"suffrage is for suckers"

This is what happens when you go to an all-girls private school..

First, from el Presidente:

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Christian
Date: Aug 24, 2006 2:23 PM
Subject: Re: oh, madeira.. riiight.
To: DP

Seriously, this is overkill. What the shit?!

Suffrage is for suckers.

also response from Lizzie: (which I should note also is a government worker)

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Elizabeth
Date: Aug 24, 2006 2:25 PM
Subject: Re: oh, madeira..
To: DP
Madeira makes my head hurt.

yes, I’m serving suffratinis.

The email:
On 8/24/06, DP wrote:

you know it’s gonna be a good email when the first sentence kicks off with “For those of us looking forward to celebrating the 75th anniversary of women’s suffrage tomorrow…”


i’ve got my suffrage party already planned, how bout you?

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Alumnae Office
Date: Aug 24, 2006 2:19 PM
Subject: Celebrating the 86th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment
To: DP
Reprinted from The Washington Post, 8.25.95
Elisabeth G

For those of us looking forward to celebrating the 75th anniversary of women’s suffrage tomorrow, the nationwide hoopla over the observance is a little ironic, because the original event, while momentous, wasn’t exactly the stuff of historical tableaux.

When Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby accepted the documents certifying that Tennessee had become the 36th state to ratify the 19th Amendment, he chose to sign it into law in the early morning hours of Aug. 26, 1920. He did so not to avoid the heat of a sultry Washington day but to stay clear of the hot tempers of several women leaders who supported suffrage but couldn’t stand each other. Rather than embroil himself in a cat fight, Colby signed the documents at home without ceremony. When some of the women asked him to restage the event for news cameras later in the day, he refused.

The dispute at that time involved Carrie Chapman Catt, president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (which promptly became the League of Women Voters) and Alice Paul of the National Woman’s Party. Some described it as a battle between age and youth, between shrewd political strategy and passionate political action, but it was never that simple, and it went back a long way.

Some of the history was recounted by Mrs. Catt in her speech at the founding meeting of the League of Women Voters. The victory of women’s suffrage had taken 72 years, she said, an effort that included “56 referenda to male voters, 480 efforts to get state legislatures to submit suffrage amendments, 277 campaigns to get state party conventions to include woman suffrage planks, 47 campaigns to get state constitutional conventions to add woman suffrage, 30 campaigns to get presidential party conventions to adopt woman suffrage planks and 19 successive campaigns with 19 successive Congresses.”

Catt was using 1848, the date of the first women’s rights convention in America, in Seneca Falls, N.Y., as her starting point. That was when Elizabeth Cady Stanton persuaded her friend Lucretia Mott, a Philadelphia abolitionist, and three other Quaker women to organize a mid-summer meeting “to protest women’s rights and wrongs.”

Stanton’s determination to demand suffrage was rooted in abolitionism and natural rights. The Declaration of Rights and Sentiments, which she wrote, reads like the Declaration of Independence, but with George III replaced by an entity called “all men.” Its 18 grievances enumerated women’s lack of economic and educational opportunities, as well as their lack of representation in government and the professions.

But when Stanton urged her co-adjutors to include voting rights in their demands, they balked. “Thee will make us appear ridiculous,” Mrs. Mott cautioned. Stanton persisted, however, and the suffrage resolution passed, although it was the only one not to receive unanimous approval. Indeed, it would have been defeated if Frederick Douglass – former slave, abolitionist leader and editor of the North Star – hadn’t rallied support for it.

The declaration was signed, finally, by 68 women and 32 men. Their action brought forth a wave of condemnation from press and pulpits, but the first women’s rights movement in American was launched. For the next 20 years, Stanton stayed home, dividing her time between the demands of her family of seven children and the growing reform movement. She wrote articles, corresponded with colleagues and recruited as her lieutenant a schoolteacher named Susan B. Anthony.

At the end of the Civil War, in an uncharacteristic display of political naivet?nd mean-spirited racism, Stanton opposed giving black men the vote, claiming that white women were more deserving and black women equally at risk. From that moment on, factions divided the women’s movement. The Stanton-Anthony arm, based in New York, sought a constitutional amendment, was wary of male memberships and believed the agenda was broader than suffrage – that divorce, property rights, employment, prostitution, infanticide, education and dress reform also demanded attention. An opposing faction, with it headquarters in Boston, was appalled by much of this. It welcomed men into its ranks and favored a state-by-state approach and a single focus, on suffrage.

