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It is time to effect a revolution in female manners-
time to restore to them their lost dignity-
and make them, as a part of the human species,
labor by reforming themselves to reform the world.
Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
Reforms of the 19th century brought an end to human slavery, the most outrageous violation in civilized nations. What Victor Hugo proclaimed the "Century of Woman" also began the struggle to liberate women from subjection to patriarchal traditions that had existed in most cultures since the beginning of recorded history. Successful achievement of the vote for women was not attained by Great Britain until 1918 and by the United States in 1920. Those heroic efforts, which were for the most part nonviolent, are the subject of this chapter. New Zealand allowed women to vote in 1893, Australia in 1902, Finland in 1906, Norway in 1913, and Russia in 1917. By 1939 another 26 nations had granted female suffrage. France, Italy, Romania, Yugoslavia, and China did not allow women to vote until shortly after World War II. In 1952 the United Nations Convention on the Political Rights of Women declared, "Women shall be entitled to vote in all elections on equal terms with men, without any discrimination." By 1965 women could vote in more than a hundred nations.
Before exploring the great pioneer of the women's rights movement in the modern era, Mary Wollstonecraft, who wrote the book that made a powerful case for women's rights, we may note that as early as 1739 an author calling herself Sophia in Woman Not Inferior to Man proposed better education for women for independence and so that they could become good teachers, physicians, lawyers, soldiers, and philosophers. The following year in Woman's Superior Excellence to Man Sophia responded to criticism by acknowledging the faults of women but suggested they resulted from inadequate education and male tyranny. Wollstonecraft's contemporaries Condorcet and Catharine Macaulay also called for improved education of girls.
Mary Wollstonecraft was born in London on April 27, 1759. Her father had a drinking problem, and Mary had to take care of younger sisters. She began working as a companion when she was nineteen and spent two years nursing her mother, who died in 1782. Mary helped her sister Eliza separate from her husband, whose cruel treatment she believed caused Eliza's breakdown. Eliza, Mary, and her best friend Fanny Blood started a school northeast of London that was guided by the Dissenting minister Richard Price. Mary's sister Everina also joined them. Mary was with Fanny Blood when she died during childbirth in Lisbon, and the school closed three months later. In 1786 Mary Wollstonecraft wrote Thoughts on the Education of Daughters in which she recommended mothers suckle their babies to produce affection. Whenever a child asks a question, a reasonable answer should be given. She noted that love without esteem will probably degenerate, but love for a worthy person is an incentive for improvement. Mary suggested that women cultivate their minds so that they may be content if comfortable and consoled if not.
Mary Wollstonecraft took employment in Dublin but was dismissed after arousing the jealousy of Lady Kingsborough. After that, she did not serve in another woman's household but was able to make her living as a writer. Her autobiographical novel Mary, a Fiction was published in 1788. She wrote articles for the Analytical Review and published The Female Reader under a pseudonym. She translated books from French and German and published Original Stories from Real Life for children. After the conservative Edmund Burke attacked the rights of man in his famous Reflections on the Revolution in France, Mary Wollstonecraft wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Men anonymously in 1790 but added her name the next year. She criticized Burke for defending the property rights of the wealthy more than human rights. She argued that the progress of civilization has been delayed by hereditary property and hereditary honors. She argued
that true happiness arose from the friendship and intimacy
which can only be enjoyed by equals;
and that charity is not a condescending distribution of alms,
but an intercourse of good offices and mutual benefits,
founded on respect for justice and humanity.1
The rights that humans inherit from birth derive not from their forefathers but from God. She believed that submission to authority should not be endless but must stop, or they return to barbarism. She was outraged that Burke defined English liberty as "security of property," and every nobler liberty was sacrificed to this selfish principle. A thief is punished with death, but violence or killing a person is considered a less heinous offense.
Mary Wollstonecraft's great work A Vindication of the Rights of Woman was published in 1792 and revised the same year. In her circle of friends she was intellectually stimulated by Thomas Paine, William Blake, Joseph Priestley, and Henry Fuselli, for whom she had a brief passion that did not work out because he was married. While at Paris during the reign of terror, she became the lover of the American Gilbert Imlay and gave birth to his daughter Fanny in 1794 even though they did not marry. That year she published her 522-page Historical and Moral View of the Origin and Progress of the French Revolution. Back in London, Mary attempted suicide twice. After publishing her letters from Scandinavia, she became involved with the radical political thinker, William Godwin. They were married on March 29, 1797, and Mary worked on her second novel, The Wrongs of Woman: or, Maria. She died of an infection eleven days after the birth of her daughter Mary Godwin, who grew up to marry the poet Shelley and write the novel Frankenstein.
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman was dedicated to the French diplomat Talleyrand with the request that he consider including women in the rights of citizens to national education. To exclude women from their New Constitution would leave them open to charges of injustice and tyranny and would undermine morality. In the introduction Mary Wollstonecraft noted charges against "masculine women," but she argued that in terms of developing rational qualities it is better for women to become more masculine and respectable rather than being satisfied with limited beauty and elegance. She also encouraged men to become more modest and chaste. In discussing the rights and duties of humanity she argued that reason and virtue separate humans from brutes. Rousseau tried to show that everything was all right originally; many authors argue that things are all right now; but she aimed to prove that things will be all right. She based her belief on the perfection of God. She noted that kings often gained their power by vile and unnatural crimes. She held that standing armies are incompatible with freedom, because subordination depends on despotism.
Mary Wollstonecraft discussed the prevailing opinions about women, and she asked why women should be kept in ignorance under the specious reason of innocence. She observed that women have been led astray by false refinement but should be allowed to develop their reason just as men are. She compared the truncated education of women to the opposite extreme of military men; both acquire manners but lack moral development because they are expected to submit blindly to authority. Learning the art of pleasing is useful only to a mistress; but the chaste wife and serious mother must develop virtues in order to be respectable. For women to purify their hearts they need to learn more than developing their senses for amusement. The woman who strengthens her body and exercises her mind by managing her family and practicing virtues may become the friend of her husband rather than a humble dependent. She objected to the idea that "they were made to be loved, and must not aim at respect, lest they should be hunted out of society as masculine."2
Wollstonecraft argued that if morality has an eternal standard, there can be only one rule of right for all. Since liberty is the mother of virtue, why should women by their constitution be slaves and "languish like exotics" as "beautiful flaws in nature" when they could "breathe the sharp invigorating air of freedom."3 Liberty will make women wiser and more virtuous. She acknowledged that a man has more bodily strength than a woman, but she insisted that the virtue and knowledge of the two sexes should be the same. Therefore women should have the same opportunities to acquire both. She suggested that in their enlightened age the "divine right of husbands" could be challenged just as the Americans and French challenged the divine right of kings. She complained that girls are taught from infancy that beauty is their scepter and that thus their mind should be shaped by their body so that it roams in a gilded cage, adorning its prison. She called for a revolution in manners that would restore the lost female dignity; by working to reform themselves they could reform the world. Independence of character is based on understanding; women "must only bow to the authority of reason, instead of being the modest slaves of opinion."4
Next Wollstonecraft discussed the various causes by which women are reduced to degradation. Women were not created just to console men. Women have always been slaves except in rare cases when they were despots; yet both retard the progress of reason. When men do homage to women by exalting their inferiority, they are tyrannizing over the weakness they cherish. She believed that women are degraded by receiving trivial attentions because of their sex. The love of pleasure makes a woman's circumstances trifling, and without duties her concerns are on secondary things or adventures. When the passions are pampered while the judgment is neglected, what else can result but madness and folly? In Emile Rousseau wrote that if women are educated like men, they will become like men and thus have less power over men; but Wollstonecraft did not want women to have power over men but over themselves. She was concerned that the power of female beauty was fleeting because it lasted only for a few years. If female education develops only the romantic side, it is vain and mean. By educating nature and reason, women can become more virtuous and useful as they become more respectable.
