Not-so-well-known facts about another centennial

By Susanne von Bassewitz, International President

What was achieved in June 1919 with the 19th Amendment passing the U.S. Congress was obviously a big success, but female suffrage remained a controversial cause until it was officially ratified in August 1920. 

Casey Cep, author of the article “Finish the Fight,” published in the 8th/15th July issue of the New Yorker, reminds the reader that, at this centennial, it is worth considering why women had to fight so hard and who, exactly, was fighting against them. 

Did you know that New York’s original voting laws included mention of “he or she” and “his or her ballot,” but that the female pronouns were struck in 1777?

Have you heard of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy of six indigenous nations gathered in the region of the Great Lakes to form an egalitarian society, and that Haudenosaunee women helped select the chiefs and had a say in matters of war and peace? Which was witnessed firsthand by the 19th century suffragists?

And, were you aware that when suffrage was finally passed in the state of Tennessee, the last step to fully ratify the 19th Amendment, the final vote in the Tennessee House of Representatives was 46 ‘nays’ and 50 ‘ayes?’ 

Cep directs us to two books that seem to be a valuable read: The Women’s Suffrage Movement (Penguin) and Why They Marched: Untold Stories of the Women Who Fought for the Right to Vote (Harvard).

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