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He has compelled her to submit to laws, in the formation of which she had no voice.
August 18, 2010 11:48 PM   Subscribe

For 133 years, over half its citizens remained disenfranchised, merely because of an accident of their birth. The Supreme Court ruled that the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause did not grant them rights. But ninety years ago yesterday -- within living memory --, a minority majority finally gained its rights.
posted by orthogonality (52 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Now let's sing "Sister Suffragette" from Mary Poppins.
posted by inturnaround at 11:54 PM on August 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


True friendship is better then any vote!
posted by Snyder at 11:55 PM on August 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Suffragettes? Sounds like a cackle of rads to me.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:17 AM on August 19, 2010 [7 favorites]


Women are pretty awesome.
posted by Azazel Fel at 12:32 AM on August 19, 2010


It's pretty incredible to think that Seneca Falls was in 1848. Then Minor vs Happersett gets before the Supreme Court 1875, and the Court unanimously decides that the 14th Amendment doesn't extend the vote to women. It took 27 years to get a major, crushing defeat.

So they start over and focus on the states and Congress and it takes another 45 years. The scale of the fight is just so huge and the time line so long, I'm continually in awe.

And as a Tennessee girl, it's nice to think of a time when my home state played a role in progressive events, even if it was 90 years ago.
posted by mostlymartha at 12:48 AM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Actually American women were100% at the mercy of their husbands. In the event of divorce, custody of minor children went to the father. The father often remarried so as to have unpaid child-care. If a woman's husband died, his male relatives took the children. Mary Baker Eddy actually did a lot to change all that.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 1:00 AM on August 19, 2010


Suffragettes? Sounds like a cackle of rads to me.

I had to google that phrase, and thus found: Sarah Palin Is Reclaiming Feminism From You Cackle Of Rads.

*sigh*
posted by homunculus at 1:04 AM on August 19, 2010


Ah! What perverse distractions indwell upon the weaker sex! If this madness continues to prevail our women shall refrain from their conjugal duties without the least ceremony or remorse and be off to the opium dens to give themselves up to pleasures of the flesh. Uncle Sam has turned into Aunt Samantha and America hath lost its reason!
posted by WhitenoisE at 1:21 AM on August 19, 2010


An interesting timeline regarding voting rights (ACLU source).
posted by Wuggie Norple at 1:37 AM on August 19, 2010


i've met many young women who had no idea that US women won the right to vote less than a century ago. quite a few of them just don't care. it's disheartening, at times.

sure, anyone's vote can be stolen, bartered, bandied about - but dammit, it's a right that was hard-earned. if you give up, it's just squandered. ya gotta keep up the good fight, even if it seems futile. because some day it will make a difference.

thanks for the post, orthogonality.
posted by lapolla at 1:41 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's 5AM and I've already facepalmed. Thanks, Mrs. Palin!
posted by mccarty.tim at 1:56 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


It took 70 years of campaigning for women to be granted the right to vote here in the US.

70 years. Think about that.

At the end, it all came down to one young man who stood up and changed his vote, giving a voice to millions of disenfranchised women. August 18th should be Harry Burn's Day.
posted by zarq at 2:12 AM on August 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


August 18th should be Harry Burn's Day.

I agree! (if by "Harry Burn's Day" you mean "Harry Burns' Mom's Day")
posted by tractorfeed at 2:31 AM on August 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


Harry Burns' mothers day. Someone raised her kid right and several hundred other someones spent seventy years giving him the chance to vote on the topic in the first place.
posted by shinybaum at 2:32 AM on August 19, 2010


Although a number of other territories had enfranchised women before 1893, New Zealand can justly claim to be the first self-governing nation to grant the vote to all adult women.

NZ represent!
posted by hal_c_on at 2:44 AM on August 19, 2010


Onya, NZ. However South Australia was the first parliament to allow women to stand for parliament.

Some interesting dates in the history of women's suffrage:

1718 Sweden: Female taxpaying members of city guilds are allowed to vote in local elections (rescinded in 1758) and general elections (rescinded in the new constitution of 1771).

