The history of women voting was a long one indeed, with the first recorded women voters arriving on American shores many centuries ago. In fact the very first women “voter” was Native American women helping to establish communities with their own laws and traditions. It was not until after the Civil War that women were allowed the right to vote and participate in local government at all. And that’s when efforts began to make voting a civil right rather than a privilege for a privileged few.
The nineteenth century saw major strides in women’s suffrage efforts, including the Nineteenth Amendment, the 20th amendment, and the 20th Century Women’s Rights Act. But women voters had little success until the later part of the nineteenth century, when the very first black American woman became a US citizen. Like so many other groups African Americans too experienced their share of racism, sexism, and exclusion. So women voters did not have a lot to gain by demanding franchise. By and large they remained excluded from the process of choosing leaders of the country.
The twentieth century saw major strides toward equality in the United States, including women’s suffrage, the right to run for president, and finally the twenty-first amendment which included a ban on mandatory black primaries in U.S. elections. A century after the passage of the Twenty-First Amendment women voters once again had the opportunity to elect their own leaders. The suffragists made demands of white male voters to come pass their mandate for equality in suffrage, but most white male voters refused to cooperate. When the suffragettes began agitating for universal suffrage the response from the white male population was not one of cooperation, but resistance. So in order to gain support for their demands for equality, reformers resorted to violence.
Eventually President Theodore Roosevelt broke with the prior consensus and began a policy of working with the white male majority to pass legislation protecting women’s rights. Roosevelt’s efforts resulted not only in passage of the National Woman Suffrage Act, but also the exact suffrage laws that former President Andrew Johnson wanted in the first place. The efforts of both President Roosevelt and his legislative colleagues inspired other women to pursue politics as a means to achieve equality in suffrage. Because of the solidarity these women showed it was no longer difficult for women to achieve equality in all aspects of society. The history of women suffrage is one of tremendous sacrifice however, these women were able to gain the same rights and freedoms that any person born into the United States is entitled to enjoy.
The history of women voting in the national women’s suffrage election is significant because it gives insight to the mindset of the citizens of the United States at this time. It is clear that the suffragist philosophy and the belief that “women are equal to men” predates all other political philosophies throughout the course of our nation’s history. From the perspective of those who were privileged to participate in the historic first ladies’ campaign for women’s suffrage it is clear that they did not believe that being granted the right to vote was a privilege or a gift; rather it was a result of hard work and necessity. For most Americans those rights were not privileges but necessities. The first lady of the United States certainly did not believe that being granted the right to vote for the change in representation by the citizens of the United States was some kind of gift. Her belief was that without the changes that were happening women would lose their right to be treated as equal in the workplace and in political life.
The history of the suffragists does not end in twenty one years. Although the visionaries of the past have passed on, their ideas live on in the hearts and minds of future generations. The future of America depends upon whether future generations will understand the significance of the suffragist activities twenty one years later when voting for the next president and the supreme court. If they do not they may deny women their right to be treated as equal in the workplace and in politics and deprive them of the same rights that were denied to them twenty four years ago.
Rachel is a blogger and author. She always share about Women’s Rights, its history and her opinions on what the society should do about it.