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19th Amendment: Right to Vote for All American Women

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    Introduction

    Women’s suffrage is a term that refers to political and reform movement aimed at extending suffrage i.e. the right of women to vote.  The origin of these movements lies in France in the 18th century (Wheeler & Spruill, 1995). New Zealand was the first independent country to give women right to vote. When New Zealand gave women right to vote in 1893 it was by then a self governing colony. Other regions with similar status as New Zealand which gave women right to vote before New Zealand included Wyoming in 1869. Other contenders for the first country included Tavolara, France Ville, the Pitcairn Island, the Isle of Man and the Corsican republic (Wheeler & Spruill, 1995). However some of these were not independent and others had brief existence as independent states (Wheeler & Spruill, 1995). Currently women’s suffrage is considered as a right under the convention adopted by the united nation (UN) in 1979 on the elimination of all kinds of women discrimination. However despite the adoption by the United Nations there are few countries especially in the Middle East that still denies women the right to vote (Frost-Knappman & Cullen-DuPont, 2005).

    The 19th Amendment

    Throughout the world women’s suffrage has been granted in various countries often at different times. In several countries women’s suffrage was granted before the universal suffrage and therefore women of ethnic social and racial classes were still unable to vote (Wheeler & Spruill, 1995). On the other hand suffrage movement was very broad it encompassed both men and women with broad range of views. In Britain for example there was a major division between the suffragists who were seeking to create a change in the constitution and suffragist who were more militia. On the other hand there were also diversities on the place women (Frost-Knappman & Cullen-DuPont, 2005). Individuals who campaigned for women suffrage felt that women are naturally gentler, kinder and more concerned about the weaker members of the society including children and old (Wheeler & Spruill, 1995). The campaigners of women suffrage assumed that women voters would produce a civilizing effect on the politics and therefore would support controls of some issues. They believed that even though the place of women is at home they are able to influence the laws that impact on the women place at home. On the other hand there were other campaigners who felt that both men and women should be equal in all respect and there are no such things as the natural role of the women (Wheeler & Spruill, 1995). There were also different opinions about other voters. Some individuals believed that all adults are entitled to vote regardless of their ethnic social and racial class, whether male or female or whether rich or poor (Frost-Knappman & Cullen-DuPont, 2005). There were also other individuals who felt that the suffrage of women was away of canceling out the votes of non white and lower class men (United States Government Printing Office, 1971).

    Beginning in 1756 Lydia Taft an early forerunner in colonial united state was allowed to vote in three town meetings of New England. Women from the United States were the first women to fight women suffrage. The struggle to fight for the right of the women to vote was started in United States in 1848 in New York at the Seneca fall convention. The activists of these movement included Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton (Wheeler & Spruill, 1995). Four years later Anthony Susan a native of Rochester of New York joined the cause at the Syracuse convection. Activists of women suffrage asserted that black African Americans had been granted the franchise and there were no provisions for them in the 14th and 15th amendments of the United States constitution. The 14th and 15th amendment of the American constitution gave equal rights of protection and equal rights to vote regardless of ethnicity, social or racial class respectively (LII/Legal Information Institute1920). The activists contended that the issue of denying some individuals the right to vote basing on their social or racial classes was unjust. Early victories were achieved in the Wyoming territories in 1869 and in Utah in 1870 (United States Government Printing Office, 1971). However women from Utah were disenfranchised by the enactment of federal Edmunds-Tucker Act which was enacted by the United States congress in 1887.The push for women suffrage movement in Utah was partially because the activists in Utah believed that when women are given the right to vote they would dispose of polygamy. The United States congress disenfranchised the Utah women after they exercised their suffrage rights in favor of the polygamy that was in the region. By the end of the 19th century women from Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and Idaho had been enfranchised often after the efforts of suffrage associations at the state level (LII/Legal Information Institute1920).

    Until 1920 women suffrage at national level did not exist. At the beginning of the 20th century when suffrage movements were gaining popularity most activists were being arrested and imprisoned (Frost-Knappman & Cullen-DuPont, 2005). The suffering of women suffrage activists continued until President Woodrow Wilson in 1920 urged the United States congress to pass an amendment and this became the 19th amendment when it was ratified in 1920. After Woodrow Wilson a republican president Taft William the ability to vote for all people regardless of their ethnicity, racial or gender became a national trend and the appointment of Taft as the chief justice of the United States Supreme Court in 1921 was seen as a watershed moment for equal pay legislation (Wheeler & Spruill, 1995).

    Conclusion

    19th amendment of the United States constitution provides the right for all the American women the right to vote. To achieve this milestone it required a difficult and lengthy struggle and the victory took decades of protest and agitation. In the beginning of 19th century several activists of women suffrage movements lobbied, marched, wrote, lectured and practiced civil disobedient to achieve a radical change in the constitution. Suffrage movements began in 1800s when women organized picketed and petitioned to win the right to vote (Wheeler & Spruill, 1995). The straggle took several decades and their purpose was accomplished in 1920 when the House of Representatives followed by the senate passed and ratified the 19th amendment (Frost-Knappman & Cullen-DuPont, 2005). In 1920 Tennessee ratified the amendment and it became the 36th to ratify this amendment. Tennessee ratification of the amendment made it to pass its final hurdle of obtaining the agreement of three fourth of the states. Bainbridge the secretary of the state certified the ratification in the same year and the electorate of the United States was changed forever (United States Government Printing Office, 1971)

    References:

    1. Frost-Knappman E & Cullen-DuPont K (2005): Women’s Suffrage in America. ISBN 0816056935, Facts on File.
    2. LII/Legal Information Institute (1920): United States Constitution; Amendment XIX. Retrieved on 21st November 2008 from:  http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/constitution.amendmentxix.html
    3. United States Government Printing Office (1971): Nineteenth Amendment–Women’s Suffrage Rights. Retrieved on 21st November 2008 from; http://www.gpoaccess.gov/constitution/html/amdt19.html
    4. Wheeler M & Spruill M (1995): One Woman, One Vote: Rediscovering the Woman Suffrage Movement. ISBN 0939165260, NewSage Press.

     

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