1776 New Jersey: (rescinded in 1807).

1861/1894 South Australia: Only property-owning women for local elections, until universal franchise in 1894 when women were also granted the right to stand for parliament, making South Australia the first in the world to do so.

1893 New Zealand: September 19 (including Maori women; although women were barred from standing for election until 1919).

1948 United Nations: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the UN includes Article 21: The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

1971 / 1990 Switzerland: (on the federal level; introduced on the Cantonal level from 1958-1990). In 1990 the Canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden is forced by the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland to accept women's suffrage.

1984 Liechtenstein.

2006 United Arab Emirates: (limited; to be expanded by 2010).
posted by Kerasia at 2:54 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


An interesting timeline regarding voting rights (ACLU source).

Hmm.
1869 (February 26) Congress passes the Fifteenth Amendment giving African American men the equal right to vote.

1920 (August 26) The Nineteenth Amendment, adopted by Congress on June 4, 1919, is finally ratified by the states and becomes national law, giving women the right to vote.
It's weird that a majority of the white guys in charge of America for that 50-year stretch thought black men could be trusted (at least in theory) to vote but white women could not.

Were there (are there still) any schemes to keep women from voting after 1920 the way there have always been schemes to keep blacks from voting?

[And who is still disenfranchised? Pot growers and other felons?]
posted by pracowity at 3:57 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wasn't this right to vote only extended to white women? I thought black women didn't get suffrage till 1965. (And maybe I am thinking of Canada and First Nations voting rights). Anyways, googling around I was surprised Lebanon didn't have full sufferage yet (women have to have proof of elementary education but men do not).
posted by saucysault at 4:41 AM on August 19, 2010


I can't wait until we're looking back at gay marriage rights the way we look at this right.
posted by Aizkolari at 5:44 AM on August 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Wasn't this right to vote only extended to white women? I thought black women didn't get suffrage till 1965.

Legally, all women - black and white - could vote. But it wasn't until 1965 that underhanded tactics designed to prevent minorities from voting (like literacy tests) became illegal.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 6:01 AM on August 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Call me a Negative Nancy, but I don't think the 90th anniversary of the 19th amendment is something to celebrate. In all honesty, I find it quite embarrassing. My gender has only been able to vote for 90 years? Shameful.

Don't get me started on the ERA.
posted by giraffe at 6:08 AM on August 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


I've often wondered if Liechtenstein's giving women the right to vote in 1984 had anything to do with the Olympic skiing victories of Hanni Wentzel. It seemed like, especially in 1980, that every time she competed or won the commentators would mention that women can't vote in Liechtenstein. Really bad publicity for the country, I thought.
posted by JanetLand at 6:13 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Native Americans in Utah got the vote in 1956 and people in US prisons don't have the vote in 2010. Work remains. My favorite proposal was to move tax time to just before election time.
posted by eccnineten at 6:20 AM on August 19, 2010


Pracowity: And who is still disenfranchised?

There is a worldwide movement to enfranchise minors. America's big branch is the National Youth Rights Association (they have an under-construction issue page here) and 12 states have considered legislation about it on the issue. Dennis Kucinich is a big supporter and brought it up during a national Presidential debate in 2008 and Ralph Nader campaigned on the issue.

But it is a global movement - Austria has lowered it to 16, all of the British Crown Dependencies have lowered it to 16 and in the U.K. Nick Clegg campaigned on it and Labour endorsed it before they left power. Kevin Rudd in Australia supported it and his government was seeking ways to implement it. Hell, Iran RAISED their voting age from 15 to 18 before the Green Revolution, after the youth vote wasn’t falling in line with repressive policies and after the youth were getting too politically engaged (Mahmoud's official denial of support doesn't mesh with the facts on the ground...)

