 1797 to

 

1807. It wasn’t until 1869, when the Wyoming territory became the first territorial government that women were allowed to vote. By the time the amendment was ratified in 1920 women were able to enjoy unrestricted suffrage in 15 states, Presidential suffrage in 28 states, and varying degrees of local suffrage though most of the others.

 

It was in 1868 that the first attempt was made to offer a universal suffrage amendment in Congress, but it failed. The next attempt was in 1878 by Nevada City’s very own Senator Aaron A. Sargent. His bill would be rejected every year for the next 41 years. On June 14th, 1919, the exact text penned by Sargent, his wife, Ellen, and Susan B. Anthony would finally

 

win approval from Congress and was ratified by three-fourths of the states on August 18th, 1920.

 

 

 

 

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