Thursday, October 25, 2012

Looking Back and Why Are We Still Fighting For Women’s Rights?

March for Women's Suffrage October 23, 1915, New York City

“Sensible and responsible women do not want to vote.” Grover Cleveland, 1905

On October 23, 1915, between 25,000 and 40,000 women, men and children marched up New York City's Fifth Avenue in support of women’s suffrage. The New York Times reported the parade included, “men and women of all ages, from veterans in their seventies to babies pushed along in go-carts.” The march was an effort to get New York voters to approve a state constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote in the state. An additional 8,000 people marched in Philadelphia.

The march was not an isolated event. Women leaders, led by Carrie Chapman Catt, organized the city and the state and created a well-organized, methodical campaign to win the right to vote. They formed the Women’s Suffrage party of Greater New York to further their cause. 

The first time the women's suffrage question was on the ballot the women lost. Two years later, however, New York State voters approved women’s right to vote (1917).

The October 1915 New York City march was one episode in a long line of events. By the time the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920 the fight for women’s right to vote had lasted 70 years.

A variety of different activities were organized in an attempt to garner attention, publicity and eventually votes for women’s suffrage. There was a Night of the Interurban Council Fires where throughout New York City's five boroughs there were bonfires, fireworks, balloons, speeches and music. There were neighborhood parades and torch light rallies. The party sponsored street festivals and dances and a night at Carnegie Hall featuring opera stars.

Congress approved the 19th Amendment in 1919. It then went to the states for ratification. Tennessee was the last state to vote. The amendment passed the legislature by just one vote. The story goes that a man by the name of Harry Burn was going to vote against women’s suffrage – until his mother sent him a telegram urging him to vote for the amendment. He did.

On August 18, 1920, the 19th amendment to the Constitution was ratified, guaranteeing women the right to vote. It sounds so simple. But the battle was long, uphill and courageously fought. I think about this part of our history because it reminds me of the harsh reality women face as individuals who (I believe) would have voted against women’s suffrage are in the forefront of an assault on women’s rights today.

“Our country might have been better off if it was still men voting…” Janis Lane, (a woman) Central Mississippi tea party candidate in response to a question on whether too many politicians are telling women what to do with their bodies. (

"When women got the right to vote is when it all went downhill. Because that's when votes started being cast with emotion, and, maternal instincts that government ought to reflect."
Rush Limbaugh, 

"I think that one of the greatest mistakes America made was to allow women the opportunity to vote. We should have never turned that over to women..." Jesse Lee Peterson, conservative preacher and regular on the Sean Hannity show

1 comment:

  1. This is such an important election, I hope that women pay attention to which candidate supports and understands women's issues...and remember to exercise our right to vote.