I've wanted to do an FPP for a while, but I once served as President of the National Youth Rights Association and still converse often with its executive director. I don't want to break any rules about self-promotion and there are so many youth rights issues that have a nexus through NYRA....
posted by Chipmazing at 6:52 AM on August 19, 2010


I'm a rad - where my cackle at?
posted by Sophie1 at 6:58 AM on August 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


And now we're faced with the ever-present terror of the Anchor Ladies.
posted by Shike at 7:11 AM on August 19, 2010


I agree! (if by "Harry Burn's Day" you mean "Harry Burns' Mom's Day")

Yes! Even better. :)
posted by zarq at 7:24 AM on August 19, 2010


It took 70 years of campaigning for women to be granted the right to vote here in the US.

70 years. Think about that.

At the end, it all came down to one young man who stood up and changed his vote, giving a voice to millions of disenfranchised women. August 18th should be Harry Burn's Day.


It was terrific that Burn changed his vote but I think today I'll be celebrating the women who were ridiculed, shamed, beaten and imprisoned while fighting to get us to the point where someone like Burn would even consider voting the way he did.
posted by LeeJay at 7:40 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I thought a cackle was a group of witches that weren't organized into a single coven? You know like a pod of wales or a murder of crows?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:42 AM on August 19, 2010


It took 70 years of campaigning for women to be granted the right to vote here in the US.

70 years. Think about that.

At the end, it all came down to one young man who stood up and changed his vote, giving a voice to millions of disenfranchised women. August 18th should be Harry Burn's Day.


This is weird logic... you recognize it took 7 decades of fighting to reach the final vote, and yet you act like the one individual who happened to let things pass is more important than the actual motivating forces like Susan B Anthony!

Look, if Harry Burns hadn't done that, the fight would've gone on for another week, month, year, decade, whatever it took. But it would have passed eventually. Because there were people fighting for it who were doing it because it was hugely important to them, and not because they shrugged their shoulders at the last minute and decided to be a good boy.
posted by mdn at 7:46 AM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Look, if Harry Burns hadn't done that, the fight would've gone on for another week, month, year, decade, whatever it took. But it would have passed eventually. Because there were people fighting for it who were doing it because it was hugely important to them, and not because they shrugged their shoulders at the last minute and decided to be a good boy.

Very true. Well said.
posted by zarq at 7:47 AM on August 19, 2010


It's interesting to look back and see how the voting rules have changed. A lot of people have the impression that white men have had the right to vote forever and only grudgingly extended it to others. But there have been large groups of white men who have had to fight for the right to vote as well. If you had the wrong religion you couldn't vote. If you didn't own land you couldn't vote. If you didn't have a good enough job you couldn't vote. If you couldn't read or write well you couldn't vote. Age has fluctuated as well. Mental illness and incarceration have also disqualified voters.

And then there are all the fascinating exceptions. There's at least one known example of an 18th century Quebec man who put his land in his wife's name for tax reasons, only to discover he no longer had the right to vote... but his wife did. Canadian First Nations people could vote in Canadian elections if they gave up their native status. The vote has often been extended to members of the armed forces in wartime regardless of other disqualifications (and then rescinded in peacetime). And different regions of Canada have had different rules as well, denying the right to vote to select immigrant groups.

We tend to look at these things momumentally - first all white men got the vote, then black men, then all women. But it was a lot more gradual than that, and you don't have to go back all that far either.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 7:49 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


At the end, it all came down to one young man who stood up and changed his vote, giving a voice to millions of disenfranchised women.

Thanks a lot zarq. The bit about Fred Hicks leaving his dying wife at her request so he could vote for suffrage has me welling up at my desk.
posted by dry white toast at 7:51 AM on August 19, 2010


August 18th should be Harry Burn's Day.

Reminds me of the Texas School Board logic that the white men in Congress were more instrumental in the Civil Rights movement than all the people out in the streets demanding change. Burns is an interesting footnote, nothing more.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 7:52 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Reminds me of the Texas School Board logic that the white men in Congress were more instrumental in the Civil Rights movement than all the people out in the streets demanding change.

