The Nineteenth Amendment

The Women’s Suffrage movement diligently worked for almost 80 years in establishing the Right to Vote without regard to gender.  In my opinion, along with the Bill of Rights, they are and were the most necessary constitutional amendments.

Throughout Colonial America, women had historically possessed the right to vote and it was never an issue until a new Constitution was written by 87 men and ratified by 13 states.  The founders just didn’t even mention women; they weren’t really excluded.  They were just left out.     

The restriction on female voting began with states requiring that only property owners be franchised with the right to vote. And guess what: 18th century women for the most part were not entitled to own property independent of a husband.  So in 1789, a compromise was struck. Non-property owners were handed the Right to Vote, but amazingly, this right was not extended to women. 

Many prominent women publicly complained about this disenfranchisement, notably Abigale Adams, the Massachusetts wife of the second President of the United States, John Adams.  The only state to loudly complain about the absent right of women to vote was the State of Rhode Island.

One of the problems with ratifying the 15th Amendment in 1870, which granted the right to vote to any male without regard to race, was the question of women’s suffrage.         

In 1843, the Seneca Falls (NY) Convention initiated a grass roots effort to gain the right for women to vote.  It was led for years by Susan Anthony. It took 50 years, until 1920, for women to earn the right to vote in Federal elections.  This followed the right gained for black males under the 15th Amendment in 1870.        

The Supreme Court in 1877 upheld prohibition on a  black female’s right to vote following the 15th Amendment. In Brazwell vs. U.S., the Court decided that the 1870 15th Amendment’s true language did not specifically enfranchise black women like it had black men. Other Supreme Court decisions throughout the late 1800s consistently upheld the prohibition of the women’s vote. Also, several states specifically voted down women’s suffrage, including New York, which was at that time the most populous state in the Union.   

However, a ray of early enlightenment arose in the formation of western territories and states. 

Women were allowed to vote in local and state elections as early as 1867 (Wyoming Territory), 1869 (Montana, Territory), and 1870 (Utah Territory), and then Idaho. Utah later rescinded women’s suffrage when it obtained statehood. These western states and territories were thinly populated.  A woman’s vote became very important and sometimes necessary.

The spur to the successful women’s suffrage movement had began just prior to World War I, and finally gained widespread support following the war. One thing holding back the Women’s Suffrage campaign was the Christian Temperance Union.  A fair number of the Suffragettes also wanted to ban the evils of alcohol.  For example, Carrie Nation of Kansas was a prime mover in each organization. Some men could live with women voting, but not without drink!

Also, this was the time of “Jim Crow” laws and symbolism.  

The southern delegations of the movement preferred that the Afro-American women not get involved and be silent so as not to raise widespread opposition.      

It is often stated the first presidential candidate to successfully and enthusiastically court the female vote was the dashing Warren Harding in 1920.  

President Woodrow Wilson had reluctantly supported the amendment beginning in 1916, and from that point forward, for the next 100 years, the female vote has been wildly polled AND eagerly sought after.

I may not see it the years remaining to me, but I feel confident that the country will relatively soon elect a women as President of the United States. And why not? Men have had the chance to screw up the country for almost 240 years. Let’s give the real “bosses” and household managers a chance.  It could be very refreshing!

Note (June 6):

Summer is here and spring is about over. 90-plus degree temps are forecast for later in the week. Unfortunately, a lot of rain is forecast in the next 7-9 days. This is bad news for farmers attempting to put up their hay. And, it is bad news for people who depend on low-water bridges over swiftly-flowing creeks for access to their property, like me.  However it should be about time for the “spigot” to be turned off by Mother Nature. 

On a positive note, I am still seeing and hearing a lot of turkeys and the local streams contain many fish. For at least 10 days now, I am seeing lighting bugs at night and listening to bull frogs announce their loud romantic bellows. 

Get ready for an Ozark delicacy, frog legs.  Frogging season will open at the end of June. Just remember to only take what you need and follow the daily Missouri Conservation limits.  Eight daily, I believe. And don’t ever clean out a pond or lake. It may take 10 years or longer for frogs to re-establish themselves on that body of water.         

Now, get up and go enjoy our beautiful Ozarks outdoors!