Ninety-four years ago women won the right to vote
August 26, 2014 12:50 PM   Subscribe

On Aug. 26, 1920, with the formal adoption of the 19th Amendment, women won the right to vote. Now, a newly discovered collection of Susan B. Anthony letters will help show how. 'The letters were written by Anthony to her “most cherished young lieutenant” Rachel Foster Avery from 1881 through the turn of the century. Acquired last week by the University of Rochester’s River Campus Libraries, the historic collection will help bring to life the suffrage movement through the eyes of two of its most important members. Anthony and Avery were connected through the National Woman Suffrage Association and the National American Woman Suffrage Association. The new collection includes more than 60 autographed and typed letters, signed cabinet cards and photographs, and other related material.'

'Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony' 'called for women’s suffrage simultaneously with voting rights for black men' and these two struggles had many connections going back to the first half of the 19th century.
posted by VikingSword (22 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
Yay! History kicks ass!
posted by entropicamericana at 1:06 PM on August 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Super excited to read these and learn more how their brains worked as they fought for their cause. More and more I'm convinced that these women must have not only been possessed extraordinary passion and guts but also possess pure genius to accomplish this, that this is one of the most extraordinary acts in human history. Especially since we've come awesomely far since then, and yet still have the trouble we have with certain attitudes today - I can't even imagine what they came up against.
posted by barchan at 1:23 PM on August 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

One of my grandmothers marched in Philadelphia for Women's Suffrage; one of my uncles told me that (at least) once she was arrested, and since she had five kids with her (and was preggers with #6), the kids, including the uncle who told me about it, were tossed in the jail with her --- can't just separate the kids from Mom, now can we?!? Uncle said when his father came to get them all that evening, he just quietly bailed his wife out, and never said anything and took the family home.

Grandmom kept marching, by the way. I vote, because among other things, it'd be an insult to her memory not to.
posted by easily confused at 1:25 PM on August 26, 2014 [17 favorites]

American women--some countries were ahead of the US, and some countries still do not allow women to vote.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 1:29 PM on August 26, 2014 [12 favorites]

Stanton actually reversed herself on linking voting rights between blacks and women and said some pretty hateful, racist things. She wanted women's suffrage to take priority over "lower orders of men", "Sambo ... who cannot read", etc. and in so doing, alienated people like Douglass who is quoted above.

The infighting in the movement over issues like "free love" and characters such as Virginia Woodhull makes for some fascinating reading. Susan B. comes across like a class act all the way through, however.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 1:37 PM on August 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yup; see Suffragettes Who Sucked: White Supremacy And Women’s Rights, a quick rundown from the Toast. (Susan B. is the first entry in the list, actually, but the quote from her is perhaps the least bad.)
posted by clavicle at 1:46 PM on August 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Top Five Hardcore Stunts Pulled by Suffragettes.

The National Women’s Party made history by creating the first-ever picket of the White House. The “Silent Sentinels” and their banners were present six days a week from January 1917 to June of 1919. Over 1,000 women participated in these protests, and many were arrested, refused bail, and made to serve time in solitary confinement, where they experienced beatings and force-feeding when they went on hunger strikes.
posted by emjaybee at 2:54 PM on August 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Eastern American women. Here in progressive Idaho, women have been voting since statehood in 1890.
posted by Hatashran at 3:09 PM on August 26, 2014 [6 favorites]

The centennial will be in 2020 — during the first term of President Obama's successor (assuming there are no truncated terms). After 44 presidents who have all been men, it would be nice to be able to say we've elected one woman president within the first 100 years of the 19th Amendment.
posted by John Cohen at 3:38 PM on August 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

Thank you, all the brave suffragettes for helping white women get the vote. And history damn all of y'all who were white supremacists.
posted by rmd1023 at 3:56 PM on August 26, 2014

Thank you, all the brave suffragettes for helping white women get the vote.

Oh, is the 19th Amendment inapplicable to nonwhite women?
posted by John Cohen at 5:03 PM on August 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Regarding Anthony and race: recent FPP about a New Yorker article about the Civil Rights Act. The article contains a pretty racist quote from Anthony, although I can't pull it right now.
posted by leopard at 5:05 PM on August 26, 2014

Last spring I had the honor of singing in the premiere of a new choral composition to the text of the 1874 petition by the National Woman Suffrage Association, addressed to the U.S. Congress, with an added quotation by each of the framers.
“We the undersigned, citizens of the United States, but deprived of some of the privileges and immunities of citizens, among which is the right to vote, beg leave to submit the following resolution:
Resolved; that we, The officers and members of the National Woman Suffrage Association, in convention assembled, respectfully ask Congress to enact appropriate legislation during its present session to protect women… in their right to vote.”