Excuse me? That's not what I said or meant to imply. But thanks for making me sound like a misogynist.
posted by zarq at 8:24 AM on August 19, 2010


The frightening thing is that you don't have to scratch deep to find women who think it was a mistake to allow women to vote.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:33 AM on August 19, 2010


Sorry zarq, but really... you don't see an issue with singling out one (male) vote to honour women's suffrage? Especially one who previously showed absolutely no indication of support for the issue? It's not necessarily misogynist (after all, you're basically repeating Gail Collins), but it is misplaced. Of course it was going to be a bunch of men who would vote to extend the franchise to women, since only men had the right to vote.

I'd prefer to remember those who fought for decades to achieve this rather than the one late convert who finally caused the scales to tip.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 8:46 AM on August 19, 2010


The great, thundering roadblock to progress was — wait for the surprise — the U.S. Senate. All through the last part of the 19th century and into the 20th, attempts to amend the U.S. Constitution ran up against a wall of conservative Southern senators.

plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, alas.
posted by epersonae at 8:58 AM on August 19, 2010


GhostintheMachine, if you look at zarq's posting history, you'll find that he is quite concerned with issues of women's rights. He's a feminist.

And why shouldn't we toast Harry Burn alongside his mother? Men can be feminist heroes, too.

While I gear up for the primaries here in New York, I'll gladly toast Febb Ensminger Burn as well as her son, who had the good sense to listen to her.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:08 AM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


GitM makes a good point, though. The dude who finally cast the deciding vote was a very tiny part of a decades-long effort that has many heroines.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:21 AM on August 19, 2010


You might say, they were Sufferin' 'til Suffrage until the 19th Amendment struck down that restrictive rule!!
posted by kuppajava at 9:25 AM on August 19, 2010


Men can be feminist heroes, too.

I'd even say that feminism needs male heroes and men should try to be feminist heroes.
posted by fuq at 9:32 AM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


and has Sarah Palin joined the "words don't mean anything so just any word will do" party? Doesn't she have an editor to say "Uh Sarah, when you mis-used one word it was ok, but this sentance makes no sense, I don't think any of those words mean what you think they mean. "
posted by fuq at 9:36 AM on August 19, 2010



Surely if we let group X have all the same rights as the rest of us, all sorts of horrible things are going to happen!

I've always wondered how social reactionaries (i.e. the anti-gay marriage crowd) looks at historical events like this. Do they see the parallels? Do they see the people that were against women's suffrage as being in the wrong? How can they use the same arguments in good faith?
posted by Freen at 10:29 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sorry zarq, but really... you don't see an issue with singling out one (male) vote to honour women's suffrage? Especially one who previously showed absolutely no indication of support for the issue? It's not necessarily misogynist (after all, you're basically repeating Gail Collins), but it is misplaced.

I think that anyone who takes a stand for justice and equality should be praised for it, no matter the circumstances. However, I also agree with the assessment mdn gives in the last paragraph of this comment. For the record, I do not believe Harry Burns' vote is more important than 70 years of work by the women and men in favor of women's suffrage, including the incredibly dedicated efforts of Susan B. Anthony and Carrie Catt.

Of course it was going to be a bunch of men who would vote to extend the franchise to women, since only men had the right to vote.

That is incorrect. In certain states, women were legally voting in elections long before the 19th Amendment passed. Also, Jeanette Rankin was the first female member of Congress, elected in 1914.

You're right that mens' votes were essential to ratification. But no, women were casting votes long before Tennessee became the 36th state to do so. And one of them did so at a Federal level.
posted by zarq at 11:27 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I recently read Celtic Women: Women in Celtic Society and Literature by Peter Ellis in which he claims that the women of ancient Ireland had most of the rights that modern women have only recently been awarded: inheriting property; owning property; serving as doctors, lawyers, judges, soldiers; suing for divorce and retaining half of the family assets. Had the Irish subjugated the British, rather than vice versa, women might have had a very different societal role in Britain and her colonies.