Wollstonecraft described how contemporary authors have rendered women objects of pity. She complained that Rousseau wanted to educate Sophia to be weak and passive so that she will be "agreeable to her master," as if that were the grand purpose of her existence. Much of girls' and women's attention is given to superficial things like clothes. She was concerned about the effects of early impressions on character. She hoped that through rational education a woman would be contented to love once and after marriage let passion calmly subside into friendship built on pure affections that would not disturb the sober duties of life. She defined modesty as not thinking more highly of oneself than one ought to think and distinguished it from the self-abasement of humility. She believed true love makes the lover more modest in her presence. A sober mind is attained by the exercise of duties and the pursuit of knowledge; the alternative for the dependent woman is to be loved only as long as she is fair. She observed that most people are more concerned with their reputation than their actual chastity. She noted that the two sexes either mutually corrupted or improved each other.
Morality will never improve until more equality is established in society. One cannot expect women to be more virtuous until they are independent of men, for women that are absolutely dependent on men tend to be cunning, mean, and selfish. Men "gratified by the fawning fondness of spaniel-like affection" have little delicacy, because love cannot be bought.5 Wollstonecraft observed that riches debased women even more than men because the latter could still engage their faculties as soldiers and statesmen. She criticized the class structure that divided the world between voluptuous tyrants and envious dependents. Benevolent legislators encourage private virtue to promote public happiness. Pleasures weaken women by making them slaves to their persons to allure men, or they manipulate their tyrants with sinister tricks. In addition to discharging her civil duties, managing her family, educating her children, and assisting her neighbors, a woman should be independent of her husband's bounty so that she can be generous on her own. She asked if morality is not wounded when poverty becomes even more disgraceful than vice.
Wollstonecraft believed that women could be physicians as well as nurses, study politics, and pursue business if they are educated properly. Many could be saved from common and legal prostitution, because they would not have to marry for support. Yet in her time most of the jobs open to women were menial, and even governesses were not treated like tutors. She argued that a woman who earns her own bread is much more respectable than the most accomplished beauty. She entreated men to emancipate their companions. The woman who is not allowed to govern her own conduct will not have sufficient sense to be a good mother. She noted how girls are kept down by their parents more than boys. She often repeated how rights and duties must go together. Until esteem and love are joined together, and reason becomes the foundation of duty, morality will stumble.
Criticizing the problems of current private and public schools, Wollstonecraft recommended boys and girls be educated together in day schools open to all classes funded by the government. After the age of nine, most boys and girls could go on to learn trades while those with superior abilities could learn languages, science, history, politics, and literature. Such would be schools for human morality and happiness. She objected to tyrannical punishments and suggested that students be tried by their peers to learn justice. Humane treatment of animals should be taught. Those made free will quickly become wise and virtuous. She warned against sentimental education and suggested ridiculing cheap novels to make students more discriminating. She concluded that women will correct their vices and follies when they are allowed to be free. When women share the rights of men, they will also share his virtues and will grow more perfect when emancipated.
In the late sixteenth century six Indian tribes were confederated into the Iroquois League for the sake of peace. Nevertheless the warriors' desire for individual glory led to much fighting. On at least one occasion the women organized a noncooperation campaign to stop a war in the same way that Aristophanes had dramatized it in his play Lysistrata. Many people came to America for reasons of conscience and religious liberty, such as Roger Williams and later the pacifist Society of Friends. Ann Hutchinson spoke so persuasively in Boston about conscience and inner spiritual guidance that she was brought to trial and banished from Massachusetts. In 1657 this colony outlawed the Society of Friends. Several Friends disobeyed the law and taught about the "inner Light" in Massachusetts. Three of them were hanged for this "crime," including Mary Dyer.
In a March 1776 letter Abigail Adams reminded her husband John that all men would be tyrants if they could and warned that the ladies would rebel if they were bound by laws in which they had no voice or representation. That year tax-paying women in New Jersey were given the right to vote until it was taken away by the legislature in 1807. In Boston girls were allowed to attend public schools during the summer from 1789 to 1822. In 1818 Hannah Mather Crocker published the pamphlet Observations on the Real Rights of Women, suggesting that if they received the same education, they would improve equally.
Frances Wright was born in Scotland and read with excitement about the republicanism of the American Revolution. She visited the United States in 1824 with Lafayette. She bought 2,000 acres near Memphis, Tennessee and established the Nashoba community, where slaves could work to gain their freedom in five years; but the land was poor, and cooperation was difficult. Wright and socialist Robert Owen promoted birth control in The Free Enquirer in New York and lived together. Frances Wright lectured from Boston to New Orleans in 1828 and 1829 for sexual equality. She called upon fathers and husbands to end the mental bondage they imposed on their daughters and wives, warning "whenever we establish our own pretensions upon the sacrificed rights of others, we do in fact impeach our own liberties."6 She was criticized severely for believing in sexual freedom and miscegenation. In 1830 the 34 slaves were taken from Nashoba to Haiti, where they were freed.
Emma Willard gave speeches to raise money and founded the Troy Female Seminary in 1821, and two years later Catherine Beecher began a seminary for girls in Hartford, Connecticut. The first public schools for girls were started in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1824 and in New York in 1826, but there were not many others until after the Civil War. When Quaker Prudence Crandall advertised to add Negroes to her girls school in 1833, the school closed; but she began teaching seventeen Negro girls and did so for eighteen months despite persecution and harassment. Oberlin College in Ohio began in 1833 by accepting males and females of any race. Mary Lyon founded Mount Holyoke as a seminary in 1837, and it eventually became a college. Beginning in 1838, Dorothea Dix did much to expose and improve conditions in prisons and insane asylums.
Women were active in the abolitionist movement. When they were not allowed to join the American Anti-Slavery Society at its founding in 1833, they formed the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society and in New York four years later the National Female Anti-Slavery Society. When a mob of several thousand abducted Garrison while he was speaking to their Boston meeting in 1835, Maria Weston Chapman led the women out walking in pairs holding the hand of a colored sister. That year Lydia Maria Child published in two volumes a multi-cultural examination of women entitled History of the Condition of Women, in Various Ages and Nations. From Asia, Africa, and the Pacific Islands to Europe and America, she showed how marriage laws treated women as drudges, sexual objects, child-bearers and child-rearers, or property. She discussed how laws differed on virginity, adultery, polygamy, divorce, concubinage, and prostitution, noting how women were treated differently than men in these and in relation to education, political power, business, and religion.
The Grimké sisters, Sarah and Angelina, who had left their South Carolina home and its slaves in 1828, joined the Quakers in Philadelphia and worked for the abolition of slavery and women's rights. In 1837 Sarah Grimké's Letters on the Equality of the Sexes were published in the New England Spectator and were reprinted in The Liberator. She speculated that women were the first to suffer from man's lust for dominion after the fall.
All history attests that man has subjected woman to his will,
used her as a means to promote his selfish gratification,
to minister to his sensual pleasures,
to be instrumental in promoting his comfort;
but never has he desired to elevate her
to the rank she was created to fill.
He has done all he could to debase and enslave her mind;
and now he looks triumphantly on the ruin he has wrought,
and says the being he has thus deeply injured is his inferior.7
Sarah believed that men and women were created equal and argued that whatever it is morally right for a man to do is right for a woman; but she has surrendered her rights and accepted the privileges given her by men. Sarah noted the disproportionate value set on the time and labor of men as compared to that of women. Men have exerted brutal power over women, such that in most countries the name husband means also tyrant. Brute force is especially egregious in the homes of the poor, where the woman is made a drudge. Sarah Grimké signed her letters "Thine in the bonds of womanhood."
Angelina Grimké went on a speaking tour and drew large audiences of more than a thousand people. While she was speaking in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Hall was torn down and set aflame. She argued that men would find women as their equal much more valuable than women as their inferior. She worked herself to exhaustion, collapsed, and nearly died of typhoid fever. In 1838 Angelina was reported to have said,
I ask no favors for my sex.
I surrender not our claim to equality.
