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Women’s Suffrage Movement

The moment woman first entered the United States, they were considered submissive individuals and were primarily responsible for looking after domestic affairs. Years passed by and in 1848, women finally felt the need to speak their minds. A group of women, led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, gathered in Seneca Falls, New York to discuss women’s rights. The common consensus from this meeting was that women are independent individuals who deserve a say in the political atmosphere and this view was expressed in the Declaration of Sentiments. However, as they began the Woman’s Suffrage Movement, women experienced further distress from policy (14th and 15th Amendment). The 14th Amendment protected all “citizens” (defined as male) and the 15th Amendment granted black men the right to vote. Since the government continued to enfranchise men only, various organizations were created to lobby for local, state and national voting rights. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony established the National Woman Suffrage Association, Lucy Stone, Henry Blackwell, and Julia Ward Howe established the American Woman Suffrage Association (eventually both organizations unified to form National American Woman Suffrage Association) and Lucy Burns and Alice Paul formed the Congressional Committee of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) (http://www.history.com/topics/womens-history/the-fight-for-womens-suffrage).

As forms of protest, women employed public demonstrations, refused bail after arrest, published newspapers, marched in parades and picketed regularly in front of the White House. Essentially, women were forced to engage in such “unladylike” activities because the typical forms of protest such as organizing groups and rallying at conventions did not bring attention to their cause (https://www.loc.gov/collections/static/women-of-protest/images/tactics.pdf).

In May of 1919, Congress voted in favor of the women’s suffrage amendment and the proposal was then sent to the states for approval, where a decision was finally made in August of 1920.  The 19th Amendment was met with disapproval from the southern states and was one vote shy of being passed when Tennessee finally decided to support it. Women now officially had the right to vote (https://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=false&doc=63). This victory motivated women to acquire “liberty” in areas they were previously prohibited from making significant contributions in. Over the course of their struggle, women formed multiple organizations and developed meaningful ways to bring women more recognizable in the public sphere.

Ultimately, I think the Women’s Suffrage Movement was effective because it managed to reverse the long-held belief that women were not significant beyond the confines of their homes. The movement showed everyone that they too had the potential to be independent and the capability to accomplish anything they set their minds to. Although the movement was indirectly a step towards gender equality, which continues to be problematic today, it sparked a conversation with the rest of society that would reveal significant insight over the decades that followed.

In my opinion, social movements and collective resistance are important because they have shaped our society today. Instead of trying to ignore critical issues that impact us as a whole people have spoken out to achieve change. If everything was taken at face value and left unquestioned, then we wouldn’t be fulfilling our responsibility as humans in this world to create a better environment for ourselves and those around us. As single entities, we often feel that we can’t make an impact because the opinion of a single individual doesn’t really matter. However, social movements and collective resistance enable individuals to see the power they can have and instill a sense of confidence in them to reverse this mindset.

For Further Reading

http://www.historynet.com/womens-suffrage-movement

http://history.house.gov/Exhibitions-and-Publications/WIC/Historical-Essays/No-Lady/Womens-Rights/

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