Skip to content

The 19th Amendment 100 Years Later…The Work Continues For Voting Rights

August 18, 2020

IMG_2140

News shows and newspapers are making a play today for attention surrounding the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment which secured voting rights for women.  Make no mistake the passage of that amendment is mighty historic and vitally important.

But like so much of how history is taught, as Paul Harvey might say, there needs to be ‘the rest of the story’.  The quick version taught in high schools is that women worked long and hard to attain the most precious right one can have and use in a democracy.  But the quick story is not the whole story.  As a history buff, I am often dismayed at the lack of depth and insight taught about our past, and therefore a large segment of the nation has no understanding of the larger circumstances of the country.  Simply put, the 19th Amendment was but a start.

States could use poll taxes and other voter suppression tactics — already used across the country to deny voting rights to Black men — to keep Black women from voting. They could, and did, use those same tactics against Latina women. Indigenous women and many Asian American women lacked citizenship in 1920, meaning they couldn’t vote in the first place. All in all, the 19th Amendment was essentially for one group of women and one group only: white women.

That was by design. White suffragists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton may have championed equality for women, but in practice, they often meant women like themselves. And in the drive to get states to ratify the 19th Amendment, white advocates wanted the support of Southern white women — and their husbands and fathers — and were willing to sacrifice Black Americans’ voting rights in order to get it. They were also willing to set aside the rights of Native American and Asian American women, even though they sometimes invited these women to appear at events as a way to build interest in their movement.

I am thoroughly enjoying reading These Truths by Jill Lepore (presently at the end of WWII) as it is a book where the totality of history is allowed to be dived into, and it is not always, as so many others books attest, the sugary narrative taught in public schools.  The women’s movement was not always the best higher light.

CNN made the point in their reporting this week.

While Frederick Douglass, a noted Black abolitionist, orator and writer attended, Black women weren’t present at Seneca Falls — but their voices and perspectives on women’s rights, which for them necessarily included the abolition of slavery, are part of the long history of suffrage activism as well. Both interracial cooperation as well as tensions stemming from anti-Black racism and anti-immigrant sentiments existed in the woman suffrage movement from its inception. The tensions between White suffragists and suffragists of color, primarily African American women, intensified post-Emancipation and after the passage, ratification and adoption of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibited the federal government and each state from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen’s “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

The work for voting rights is not over–in fact–on this 100th anniversary, the argument can be made the fight is being engaged by more people than ever before as Donald Trump and some of his Republican base seek to thwart the right and freedom to cast a ballot.  Then there is the irony and attempt to attach himself to the women’s movement which is so smarmy that it reeks.

Trump said he would pardon Susan B. Anthony, who fought for a woman’s right to vote.  , on the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

“She was never pardoned … and you know that she got a pardon for a lot of other women, and she didn’t put her name on the list, so she was never pardoned,” Mr. Trump said during a White House event commemorating the 19th Amendment.  “She was guilty for voting.”

This is a classic example of what this post has commented upon.  The simplicity of knowing just the surface of history can not be the only knowledge we have about our past.

Below is the flip side of the poster which wrapped my New York Times this morning.

IMG_2138

 

 

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: