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13.2 - Women’s Voting Rights
The Nineteenth Amendment is the Amendment that established uniform voting rights for women nationwide. It was ratified on August 18, 1920.
Women, despite popular opinion, did vote in elections prior to the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. In 1869, women in the newly created territory of Wyoming became the first women in the United States to win the right to vote. Colorado gave voting rights to women in 1892, and both Utah and Idaho gave women the right to vote in 1896.
The Constitution gives the States the right to determine its own rules for elections. The women's suffrage movement worked to bring about an amendment that would give women voting rights nationwide. The amendment was first proposed in 1878, and it took forty-one years before it was submitted to the States for ratification. It took about a year to receive enough votes for ratification.
Susan B. Anthony, already known for her crusade for the abolition of slavery, and the prohibition of alcohol, added women’s suffrage to her plate. By 1878 she was able to induce a Senator from California to introduce a resolution in Congress calling for an amendment to the Constitution which would give women throughout the United States the right to vote.
The drive for an amendment that would grant uniform voting rights for women was nothing new. Aaron Burr, the Vice President during Thomas Jefferson’s presidency, was a fervent believer in women’s rights, and took personal charge of his daughter's course of study, insisting she learn Greek, Latin, and French, along with literature, philosophy and sciences. His proposals for the uniform voting rights for women, however, never gained traction.
John Adams also supported expanding women’s freedoms. As a great admirer of his wife, Abigail, he often went to her for advise. In 1776, as the founders put into full gear their drive for American Independence, Abigail offered in a letter, “I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, 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. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”
A challenge to the Nineteenth Amendment (Leser v. Garnett, 1922) claimed that the amendment was unconstitutionally adopted, and that the rules for elections were implicitly delegated to the individual states because of the need to preserve state sovereignty. However, the very fact that the change in voting rules was through amendment made the argument against the Nineteenth Amendment a moot point.
After the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, with this new power, women were able to attempt to elect those who shared their beliefs, hoping that other measures that would push forward the fight for women's rights would also emerge.
After the Nineteenth Amendment passed, the percentage of women in the workforce increased to about 25 percent. Though some discrimination continued, and women rarely held decision-making positions, it was definitely a step in the right direction for the purpose of encouraging the rights of women.
During World War II, women were needed in all areas since many of the men went overseas to fight. The percentage of women in the workforce increased to 36 percent. The boom for women was short-lived, however. When the war ended, and the soldiers returned home, 2 million women were fired within 15 months after the end of the war to make room for the men.
Despite such setbacks, by the 1980s, the percentage of women in the workforce exceeded 50 percent. However, the percentage of women voting has not equaled the original push shortly after the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment.
Advocates for family values, though supportive of equal opportunity, often view these advancements as promotion for the break-up of the family unit.
The greatest right for women is choice, which includes the choice not to pursue the numerous opportunities available for the purpose of following a more traditional role, should they desire to make such a choice. Women in today’s society have the choice to pursue a career, be a stay-at-home mom and wife, or attempt to juggle both. For the purpose of protecting the family unit, wife and mother remains the more popular choice.
-- Political Pistachio Conservative News and Commentary