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Women’s Suffrage began as a movement with the goal to grant women the right to vote. It galvanized the masses to explore and redefine what it means to be a woman and a citizen of the United States. This post is going to discuss the key strategies used by the Suffragist to get the franchise to vote. How did a bunch of women get a male-dominated US government to pass a law in their favor, without the ability to vote?

 

The Beginning

Women’s suffrage was part of a broader women’s rights movement that swept across the country in the early 1800s. Supporters of women’s rights were also Abolitionist (Anti-Slavery) and Prohibitionist of Alcoholic Beverages. In 1848, a group of activists declared that the right of women to vote is an inalienable, God-given right. They stated that women’s inability to take part in their own government places an undue burden on their life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Challenges and The Turning Point

The Suffragist movement lived through two major wars that changed America. The Civil war started in 1861 and ended with the ratification of the 15th amendment in 1870. The amendment granted African American men the right to vote. However, the ratification of the 15th amendment divided the Suffragist movement. The divide was among the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) and the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA). The NWSA felt that women’s right to vote should have been part of the 15th amendment while the AWSA argued that the ability of the black man to vote should be first and unhindered. The movement lost its focus under two groups with different ideas on how to obtain the suffrage. World War I marked the beginning of an era where the responsibility of roles undertaken by men, fell to women. Women have helped in many war efforts, but their involvement in World War I was unique. The war incited an unprecedented spirit of volunteerism among America’s working class AND upper-class women. Another significant change is that women wore uniforms for the first time.

 Women’s Suffrage: The Winning Plan

In 1920, well over fifty years of the fight for the suffrage, the 19th Amendment was ratified. The amendment to the constitution made it illegal for any Unites States citizen, regardless of gender, to be denied the right to vote.  How did the Suffragist make this happen?

  1. 1. A nonpartisan organization. The movement was more efficient as one organization. The NWSA and AWSA merged into one.
  2. 2. Refined their message to gain broader appeal. The message changed from “all men and women are created equal” to “all men and women are created differently.”  The Suffragist later argued that it is precisely because of this difference that women should be able to vote.
  3. 3. National Political Party support. Theodore Roosevelt’s party were in full support of the movement.
  4. 4. Executive Branch support. President Woodrow Wilson, reluctantly converted, eventually supported the cause.
  5. 5. Increased Public Awareness. Mass marches and rallies were among the more “confrontational style” employed by Alice Paul, a young suffragist. Her style rallied the support of the younger generation for the movement. Systematic state by state referendum also played a crucial role in ratifying the 19th Amendment.

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