"Suffrage is the pivotal right." - Susan B. Anthony
“Non-use of these rights does not destroy them.” - Matilda Joslyn Gage
“The history of the past is but one long struggle upward to equality.” - Elizabeth Cady Stanton
It was an incredibly moving experience, and sometimes it was hard to get through it without choking up. None of the framers lived to vote when it became legal forty-six years later.

I couldn’t stop thinking of my great-grandmother, a woman I had actually known and loved, who had experienced what it was like to be an adult citizen denied the right to vote. It’s the same feeling I get when I remember that my grandfather served in a segregated Army.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:37 PM on August 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

This is another one of those fantastic posts that won't get many comments on MetaFilter. Many of the links are dense and thought-provoking (Frederick Douglass' speech, especially), and it doesn't invite much opportunity for snark or easy response. And these posts are why I love this site. Thank you, VikingSword.
posted by KGMoney at 5:49 PM on August 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh, is the 19th Amendment inapplicable to nonwhite women?
When it was passed, most non-white men in the US couldn't vote, and after the passage of the 19th Amendment, that race-based disenfranchisement extended to non-white women. So yeah, in practice the 19th Amendment mostly enfranchised white women, although increasing numbers of non-white women were eventually able to vote, first because of migration and then later because of civil rights movements.

Stanton and Anthony's racism is not exactly a dirty secret among historians of the US women's suffrage movement, for what it's worth. It's a big theme of Ellen Dubois's pioneering 1978 study Feminism and Suffrage. It's also pretty hard to miss if you've ever engaged with the primary sources. This is something that every serious scholar acknowledges.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:58 PM on August 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

Matilda Gage was L. Frank Baum's mother-in-law.
posted by brujita at 7:57 PM on August 26, 2014

My grandma was born in 1920; I often wonder what her mother thought about her future, and what opportunities she might have.
posted by emjaybee at 8:57 PM on August 26, 2014

Here's a history lesson for ya: Calling a suffragist a "suffragette" is like calling a woman a "broad."

"Suffragette" was an insulting term used by the anti-woman-suffrage contingent. So quit dissing your great grandmothers by calling them that.
posted by RedEmma at 7:42 AM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

That's true in the US, but in the UK, militant suffragists reclaimed "suffragette" and used it to differentiate themselves from suffragists who rejected militant tactics. So if your great-grandmother was American, you're dissing her, but if she was British (and broke windows to get arrested and then went on a hunger strike in jail), you're probably calling her what she wanted to be called.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:49 AM on August 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

Also, regarding racism during the fight for woman suffrage: the majority of white people at the time--even progressive white people-- were ridiculously racist. The fact that the leaders of the suffrage movement decided that they'd have to cut loose the "weight" of human rights they couldn't win at the time is a hallmark of movements all through history. It sucks, but there you go.

As said above, anyone who studies feminist history is well aware of these facts. Even white people who were advocating for black voting rights often didn't think black people were fully as good as white people, intellectually or otherwise.

There probably isn't a single historical hero that doesn't have a problematic side that gets downplayed because of our need to have pristine heroes. Reality doesn't synthesize well into textbook form.
posted by RedEmma at 7:54 AM on August 27, 2014 [5 favorites]

Oh, absolutely. The majority of white people at the time of Seneca Falls were ridiculously racist. But the majority were also ridiculously sexist. My inner intersectional utopian just wishes the folks who weren't so racist and the folks who weren't so sexist had a bigger overlap at the time.

Right now, a lot of the gay rights groups are prone to cutting loose the 'weight' of transgendered folks' rights, and I think it's analogous. I like to try and keep in mind who's being left behind when some people get to take a step up, both as an acknowledgement of the folks who were left behind and also as a way to try and keep my own biases in mind. I'm sure in the future, folks will look back at me and people like me and be just shocked that I kept animals as pets or shocked that I ate meat or shocked that I considered left-handed people to be the equals of righties.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:13 PM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

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