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Mount Ayr, Iowa, 1915

Suffragette Parade and Demostration, Mount Ayr, Iowa, 1915

The woman's suffrage movement arose out of the contention that women should have the right to vote and to run for office. The scope of this movement was aimed at extending these rights to women and without any restrictions or qualifications such as property ownership, payment of tax, or marital status.

There was also a diversity of views on what was a 'woman's place'. Some who campaigned for women's suffrage felt that women were naturally kinder, gentler, and more concerned about weaker members of society, especially children. It was often assumed that women voters would have a civilizing effect on politics and would tend to support controls on alcohol, for example. They believed that although a woman's place was in the home, she should be able to influence laws which impacted upon that home. Other campaigners felt that men and women should be equal in every way and that there was no such thing as a woman's 'natural role'. Some campaigners felt that all adults were entitled to a vote, whether rich or poor, male or female, and regardless of race. Others saw women's suffrage as a way of canceling out the votes of lower class or non-white men.

During the beginning of the twentieth century, as women's suffrage gained in popularity, suffragists were subject to arrests and many were jailed.

The National Women's Party was founded by Alice PAUL and Lucy BURNS as an auxiliary of the National American Woman Suffrage Association for the exclusive purpose of securing passage of a federal amendment. Alice PAUL organized a parade of 8,000 suffragists who marched in Washington, D.C. on President Woodrow WILSON'S inauguration day, March 3, 1913. The suffragettes were mobbed by an abusive crowd along the way.

In 1919, Iowa secured presidential suffrage by legislative enactment after defeat of a constitutional amendment in 1916. Finally, despite opposition from President Woodrow WILSON, Congress passed what became, when it was ratified in 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment which prohibited state and federal agencies from gender-based restrictions on voting.

Carrie CHAPMAN CATT summarized the effort involved in securing passage of the 19th Amendment:

"To get the word 'male' in effect out of the Constitution cost the women of the country fifty-two years of pauseless campaign... During that time they were forced to conduct fifty-six campaigns of referenda to male voters; 480 campaigns to get Legislatures to submit suffrage amendments to voters; 47 campaigns to get State constitutional conventions to write woman suffrage into state constitutions; 277 campaigns to get State party conventions to include woman suffrage planks in party platforms, and 19 campaigns with 19 successive Congresses."

SOURCES: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women's_suffrage; National Women's History Project

Submission by Sharon R. Becker, October of 2010


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