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Motherly Law: Remember those women who blazed the trail

It took 72 years for women to achieve the right to vote….72 years. Absurd!

I have taken a lot for granted in my life. I, as a woman born in the mid-seventies and coming of age in the mid-nineties have cruised through life not concerned about being able to attend the university of my choosing; whether I would be able to get the education I desired and the licensure necessary for the career path I picked; whether I could find a job as an attorney or if I would be able to vote for who I wanted to in local, state and national elections based on the F marked in a box on a form.

I may have had a few hitches in my plans or hit a few bumps in the road, but I have never fought against such a determined regime, met with such high obstacles or stopped to consider how I came to have all these rights, accessibilities and liberties; rights my great-grandmothers did not fully enjoy; a few rights not even my grandmothers fully enjoyed.

Women’s Rights

In 1920, the 19th Amendment was passed, providing: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” While the fact that this Amendment was passed at all is remarkable in itself, but it’s the time and energy and passion of the women who succeeded in getting it passed that is the most extraordinary part of the story.

It took 72 years for women to achieve the right to vote….72 years. Absurd! The Equal Rights Amendment which women fought hard for from 1923 to 1982 is still awaiting ratification by 3 more states after passing both the House and the Senate back in 1982. The U.S. has yet to elect a female President or Vice President unlike many countries of our world. And as of May 2010, only 15 of the Fortune 500 CEOs were women.

The Long Journey

In honor of Mother’s Day and Mothers and Daughters and Sons everywhere I thought I would spend this week discussing women’s rights in the U.S. and the laws that have passed thus far. Today, my focus is on women’s suffrage and the journey of getting the 19th Amendment enacted. These many women fought that we might have the freedom to vote and be equal to our husbands, brothers, fathers, and sons. Here are a few points to ponder and share with your kiddos:

* Suffrage is defined as the right of voting. The women who waged this battle were often referred to as Suffragists.
* Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott organized the first Woman’s Right Convention in Seneca Falls, NY in 1848. There were 300 women and men in attendance at this 2 day meeting where they sought to gain support for women’s rights and bring awareness to these injustices.
* At the first Woman’s Right Convention “Attendees resolved to ‘secure for [woman] political, legal and social equality with man,’ giving her the opportunity to freely choose her sphere.” Source:
* Women’s right activists held national conventions every year until the Civil War began, but resumed again in 1868.

* In 1878, the amendment was introduced to Congress for the 1st time.
* The Suffragists were taunted, jailed and beaten. These women pursued various strategies to gain support and awareness: hunger strikes, passing state laws giving women state voting rights, parades, challenging male-only laws, silent vigils.

* In 1872, Susan B. Anthony, citing her citizenship under the 14th Amendment, cast a ballot in the presidential election in NY. She was arrested, tried, convicted and fined $100. Anthony refused to pay this fine. The Supreme Court later found that women may be citizens, but not all citizens are voters and states do not have to allow women to vote.

* Both Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton died before ever casting a legal ballot though they spent their lives fighting for this right. In fact, most of these trailblazers died before ever getting the chance vote alongside their male counterparts.

* Stanton was not supported in this endeavor by her husband or father and as her family continued to grow, her fight was often behind the scenes through writings published under a pseudonym.

* The fate of the 19th Amendment was decided by a single vote, that of 24-year-old legislator in TN, Harry Burn, who switched from “no” to “yes” in response to a letter from his mother saying, “Hurrah, and vote for suffrage!” source:

The Scoop

I can only imagine the jubilation with which the women voted following the passage of the 19th Amendment. Although a law does not change the views of all people, as is still apparent in our society. Over time, it has become the norm & {legal} for women to vote, hold office, gain an education, run a business, own property, etc. Society mellows and accepts “new fangled ideas” of each generation. And yet, women still have mountains to climb in the U.S. to reach the peak of true equality.

What would I have done if faced with these restrictions? Would I rise up and revolt as these strong and determined women did? I certainly hope I would have been brave enough to fight that battle. And I hope that I will be brave when faced with similar injustices in my lifetime. Your thoughts? Over and out…

This post was written by Anna Berend and originally published on Motherly Law.