A President, a War, and One More Senate Vote
What in the world is the meaning of a President, a War, and One More Senate Vote?
It’s Day 4 of our August Suffrage Month on RosieCentral. I want to share with you another fascinating set of dates. Specifically these are the times that the US Senate considered (or considered considering) an amendment for women’s suffrage and voted “aye" or "nay.” And since I put it in the title, I also want to talk about the importance of a president and a war in the final favorable vote for the 19th Amendment.
53 YEARS...And One More Senate Vote
Can you believe it? Between 1866 when the US Senate first considered an amendment for women’s suffrage (for Washington, DC) and 1919 when the Senate finally passed the amendment (which still needed 3/4 of the states to ratify it), the amendment was defeated multiple times.
It certainly wasn’t easy getting voting rights for women. But, I suppose all rights have to be fought for — especially when men hold the power.
Here’s a quick tally of what the Senate did during those 53 years:
December 12, 1866
18 years after Seneca Falls Convention (1848) the first proposed amendment and vote on women’s suffrage took place in the US Senate.
An amendment providing for women’s suffrage in the District of Columbia was defeated in the US Senate.
Our Take: 9 yea to 37 nay. That’s a start, but not much more.
December 7, 1868
20 years passed after Seneca Falls and finally there is a second proposed amendment with a twist.
In the midst of debates on post-Civil War reconstruction, a constitutional amendment was proposed for universal suffrage. Read the language and you’ll perhaps agree that for the year it was written, it was quite fair. But the Senate decided to not vote on it. In those days it was said that the proposal would “lie upon the table.”
“The basis of suffrage in the United States shall be that of citizenship, and all native or naturalized citizens shall enjoy the same rights and privileges of the elective franchise….”
Our Take: A “not going to allow a vote” isn’t progress in our book.
January 10, 1878
Almost 10 more years have gone by
An amendment was introduced for women’s suffrage. It included the exact language as the amendment that finally became known as the 19th Amendment. It. took 42 years after the language of the amendment was finalized for it to pass in 1920.
"The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex."
But the Senate did not vote and instead referred it to the Committee on Privileges and Elections. On January 11, the following day, suffragettes were allowed to testify for the first time before senators on this issue.
Our Take: Great to have the language of the amendment before the Senate —
even though this time it is just referred to a committee.
June 14, 1878
Six months later…
Six months pass. During that time, the Committee on Privileges and Elections reviewed 30,000 petitions in favor of the amendment. And what happened? The Committee decided to punt. They requested that consideration of the amendment be "indefinitely postponed."
Our Take: How many petitions does it take to persuade the male senators
to give women the right to vote? Apparently more than 30,000!
January 9, 1882
Four more years passed. In a list of dates that may not seem like many years. But for the suffragists, it must have been an eternity.
The Senate established a Select Committee on Woman Suffrage. The vote was 35 yea to 23 nay to create the Select Committee.
Our Take: It turns out that “indefinitely postponed” meant 4 years.
At least forward progress is made.
June 5, 1882
Six months of Select Committee work and…
Wow. Progress. The Senate committee submitted a report recommending a woman suffrage amendment to the Constitution.
Our Take: Exciting news. But …
January 25, 1887
Five more years pass.
Finally, the US Senate votes on what is now called the Susan B. Anthony Amendment. This is the first vote on the actual amendment. No surprise. It is defeated overwhelmingly — 16 yea votes to 34 yea votes.
Our Take: Can’t believe the 21 years that have already gone by
since the first consideration of women voting back in 1866.
How much longer must women wait?
A New Century Has Arrived and Still No Suffrage
June 24, 1913
26 years pass. The next step is support from spouse of a senator.
Stirring up attention, Belle La Follette, a prominent suffragist and spouse of Senator Robert La Follette (R-WI), testified before the Senate Committee on Woman Suffrage. Her memorable words were:
“Ours is a government of the people by the people and for the people. And are not women people?”
Our Take: No vote in the Senate,
but at least a quarter of a century after the previous vote,
the senators serving on the Woman Suffrage Committee
listened to the wife of one of their own
speak in favor of the constitutional amendment
July 31, 1913
Just 1 month after Belle La Follette's speech, more action from the suffragists
Just waiting for the Senate to act was not going to lead to a constitutional amendment. This time the suffragists delivered petitions with more than 75,000 signatures to the Senate in what was called the "Siege of the Senate." The senators formally submitted the petitions for committee referral.
Our take: We're ready to pull out our hair over the 47 years that have passed since the Senate took its first vote on suffrage —
and that was just for women in the District of Columbia.
However, we admire the determination of the suffragists.
March 19, 1914
Less than a year later there was an actual vote—but it’s 27 years since the first vote on the Susan B. Anthony amendment back in 1887.
