Not long after the birth of our nation, women lost the right to vote!
We, women, lost the right to vote?
We had that right to lose?
“Finish the Fight,” an article in The New Yorker, Aug. 8 & 15 edition, reported that, “New York’s voting laws… ...originally included mention of ‘he or she’ and ‘his or her ballot, but in 1777, the state struck the female pronouns, disenfranchising’ its women.”
Following New York’s lead, Massachusette did the same in 1780, and New Hampshire followed in 1784.
The remaining states, in compliance with the U.S. Constitution’s requirement to formulate their own election laws, eliminated women’s right to vote, with the exception of New Jersey. New Jersey waited until 1807 to snatch the right to vote from women.
One wonders why women, in the late 1700s and early 1800s, tolerated the silencing of their political voices.
Apparently, many women were either unaware of their right to vote, or did not care, or, actually, felt that women should not be bothered with seedy political issues.
Also, startling is the fact that, during the period when U.S. women were surrendering the right to vote, some Native American women were exercising not only their right to vote, but also providing substantial guidance on how the ruling councils should function.
“Long before the women’s suffrage movement in the U.S., Haudenosaunee women enjoyed a life of equality and power in their communities. The Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) is a matriarchal society in which a child’s clan is passed down through the mother. When a woman married, it was the man who moved into the woman’s lodging with her family.” — Indian Country Today website.
(The Haudenosaunee is actually a confederacy of six tribes and the members reside in northern New York up through southern Canada.)
(Somehow I missed this bit of American history — about the Haudenosaunee women. Obviously, there are significant gaps in my knowledge of history.)
Throughout most of the 1800s into the early 1900s, suffragettes marched and protested as they pushed the women’s right movement forward.
Early leaders Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, who organized the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, drew inspiration from the Haudenosaunee women’s example.
“Stanton and Mott, along with Susan B. Anthony and other activists, raised public awareness and lobbied the government to grant voting rights to women.” — History.com.
Finally, in 1890, Wyoming became the first state to ensure women’s right to vote. Other states followed, but it took a Constitutional amendment to secure women’s voting rights.
It wasn’t until Aug. 18, 1920, that enough states ratified the 19th Amendment, to grant American women the right to vote.
In the past, when I reviewed our voting rights history, I took it for granted that women were destined to attain the right to vote. How naive of me! Actually, it is somewhat alarming that women once lost the right to vote.
As The New Yorker article asserted, “The idea that women were always going to get the right to vote in the United States ignores the reality that they only got the right in Switzerland in 1971 and in Saudi Arabia in 2015.”
The article warned that “...the feeling of inevitability also conveys a sense of irreversibility as if history always advances, and never stalls, or regresses.”
We must not assume that our nation will always make progress in the future. We cannot be certain that our country will avoid regression. For example, it would appear that we should soon — within the next decade — elect a woman president. That, from my perspective is progress, but obviously progress can stall or even be reversed.
And, just because we have a democratic-republic does not mean we are destined to keep it.
We should never lose sight of how indispensable our right to vote is. We should treasure that right and we should make certain that all of our citizens have, not only the right to vote, but also an opportunity that is convenient.
Next year, this time, will mark 100 years since women’s right to vote was secured.
This is an appropriate moment to review our election system and to ensure that all of our citizens can easily access the polls and vote.
We — all of us — must guard our right to vote. It is, after all, one of our major controls over our employees — including those at the federal, state and local levels.
Regarding our right to vote, we must all remain vigilant.