The second part of the assignment is a reading about Women's Suffrage, followed by some questions.
Identify the following terms:
Jim Crow Laws:
Voting Rights Act of 1965:
1. Why do you think that some people turn out to vote while others do not?
2. Is there a way to increase voter turnout? In some countries, people are willing to die for their right to vote, but here, some people choose not to exercise it. Is there a way to improve the voting process? (think about your answer to question 1 while you answer question 2).
Part II: American Government
Blizzard Bag Assignment Day 1
Primary source set
Women’s Suffrage Reading
On June 4, 1919, the United States Senate approved the 19th amendment to the Constitution, which states, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” On August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the needed 36th state to ratify the amendment.
Historical Background: This triumph was the result of centuries of struggle, culminating in the late 19th century in a burst of public activism and civil disobedience that not only secured voting rights for women, but also helped define new possibilities for women’s participation in the public sphere.
Early Suffrage Rights and Fight: Early in the history of the United States, women in New Jersey could legally vote, provided they met property requirements. However, this changed in 1807 when the State Assembly passed a law limiting suffrage to free white males. There would not be another law explicitly giving the vote to women until 1869, when the Wyoming territory granted women over 21 years of age the right to vote in all elections. While some states explicitly prohibited women from voting, in 1872 New York did not, opening the door for Susan B. Anthony and a small group of suffragists to register and vote. They were arrested three weeks later on a charge of “criminal voting.” Anthony was found guilty and fined $100 plus court costs.
Early Activism and Organizations: The first large gathering of those fighting for women’s rights occurred in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York. One outcome of the Seneca Falls Convention was the drafting and signing of the Declaration of Sentiments, modeled on the Declaration of Independence that called for civil, social, political, and religious rights for women. Many of the signers of the Declaration, including Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, would go on to become the leaders of a generation of suffrage activists. In the decades that followed the Seneca Falls Convention, formal groups were established to lead American women in their bid for voting and other rights. Well-known organizations include the National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association, which 2 loc.gov/teachers would eventually unify to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association. These groups lobbied for local and state voting rights in addition to working at the national level. The Congressional Union was formed in 1913 to accelerate and intensify the fight with more radical protest methods as had been done in Britain.
The National Women’s Party, formed in 1916, was an outgrowth of this organization.
Suffragist Strategies: In addition to organizing formal suffrage groups and rallying at conventions and meetings, supporters of universal suffrage employed a number of other strategies. Suffrage activists exercised their First Amendment rights to “peaceably assemble” and “petition for a government redress of grievances” first using traditional strategies, including lobbying lawmakers, and then implementing more radical -- for the time -- tactics such as public picketing and refusing bail after arrest. Individuals and groups published periodicals such as The Revolution, which focused on women’s rights but also covered politics and the labor movement. Activists campaigned in ways that were considered “unladylike,” such as marching in parades and giving street corner speeches. One radical strategy that had not been tried previously was regular picketing of the White House. Protesters carried banners naming President Wilson as an opponent of suffrage. The resulting arrests only served to bring more attention to the suffrage movement. The fight for suffrage rights escalated when the United States entered World War I in April 1917 and many women moved into the workforce.
Anti-Suffrage Activism: Both women and men worked to oppose universal suffrage. Some argued that women wielded enough power within the home that there was no need for power in society. State and national groups such as the New York State Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage and Association Opposed to Woman’s Suffrage were formed to actively resist suffrage rights for women. These groups were often opposed to any role for women outside the home, fearing the downfall of the family as well as a decrease in women’s work in communities and their ability to influence societal reforms.
A Continuing Legacy: Although women’s right to vote was secured by Constitutional amendment in 1920, the legacy of the suffragists continues to the present day. In fighting for the right to vote, women formed national political organizations, developed new strategies for protest, and brought women into the public sphere in new and more visible ways. These advances were not limited to their work for enfranchisement, but also laid the groundwork for civic action that has been emulated by those working for other civil rights causes.
1. What was the goal of suffrage activists and what were some of the strategies used by the suffrage activists to achieve their goal? What are your thoughts about these strategies?
2. What arguments did the anti-suffragists use to keep women from voting?
3. What are your thoughts about these arguments?