In honor of the ninety-eighth anniversary of the certification of the Nineteenth Amendment granting women the right to vote and in celebration of National Women’s Equality Day, I want to offer an historical perspective. I hope this will encourage women and all voters to use the midterm elections to make 2018 The Year of Women. There exists a rare opportunity for women to gain a much truer percentage of representation at all political office levels to reflect their majority in the population.
IT’S ABOUT TIME!
Victoria Woodhull, the first woman nominated for U.S. President, a.k.a. Lady Morton was living on her estate in Norton Hall, in Bredon, Worchester, England, when one month shy of her eighty-second birthday, the Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby certified the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. After touring in her roadster automobile on her private estate, Victoria Woodhull would indeed have had mixed emotions as she rocked in her chair.
The new law prohibited both states and the federal government from denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States on the basis of sex. While Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment on August 18th it was not until August 26th that the ratification became official. It is important to note, however, that this amendment did not supersede the voting laws that made non-white women ineligible to vote. In fact, women of color would not be guaranteed the right to vote until 1965.
One can imagine Victoria sighing and shaking her head as she heard the news remembering the struggle, relieved and overjoyed that she had lived long enough to witness women finally having the right to vote. Victoria was furious that the all-male congress passed the Fifteenth Amendment providing that all citizens (interpreted as males only) had the right to vote and could not be discriminated against based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
Victoria knew that part of the blame for the half-century delay was the two divisive women’s movements. In 1869 in protest to the conservative Boston-based members of the original National Women’s Rights Convention, first convened in 1850, Victoria Woodhull joined Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony and served as the spokeswoman and one of the leaders for the new National Woman Suffrage Association.
The primary differences between the two groups of women were that the religious conservative Bostonians wanted woman to vote, but did not envision changing other social norms. In other words, they were happy keeping woman at home and without any other legal rights. Thus they were content with women not holding the right to own property, or having a right to inheritance. In fact, a disgruntled husband could will the natural born child of his wife to another person. While conversely, the N.W.S.A. demanded that woman be identified as legal persons with all rights granted to any other citizen.
Victoria witnessed first hand as several attempts by Anthony and Stanton to re-unify women under one standard were repeatedly rebuked by the likes of Lucy Stone, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Catherine Beecher, and Mary Livermore. The Bostonians believed they were morally superior and knew God’s desire for the place of woman in society. Divided and battling between themselves the women’s movements failed to convincingly lobby the all-male congress. Twenty years after the split, with the damage already done, the two separate women’s movements reunited.
In 1872 Victoria Woodhull was nominated to run for President by the American Equal Rights Party on a platform that included the right to vote for women, equal pay for equal work, a livable minimum wage, federal restraint of monopoly corporations, the end of capital punishment, right to education, and right to social services. Her running mate was the famous abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
So, what has changed since the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment? Not as much as some would have hoped. It took thirteen years in 1932 to elect Hattie Caraway from Arkansas as the first woman U.S. Senator. Today, nearly one hundred years after securing the vote and despite a majority in population (50,6% last census), only twenty women currently serve as U.S. Senators, thus twenty percent!
The author believes that through the midterm elections and the #MeToo phenomenon, 2018 will become known as the Year of Women in the United States. 2020 has the potential to consolidate a higher and truer percentage of representation for the female majority.
Then as now, one can imagine that Victoria Woodhull might have spoken out loud on August 26, 1920—IT’S ABOUT TIME!
For more information about the road to suffrage, visit the National Women’s History Museum’s Timeline of Woman Suffrage http://bit.ly/2tR0M8m
About Neal Katz
Having overcome his own childhood abuse, Neal Katz writes and lectures to inspire all people, especially women, empowering them to know that they have the ability to manifest any vision for their life they desire. Neal’s debut novel, Outrageous, Rise to Riches, Volume 1, received 12 literary awards.