A year-long celebration of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted American women the right to vote, has begun.
Stephanie Fulena of the Lawrence County Historical Society on Wednesday, welcomed Drs. Angela Lahr and Shannon Smithey of Westminster College to look at the road that led to the ratification of the amendment, on Aug. 18, 1920, following almost a century of protest.
Fulena said much will be made of the 100th anniversary of the amendment in the coming year.
The program was co-sponsored by the Lawrence County League of Women Voters.
The campaign for women’s suffrage, Lahr said, began in the 1820s, prior to the Civil War and coincided with temperance leagues, the abolitionist movement and other reforms.
The women’s rights movement was launched on a national level with the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott.
Following the convention, the demand for the vote became a centerpiece of the women’s rights movement. Stanton and Mott, along with Susan B. Anthony and other activists, raised public awareness and lobbied the government to grant voting rights to women.
The movement, she said, took a backseat to the 15th Amendment of 1869 which gave black men the right to vote.
“Not everyone — men and women — believed that women should vote or even wanted the vote,” Lahr said. The movement had its share of detractors, The National Women’s Suffrage Association of the uncompromising Stanton and Anthony competed with the younger American Women’s Suffrage Association.
She said groups approached the question differently, some pursuing it from a national level, others pushing states to grant women the right to vote. New York became the first state to grant women the vote in 1917, Lahr said.
“And there were the antis, men and women who opposed women voting entirely. Both groups held tea and garden parties to promote their positions,” Lahr said.
After a lengthy battle, these groups finally emerged victorious with the passage of the 19th Amendment when Tennessee became the 36th and last necessary state to ratify the 19th amendment.
She said a young legislator, Harry Burn, thought to oppose suffrage, changed his vote to yes after receiving a telegram from his mother urging him to support it,” she said.
Smithey spoke of the Suffrage Movement of Great Britain, which celebrated a century of suffrage in 2018, even though, she said, women and a great many men did not get the vote until 1928.
She spoke of the often violent protests and imprisonment of suffragette leaders.
“It was largely in appreciation for serving in World War I for the men and for the women who worked during the war effort. Even then, she said, the vote was given to men age 21 and older but to women age 30 and older who owned sufficient property.