Enactment of the 19th Amendment XIX Essay

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Amendment XIX


Enactment of Amendment XIX and its contribution to the achievement of equal female rights



The enactment of the 19th amendment empowered women on many fronts. They were allowed to vote and consequently seized the opportunity to influence political decisions. The enactment saw the legalization of contraception and even abortion. There was economic empowerment too in the process. The more common availability of reproductive services and education doors increasingly opening up, more women enrolled in education institutions sought higher education. These developments also ushered in an era in which women began to occupy sensitive professional positions in the society. The amendment aimed at giving hope to all women. African-American women sought to link suffrage to race and gender across the country; so as to make sure that the benefits were not just paper-based policies, but practical processes for actual empowerment. Indeed, the African-American women believed that taking part in the political process (voting) was the best way to empower her, and was a functional mechanism to protect her rights as a citizen and to bolster societal equality.[footnoteRef:1] As feared by the Africa-American women, the amendment was a paper policy that did not transform the social, economic and political standing of the African-American woman in ways that she had hoped. However, she did not give up. It granted the suffrage only in name. The 50th anniversary of the March on Washington is an occasion to honor the contribution of the women in promoting the rights of women and equality in society. Their fight bore fruit after the enactment of voting rights in 1965. After the passing of the 19th Amendment in 1920, the movement formed by women evolved into a new organization. NAWSA was quickly converted into the League of women by Carrie Chapman Catt earlier. NAWSA evolved into the League of Women Voters after the Amendment in 1920. The organization sought to make the vote of women effective within the existing traditional political systems. Alice Paul had formed the National Women's Party. They worked separately to seek a different strategy by their introduction of Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The campaign was aimed at illegalizing any discrimination on the basis of sex. It is through such efforts that the spirited fight to grant women equal social, political and economic rights would be sustained[footnoteRef:2]. The southern black women only had a chance to participate in the political and economic process as equals in the 1960s. The passing of the 19th Amendment was nevertheless a great milestone that stirred the sensitivities of political custodians to respond to the call for the recognition of the rights of women in America. [1: Sara Hunter Graham, Woman suffrage and the new democracy (New Haven [Conn.]: Yale University Press, 1996). 1-256] [2: "Appeal for a Sixteenth Amendment" from the National Woman Suffrage Association; 11/10/1876; Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, Record Group 233. Accessed February 21, 2017. https://catalog.archives.gov/id/306647]



The 19th Amendment was the one legal instrument that assisted millions of women across the American landscape to achieve equal rights, albeit in varied measures. The women called for equal job opportunities, education, fair wages, birth control and sex education. Following the enfranchisement of the women, a lot of candidates seeking political seats paid attention to women if only to have a better shot at the political competition. Women seized the opportunity to advocate for laws that would address their age-old concerns. The advocated for favorable laws including divorce and inheritance laws that would give them more security. Women proceeded to vote; not just to improve governance but to add value to their individual lives.



The Amendment helped women to vote into office policy makers that were progressive. These policy makers helped to enact policies that benefited women. The policies that were enacted between 1920 and 1965 improved both the reproductive and economic conditions of women across the USA. The flip side of the developments is that women also took advantage of the developments. For instance, birth control services were made cheaper for more women to access with ease. The entry of women into lucrative careers after attending higher education also meant that they were more empowered economically.
Available research shows that there is a direct link between delayed child bearing and women attending higher education. The reports also show that higher education for women is linked to longer employment seasons and subsequent higher retirement benefits[footnoteRef:3]. [3: Steven M. Buechler, Women's movements in the United States: woman suffrage, equal rights, and beyond (New Brunswick and London: Rutgers University Press, 1990), 1-258]



Is it possible the suffrage movement's progress decelerated as they believed they had finally triumphed?