All I ask of our brethren is
that they will take their feet from off our necks,
and permit us to stand upright on the ground
which God has designed us to occupy.8
Women began getting petitions signed to stop the spread of slavery, to ban it in the District of Columbia and in interstate trade as well as for its complete abolition. When their right to petition was challenged, ex-President John Quincy Adams presented the petitions himself in the United States Congress. The men's and women's anti-slavery societies merged in 1839; but the next year when eight American women delegates were barred from the British Anti-Slavery Societies meeting in London, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton decided to organize a convention in the United States for the rights of women.
Transcendentalist Margaret Fuller wrote the essay "The Great Lawsuit" in the Dial in 1840 calling for complete equality for women in education, industry, and politics. She expanded these ideas into the book Woman in the Nineteenth Century, which she completed in 1844. Since women are in some ways weaker than men, they ought to have legal protection to make oppression impossible. She wanted every arbitrary barrier thrown down that would prevent women from being as free as men. She believed that such equality would allow a divine energy to pervade nature previously unknown in history. Humanity will be ripe for this when the inward and outward freedom for women is recognized as a right, not merely yielded as a concession. Fuller saw male and female as complementary in nature, representing two sides of a "radical dualism." Male energy, power, and intellect are balanced by female harmony, beauty, and love. She believed that women excelled in spiritual intuition. She pioneered the modern psychological concept that men have feminine aspects while women have masculine qualities. If men would just remove the barriers, women could be independent and self-reliant.
The industrial revolution resulted in many women working long hours in factories with unhealthy conditions. The first labor strike involving only women workers was at Dover, New Hampshire in 1828. In the 1840s several strikes led by Sarah Bagley of the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association were aimed at reducing the work day to ten hours. Other reforms in this period allowed married women to own property in most states. Magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale promoted professional and physical education for women so that they could be physicians; she also exposed the menace of corsets. Many women liberated their bodies by wearing more comfortable clothing and were called Bloomers. For ten years from 1843 Clarina Howard Nichols promoted women's rights as the editor of the Windham County Democrat in Vermont. In 1851 Myrtilla Miner opened a school for Negro girls in Washington D. C. and soon had forty students.
Lucretia Mott was born in 1793, was the mother of six, and
had been ordained as a minister by her Quaker meeting when she
was 28. She criticized conservative attitudes in the Religious
Society of Friends and advocated not using the products of slavery.
When William Lloyd Garrison organized the all-male American Antislavery
Society in Philadelphia in 1833, Lucretia organized the Philadelphia
Female Antislavery Society four days later. Angelina and Sarah
Grimke joined; as they began to address "mixed" audiences,
the "woman question" arose.
The controversy erupted at the First Annual Convention of Antislavery Women on May 17, 1838 when a mob, angry that black and white-women were meeting together before a "promiscuous" audience of men and women, burned the new Pennsylvania Hall to the ground with the apparent approval of the mayor and the police. From there the mob went to attack the Motts' home, but someone led them in the wrong direction. Lucretia Mott had led the evacuation of the hall, suggesting that the women link arms in pairs of one white woman and one black woman. She calmly awaited the mob at her home with her husband and their guests. The next day the women met again and decided to increase their efforts. At the following year's convention Lucretia refused police protection and ignored advice to keep the races apart on the streets. A few months later, her bravery prevented an abolitionist friend from being tarred and feathered in Delaware. She boldly pleaded with them to take her as she was the chief offender, saying, "I ask no courtesy at your hands on account of my sex."9
In 1840 Lucretia Mott went to London for the World Antislavery Convention; even though she represented two organizations, she was not admitted. However, she met Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and in 1848 they organized the Seneca Falls Convention for women's rights. Lucretia Mott spoke always for the equal and balanced empowerment of women and men harmoniously blended so that "there would be less war, injustice, and intolerance in the world than now." She remained an active Non-Resistant and pacifist even during the Civil War, supporting conscientious objectors and recommending only moral force.
Abby Kelly had an equal partnership with her husband, Stephen S. Foster; they alternated going on speaking tours and taking care of their child and the farm. Once when they were both arrested in Ohio for handing out antislavery literature on the Sabbath, Abby refused to cooperate and was carried to jail. After the Civil War they refused to pay taxes on their farm because women were not represented in government.
The origin of Mother's Day is an interesting story of women's efforts for peace. In 1858 Anna Reeves Jarvis organized Mothers' Works Days in West Virginia in order to improve sanitation in Appalachian communities. Julia Ward Howe and her husband Samuel Gridley Howe worked with the US Sanitary Commission during the Civil War when more people died of disease because of poor sanitation than were killed in battle. After meeting President Lincoln, Julia Ward Howe wrote new words to the popular song "John Brown's Body" which became "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." After witnessing the devastation of this war, in 1870 when another Franco-Prussian war broke out, she wrote the following declaration, which became known as the Mother's Day Proclamation:
Arise then...women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
"We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."
From the voice of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: "Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe our dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace...
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God-
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.
Julia Ward Howe proposed June 2 as Mother's Day for Peace in
1872 and went on to work with Lucy Stone in the woman suffrage
movement. In 1874 she published Sex and Education with
essays disputing theories that woman were inferior to men and
thus should have separate education. Howe co-founded the Association
for the Advancement of Women (AAW) in 1873 and was its president
until 1881. She wrote a biography of Margaret Fuller in 1883.
In 1890 the AAW was transformed into the General Federation of
Women's Clubs, and she directed its activities while founding
clubs on her lecture tours. Julia Ward Howe continued to promote
June 2 as Mother's Day for Peace until she died in 1910.
Anna Jarvis, the daughter of Anna Reeves Jarvis, began a campaign to celebrate Mother's Day by giving five hundred women carnations at her St. Andrews church in Grafton, West Virginia in 1907, and the following year that church honored mothers on May 10. In 1909 Mother's Day services were held in 46 states. In 1914 the US Congress passed a Mother's Day resolution that was signed by President Wilson. Anna Jarvis disliked the commercialization of the celebration that made profits from selling flowers and cards, which she considered a lazy excuse for a good letter. In 1923 she sued New York governor Al Smith and was even arrested for protesting.
Lucretia Mott was born in 1793 and had been ordained as a minister by her Quaker meeting when she was 28. Elizabeth Cady was born in 1815, and her father was a judge. She attended the Troy Female Seminary and married abolitionist speaker Henry B. Stanton in 1840. Lucretia Mott and Mrs. Stanton, after meeting with three other Quaker women, placed a notice in the Seneca County Courier announcing a Woman's Rights Conference on July 19 and 20, 1848. Using the "Declaration of Independence" as a model, they added the keywords "and women" before "are created equal." The first two paragraphs were very similar, but the rest of the "Declaration of Sentiments" outlined the major grievances of women against men instead of King George III and read as follows:
The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries
and usurpations on the part of man toward woman,
having in direct object
the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her.
To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has never permitted her to exercise
her inalienable right to the elective franchise.
He has compelled her to submit to laws,
in the formation of which she had no voice.
He has withheld from her rights
which are given to the most ignorant and degraded men-
both natives and foreigners.
Having deprived her of this first right of a citizen,
the elective franchise,
thereby leaving her without representation in the halls of legislation,
he has oppressed her on all sides.
He has made her, if married, in the eye of the law, civilly dead.
He has taken from her all right in property,
even to the wages she earns.
He has made her, morally, as an irresponsible being,
as she can commit many crimes with impunity,
provided they be done in the presence of her husband.
In the covenant of marriage,
she is compelled to promise obedience to her husband,
he becoming, to all intents and purposes, her master-
the law giving him power to deprive her of her liberty,
and to administer chastisement.
He has so framed the laws of divorce,
as to what shall be the proper causes,
and in case of separation,
to whom the guardianship of the children shall be given,
as to be wholly regardless of the happiness of women-
the law, in all cases, going upon a false supposition
of the supremacy of man, and giving all power into his hands.
After depriving her of all rights as a married woman,
if single, and the owner of property,
he has taxed her to support a government
which recognizes her only
when her property can be made profitable to it.