What happened this time? The vote was much closer than in 1887 when the nay votes were overwhelming. Finally, for the second time, the Senate votes to extend suffrage to women. A two-thirds majority is required so although there is one more yea vote than nay vote, the measure still fails.
Our take: Definitely progress!
Finally more senators are favorable than
unfavorable to woman’s suffrage.
35 yea to 34 nay.
May 3, 1917
Three more years passed. Progress isn’t always forward.
Not all women thought women should have the right to vote. This time, another wife, Alice Hay Wadsworth, wife of Senator James Wadsworth, Jr., spoke before the Senate Committee on Woman Suffrage. At that time, she was president of the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage.
Our take: Say what? Of course, big issues always have people
arguing both sides.
And although it is more fun and more interesting to write about the suffragists,
it is important to acknowledge that they
had to work to convert both men and some women.
September 30, 1918
A year later and an important address to the US Senate
Woodrow Wilson -- in what was only the third address to the US Senate by any president --asked senators to pass the Susan B. Anthony Amendment. Why did he make an impassioned plea? Again, we’ll explain soon.
Our take: We’ll say more about this below,
but this is the “President” in the title to this blog —
A President, a War, and One More Vote!
October 1, 1918
Suffrage is getting closer, much closer
It has been 4 years since the previous vote on the Susan B. Anthony Amendment In 1914. Back then, there was one more yea than nay but the two-thirds requirement meant the amendment was 11 votes short. This time, there were 53 aye and 31 nay votes. Much better but still 2 votes short of the needed two-thirds.
Our take: We can imagine that the suffragists
were collectively holding their breath.
Surely success would soon be theirs.
The tally: 53 aye and 31 nay votes.
February 10, 1919
This time only 4 months passed before another vote in the US Senate.
The Susan B. Anthony Amendment was brought to the floor for another vote. This time it was only 1 vote short with 55 aye and 29 nay. The required two-thirds vote had to be of those present and voting which meant that the actual numbers of votes could change each time.
Our take: Women's right to vote is definitely close.
Sometimes patience and lots of hard work
is required to make true progress.
This is especially the case with women’s rights.
55 aye and 29 nay votes this time
June 4, 1919
Hip, hip, hooray! The Nineteenth Amendment is approved.
Thirty-two years after the first vote on the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, and just four months since the previous vote, the US Senate approved a constitutional amendment for women’s right to vote. The final count was 56 aye to 25 nay. Next up — three-fourths of the states have to ratify the amendment. We'll talk about that on August 11. Join us then.
CONGRATULATIONS to all the suffragists
(women and men who supported woman’s right to vote).
55 aye and 25 nay votes
Progress is rarely, if ever, supported by all.
We’ve inverted our title -- A President, a War, and One More Vote by starting with the One More Vote section. But the progress of the Nineteenth Amendment through the US Senate is so fascinating with all its twists and turns that we just couldn’t resist getting into that first.
In reading through the list of dates and events, you probably noticed that President Woodrow Wilson went to the floor of the US Senate and spoke in favor of the suffrage amendment, urging action.
How did that come to be? Wilson was against suffrage for women and publicly said so. A number of suffragists spoke to him but he was not persuaded. Suffragists even picketed the White House and marched in Washington, D.C. Still he was against women voting. Then...
…the US entered World War I. It did not take long for Wilson to realize how women picked up work on the war effort when men vacated their jobs to go to war. Finally, a month before the end of the war was declared, Wilson showed his support for suffragists in his address to the Senate. He recognized that the war would not have been won without women’s participation on the homefront. That brought him to his support of women voting.
A President (Wilson), a War (WWI), and a Final Vote (in the US Senate on June 4, 1919)
The right for women to vote in every state took multiple generations, many decades, and great sacrifice. But it happened and we now have the 19th Amendment.
The Nineteenth Amendment is 102 years old this August and RosieCentral urges every woman to exercise this hard won right in the upcoming elections.
Meanwhile…Here’s our special August Suffrage Month Discount.
We thought it would be fun to offer you our hand-painted SUFFRAGE BARRETTES at a 10% discount for our Suffrage Month Product Discount. Each set includes 8 barrettes.
Long hair and updo styles were all the rage with the suffragettes. To honor them, we hand-paint barrettes in the American Suffrage Movement colors —a lovely deep shade of purple as the background with added yellow/gold and white polkadots. We were ours everyday and can testify that they last a long time. I’ve been wearing mine everyday for three years — ever since we created our Suffrage Costume Accessory Kit.
If you are interested in our 8-pack of suffrage barrettes,
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Monday August 8
Kendra will be back on Monday with an intriguing blog and then on Tuesday with a FREE download. You’ll hear from me next Thursday. I’m already dreaming up a quiz for you! Lots of fun and information coming!
In Case You Missed Our Three Earlier August Suffrage Month Blogs...
It Was the Best of Times, It was the Worse of Times. It Was the Age of Suffrage.