Women's empowerment at national level did not see the light of day until 1848. In the seventh month of the same year, reformists Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton arranged for the first ever women's rights convention held at Seneca Falls in New York. Over 300 men and women attended the convention. Some luminaries in the activist movement that attended the convention include Frederick Douglas (1818-95)[footnoteRef:4]. The delegates at Seneca Falls agreed on a raft of issues including that the American women had a right to be autonomous and that they had their political identities. Stanton led a group that made a declaration of sentiments in a document name as such. It was designed in a similar fashion to the Declaration of Independence. It mentioned that men and women were created equal, that they had specific inalienable rights, and that life liberty and pursuit of happiness were among them[footnoteRef:5]. In short, the delegates were saying that women should be granted the right to vote. [4: Eileen L. McDonagh, and H. Douglas Price. "Woman suffrage in the Progressive Era: Patterns of opposition and support in referenda voting, 1910-1918." American Political Science Review 79, no. 02 (1985): 415-435.] [5: Ibid]



After the Seneca Convention, the subject of women's right to vote was widely mocked in the press. As a consequence, a number of delegates who had supported the convention withdrew their support. Stanton and Mott never gave up though. They proceeded to organize other similar conferences. They were later joined by fiery activists such as Susan B. Antony and others[footnoteRef:6]. [6: Supra note 1]



The beginning of the American Civil War in 1861 negatively affected the momentum of the women's movement. It however continued after the end of the war in 1865 but encountered another serious setback. The movement became divided over the matter of voting rights for black men. Stanton and other like-minded activists did not favor the proposed 15th U.S. constitution Amendment[footnoteRef:7]. The amendment, if effected, would grant black men the right to participate in voting but would not give the same rights to any American women; irrespective of their skin color. Antony and Stanton created the national Women Suffrage Association commonly known as NWSA in 1869. They focused on a federal amendment of the constitution that would allow American women to vote. The American Women Suffrage Association was formed by the famous abolitionists: Lucy Stone and Henry Blackwell. The leaders were in favor of the 15th Amendment. They were afraid that it would not see the light of day if they insisted on pushing for inclusion of the rights of women to vote. AWSA was of the opinion that women's rights to vote could be achieved through later amendments in various states by their constitutions[footnoteRef:8]. Although conflicts between the groups were rife at this point, they were given a jab in the arm when Wyoming granted women aged over 21 years the right to vote. The right to vote for women remained part of the Wyoming state's constitution when it was admitted to the Union in 1890. [7: Anne M. Knupfer and Leonard Silk, eds. Toward a tenderer humanity and a nobler womanhood: African-American women's clubs in turn-of-the-century Chicago (New York: NYU Press, 1997), 1-209] [8: Linda J. Lumsden, Rampant Women: Suffragists and the Right of Assembly (Knoxville: Univ. of Tennessee Press, 1997) 1-324]



There was enough clout and support for both the NWSA and the collective Suffrage Movement to rally congress to amend the constitution to allow women to….....

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References

"Appeal for a Sixteenth Amendment" from the National Woman Suffrage Association; 11/10/1876; Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, Record Group 233. Accessed February 21, 2017. https://catalog.archives.gov/id/306647

Graham, Sara Hunter. Woman suffrage and the new democracy. New Haven [Conn.]: Yale University Press, 1996.

Madsen, Carol Cornwall, "Battle for the Ballot Essays on Woman Suffrage in Utah, 1870- 1896" (1997). All USU Press Publications. 176. Accessed February 21, 2017. http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/usupress_pubs/176

Knupfer, Anne M., and Leonard Silk, eds. Toward a tenderer humanity and a nobler womanhood: African-American women's clubs in turn-of-the-century Chicago. New York: NYU Press, 1997.

McDonagh, Eileen L., and H. Douglas Price. "Woman suffrage in the Progressive Era: Patterns of opposition and support in referenda voting, 1910-1918." American Political Science Review 79, no. 02 (1985): 415-435.

Buechler, Steven M. Women's movements in the United States: woman suffrage, equal rights, and beyond. New Brunswick and London: Rutgers University Press, 1990.

Lumsden, Linda J. Rampant Women: Suffragists and the Right of Assembly. Knoxville: Univ. of Tennessee Press, 1997.

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