Research Paper: Woman suffrage
In most modern governments, such as the United States of America, give the right to vote to almost every responsible adult citizen. There were limiters on the right to vote when the US Constitution was written, and the individual states were allowed to setup their own rules governing who was allowed to vote. Women were denied the right to vote until the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution which was passed in 1920. In order to understand how women struggled to obtain the right to vote, some key factors must be looked at in further detail; why suffrage rights were not defined in the Constitution, the efforts that women put forth to obtain the right to vote, why there are present-day restrictions on voting, and the implications of Suffrage in current political policy.
There were several key reasons why women were not given the right to vote when our founding fathers wrote the Constitution. The emphasis at the time was based on property not the pursuit of happiness, the wording was not meant for citizens but for persons, there was a strong link between those who armed themselves to fight for the United States should be the ones allowed to vote, and during this time period it was felt that politics should be reserved for men. A strong cultural belief such as this does not change easily; it would certainly take at least a generation to pass before the next generation would start looking at things in a new light. Also, during this time period everything was dominated by men. Men ran the households, and then ran the church, they handled the business and government and women were expecting to take care of the household and raise children. It would be many years before any type of consideration towards woman suffrage would even be taken seriously. The very first version of the Constitution in 1791 did have a different ring to it than the version that we see today. The trademark line was really ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of property.’ (Amar, 1998, p. 283). The focus was not on citizens, but on ‘persons’ with their ability to obtain property. (Amar, 1998, p. 173) This does not have the same type of independent strong spirited ring that the wording has today, but back then it was considered very important to own property. Many states had laws that only those that were property owners could take part in the voting process or even hold political office. When the constitution was founding, people believed that the right to vote was linked with the right to bear arms in the military. They felt that if you fought for the United States, such as with the British Revolution or the Civil War, that you should be given the representation that you earned. (Amar, 1998, p. 258) People that were not willing to make such a sacrifice would not be considered worthy to have an equal voice in political matters during this time period. It would be considered unreasonable to place women on the front lines of combat, therefore in theory it would seem unreasonable to give women the right to vote and be represented. One of the main reasons that women were not allowed to vote initially, was the fact that politics was felt even in the 1800’s to be a “masculine space reserved for Anglo-Saxon men.” (Sneider, 2008) As with anything, it seems to take a generation, or several in this case, for these types of feelings to finally drift away and allow for a generation that is less biased based on gender.
Women put forth an expansive amount of effort to obtain the right to vote during the Reconstruction period. In order for women to actually be granted to the right to vote, there are some issues that had to be addressed. The definition of citizenship needed to be defined, how foreign governments aided the suffrage movement, the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, and the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment. The woman suffrage movement came about during the Reconstruction period in the United States....
References: DuBois, E. & Dumenil, L. (2009). Through Women 's Eyes: An American History with Documents (2nd Edition). Bedford / St. Martin 's. Boston / New York.
Sneider, Allison L. (2008) Suffragists in an Imperial Age: U.S. Expansion and the Woman Question. New York Oxford University Press Premium.
This author worked the link very well between how the expansion of the United States after the Civil War and into the Reconstruction period created a forum that women could argue their suffragist points. Without the expansion and a need to actually redefine a citizen, it would have been difficult for women to have this kind of forum or opportunity to express their points and to eventually create a change.
DuBois, Ellen Carol (1998). Woman Suffrage and Women’s Rights. New York New York University Press.
This author worked very hard to prove a link between the history of the suffrage movement and the political implications at the time. It begins during the founding days of the United States and covered issues ranging from the right to claim husband’s property, the suffrage movement and modern day feminism and how women can deal with the social impacts of the ‘nuclear family.’
Carroll, Susan J (2006) Gender and Elections: Shaping the Future of American Politics. Cambridge, New York Cambridge University Press.
This book went over some major reasons why the woman suffragist movement did not create any type of reformation at the polls after the Nineteenth Amendment was passed. It shows how it almost took 80 years for the gender gap to actually occur. Reasons for why there is a gender gap in current politics are reviewed and covered.
Kornbluh, Mark Lawrence (2000). Why America Stopped Voting. New York New York University Press. This book used many graphical charts and statistical data to basically prove many points, but one of the most vivid facts is that suffrage did not cause the decline in voter participation. If anything, it is more based on demographics and how people have begun to become disinterested in the electoral process over time – by feeling that one person alone is unable to change anything.
Amar, Akhil Reed. (1998). The Bill of Rights: Creation and Reconstruction. New York New Haven Yale University Press
This author focused on the ideals at the time of the creation of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and how societal changes forced lawmakers to pass Amendments in order to change with the times. It also touched a little on how expansion of the United States helped to cause this legal change.
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