19th Amendment

  • Category: American History
  • Words: 2130
  • Grade: 96
"It is hot, muggy, nasty, and the battle is desperate," wrote Elizabeth Cady Stanton in the Tennessee courthouse, August 19, 1920. Stanton was referring to the vote on the Nineteenth Amendment. After the Senate and House of Representatives passed the bill, thirty-six states would have to ratify it. Tennessee had to be the thirty-sixth. There was no other option. Either the amendment was ratified by Tennessee, and added to the Constitution as the Nineteenth Amendment, or all hope would die. By March 22nd, 1920, thirty-five states had ratified, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan being the first and Washington being the thirty-fifth. This left one out of the remaining thirteen states who had to ratify. However, Virginia, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Delaware, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi had all defeated the bill. This left five states, but it was getting close to summer recess and time was of the essence. Florida, Connecticut, Vermont, Tennessee, and North Carolina were left. Florida went out of session before it could act. Time had run out for Connecticut and Vermont. They were out of session, and although suffragists urged to call a special session, both New England states refused.
This left North Carolina and Tennessee. Both would need to call special sessions. In March, 1920, the governor of North Carolina said he would call a session. He did not call a session for several months, but on August 10th the legislators convened. On August 13th, Governor Thomas W. Bickett said he ""¦ doubted the wisdom and necessity of suffrage"¦," but he felt that ratification was unavoidable. He told his legislators to accept the inevitable and to ratify. Anti-suffrage feelings ran high and they ignored the governor's advice. This left only Tennessee, but there was a problem with this state, too. Under Tennessee's state constitution, Article II, Section 32, it says that no legislature should act upon any proposed federal amendment unless it had been elected after the amendment had been submitted. On June 23 Assistant Attorney General W.L. Frierson urged Tennessee to vote and the next day President Wilson urged Tennessee to vote. This was it. It had to be Tennessee.
        Women first demanded the right to vote in the 1600s. However, they were laughed at, scoffed at, and ignored. In 1790, New Jersey allowed women to vote. "All inhabitants of state, of full age, who are worth fifty pounds proclamation money" were allowed to vote. It is often wondered why no state followed in New Jersey's footsteps and why it was only New Jersey that allowed women to vote at such an early time. In 1807, after a legislator lost the election, partly because of votes made by women, he fueled a movement to have the state constitution changed to not allow women to vote. His campaign was successful. Women's suffrage, as an organized movement really began in 1848, when the first women's convention was held at Seneca Falls. Yes, the same Seneca Falls famous for its applesauce! The convention started with Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Martha C Wright, Jane Hunt, and Marry Ann McClintock. The six friends were at Mott's house complaining about how unhappy they were with their job to care for their children and their limited rights. Mott and the others decided to do something about it. They had a women's rights convention on July 19 and 20, 1848, at 10:00 am. First the friends drew up a Declaration of Sentiments that stated the purpose and defined the meeting. They also wrote eleven resolutions. The ninth one stated that it was a woman's duty to vote. Stanton's husband was outraged at this and said that if she read it at the meeting he would leave.
Day one of Seneca Falls Convention was just for women. They discussed and changed the resolutions and the Declaration of Sentiments. Many people were surprised at the ninth one. On day two James Mott led discussions of three-hundred people, forty of them being men. Up to the eighth resolution there was no problem. They were voted on and all passed without any difficulty. When the ninth resolution was read, people were shocked. True to his word, Mr. Stanton walked out of the room as did many other people. All the resolutions passed unanimously, except number nine. After much debate, it passed by a small margin. Frederick Douglas was the only male who voted for the ninth resolution. He also helped persuade the rest of the people. One hundred people signed the Resolutions and the Declaration of Sentiments. The first seed of women's suffrage had been planted.
That seed would continue to grow over the next seventy-two years largely because of the water and sunshine that suffrage societies provided for them. One of the first suffrage societies was formed in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1889. Tennessee had an unusually high number of societies and, like no other Southern state, was extremely organized. By 1870 there were over seventy societies in Tennessee. The largest and most well known society was the National American of Women's Suffrage Association (NAWSA). That was formed in 1890 when the American Women's Suffrage Association and the National Women's Suffrage Association converged. It had been one group before the Fifteenth and Fourteenth amendments passed, but split because of disagreements on the two amendments. Many people did not approve the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments because they did not include women. When the NAWSA was formed once again Stanton was president.
