In the course of researching the history of women’s suffrage in the United States for my latest project, I have come across amazing information. I have read pamphlets by women who dedicated their entire life to securing a woman’s legal right to vote. And I have read the words of women who thought voting foolish, frightening and dangerous, and spoke out accordingly in their own attempts to staunch the tide. I am grateful the latter were unsuccessful.
So many women were instrumental in this process, especially in the early 1900s. Besides Susan B. Anthony, there was Carrie Chapman Catt, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Ida Husted Harper, an Indiana woman who bucked all convention, and her husband’s wishes, by becoming a newspaper correspondent. Many, many, many thousand others whose names may never have been written down by anyone also devoted their time to the cause.
One group, called the “Silent Sentinels” set up a perpetual protest in front of the White House in 1917 and did not stop for eighteen months until at last, President Woodrow Wilson publicly supported the issue and it was at last put before Congress.
These women went against everything society told them was true, proper and correct. And they did it willingly.
Ida Husted Harper helped organize Indiana’s state women’s suffrage society. Eventually, her skill in dealing with public relations and the press, captured Susan B. Anthony’s attention. At Mrs. Anthony’s request, Mrs. Harper then became the official reporter and historian for the National American Woman Suffrage Association.
Mrs. Harper eventually went on to pen a very large work chronicling the life and times of Susan B. Anthony, which resulted in a six volume publication and included some contributions from Susan B. herself.
The more I researched and drilled down in various online libraries, the more awed I became. At one point, I discovered this picture:
In New York. On Wall Street. Speaking for all the world to hear. Talk about vulnerability! She doesn’t look frightened to me, however. No. She looks passionate, empowered and ready to do battle with every man there, if need be.
As the fight for women’s suffrage reached its apex, a bill was introduced to congress, appropriately named “The Anthony Bill.” it took some time, but at last, women were successful. The fight did not begin in just the first two decades of the 20th century. It began over a hundred years earlier when American women were facing issues never before faced by any modern woman of the day. And unrest that probably had sat in the chest of every woman since the beginning of time began to fester and build and grow, until no longer could women deny the fact that their “unalienable rights” were, in fact, being abused.
I have developed a great new respect for these women and their long, arduous battle. For without their sacrifices, without their dedication and true grit, I would likely be unable to sit here and freely publish any words I wished and put my name, my female name, next to them.
So I leave you with this picture, to mark a day most momentous in the history of American womankind. And I applaud women everywhere who stand up for themselves and fight persecution and true oppression.
Note: I found these photos at the following website, which has a fantastic collection of other suffrage-related photographs and document copies. http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/list/076_vfw.html#scenes