PETTICOATS IN BATTLE

We had it. Then we lost it. And we didn’t get it back for over a hundred years.

Women’s right to vote.

BBD_Women votingI was amazed to learn that woman had the right to vote when our country was first founded. According to a ‘Timeline of Women’s Suffrage in the United States’, in 1776 Abigail Adams wrote to her husband, John Adams, asking him to “remember the ladies” in the new code of laws. Her husband, who would become Vice President to George Washington in 1789 and President in 1797, replied that the men would fight the “despotism of the petticoat.”

Women began losing the right to vote in one state after another. New York started the trend in 1777, followed by Massachusetts in 1780 and New Hampshire in 1784. In 1787 the US Constitutional Convention gave states the authority to mandate voting qualifications. Women in all states, except for New Jersey, lost the right to vote.

New Jersey held out, allowing “he or she” to vote, as long as they possessed at least 50 pounds in cash or property. Until they too caved in 1807 when they became the last state to revoke our rights to vote.

It would be another 50 years before the ‘petticoats’ started uniting and began speaking out for equality.

In July 1848, Lucretia Mott, Mary Ann M’Clintock and Elizabeth Cady Stanton hosted the Seneca Falls Convention in New York. Over 300 guests attended, including Frederick Douglass, who spoke in favor of women’s suffrage.

A National Women’s Rights Convention was organized in 1850. This convention was held annually until the Civil War when women put aside suffrage activities to help in the war effort.

Following the Civil War, black men were given the right to vote when the Fourteenth amendment was ratified. Women petitioned to be included. They were turned down. In New Jersey, the state that held out the longest before denying women the right to vote, 172 women attempted to vote. They ballots were ignored.

The years that follow were filled with strife, not only between women and ‘the powers that be’, but often with differences amongst the women themselves. Although what the women were fighting for was a common cause, sometimes they had different methods in mind of how their cause should be promoted and advanced.

BBD_women voting 2Women marched.

Petitions were gathered.

Women protested. Women were jailed. Women were fined.

In January 1917, the National Women’s Party posted silent “Sentinels of Liberty” at the White House. In June, the arrests began. Nearly 500 women were arrested. 168 served jail time. Some were brutalized by their jailers.

These were not the only women placed behind bars while attempting to work towards the cause of equality.

Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, the Grimke sisters, Matilda Joslyn Gage, Lucy Stone, Carrie Chapman Catt, Harriet Stanton Blatch, Alice Paul, Lucy Stone, Paulina Kellogg Wright Davis, Abby Kelley Foster, Sojourner Truth, Amelia Himes Walker … and thousands of other unnamed women.

They were finally successful. After years of protest and opposition, President Wilson finally changed his position in 1918 to advocate women’s suffrage. The following year Congress passed the Nineteenth Amendment giving women the right to vote.

These women from the past championed a cause, not only for equality for themselves, but for women nationwide. They marched, they battled, and they went to war for something that I take for granted in my own life.

When I walk up to the ballot box next week, I will give thanks to these women from the past, the ones that paved the way and gave me a right that many of us don’t even exercise. Thank you ladies!

Do you have any stories about ‘the good ole days’ that you’d like to share? Contact Trisha Faye at texastrishafaye@yahoo.com

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