woman suffrage

United States
December 3, 2006 7:18pm CST
Mrs. Julia Ward Howe wrote to Mrs. Humpry Ward, “In America most woman are still indifferent on the question of suffrage.” Julia Ward Howe was a significant believer in the woman’s movement but was upset at the four percent woman voter turnout in Massachusetts. The question the Remonstrance of 1909 asks “First, ought the wishes of the four per cent of American women who want the ballot, or those of the ninety-six per cent who are either opposed or indifferent to it, to control the decision?” However by 1917, according to the Blue Book, the woman suffrage groups usually outnumber the remonstrants by “50 or 100 to one.” Plus, when the government took a poll in Massachusetts on the subject of women voting 22, 204 voted for the woman’s right to vote and only a mere 861 voted against women voting. Maybe the remonstrants were correct when they said “To the large majority it (voting) would come as an undesired burden” or possibly it was just anti-voting propaganda. This raises another question if 22, 204 women who voted yes was the four percent of women who voted is that a substantial amount of women? Both used statistics for their own greater good to easily confuse the reader which is a tactic commonly used today as well as throughout history. Perhaps, the remonstrants were accurate when they stated that “… men voters (are) quite as much indifference to the ballot as is consistent with the public good without adding an enormous number of women voters who, on the testimony of the suffrage leaders themselves, are indifferent to it?” The remonstrants doubted the movement’s intelligence and basically portrayed woman as being apathetic to political matters. Blackwell, an important figure in the suffrage movement, replied by saying that women were not ignorant and that statistics from the National Bureau of Education stated that girls were graduating twice or three times faster then boys. This would mean that there would be an increase in voters who received a high school education. Another argument the remonstrants produced was that women were already busy with everyday activities and that they should not “overburden” themselves with political duties. In which Alice Palmer retorted that “it cannot be shown that there are any large number of women in this country who have not the necessary time to vote intelligently, and it can be argued that study of the vital questions of our government would make them better comrades to their husbands and friends, better guides to their sons, and more interesting and valuable members of society.” After all, women supposedly had more leisure time, schooling and less routine in their life which would all add up to make them great voting candidates. The remonstrants’ “undesirable burden” theory may have been correct if every average woman had the means to vote but only a few actually decided to exercise the right. Another theory that surfaced (and, to some extent, still surfaces today) is that women are too emotional and sentimental to be trusted to use a ballot or vote. This made quite a few women angry and E.T. Brown replied that men are just as emotional then women but they are forced to hide it behind “protesting blushes” because of their gender roles and status in society. She continued to list political and societal occurrences such as the army protecting Cuba, sending money to starving India and other highly charged political orders that blatantly involved emotions. “Government would be a poor affair without sentiment, and is not likely to be damaged by a slightly increased supply…..” for without sentiment we do not feel honor or loyalty and we betray our country, according to Brown. Yet, people still like to think of women as hysterical beings incapable of “dealing with the problems of the government” and are too “visionary.” The most absurd arguments was that allowing women to vote would turn them into men and make them “grow beards” or that the “bad” women would outvote the good women. However, many people seemed to realize that the so-called bad women were very few in number and that their votes would have “very little influence.” Ex-Governor Warren stated that “the majority of women are good and not bad, the result is good and not evil…” As for women turning into men or becoming more masculine because of voter equality. “The women of England, Scotland, Canada, Yucatan, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, the Scandinavian countries and our own equal suffrage States are not perceptibly different in looks or manners from women elsewhere, although they have been voting for years,” stated the pro-suffrage movement. Besides, your gender is clearly biological and is not changed in this culture by what kind of political powers you are given. The pro-suffrage movement highlights that everyone is different and just because men are all equal before the law they are all different of “character and temperament.” Essentially, what is thought of as a given right and taken for granted today, was a battle that was fought for nearly fifty years. The advocates of the woman’s movement had to jump over many obstacles, numerous obstacles being women themselves. Not surprisingly, many women still felt like they had to complete the gender roles society had molded for them and that taking on a masculine position would only lead to disaster or was “improper.” Women who voiced out against the Suffrage movement was also just as memorable because it showed that even though they were against women in politics they were entangling themselves in politics just by speaking out against it. However, strong women like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton founded the Natural Woman’s Suffrage Association and worked towards gender equality. Women that took part of associations and worked hard for equality, despite the social stigmas, paved way for women today.
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