I have always been interested in speculating how women came to be second class citizens. By most accounts the gatherers provided more food for the tribe than did the hunters, as well as birthing the children-- it surprises me that they were not more valued rather than less valued. However, with a few exceptions it seems that most societies have considered women inferior. I suppose it has to do with our smaller size and vulnerability during pregnancy.

So why did it take so long after guns were invented for women to assert their rights-- a gun is a great equalizer. And, what happens after the next cataclysm? Do women lose all their rights and go back to being chattel, or is our new status irreversible?
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 1:21 PM on August 19, 2010


I have always been interested in speculating how women came to be second class citizens. By most accounts the gatherers provided more food for the tribe than did the hunters, as well as birthing the children-- it surprises me that they were not more valued rather than less valued.

Being valuable doesn't automatically mean someone is going to be respected. It just means that others have more incentive to treat the valuable one as valuable property.
posted by PsychoKick at 2:16 PM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Look, if Harry Burns hadn't done that, the fight would've gone on for another week, month, year, decade, whatever it took.

Another month; if Tennessee hadn't ratified it, the 19th Amendment would still have been adopted when Connecticut ratified it less than a month later.
posted by orthogonality at 7:46 PM on August 19, 2010


Secret Life of Gravy this was under Brehon law where women were considered equal. The English occupation during the Tudors put a stop to that. There's a whole lot more here. The novelist Cora Harrison uses Brehon Law as the basis of her books.
posted by adamvasco at 2:20 AM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


What is so strange to me is that I've never heard about Brehon law before. Usually when the topic of women's studies comes up, Ancient Rome is cited as the apogee of female rights. Think about all the misery caused because the English took the stance that women were little more than stupid beasts that were entirely subject to their owner's whims-- they could be imprisoned, starved, whipped, or discarded without consequence. Think of all the books that went unwritten because women were not taught to read or all of the philosophy, science, and medicine that was left unexplored because women's thoughts and observations were unimportant. What a tragic waste and so unnecessary.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:28 AM on August 20, 2010


That is incorrect. In certain states, women were legally voting in elections long before the 19th Amendment passed.

Cart, meet horse. How did women in those individual states gain the right to vote? Either individual legislatures (comprised wholly of men) extended voting rights to women, or (as your link points out) legislatures used the Declaration of Independence to assert that men and women equally had the right to vote - and there's a reason they were called Founding Fathers. Jeanette Rankin was elected from a state where the male voters had already granted the right to vote to women, similar to how today there are some individual states that permit same-sex marriage without it being universal. The right to vote has to be granted by those with the right to vote to those without it.

I think we're starting to talk across each other now, though. The 19th Amendment was the culmination of a very long struggle. And while it's human nature to want to single out one person to receive credit (or just extra recognition) for the achievement, when it comes to women securing the universal right to vote throughout the United States, I'd rather it not be some guy who was apparently solidly against it before changing his mind at the last minute. Of all the men whose votes counted toward that achievement, I'd rather recognize the first guy who stood up and declared himself in favour of it rather than the last one.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 9:49 AM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


zarq, (and everyone,) to be clear I wasn't trying to dis harry burns or anything. Just seemed worth pointing out that by your own logic, suffrage had put and was going to put the time in to achieve their goal. That certainly included the support of men, but I think GinM was right that harry burns wasn't necessarily a memorizable example... But no need to argue over it - he did do the right thing when he had the chance.

As for why women's rights took so long to achieve even after guns were invented, I think there are easily two reasons - one, guns aren't as immediate an equalizer as people like to suggest, especially early guns; they take a certain amount of physical power to control, despite how they're represented in the movies. Second, the opponent has to believe you're willing to kill them. If women had started to do that, they'd have been written off as insane and put into mental hospitals. Basically, enough women could be convinced by social pressures that being a wife and mother was sufficient that those feminazis who wanted to vote or work could be ostracized... Changing broad expectations is the hard part. The idea that even most conservative women today consider wearing pants or having a bank account or voting an ordinary part of life shows how enormous these changes have been.
posted by mdn at 9:58 AM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


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