A tribute in honor of the 90th anniversary of U.S. women winning the right to vote.
Abigail Addams wrote her husband, John, in March 1776 as he toiled to begin the revolution against British rule.
I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favorable
to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands
of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could.
The Founding Fathers did not include women in their Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation or the Constitution. Women would request, plead and plot to gain civil rights in America. The path to voting and social equality came with arguments and education that convinced men to support and ultimately vote for women's rights at the poll and in court.
The women at the Seneca Falls Convention in July 1848 came together to put forward rights of women to be treated equal to men in the Declaration of Sentiments. After three days of discussion they declared that "All people are created equal". The final document was signed by 68 women and 32 men.
Sojourner Truth, a former slave, addressed the Women's Convention in 1851 with a moving extemporaneous speech, "Ain't I a Woman?" She moved the gathering with her story of her double burden of being a woman and slave. Her speech is shaming of the prejudices of all who would deny rights to people because of gender and race.
The women's suffrage movement mobilized women and convinced men that the right to vote was due all people. We often refer to women getting the right to vote as if it was granted by the states and the nation. It was not gifted to women; men voted in local and state elections to enfranchise women. The men of Wyoming were the first to vote to include women in territorial elections as voters. The men of Montana in 1914 granted the vote to the women of their state and two years later the men and women of the state elected Jeanette Rankin, the first women elected to the House of Representatives.
The 19th Amendment passed in 1920 by overwhelmingly male Congress became the law of the land. Women had the right to vote in all elections.
As we celebrate Women's History Month let us, to paraphrase Abigail Addams, remember not only the ladies but also the men. It was by changing attitudes and laws that women have seen men vote for suffrage, and in recent years, men sitting as judges have ruled to extend equality to all. Educate for justice and pursue the right for all has been the women's movement.
Thank you to Sharon Neet, D.A., professor of history at the U of M, Crookston, for writing this tribute to commemorate the 90th anniversary of U.S. women winning the right to vote. March is Women's History Month.