On this date in 1920, the United States granted women the right to vote. They had been voting in several states before then. In fact, I was surprised to find that my state, New Jersey, had given them this right in 1790. A woman could vote as long as she was sufficiently wealthy or owned property in her own right. But it seems that the idea that a politician might have to acommodate the demands of women was so distasteful that the right to vote was rescinded in NJ a couple of decades later. The more things change…
The amendment to the constitution was introduced to Congress in 1918. President Wilson lobbied for the bill throughout the next year until it passed out of Congress to be ratified by the states. Tennessee was the 36th state to ratify the amendment 88 years ago.
It doesn’t seem like the battle is won though. What is your right if you are expected, intimidated, bullied, shamed and demanded to turn over your vote to the men you didn’t want? What right is there when the woman you *did* want is treated no better than an early suffragette, insulted, demeaned, stripped of some of her victories and “left to the violence of the mob”. Sylvia Pankhurst, a leader of the suffragist movement, wrote about the hostility she and others encountered in their struggle:
We were not afraid.
A small, hostile group had established itself by the plinth, prompted by the organisers of the disturbance, whom I recognised as old hands at such work; poor, shabby public house loafers, they shouted without pausing for breath till their red faces were purple. I continued in spite of them, by taking pains to speak clearly and not too fast. From the north the disturbers hurled at me roughly screwed balls of paper, filled with red and yellow ochre, which came flying across the lions’ backs and broke with a shower of colour on anyone they chanced to hit. The reporters on the plinth had drawn near me to listen; thus, inadvertently, they intercepted the missiles aimed at me, and were covered with red and yellow.
They sprang back to avoid a further volley, and Mrs. Drake’s twelve-year-old daughter, Ruby, received a deluge of red full in her eyes. Crying, she buried her face in her mother’s dress, while the “patriots” raised a cheer.
We were naive to think that the struggle ever ended. What we have witnessed this year seems to have set back the clock for the rights of women by 40 years. Not only have we seen that the political power we thought we had was vapor but our social advances have been threatened as well. Last week’s executive order regarding Health and Human Services treatment of reproductive services for women puts at risk whether a woman will make reproductive decisions on her own or whether she will encounter a phalanx of individuals who will substitute their own moral judgment for hers.
The struggle continues. As long as a woman does not get credit for her own accomplishments and for her own personhood, there will be no equality. Today, we meet in Denver and will don our white and sashes to march and demand that the country give us Bread and Roses.
Update: NOW is a little late to the party. Emil Jones feels free to call a delegate an “Uncle Tom” and only when it is almost too late does NOW remember its mission and take up the gauntlet in her defense. If we don’t hold the DNC and the Obama campaign accountable immediately, we can expect more of this stuff in the years to come. These are Obama’s friends. These are the people who “made” him. Their attitudes and behavior are his attitudes and behaviors and I will not believe otherwise until the candidate himself denounces and rejects Jones and Jesse Jackson Jr and every other disrespectful man who gave him a boost to the top. The buck stops with Barack. We are holding him to it.