19th Amendment

The 19th amendment turns 90
despite the haters
Women won the right to vote in 1920. No thanks to President
Taft or thousands of self-hating ladies
Today we herald the 90th anniversary of our right to vote, ladies, and with
that comes a modicum of responsibility. With great power, yadda yadda
American women tend to take a great deal for granted: We can work, own
land, drive our own cars (alone), walk the streets with our arms and legs on
display and get pregnant without relying on the presence of a penis (sorry,
Bill O'Reilly). All of these inalienable rights have set us apart from presentday women in hundreds of countries. We can cheat on our spouses without
being stoned to death. We can lie, cheat, steal and maim our way to the top
of the corporate ladder. Just like boys!
So, a history lesson:
Given the rampant misogyny the suffrage movement was facing, from men
and self-hating female anti-suffragists alike, their work cannot be
undervalued. President William Howard Taft opposed the idea of women
voting because of our tendency to go crazy: "It is fair to say the immediate
enfranchisement of women will increase the proportion of the hysterical
element of the electorate." I'll show him hysterical.
The suffrage and civil rights movements are inexorably linked, too. When
the original Susan B. Anthony amendment was being debated in the Senate
in September 1918, Sen. John Sharp Williams of Mississippi tried to block
a vote by stipulating that suffrage be limited to white women only, which
was supported by Sen. Thomas Hardwick of Georgia: "With all due
deference to the men of the North, I say you do not quite understand what
it means when you vote to give the franchise to the Negro."
Ironically enough, when Hardwick went on to be governor of Georgia, he
appointed the first female to serve in the Senate (if only for one day),
Rebecca Latimer Felton. Just to show you how backwards politics used to
be (or has become), Hardwick was a Democrat. A senator from the nowtypically blue state of Connecticut was staunchly against women voting,
Mara Mayor wrote a book called "Fears and Fantasies of the AntiSuffragists" in 1974 that included examples of anti-equality hype that are
real doozies:
"Allowing women to vote would lead to foreign aggression and war." Like
WWII? Vietnam? Tupac vs. Biggie?
"Their [women's] delicate emotional equilibrium could easily be upset by a
strain -- like voting."
"Woman suffrage would produce a nation of transvestites."
That last one could technically be called true, since we wear pants, not
hoop skirts, but fob watches have yet to catch on.
Leftist women couldn't be counted on to support their sisters' cause, either.
The anarchist intellectual Emma Goldman thought the fight for suffrage
was beside the point -- women should fight for revolution instead of trying
to gain ground in an already screwed-up system. "Woman does not
see…that suffrage is an evil, that it has only helped to enslave people, that it
has but closed their eyes that they may not see how craftily they were made
to submit."
The fight was won, no matter how many men and women thought they were trying to
protect the home and hearth and spirit of womanhood by keeping us out of the political
process. We need to remember, today of all days, how lucky we are that we get to
complain and raise hell and actively participate in our democracy, even if our
democracy serves up despicable choices sometimes