He has monopolized nearly all the profitable employments,
and from those she is permitted to follow,
she receives but a scanty remuneration.
He closes against her all the avenues of wealth and distinction
which he considers most honorable to himself.
As a teacher of theology, medicine, or law, she is not known.
He has denied her the facilities for obtaining a thorough education,
all colleges being closed against her.
He allows her in Church, as well as State,
but a subordinate position,
claiming Apostolic authority for her exclusion from the ministry,
and, with some exceptions,
from any public participation in the affairs of the Church.
He has created a false public sentiment by giving to the world
a different code of morals for men and women,
by which moral delinquencies which exclude women from society,
are not only tolerated, but deemed of little account in man.
He has usurped the prerogative of Jehovah himself,
claiming it as his right to assign for her a sphere of action,
when that belongs to her conscience and to her God.
He has endeavored, in every way that he could,
to destroy her confidence in her own powers,
to lessen her self-respect,
and to make her willing to lead a dependent and abject life.
Now, in view of this entire disfranchisement
of one-half the people of this country,
their social and religious degradation-
in view of the unjust laws above mentioned,
and because women do feel themselves aggrieved, oppressed,
and fraudulently deprived of their most sacred rights,
we insist that they have immediate admission
to all the rights and privileges
which belong to them as citizens of the United States.
In entering upon the great work before us,
we anticipate no small amount of misconception,
misrepresentation, and ridicule;
but we shall use every instrumentality within our power
to effect our object.
We shall employ agents, circulate tracts,
petition the State and National legislatures,
and endeavor to enlist the pulpit and the press in our behalf.
We hope this Convention will be followed
by a series of Conventions embracing every part of the country.10
At the Seneca Falls convention several resolutions were passed unanimously. The only one that was passed by a mere majority was for the elective franchise, and that was because some believed it would make the whole movement seem ridiculous and so harm the other more rational objectives; but Mrs. Stanton and Frederick Douglass argued that the power to choose rulers and make laws to secure all the others depended on the right to vote. The Declaration of Principles was signed by 68 women and 32 men. Another convention was held at Rochester two weeks later, and conventions were organized in Ohio, Massachusetts, Indiana, and Pennsylvania.
The 1850 convention at Worcester, Massachusetts was supported by William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, William H. Channing, Bronson Alcott, Gerrit Smith, Thomas Wentworth Higgins, and Theodore Parker. The English woman Harriet Taylor wrote an article for the Westminster Review in 1851, and her future husband John Stuart Mill would publish The Subjection of Women in 1869. In the 1851 convention at Akron, Ohio, few women were willing to speak against the men's views in the meeting as Frances Dana Gage presided; but the ex-slave Sojourner Truth took the floor and won over her audience with a speech that began,
Well, children, where there is so much racket
there must be something out of kilter.
I think that 'twixt Negroes of the South
and the women of the North, all talking about rights,
the white men will be in a fix pretty soon.
But what's all this here talking about?
That man over there says that women need to be
helped into carriages and lifted over ditches,
and to have the best place everywhere.
Nobody ever helps me into carriages or over mud-puddles,
or gives me the best place-and ain't I a woman?11
National woman's rights conventions were held every year in the 1850s except in 1857. The new states California, Minnesota, Oregon, and Kansas adopted liberal laws for women, and all the other states joining later followed them in that.
Susan B. Anthony was born into a Quaker family in 1820 and had been a teacher and worked for the temperance cause, but she suffered discrimination because of her sex. So in 1852 she and Elizabeth Cady Stanton started the Woman's State Temperance Society. Anthony worked in New York for women's control of their earnings, guardianship of their children after divorce, and to vote. She found a woman to be captain in all sixty counties of New York, and in ten weeks they collected six thousand signatures. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was the first woman to testify before a Joint Judiciary Committee of both legislatures in New York. In 1855 Susan Anthony traveled to 54 counties of New York. In 1860 Mrs. Stanton spoke before the New York legislature and noted that the legal authority Blackstone considered the husband and wife one, but later commentators decided that that one was the husband. She argued that the prejudice against sex was as strong as that against color. Legislators resisted, but in 1860 they passed laws that enabled women not only to own property but to collect their own wages, sue in court, and have similar property rights as men after the death of a spouse. Polish immigrant Ernestine Rose had worked for twelve years to gain these reforms, and she said,
Freedom, my friends,
does not come from the clouds, like a meteor;
it does not bloom in one night;
it does not come without great efforts and great sacrifices;
all who love liberty, have to labor for it.12
Lucy Stone attended Mount Holyoke Seminary, graduated from Oberlin in 1847, and became an outstanding orator against slavery and for woman's rights. When abolitionists complained she ignored their cause for the latter, she agreed to speak against slavery on weekends and for women during the week. Her three main lectures discussed women's disabilities-social and industrial, legal and political, and moral and religious. At the national convention held at Syracuse in 1852 she argued, "It is the duty of woman to resist taxation as long as she is not represented" even though "it may involve the loss of friends as it surely will the loss of property."13 When she married Henry B. Blackwell in 1855, Rev. Thomas Wentworth Higgins approved and publicized their protest statement acknowledging their mutual independence despite any laws to the contrary, and Lucy Stone kept her name. In 1858 she sent a letter to a New Jersey tax collector explaining that she was returning her tax bill without payment because women were denied the right of suffrage. Her household goods were sold to pay the taxes. She believed that when men became aware that this was contrary to their theory of government, then they would correct it. Smith sisters in Connecticut and Abbey Kelly Foster also had their property seized for not paying taxes as a protest.
No woman's rights conventions were held in the United States during the Civil War. In May 1863 in New York the Loyal Women of the Nation was formed with Elizabeth Cady Stanton as president and Susan B. Anthony as secretary to collect signatures for the abolition of slavery by the 13th Amendment. On February 9, 1864 the first 100,000 were presented in the Senate by Charles Sumner, and eventually more than 300,000 were gathered. The 13th Amendment was ratified on December 18, 1865. That year Vassar College opened with a faculty of 22 women and eight men for 300 female students.
The effort for the 14th Amendment brought a conflict between the opponents of racism and sexism when the word "male" was included three times. Anthony correctly realized that this would make it necessary to pass another constitutional amendment to give women the vote in federal elections. Efforts by women to get their rights at this time were dismissed by many who believed that this was "the Negro's hour." In 1867 Kansas held two referenda on votes for Negroes and women; but despite the efforts of Lucy Stone, Mrs. Stanton, and Susan Anthony, both were defeated. Influenced by the changed position of Horace Greeley, the New York constitutional convention chose not to allow voting on a woman suffrage amendment even though 28,000 signatures were presented. The 14th Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified in July 1868, and the US Senate voted to deny women the vote in the District of Columbia by a vote of 37-9.
The 15th Amendment would guarantee that the voting could not be denied based on race or color but did not mention sex; in March 1869 Senator Julian of Indiana introduced a similar amendment that did so, but it was largely ignored. The wealthy Democrat George Francis Train sponsored a newspaper called The Revolution, which called for women's rights and urged women to join unions and demand equal pay for equal work; but in 1869 the equal rights movement split between the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) led by Mrs. Stanton and Susan Anthony and the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) and their Woman's Journal edited by Lucy Stone, her husband, and Mary Livermore. After Train pulled out his financial support, The Revolution could not stand the competition and folded the next year. Victoria Woodhull and her sister Tennessee Claflin championed sexual freedom and denounced the double standard. In Portland, Oregon women's rights were pioneered by Abigail Scott Duniway in her newspaper The New Northwest, founded in 1871. Not many women were in the wild west, but the Utah and Wyoming territories granted them the vote in 1870.
In 1868 on Election Day 172 women in New Jersey voted although their ballots were "courteously refused" by the men electors. In her speeches Susan Anthony pointed out that history shows that whenever there is a disenfranchised class, they are a degraded class of labor. She cited statistics that three million women were supporting themselves in the United States at that time. In an 1869 speech Elizabeth Cady Stanton described men as destructive, self-aggrandizing, loving war, conquest, and acquisition and bringing about discord, disorder, disease, and death. Women are needed to exalt purity, virtue, morality, true religion, and to lift men to a higher level of thought and action.
