Exactly a century ago this month, the Senate passed the 19th Amendment, which forbade states from denying women the right to vote.
Women in Colorado had been voting since 1893 but it was a rural, sparsely populated state and every vote was needed for progress.
While national ratification would require another year, female suffrage had won its greatest and most permanent victory. It was the first victory, but it wasn’t enough.
In 1911, Theodore Roosevelt wrote that women “do not really need the suffrage although I do not think they would do any harm with it. Their needs are along entirely different lines and their duties are along entirely different lines.” A year later, he reassured the social activist Jane Addams that he backed women’s suffrage “without qualification or equivocation.”
In January 1918, struggling for his political life, President Woodrow Wilson endorsed the amendment as a demonstration of America’s moral mission, but also something owed to women for shouldering the burdens of World War I at home — women’s work in the Great War advanced their political rights.
Women who had been working were sent home to take care of the family. It happened again in World War II, but the female work force had become a bit more savvy. “Rosie the Riveter” liked having self-determination.
In 1923, three years after the legislation’s passing, Alice Paul drafted and introduced the Equal Rights Amendment for the first time. The amendment sought to give women not only the right to vote but true equality under the law. The bill reads: Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article. Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.
However, though the proposed amendment was introduced every year between 1923 and 1970 it struggled to even reach the floor of the Senate or House for a vote until 1972, when support for the bill emerged from nationwide strikes and public protests by female workers and other women and the measure was passed with an overwhelming majority in both houses of Congress. Still, in the seven years allotted for ratification after the passage, only 35 states stepped forward, short of the two-thirds number of 38 needed. Since then, there have been numerous attempts to pass the legislation but all have failed.
For much, if not all, of human history, women have been considered little more than property — subjected by men, bought and sold by fathers in the name of marriage and viewed as not much more than vessels for procreation.
We’re hearing that again today. The girl who is pregnant bears most of the burden for her own choices, while the sire isn’t held legally responsible for sharing the decisions that must be made.
A friend suggested the battle for equality wouldn’t be won until women ceased basing their political opinions upon those of their mates. Even women without mates have tended to be influenced by men, be they close relatives, friends or reality TV stars.
I’m still looking for a place in the Constitution where one gender is granted control over the bodily functions of another. Whatever happened to “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?”
I don’t need to worry about personal freedom to seek abortion, but I will not deny that freedom to any other woman; however, I will forever support sex education and free access to contraception. Birth control should not include abortion, in my opinion, not with so many other methods available. Planned Parenthood also offers vasectomies.
When will women decide enough is enough and take control of their own lives?