Suffrage societies were responsible for spreading the word about suffrage. They had parades, parlor meetings, house-to-house canvasses, public lectures, and handed out pamphlets as well as other literature. There were also many other suffragists that dedicated their time, effort, money, and life to women's suffrage. Susan B. Anthony is the most well known suffragist. Her face can be found on the Susan B. Anthony silver dollar. There was Stanton, Alice Paul, Lucy Stone, and Laura Clay, who was president of the Southern Women's Suffrage Conference. But there were others who were less known. Inez Milholland was famous for her role in the suffrage parades. She rode on a horse in the 1912 New York parade. Milholland was the first woman to have a memorial service in the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. There is also Su Shelton, who was the only woman to be jailed from Tennessee for her part in the women's movement. Suffragists were sometimes militant, but most of the time tried to obey the law. Suffragists dedicated their life and spirit to the women's movement and if they weren't so dedicated, there would not be women voting today.
For however many suffragists there were there was an equal number of antis. Antis were anti-suffragists and were also called progressives. Progressives did little of anything until the "Susan B. Anthony" bill, as the Nineteenth Amendment was called, went before Congress. They then started their movement. Antis saw women suffrage as radical. They thought it would destroy the economy, government, and make the country go bankrupt. As ironic as it is; the first chapter of the National Associotion Opposed to Women's Suffrage, one of the first anti-suffrage societies, was also started in Tennessee. It was formed in Nashville in 1916. This society was strictly for women. The president was Virginia Vetrees. The other famous society was the American Constitution League (ACL), which was a society strictly for men. Antis were more forceful than suffragists. They not only petitioned and paraded, but also sent out threats to suffragists. If there was a suffragist on the street speaking, an anti would often pelt her with rotten vegetables or rocks. When the Nebraska Association Opposed to Women's Suffrage was asked fourteen reasons why they opposed it they answered, "It is an attested fact that politics degrade women more than women purify politics." Although anti-suffragists did little in the beginning, they thought they might have the amendment killed in Tennessee.
When Stanton and the other spectators of "˜The War of Roses' counted the roses, it looked like the amendment would die in Tennessee. Often called the War of Roses because antis wore red roses and suffragists wore yellow roses, it looked like there was forty-nine red roses, a majority of the ninety-six legislators present. Seth Walker, Speaker of the House, motioned to have the amendment tabled, or killed on the spot. He thought that all the antis wearing red roses would vote "˜aye'. But when roll was called Banks Turner, wearing a red rose, said "˜nay'. The motion to table had been defeated with a tie vote 48-48. So, the voting began. One man got out of his hospital bed to vote "˜aye' and another jumped out of a train, going to see his dying wife, to put his vote, "˜aye', in. The tension in the room was nerve racking. I can't imagine if living my whole life for women's suffrage and having it all coming down to one vote that I could not be a part of? If Turner voted "˜nay' for the amendment it would be over, but if he and just one other voted "˜aye', it would be forever remembered. The first roll call ended in a 48-48 tie. People were pretty nervous. How long would this go on for? The next roll it was also a tie. The third roll call would change women's live's forever. Harry Burn, an anti, had voted "˜aye'! Shock, confusion. Seth Walker immediately stood up and changed his vote to "˜aye. On August 19, 1920 Tennessee ratified the Nineteenth Amendment! ' However, the victory was short lived. Walker wanted a motion to reconsider. There could be another vote within three days of the original vote. The antis accused Burn of accepting bribes. He denied it and said that the reason he had voted "˜aye' was because of his mother. She had written him a letter urging him to vote for the suffragists. The idea of Burn accepting bribes was proven false. The antis did nothing for three days, but tried to get people to change their vote. No dice. On August 21, R.K. Riddick asked the House to reconsider. Walker ruled that no quorum existed. There were many vacant seats that morning because that night Walker had asked the antis to go across the border to Alabama in an attempt to prevent the presence of a quorum. The house then voted on Walker's ruling and defeated it 49-8. Walker then called for a role call. The Chair, Joe F. Odle, ruled that Riddick's motion should be disposed before a role call. Walker insisted that no quorum existed. The House voted on the reconsideration motion and defeated it 49-0. On August 24, 1920, Governor Roberts officially signed the ratification. Tennessee antis still refused to be defeated and on August 31, Walker called a meeting, without the supporters knowing. Taking advantage of this, they voted and said that they wished to repeal their ratification. However, once ratified, always ratified. The nineteenth amendment was officially signed on August 26, 1920, by Bainbridge Colby, at his house. August 26 would become "Woman's Equality Day!"
The struggle for voting has had a tremendous impact on the twentieth century. Although August 26 was celebrated as "Woman's Equality Day," it was not really that. The nineteenth amendment merely gave women the right to vote. This is not equality. It took over seventy-two years of long and hard struggle to accomplish such a big and mighty dream as women's suffrage. There are still women fighting for their full rights and equality. Without early suffragists women might not be where they are today. Little do women know of how hard suffragists fought for our and their rights. When women don't vote, it is truly a shame. Susan B. Anthony, Lucritia Mott, Elizabeth Stanton, Alice Paul, and many other suffragists put so much time and effort into this cause that I think sometimes we take our rights for granted.
        

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