In 1871 the flamboyant Victoria Woodhull became the first woman to address the House Judiciary Committee in Washington, and she argued that use of the word "person" in the 14th and 15th Amendments implied the right of suffrage for all persons including women. At the NWSA convention in New York, Woodhull made a speech in which she proposed treason, secession, and revolution; then she sold 10,000 copies of her speech. She and thirty women tried to vote, and in a public speech to 3,000 people she spoke on free love, marriage, divorce, and prostitution. Mrs. Stanton declined to criticize her radical promiscuity; but at the next NWSA meeting in 1872 Susan Anthony would not allow Woodhull to speak. So Woodhull and her followers formed the Equal Rights Party and nominated her for President of the United States. Woodhull accused Henry Ward Beecher of having an affair with the wife of Theodore Tilton, and Woodhull was arrested by the vice crusader Anthony Comstock on a charge of obscenity. After a month in jail her career precipitously declined.
Four cases testing whether the 14th Amendment allowed women the right to vote were made in 1872; the most significant was the effort led by Susan B. Anthony in Rochester, New York. She and fifteen other women risked a fine of $500 and a prison sentence of up to three years; strict laws had been made to keep former secessionists from voting in the South. Before her trial Anthony spoke in all 29 post office districts in Monroe County on "Is It a Crime for a Citizen of the United States to Vote?" When the prosecuting attorney got the trial transferred to Ontario County, she spoke in 21 districts there, and in the other sixteen Mathilda Joslyn Gage lectured on "The United States on Trial, not Susan B. Anthony."
Anthony's lawyer was the former Appeals Court Judge Henry R. Selden, but Justice Hunt of the US Supreme Court acting as a circuit judge would not even let Anthony testify, ordered the jury to find her guilty as a question of law, and then read his prepared decision. Selden's request to poll the jury was denied. Anthony complained that she had been tried "by forms of law all made by men, interpreted by men, administered by men, in favor of men and against women."14 She was fined $100 and costs of the prosecution; but she replied that all she had was a $10,000 debt from publishing The Revolution newspaper. She ended her brief statement by quoting the well known revolutionary maxim favored by Thomas Jefferson, "Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God." Justice Hunt, by releasing her even though she did not pay, took away her right to appeal to the US Supreme Court. In 1875 that Court ruled against woman suffrage in the case of Francis and Virginia Minor, who had sued Happersett for not being allowed to register to vote in St. Louis.
What became known as the "Anthony Amendment" was introduced into United States Congress by California Senator Sargent in 1878; but it would take hundreds of campaigns and millions of signatures before it would be ratified in 1920. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Frances Joslyn Gage compiled a detailed and extensive History of Woman Suffrage, publishing the first three volumes in 1881, 1882, and 1886. Anthony also helped Ida Husted Harper complete and finance the fourth volume by 1902. Harper also wrote the last two volumes on 1900-1920 of this comprehensive work that was published in 1922.
In 1882 both houses of Congress appointed Select Committees on Woman Suffrage. Chairman Lucy Stone of the American Woman Suffrage Association announced they supported it, but in the years ahead the AWSA put most of their efforts into petitioning state legislatures. Referenda were held in Michigan (1874), Colorado (1877), Nebraska (1882), Oregon (1884), Rhode Island (1887), Washington (1889), and South Dakota (1890). By 1889 American women could vote in school elections in every state except twelve. Intellectual women developed their abilities by attending colleges and joining women's clubs, and more working women joined unions.
In 1888 Mrs. Stanton and Susan Anthony began efforts to heal the breech by reuniting the two woman suffrage organizations; they formed the International Council of Women, but the representatives of the women's organizations declined to support the suffrage effort. Frances Willard was converted to the suffrage cause, and her Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) by 1890 had 160,000 members, including many in the South. However, this coalition aroused the liquor industry that began opposing woman suffrage because they feared women would vote in Prohibition. Lucy Stone's daughter Alice Stone Blackwell was instrumental in bringing about the merger in 1890 of the two organizations into the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) with Elizabeth Cady Stanton as president until 1892, when she was succeeded by Susan B. Anthony. Mrs. Stanton devoted her efforts to the divorce rights and to gain the franchise for educated women. Before the House Judiciary Committee she said,
The strongest reason why we ask for woman
a voice in the government under which she lives;
in the religion she is asked to believe;
equality in social life, where she is the chief factor;
a place in the trades and professions, where she may earn her bread,
is because of her birthright to self-sovereignty;
because, as an individual, she must rely on her herself.
Nothing strengthens the judgment
and quickens the conscience like individual responsibility.
Nothing adds such dignity to character
as the recognition of one's self-sovereignty;
the right to an equal place, everywhere conceded;
a place earned by personal merit,
not an artificial attainment by inheritance,
wealth, family, and position.
Seeing, then, that the responsibilities of life
rest equally on man and woman,
that their destiny is the same,
they need the same preparation for time and eternity.15
She published a critique of the way women were treated in the Old Testament in The Woman's Bible in 1895 with a second volume published in 1898. Mary Baker Eddy made the concept of Father-Mother God a basic precept of Christian Science. Alice Blackwell's motion to hold the annual convention in Washington only in alternate years was opposed by Anthony in 1893; but it carried, and that was the last year either house in Congress gave the suffrage bill a favorable report for many years. Wyoming had entered the Union in 1890 with female suffrage intact, and in 1896 Utah regained female suffrage after losing it for nine years because of Mormon polygamy. Party politics and the liquor lobby managed to defeat woman suffrage in most states, but it slipped through in Colorado in 1893 and Idaho in 1896. Starting in 1894, the NAWSA began demanding "equal pay for equal work." In 1898 Charlotte Perkins Gilman published her first book, Women and Economics, arguing that it is morally and economically necessary for women to work as men do. The next year Florence Kelley organized the National Consumers' League.
The English Reform Bill of 1832 used the term "male person" for the first time in English history, and women objected to the word "male" in the Municipal Reform Act of 1835. Richard Cobden, the strongest advocate for peace in the Parliament, publicly spoke out for woman suffrage in 1845 and 1848.
Harriet Taylor in 1851 wrote the essay "Enfranchisement of Women" in which she reported that the Women's Rights Convention at Worchester, Massachusetts was attended by more than a thousand people demanding equal rights for women in education, employment, voting, and holding offices. She answered the maternity argument by saying that women can and should be more than mothers. She believed that working women could supplement their husband's income or earn their own living. She noted that women may have needed protection in a previous age of violence, but now that is no longer necessary. She presented the real question as "whether it is right and expedient that one-half of the human race should pass through life in a state of forced subordination to the other half."16 Because many women do not seek their emancipation is not an argument against it just as the vast numbers in Asia who submit to being veiled and dominated by men is not necessarily a good thing that may not change in the future. At the end of her essay she noted that a petition for the franchise from the women of Sheffield was presented to the House of Lords in February 1851.
