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  • Writer's pictureKendraB

It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times, It Was the Age of Suffrage...

It's August 1. We think of this as Suffrage Month because the 19th Amendment passed on August 26th, 1920. To that end, we've lined up a month full of interesting topics, trivia, games/puzzles, and downloadable coloring pages.

I'm going to kick off not with an overview. Matilda gave you such a great preview post. Instead, I'm going to focus on the interesting ironies of suffrage with advances coming hand-in-hand with setbacks.

To borrow from Charles Dickens, It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of suffrage, and increasingly people (women and, yes, some men) were asking why women weren't equally represented among the voting population. Furthermore, as the suffrage movement advanced, many of the associations that developed resulted in significant organizations down the road.

Women's Clubs Play a Part

The first woman's club was founded in New York in 1868. Early women's clubs were started by largely either white Protestant or African-American women. While they were social and literary gatherings, the venue provided the ideal opportunity for discussing politics and social issues, including child labor, temperance and suffrage.

However, it took the General Federation of Women's Clubs--representing more than two million white and black women--until 1914 to officially endorse suffrage. While late to the game, the GFWC endorsement told the world that suffrage was mainstream. Within six years, the 19th Amendment was ratified.

The West Leads the Way

How ironic. Most of the well-known suffrage leaders came from the East--Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, Ida B Wells and Alice Paul. The Seneca Falls Convention of 1848 was held in Seneca Falls, New York. And yet...

Virtually all the early advancements for women's suffrage were made in the west. In 1870, the Utah Territory granted suffrage to women. In 1890, Wyoming joined the Union and was the first state with voting rights for women. And Colorado was the first state to adopt a state amendment enfranchising women.

In 1776, New Jersey based voting rights on property, not gender. Single and widowed women (black and white) with property could vote. However, in 1807, New Jersey changed its ruling and limited voting to free, white, male citizens.

Native Americans Took a Step Back

Many of the American indigenous people had matriarchal social cultures that accepted women leaders and decision-makers. And then the Europeans came and built a political and legal structure based on their heritage. As the suffrage movement grew, native women were invited to address the conferences and talk about native social culture.

But when the 19th Amendment was ratified and some 26 million women were eligible to vote, most black, Native, Asian and Hispanic American women were left behind. Local literacy tests, discrimination and Jim Crow laws marginalized these minority women.

Ultimately, with the Snyder Act in 1924, Native American women gained citizenship. But not until the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 could Asian American immigrant women gain citizenship and voting rights.

After the 19th Amendment passed, some Black and Hispanic suffragists living in northern states could vote along side their white sisters, but not in areas that continued to use poll taxes, threats and literacy tests to suppress minority voting. It took the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and an extension of the Voting Rights Act in 1975 to finally give all female citizens the right to vote.

And by the way, Mississippi did not ratify the 19th Amendment until March 1984!

Some Positive Steps Along the Way

As I said before, the western states led the way with tangible progress. In fact, four years before the 19th Amendment, Jeannette Rankin of Montana became the first woman elected to the US House of Representatives.

While women were turned away from polling stations left and right--in 1872 even Sojourner Truth tried to vote in Michigan only to be turned away--in 1880 Belva Lockwood became the first woman lawyer admitted to practice before the US Supreme Court.

And finally, the 1903 founding of the Women's Trade Union League of New York gave support to both women's suffrage and unionization--in an effort to abolish sweatshop conditions. And while initially an association of upper- and middle-class women, the WTUL supported the efforts of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union and helped make the 1909 strike (the Uprising of the 20,000) a success.

Save on Inspirational Acrylic Suffrage Figures

In 1776, Abigail Adams wrote to her husband John, "Remember the Ladies..." But women's rights were not written into the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. Women had to fight for their rights.

And many times the white and black fought, spoke and marched side by side. That's why when we were creating our suffrage figures, we felt we needed to represent both white and black women. Click on the links below to save 15% with our discount coupon SUFF15:

  • Nannie Helen Burroughs--a leading black suffragist and founder of the national Training School for Women and Girls in Washington, DC.

  • Victoria Claflin Woodhull--a suffragist and business woman who with her sister became the first female stockbrokers. She also ran for President in 1872.

Our full-color, acrylic figures stand about six inches tall. The artwork is original with us, and each provides an inspirational message. They look great on a desk--standing at the ready to remind us of our own strength and the power of commitment and perseverance. Our customers also report that the figures also make great cake decorations.

As part of Suffrage Month, we are giving you 15% off on Etsy when you use our discount code: SUFF15.

We'll be back tomorrow with more trivia, a game and another discount.


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