Equal Voting Rights
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Firestone succinctly describes the torturous journey that characterized the radical quest for the recognition of women’s rights (2). The leaders of the movement wanted special attention to be given to women just as it was given to matters of race, color and servitude history. The radical leaders worked tirelessly to collect signatures as well as convince fellow women and likeminded people to work towards the noble course. This entailed moving from door to door, and from one town to the next, while at the same time bearing the blunt of meager funds and logistical challenges.
Among those spearheaded the movement includes Elizabeth Candy and Susan Antony, who were delegates to National Labor Union Convention in 1868. At this time, efforts to mobilize female labor into associations that could fight for their rights had not yet recorded any signs of success. The association of the Women’s Rights Movement (WRM) with Abolitionist Movement is what made it attain its militant attributes. The leaders of the movement were women who had lost their civil rights by virtue of getting married. In fact, the legal structure of the country had declared them dead upon marriage. Those who maintained their civil rights are those who chose not to marry. Even for these one, the ride was not smooth since they had no right to even sign their own wills. After divorce, women could not have custody of the children that they had sired during the marriage.
The radical nature of the WRM can best be understood in the context of prevailing circumstances that women were exposed to economically, socially and politically. Women were not allowed to attend school or college. One had to depend on a little knowledge of this skill or the other, often acquired in informal settings, for sustenance.
The militarization of the feminist movements was closely linked to the anti-slavery sentiments that had been expressed for many years. Through the work of Abolitionist Movement enabled women to become aware of their rights, to understand the slavery that they had been living in.
The political power that the WRM acquired through militant-like agenda was threatening to tear the country into pieces. For this reason, the political class had to pause and listen to the inequality sentiments that angered women throughout the country. The prevailing system seemed incapable of pretending to be democratic any more. It is amazing that feminine sentiments were aired for the first time during the civil war although women were easily persuaded to pursue other cause. If they had not been persuaded, the WRM history would have acquired a completely different history.
The American reactionary forces had a strong influence such that without some element of militancy that reminded these forces of the civil war, women’s rights concerns would not have gotten any attention in either the congress or House of Representatives. According to Catt, it took women 52 years of endless campaigns in order to have instances of the word ‘male’ deleted from the American constitution. (44) During this time, 56 referenda were carrie4d out, 480 campaigns were conducted in order to have legislatures submit suffrage amendments right to where voters were. 47 more campaigns were conducted in order to facilitate the process through which woman suffrage was written in state constitutions. In order for women suffrage planks to be obtained, 277 campaigns in support of party conventions were held (45)
Friedman is of the view that contrary to popular beliefs, male chauvinism was not the main motivation for the cause of Women’s Rights Movement, although it was a contributing factor (19). However, the influence of male chauvinism became more critical when the underlying forces, all of them constituted by men, worked towards suppressing the Women’s Rights Movement. During the 19th century and before, the right for men to rule was so entrenched, absolute and unquestionable that even men took it for granted. It was as the Divine Right of Kings had been at one point in history of western civilization. After all, the laws of the land sanctioned it. Anyone calling for the mildest form of reform could not win through any other means short of militancy.
The politics of the Women’s Rights Movement took radical approach right from the beginning, in the mid-19th century, thanks to memberships of its leaders in temperance and abolitionist movements. Anti-suffrage forces were ready battle the abolitionists by all means necessary aware of this fact, the feminists had to take on a militant approach in order to assert their determination to fight for their right place in the American society.
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