Harriet Taylor married her close friend of twenty years John Stuart Mill (1806-73) in 1851 and had a strong influence on him before she died in 1858. The Northern Reform Society was organized that year and made universal suffrage its objective. Mill published Representative Government in 1861, arguing that women need the vote so that they may not be misgoverned by men, and he discussed the benefits that would result from women voting. Mill had been arrested when he was 17 for distributing information on birth control. When Mill presented in the House of Commons a petition to give women the franchise in 1866, it was greeted with laughter. Disraeli suggested that women with property should have the vote. During debates on the Tories' Reform Act of 1867 Mill made the first plea ever heard for women's suffrage in the British Parliament, but his amendment to replace the word "man" with "person" was defeated. Attempts to test whether the generic term "man" included women failed in the courts. Mill wrote The Subjection of Women in 1861 but did not publish it until 1869. He began with the basic premise
That the principle which regulates
the existing social relations between the two sexes-
the legal subordination of one sex to the other-is wrong in itself,
and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement;
and that it ought to be replaced by a principle of perfect equality,
admitting no power or privilege on the one side,
nor disability on the other.17
The law should treat all people alike except for positive reasons of justice or policy. Mill suggested that the opinion which allowed men to subordinate women is not based on any deliberate thought but was the result of the law of the strongest. He noted that even the powerful Church has not been able to renounce violence and force. Women suffer from a chronic condition of bribery and intimidation. The subordination of women has been such a universal custom for so long that any departure from it seems unnatural. He compared it to the slavery of barbarians by the Greeks and of Africans in his own century; but men want more than just obedience from women, they want their sentiments and willing submission. Thus moralities have been devised to make it the duty of women to focus all their affections on their husbands and the children they have by them. Yet Mill believed that the entire course of history is away from systems of unequal rights and toward human improvement for all and that the condition of women is approaching equality with men. He doubted that men had the knowledge that would qualify them to lay down the law for women as to their vocations; but he believed it is better for women to decide for themselves by their own experience.
Mill reviewed how oppressive were current laws of various countries against women, and he noted that often women are treated much better than those hellish laws. Loving liberty, Mill disliked both sides of commanding and obeying, and he believed that society is progressing toward equal associations. The virtue of humans is that they can live together as equals, claiming nothing that they do not freely concede to others. He acknowledged that the family is a school of obedience for children as parents learn to command; but he saw also that it needed to be "a school of sympathy in equality, of living together in love, without power on one side or obedience on the other."18 He lamented that the development of women had been hindered; when that is corrected, he expected there would be no difference between the character and capacities of the sexes. He suggested that the complaint against women is that they fulfill the only duties they are taught too faithfully.
In the last section Mill asked if mankind would be better off if women are free. First, it would be greatly advantageous if human relations were regulated by justice instead of injustice. Second, giving women free choice of employment and opening more occupations to them would double the mental faculties available to serve humanity. Furthermore, the influence women already have toward averting wars and increasing charity would be greatly enhanced. Mill found himself from his marriage to Harriet Taylor that a loving and equal relationship with reciprocal duties is the ideal. He concluded,
The moral regeneration of mankind will only really commence,
when the most fundamental of the social relations
is placed under the rule of equal justice,
and when human beings learn to cultivate
their strongest sympathy with an equal in rights and in cultivation.19
In 1865 a society for women's suffrage had been formed in Manchester,
and they printed 10,000 copies of Lydia Becker's paper advocating
the franchise. In 1869 English women gained municipal suffrage,
and Scotland adopted it in 1882. The Woman's Disabilities Removal
Bill was drafted by Dr. Richard Pankhurst and was introduced by
Jacob Bright in 1871 to give women the vote; it was considered
favorably by Gladstone but was defeated. Florence Nightingale
and Harriet Martineau led the drive that submitted 18,000 signatures
from women on memorials. Mrs. Wolstenholme Elmy worked to get
the Married Women's Property Acts of 1870 and 1882 passed. Married
mothers gained guardianship of their children in the Custody of
Infants Act of 1886. In Europe, Marie Goegg founded the Woman's
International Association at Geneva in 1868, and the first International
Woman's Rights Congress was held at Paris in 1878.
In 1889 Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst organized the Women's Franchise League to gain the vote and equality for women in divorce, inheritance, and the custody of children. Dr. Pankhurst had stood up for the Boer republics, and after his death Mrs. Pankhurst resigned from the Fabian Society in 1900 after it refused to oppose the Boer War. In October 1903 she joined with a few women from the Independent Labor Party (ILP) to form the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU). Worker Annie Kenney was elected to the committee of the card and blowing-room operatives. When Edward Grey came to speak in the Manchester Free Trade Hall on October 13, 1905, Annie Kenny put up a banner "Votes for Women." Mrs. Pankhurst's eldest daughter Christabel repeated her questioning and fought to keep from being ejected. Both were thrown out and arrested; Christabel was charged with spitting at a police superintendent and an inspector. Refusing to pay fines, they went to prison, Christabel for seven days and Annie for three. Liberal candidate Winston Churchill tried to pay their fines, but the governor would not accept his money. Annie Kenney displayed another banner when Prime Minister Henry Campbell-Bannerman spoke at Albert Hall. At another meeting Churchill refused to answer the questions of Christabel's sister, Sylvia Pankhurst.
Mrs. Pethick Lawrence became treasurer of the WSPU. After Annie Kenney and two others were arrested on Downing Street, two hundred Members of Parliament formed a Women's Suffrage Committee and petitioned Prime Minister Campbell-Bannerman, who refused to initiate any such legislation. Lloyd George told protesters he was a Suffragist and suggested they go to their enemy Asquith, at whose residence thirty women were attacked by police. Kenney and two others were sent to prison for six weeks. Dora B. Montefiore had refused to pay income tax because "taxation without representation is tyranny." Her house was besieged for six weeks before one piece of furniture could be taken in 1906. By then Christabel Pankhurst had earned a law degree from Victoria University. On October 23, 1906 Mrs. Pankhurst and nine women were arrested for sitting down in the Lobby of the Parliament and went to prison. Sylvia Pankhurst also tried to speak and got fourteen days. News spread, and for the first time in France 150 women demonstrated for the vote in the Chamber of Deputies.
In February 1907 a "Women's Parliament" was held in Caxton Hall, and they marched to the House of Commons. Fifty-four women and two men were arrested as mounted police cleared Parliament Square. That year Emmeline and Frederick Pethick Lawrence founded the newspaper Votes for Women and gave it to the Union in 1908. Five thousand meetings for women's suffrage were organized, including one at Albert Hall. Despite the efforts of Keir Hardie, the Pankhursts and WSPU members withdrew from the Labor Party. Women heckled politicians at public meetings and at private functions. After a Women's Parliament in February 1908 led to another demonstration, 48 women were sentenced to two months. Mrs. Pankhurst tried to speak on a cart and was arrested with eight women, getting six weeks. To prevent an announced public meeting in Parliamentary Square 5,000 foot police and fifty mounted officers assembled on June 30. Yet women spoke from the steps of government buildings. A few frustrated women went to Downing Street and threw stones; 27 women went to prison.
Christabel Pankhurst, her mother, and Mrs. Drummond were ordered arrested for printing handbills saying "HELP THE SUFFRAGETTES RUSH THE HOUSE OF COMMONS." On October 13, 1908 at Parliament Square 24 women and 12 men were arrested and went to prison for three weeks to two months. Christabel was sentenced to ten weeks, and the two older women got three months. Jennie Baines was sentenced to six weeks for throwing herself on the Prime Minister at Leeds. Sylvia Pankhurst told Helen Ogston not to use a dog-whip; but at Albert Hall she used it against police after they burned her wrist and struck her in the chest. As a result many women were beaten. Twenty-six members of the Women's Freedom League were arrested trying to interview Cabinet Ministers at Downing Street in January 1909. At the sixth Women's Parliament the next month police took leaders into custody and violently man-handled the others to push them back. Twenty-one women were arrested at the Women's Parliament on March 30 and got one to three months in prison.
During the eighth Women's Parliament on June 29, 1909 Government window panes were broken for the first time because those that broke a window were quietly taken into custody instead of beaten; 108 were arrested, including Alice Paul of Pennsylvania. All were freed but fourteen, who were charged for breaking windows or rescuing others. They demanded political status in prison, smashed windows in their cells because of stifling heat, and went on hunger strikes. Twelve more were arrested and did the same, and they were released after four to six days of fasting. Other small groups had a similar experience. Mrs. Pankhurst and Christabel defended the tactic of throwing stones. After 37 women had shortened their sentences by fasting, the Home Secretary ordered Birmingham prisoners forcibly fed by a rubber tube in September 1909. Medical doctors complained that this was brutal and dangerous, 116 physicians sending a memorial to the Prime Minister.
