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America’s Established Institutions

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According to Flexner, notable among institutions that facilitated the existence of oppression among women include capitalism; government; church and family; racism and the law (351). Each of these institutions played contributory roles in furthering anti-suffrage sentiments. This is mainly because they have been constituted in a pro-establishment setting.

When it comes to capitalism, industrial states to the north were the last ones to give in. railroad, oil and manufacturing lobbies were secretly working against suffrage campaigns. First because of the threat posed by Women’s Christian Temperance Union which had a suffrage cause, and secondly, by WRM, which had established itself as a voice of labor reform since its inception. The WRM was also associated with a ‘new form of socialism’ that the lobbies considered incompatible with capitalism.

Southern states, owing to the history of racism, were opposed to the women’s fight against suffrage. The states always associated, and rightly so, feminist struggle with black struggle. Giving women voting rights would mean enfranchising an entire half of the black population. The political machines of the federal government were not certain that they would be able to handle an additional electorate population, which was already suffering from susceptibility to rampant corruption. Being militant, the forces of electoral corruption had no other obvious stance to take apart from oppose any clean-up of politics. Feminist movements were triggering awareness on the need to clean up American politics and therefore had to be opposed. Faced with such difficulties, it seems obvious that nothing short of militancy would have enabled women succeed in their course.

The family and the church represent two powerful institutions whose views on the right of women to vote were not on the affirmative. For the church, attention was often drawn to the temptress nature of women, her role in multiplication and her submission to man. This made church leaders unable to join in the fight without fueling controversy. The same case applies to the family when it comes to concepts of male supremacy, child rearing responsibility, sexual double standards, all of which were at risk of being eroded if the advocates of Women’s Rights Movement carried the way. It is not likely that men would let go of these traditional family advantages without a fight. Therefore the issue of militancy had to feature prominently in order for the 19th amendment to be born. 

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