In time the suffrage effort became a three-generational mother-daughter-granddaughter conflict. Because Stanton believed that women needed more than voting rights, because she remained a radical – especially regarding her criticism of patriarchal religious attitudes – she became something of an embarrassment to the second generation of suffragists. By the 1890s, although she had become enormously popular with the press and public, Stanton was censored by her successors in the newly merged National American Woman Suffrage Association. The younger women turned instead to her best friend, “Aunt Susan” Anthony, for whom they named the suffrage amendment, even though it had been conceived by Stanton.

Many of the new leaders, among them Carrie Chapman Catt, had been recruited by Anthony. They were more pragmatic and less progressive than the founding mothers. They based their case for suffrage not on justice but on utility. Some of their arguments had an unpleasant ring. White women voters, they argued, would outnumber immigrant males in cities and black males in the South; such women would “purify” government.

Whereas Stanton’s political metaphor had been maternal (it was only just and right that the “mothers of the race” be represented), her successors used a housekeeper metaphor: Superior women would clean up government. Echoes of both attitudes can still be identified in the rhetoric and agendas of women voters and leaders today.

Second-generation suffragists were willing to ally with southern segregationists and northern nativists, as well as with the admirable and enormous national membership of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. As a result, they earned the enmity of the liquor lobby, immigrants, blacks, Democratic bosses, labor leaders, New England Republicans and the newly vocal antifeminists, who believed woman suffrage would undermine female morals, render women infertile and destroy the traditional American family.

This active opposition – along with poor finances, weak leadership and declining membership – stymied the suffrage movement during the first decade of the 20th century. But at the same time, support for suffrage was developing a new, broader constituency, which included many people who realized they needed the women’s vote to enact progressive reforms.

The ascendancy of Carrie Chapman Catt as head of NAWSA in 1915 initiated a new national suffrage campaign. Catt was formidable. She was used to getting her way. When she married her second husband, she negotiated a prenuptial agreement which allowed her to undertake suffrage work away from home four months of every year.

Catt developed what she called her “Winning Plan,” a political strategy which called for referenda campaigns in six states east of the Mississippi, the defeat of several key senators, an alliance with President Woodrow Wilson – which included tacit approval of American entry into the World War – and identification of supporters ready to lobby in every state legislative district in the country.

Meanwhile, a third generation of suffragists, impatient with the cautious politics of its seniors, grew restless. Many of these young women had been exposed to the “shoulder to shoulder” militancy of British suffragists while pursuing graduate education abroad (having been denied admission to American universities). Among them was another Philadelphia Quaker, Alice Paul, founder of the National Woman’s Party – and Catt’s nemesis.

When Paul returned to this country in 1909, she rekindled suffrage enthusiasm with “outdoor” events. Wanting to hold the party in power responsible for the success of suffrage, she organized a protest by 5,000 women on the day Wilson arrived in Washington for his inauguration in March 1913. Paul led the first-ever White House pickets, demanding “democracy at home.” Arrested for disrupting traffic, she launched a hunger strike in jail.

While the brilliant strategist and the passionate protester detested each other, the combination of Catt’s careful vote counting and Paul’s militant tactics was effective. By June 1919, the suffrage amendment had passed both the House and the Senate. It moved through the state legislatures rapidly, and within 14 months was one state from ratification. Both Connecticut and Tennessee seemed likely to put it over the top. Finally, on a sweltering August 20, 1920, Harry Burn, a 24-year-old Tennessee legislator, acting at the behest of his mother, changed his vote from no to yes, and victory was won.

Catt moved on to found the League of Women Voters, which tended more to supporting roles than to being powerful movers in politics. The league supported the agenda of social feminists, arguing with the majority of suffragists that women still deserved special treatment and protection.

Alice Paul went to law school and then returned to Seneca Falls for the 75th anniversary of the first women’s rights convention. There she introduced the Equal Rights Amendment. Paul did not believe suffrage was enough; she wanted equal treatment, not special treatment.

Every year the ERA was introduced, from 1923 until 1972, the League of Women Voters testified against it. Not until after Congress finally sent the amendment to the states did the league changes its position. The legacy of distrust – there was no single voice, no shared agenda – undermined the ERA coalition and contributed to its failure.

Formidable as Catt and Paul were, they were powerless in traditional terms. They had no votes and few resources. They were essentially upper-middle-class educated white ladies of leisure, dependent on men in positions of political power. Yet these women enfranchised half the population. White and black women activists would work together to end lynching, enact protective labor legislation for women and children, launch the civil rights movement, protest the ware in Vietnam and protect the environment. Today they shift the balance in practically every election is this country.


2 Responses to "suffrage is for suckers"

  1. J says:

    When will the horses get the right to vote?

    Think about the mares! And the stallions! Don’t forget the geldings!

  2. dpnation.net says:

    the horses already run the school.

    though, i’m not sure about the geldings getting the right to vote.. i mean, they’ll need a whole different box to check when distinguishing ones sex.

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