In June 1910 the Conciliation Committee promoted a bill to give women with property the vote. November 18 became known as Black Friday as 300 women in detachments of twelve for six hours were attacked by police, who snatched their flags and tore them up, hit the women with their fists and knees, knocking them down and dragging them to the crowd of spectators. Two men and 115 women were arrested, but only women accused of breaking windows or assault were charged. That night women broke windows of Cabinet Ministers' houses, and after three days a total of 285 had been arrested; 75 women went to prison for window-breaking and assault; ten admitted they struck police to protect other women. After this, stone-throwing became organized. In March 1911 the Pethick Lawrences were arrested, and Christabel Pankhurst fled to Paris. In China suffragists rushed the chamber of the Nanjing Assembly, broke windows, and assaulted members; soldiers were called in, but women were given the vote. Imprisoned women in England went on hunger strikes for prisoner privileges and were fed by force until most had been released; then the remainder were given their rights. The jury recommended leniency to Mrs. Pankhurst and Mr. and Mrs. Pethick Lawrence, but the judge sentenced them to nine months and refused to let them be treated as First Class misdemeanants. They fasted, resisted force feeding, and were soon released.
Emily Wilding Davison and Nurse Pitfield committed arson openly and accepted punishment; but in July 1912 Christabel Pankhurst from Paris began organizing secret arson attacks, a strategy opposed by her sister Sylvia and the Pethick Lawrences, who withdrew from the WSPU in October. Votes for Women went back to the Pethick Lawrences, and the WSPU began publishing The Suffragette. In the campaign of the new militancy directed by Christabel and her mother attempts were made to destroy mail in pillar-boxes with red ochre, jam, tar, varnish and inflammable substances. False fire alarms were made 176 times in 1911 and 425 times the next year, resulting in fifty convictions; the numbers increased in 1913. Arson began targeting works of art and historic relics. Sylvia Pankhurst turned her efforts to developing a mass movement in the poor East End of London. Objecting to police brutality at the station, Sylvia spilled an inkpot and slapped a superintendent with her inky hand. At that time the WSPU was paying fines, and she was released. On her third arrest she was not allowed a fine and was sentenced to two months hard labor. She and Zelie Emerson went on hunger strikes and endured the misery of force-feeding. Sylvia decide to walk until she was released and finally was taken to a doctor and sent home.
Parliament passed the "Cat and Mouse Act" that licensed out hunger strikers for short terms, suspending their sentences until they returned to prison. Bernard Shaw objected, "If you take a woman and torture her, you torture me. These denials of fundamental rights are really a violation of the soul."20 Mrs. Pankhurst claimed responsibility for the militant campaign and was sentenced to three years; after she was emaciated from fasting, she was licensed out for a time. Parliament decided to crush the WSPU campaign by suppressing their meetings. Emily Wilding Davison had tried to kill herself in prison twice by throwing herself over corridor railings, but she was caught by a wire net; she also threw herself down an iron staircase. She never recovered from these injuries, and at the Derby on June 4, 1913 she was killed trying to stop the King's horse during the race.
Sylvia Pankhurst was sentenced to serve three months. Under the Cat and Mouse Act she, her mother, and other "mice" would spend a few days in prison refusing food and water until they were released on license for seven days. Then the "cats" would try to find the "mice" and arrest them again when they spoke at meetings if their supporters were not able to protect and hide them. Soon 31 women and four men were being "moused." On July 26, 1913 the non-militant National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) organized a massive meeting at Hyde Park. Because of riots and civil war in Ireland, the British government began to grant some suffrage rights to the Unionist Women of Ulster, bolstering the militants' view that their tactics were effective. Hundreds of fires had been set, but only thirteen persons were convicted of arson. In Paris the autocratic Christabel Pankhurst demanded that her sister Sylvia's less violent East London Federation become separate from the WSPU, because Christabel did not approve of the Federation's democratic constitution and working-women's movement. Violence escalated as the press reported 141 acts of destruction in the first seven months of 1914 with 35 arrests and 107 cases of arson with nine arrests. Some prisons, particularly in Scotland, were still force-feeding hunger strikers.
When war came in August 1914, all the suffragettes were released. Mrs. Pankhurst, Christabel, and most of those using violent tactics supported the war effort by making recruiting speeches and stopped demanding suffrage until after the war; but the more nonviolent Sylvia Pankhurst and her East End poor people organized charitable war relief and continued the hard work for women's rights. Mrs. Fawcett and a majority of the non-militant NUWSS dropped the suffrage campaign to support the war effort while a minority joined the peace efforts of the Women's International League. Sylvia's Federation asked for the New Zealand system of franchise for every woman over 21 and noted that four provinces in Canada granted complete woman suffrage during the war. They joined with seven London labor organizations and persistently lobbied the House of Commons. While the militarists such as Christabel agitated for conscription of all men and women from 16-60 years of age, Sylvia Pankhurst demanded human suffrage and no infringement of liberties. Some of the suffragettes joined Jane Addams at The Hague in 1915 to work for peace and international order. In 1917 the tide turned, and finally on January 11, 1918 the House of Lords approved the bill that gave the vote to eight million women. Complete woman suffrage was granted in Britain by the Act of 1928.
Carrie Lane was born on a Wisconsin farm in 1859. After her first husband Leo Chapman died of typhoid fever, she married engineer George Catt, who supported her suffrage work. She worked on the campaign in South Dakota and on the Colorado victory in 1893, becoming chairman of a new organization committee in 1895. Another fine orator for woman suffrage was Anna Howard Shaw, who had earned an M. D. from the Boston medical school in 1886. She led the WCTU suffrage efforts. In 1900 the eighty-year-old Anthony chose Carrie Chapman Catt as her successor. After a decade of hard work, Catt resigned the presidency of the NAWSA in 1904, and Dr. Shaw was president until Mrs. Catt returned to the position in 1915. Meanwhile Catt continued as president of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance, and in 1912 she began working on the New York campaign that took five years to win the vote for women.
During this progressive era women made important gains. The settlement house movement helped many women and immigrants after Jane Addams founded Hull House in Chicago in 1889. Census figures showed the number of women employed in the United States going from 4,005,532 in 1890 to 5,319,397 in 1900 to 7,444,787 in 1910. The Equality League of Self-Supporting Women was formed and later was called the Women's Political Union. The number of women graduating from college increased from 5,237 in 1900 to 8,437 in 1910. After the Equality League met with the New York Collegiate Equal Suffrage League, they merged and by 1908 had about 19,000 members. The Woman Suffrage Party began on October 30, 1909, and Mrs. Catt organized it with 2,000 election district captains in New York.
In 1910 women presented to the US Congress petitions for a woman suffrage amendment with 404,000 names. That year Washington state voted suffrage for women by nearly two to one, and the next year California passed a suffrage referendum. In 1912 woman suffrage finally passed in Oregon on its sixth attempt and also won in Arizona and Kansas; but it was defeated by alcoholic politics in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio. In Illinois the Progressive party in 1913 helped pass a law giving women the right to vote in municipal and federal elections. Battles with liquor interests continued as woman suffrage completed its sweep of the far west in Montana and Nevada in 1914, but it lost that year in the Dakotas, Nebraska, Missouri, and Ohio. Mrs. Leslie left Mrs. Catt $2,000,000 in 1914 to further the cause of woman suffrage. In 1915 Carrie Catt accepted the presidency of the National Association again and appointed a board of women to work hard, replacing those who could not. Referenda in New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey were defeated in 1915, but 1,234,593 men had voted to give women the ballot. The corruption of the liquor lobby was monitored and challenged. Indictments against Pennsylvania brewing companies in 1916 resulted in their paying a fine of one million dollars.
Alice Paul was a Quaker born in 1885. She graduated from Swarthmore in 1905, and from the University of Pennsylvania she earned an M. A. in 1907 and a Ph. D. in 1912. She worked in English settlement houses and studied economics at the University of London. In 1909 she was arrested with a deputation to the Parliament that was led by Mrs. Pankhurst, and she met Lucy Burns. Both Alice and Lucy were arrested for trying to speak at a protest outside of where Lloyd George was holding a meeting and were sentenced to two weeks in Holloway Jail, but they were released on the sixth day of their hunger strike. They were arrested and released again, and on the third time they were released after four days of fasting. After being sentenced to thirty days, they were forcibly fed, which affected Alice Paul's health for weeks.
