Womens Rights Movement
1995 marks the 75th anniversary of the passage of the 19th
amendment to the Constitution, giving women the right to vote.
A resolution calling for woman suffrage was passed, after much debate,
at The Seneca Falls Convention in 1848. The Convention was convened
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott who demanded a wide range
changes. These changes were spelled out in The Declaration of
Sentiments a document based upon the Declaration of Independence.
"What are we next to do?" asked Elizabeth Cady Stanton after
the 1848 convention. The women of Seneca Falls had challenged
America to social revolution with a list of demands that
touched every aspect of life. Testing different approaches, the
early women's rights leaders came to view the ballot as the best way
change the system, but they did not limit their efforts to one issue.
Fifty years after the convention, women could claim progress in
property rights, divorce and child custody laws, employment and
educational opportunities, and increased social freedoms. By the early
20th century, a coalition of suffragists, temperance groups,
reform-minded politicians, and women's social welfare organizations
mustered a successful push for the vote.
Susan B. Anthony taught school in New Rochelle and Canajoharie,
NY, and discovered that male teachers were paid several times
her salary. She devoted her first reform efforts to antislavery
and to temperance, the Campaign to surpress alcohol. But when
she rose to speak in temperance convention, she was told, "The
sisters were not invited here to speak!" Anthony promptly
enlisted in the cause of women's rights.
In a lifelong partnership with Elizabeth Cady Stanton,
Anthony's organizational skill and selfless dedication built
the women's rights movement. The ballot, she became
increasingly to believe, was the necessary foundation for all
other advances. When she and Stanton published a newspaper,
they called it The Revolution. Its motto was "Men their rights
and nothing more; women their rights and nothing less." In
order to press a test case of her belief that women, as
citizens, could not be denied the ballot, Anthony voted. She
was tried, convicted and fined for voting illegally.
For over thirty years she traveled the country almost
ceaselessly working for women's rights. In 1906, her health
failing, Anthony addressed her last women's suffrage
convention. Although she sensed that the cause would not be won
in her lifetime, she looked out across the assembled women and
told them, "Failure is impossible."
Although Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton
devoted 50 years to the woman's suffrage movement,
neither lived to see women gain the right to vote. But
their work and that of many other suffragists
contributed to the ultimate passage of the 19th
amendment in 1920.