Tuesday, August 18, 2015

INEZ | 5B. Aug. 18 - Women Get the Vote [4]

Picketing Wilson's White House in 1917
On this date in 1920, 95 years ago, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, making it the law of the land.

The 19th Amendment extended the franchise to all women. Previously, some states allowed women to vote, but it was a state option.

Credit for being the state that put the Amendment over the top - 36 out of the 48 states were required - goes to Tennessee, although Connecticut was ready to vote in favor if Tennessee failed.

The so-called "Anthony Amendment", named after suffragist Susan B. Anthony, was first proposed in Congress in 1878, and in every subsequent Congress.

After Susan B. Anthony died in Rochester in 1906, young women feared that the Anthony Amendment might languish. New suffragist leaders emerged in women's colleges and some of them - including Alice Paul and Inez Milholland - trained with the suffragettes led by Mrs. Pankhurst in Britain.

Milholland energized Vassar students before her graduation in 1909. When she graduated, the harassed President, James Monroe Taylor, said to her father, John E. Milholland: "Wonderful girl. I'm glad she's gone."

In 1912 Milholland led on horseback a suffrage parade down Fifth Avenue in New York. In 1913 she led on horseback a parade from the Capitol to the White House. Three years later she campaigned against Woodrow Wilson on a single issue - his not supporting the Anthony Amendment.

Milholland died during her campaign of "pernicious anemia" - what we would diagnose today as a Vitamin B12 deficiency. She collapsed while giving a speech against Wilson in Los Angeles. She died six weeks later.

A delegation of women visited Wilson in January 1917, and he ridiculed their appeal to him in the name of Milholland's death, saying they were ignorant of politics. The women from the National Woman's Party immediately started a non-stop picket of the White House. Eventually, the District of Columbia police arrested the picketers and they were taken to a Lorton, Md. workhouse for women. There they began a hunger strike. The news reports gradually changed public opinion in favor of suffrage.

Worn down by the pickets and World War I, Wilson finally got behind the Anthony Amendment and in 1919 it narrowly passed both houses of Congress. Most Southern states opposed the amendment, and on August 18, 1920, the Tennessee legislature was in line to be the last needed state to ratify the Amendment.

The suffragists wore yellow roses in their lapels, and the anti-suffragists wore red American Beauty roses. The state legislature was tied 48 to 48. Only one legislator was undecided, 24-year-old Harry Burn, the youngest. He had been expected to vote against it, but he had in his pocket a note from his mother, which read:
Dear Son: Hurrah, and vote for suffrage! Don't keep them in doubt. I noticed some of the speeches against. They were bitter. I have been watching to see how you stood, but have not noticed anything yet. Don't forget to be a good boy and help Mrs. Catt put the 'rat' in ratification. Your Mother.
He voted in favor and the 19th Amendment to the Constitution became law.

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