In America after getting the recommendation of Jane Addams, the NAWSA authorized a committee led by Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, and Crystal Eastman to lobby Congress for a Constitutional Amendment. They organized a parade of 5,000 women the day before Wilson's first inauguration in Washington. Police failed to protect the women from jeering men, and the cavalry from Fort Myers was called out to guard the marching women. After an investigation the Washington police chief was replaced. Delegations visited President Wilson, bringing 200,00 signatures. Dr. Shaw allowed them to function within the National Association as the Congressional Union, and they published The Suffragist. After they clashed over policy, Alice Paul resigned as chairman; in 1914 the organizations became separate. The Union campaigned against Democratic candidates even if they personally supported woman suffrage. By 1915 the Congressional Union had organized women in all 48 states. They gathered a million signatures on petitions and presented them to President Wilson in a march on the Capitol on May 9, 1915, and they opposed Wilson's re-election in 1916. That year the CU met in Chicago and became the National Woman's Party, and 5,000 women marched in the rain to influence the Republican Party convention.
The Woman's Party organized the first picket of the White House in January 1917 and lobbied there every day with banners. Jeannette Rankin of Montana became the first woman elected to Congress and voted against declaring war. Carrie Catt believed they must support the war for political reasons; but the Woman's Party had many Quakers and refused to approve of the war. Mrs. Catt also urged Wilson's censorship Committee on Public Information led by George Creel to suppress publicity about the Woman's Party protests because she thought it hurt their cause. Signs that England and Russia were already enfranchising women during wartime particularly made some Americans angry. Occasionally patriotic fanatics tore down their banners and abused the women picketing. Arrests of the women picketing began on June 22, 1917. They refused to pay fines, and at first the sentences were only three days. In July sixteen women were sentenced to sixty days in the Occoquan Workhouse for "obstructing traffic."
In October 1917 four pickets under a suspended sentence were given six months. So Alice Paul led a picket and was sentenced to seven months in jail. The air in the jail was so stifling that she threw a book by Browning through a window to gain the first fresh air women there had enjoyed in a long time. More women picketed and were arrested and released but kept coming back, joined by others; Lucy Burns was sentenced to six months. For the first time in American history protesters in jail demanded to be treated as political prisoners, and sixteen women at Occoquan refused to work and went on a hunger strike. Forced feeding through the nose caused bleeding and vomiting. Poet Maria Moravsky had been imprisoned in Czarist Russia and was surprised to find the suffrage prisoners treated worse than common criminals. Lucy Burns was put in solitary confinement, and Alice Paul was transferred from the hospital to the psychopathic ward; but the reporter David Lawrence, who was friendly with President Wilson, was allowed to interview Alice Paul for two hours. He explained that they could not be treated as political prisoners because if others opposing the war gained this status, they might destroy their war program. So a few days later on November 27 and 28 the Government released all the suffrage prisoners. In six months 218 women had been arrested, and 97 had gone to prison. On March 4, 1918 the District of Columbia Court of Appeals freed the prisoners and invalidated the arrests.
In 1917 legislative action gave women the vote in North Dakota, Ohio, Indiana, Rhode Island, Nebraska, and Michigan; even Arkansas broke through the resistance in the South and gave women the right to vote in primary elections. Southern politicians feared that giving women the vote would endanger their Jim Crow laws that had disenfranchised most Negroes. Even the suffragists in the South had segregated organizations. On October 27 in New York 2,500 women paraded, and the Democratic machine in Tammany Hall decided not to oppose female suffrage that year; New York City provided 100,000 extra votes in favor to carry the state by that margin. President Wilson announced he favored an amendment, and on January 10, 1918 ill and injured Congressmen provided the votes to give it the two-thirds majority it needed in the House, though it lacked this in the Senate by two votes. State suffrage campaigns that year won in South Dakota, Michigan, and Oklahoma.
Now more than seven million women could vote in fifteen states, and the Woman's Party tried to influence the Congress with their protests. In August 1918 women were arrested for standing on the statue of Lafayette across from the White House, and Alice Paul was arrested as the leader; 47 women were charged with "holding a meeting on public grounds." A few days later 38 more women had their demonstration broken up by police but were released. The women previously held refused to cooperate with the trial and were sentenced to ten or fifteen days in prison; 24 women went on hunger strikes. On the first day of 1919 the Woman's Party began burning the words of President Wilson on the sidewalk in front of the White House and kept them burning as "watchfires of freedom." Alice Paul and three companions were detained and released. The suffragists were attacked by soldiers and sailors to destroy their banners and flags and break the urn. Women were arrested; some were released on bail while others went on hunger strikes. In court women applauding the prisoners were sentenced for contempt of court, joining the 22 hunger-strikers. The Woman's Party believed that these watchfires put the President to work to gain the vote needed for the Amendment. On March 4, 1919 Alice Paul and six others were clubbed by police and arrested in New York but were released.
President Wilson while in Paris gained the needed vote from Georgia senator Harris, and on May 20, 1919 he summoned a special session of Congress. The Federal Suffrage Amendment was finally passed by the Senate on June 4, 1919. Ratification required 36 states, and by March 1920 only one more state was needed; but it took until August 26, 1920 before Tennessee finally approved. Nine states of the solid South from Louisiana to Maryland along with Delaware never did ratify the Amendment, which became law for the entire United States, enfranchising 26 million women in the 1920 election. After this triumph the NAWSA lost 90% of its two million members, but the League of Women Voters founded by Carrie Catt exerted a continuing influence.
Alice Paul and the National Woman's Party continued to work for women's rights. She earned three law degrees and in 1923 formulated the Equal Rights Amendment. In 1928 they formed the Inter-American Commission of Women as part of the Organization of American States. In 1938 she founded the World Women's Party for Equal Rights. In 1945 Alice Paul worked so that the United Nations Charter would recognize the equality of men and women, and the World Woman's Party she founded got the World Court to accept this in 1948. The National Woman's Party lawyers lobbied and got the 1964 Civil Rights Act to ban discrimination in employment based on sex in Title VII. In the 1960s and 1970s the National Woman's Party concentrated its efforts on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).
1. A Vindication of the Rights of Men by Mary Wollstonecraft
in A Mary Wollstonecraft Reader, p. 243.
2. A Vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Wollstonecraft, p. 34.
3. Ibid., p. 37.
4. Ibid., p. 51.
5. Ibid., p. 141.
6. Course of Popular Lectures by Frances Wright quoted in Feminism: The Essential Historical Writings, p. 22.
7. Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Women by Sarah Grimké, p. 10 quoted in Feminism: The Essential Historical Writings, p. 38.
8. The Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Women by Sarah Grimké, p. 10 quoted in Century of Struggle by Eleanor Flexner, p. 47.
9. Valiant Friend: The Life of Lucretia Mott by Margaret Hope Bacon, p. 84.
10. History of Woman Suffrage, Volume 1, p. 70-71.
11. Ibid., p. 116.
12. Ernestine L. Rose quoted in Feminism: The Essential Historical Writings, p. 125.
13. History of Woman Suffrage, Volume 1, p. 527.
14. Susan B. Anthony quoted in Feminism: The Essential Historical Writings, p. 135.
15. "Solitude of Self" by Elizabeth Cady Stanton quoted in Feminism: The Essential Historical Writings, p. 158-159.
16. "Enfranchisement of Women" by Harriet Taylor Mill in Essays on Sexuality, p. 107.
17. The Subjection of Women by John Stuart Mill in Essays on Sexuality, p. 125.
18. Ibid., p. 175.
19. Ibid., p. 236.
20. Quoted in The Suffragette Movement by Sylvia Pankhurst, p. 451.
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