When Women Wanted to Vote

Posted inThe Daily Heller
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Hard to imagine that from the adoption in 1776 of The Declaration of Independence to the passage in 1919 of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution (prohibiting electoral discrimination by virtue of sex) American women did not have the right to vote.

In 1848 the Seneca Falls Convention called for woman’s suffrage. On January 12, 1915, a suffrage bill was defeated by a vote of 204 to 174 in the House of Representatives. With the strong support of President Woodrow Wilson, the bill was resubmitted on January 10, 1918. It was closely passed by two-thirds of the House. It was now up to the Senate. Wilson spoke in favor, but on September 30, 1918, the amendment failed by two votes. On February 10, 1919 it lost by only one vote. On May 21, 1919, it was finally passed. On June 4, 1919, it was brought before the Senate and passed, with 56 ayes and 25 nays. Within a few days, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan ratified the amendment. Other states followed until the amendment had been ratified by 35 of the necessary 36 state legislatures. After March 22, 1920, ratification languished for months. Finally, on August 18, 1920, Tennessee narrowly passed ratification and became law. Georgia, North Carolina, and Louisiana did not ratify until 1970 and 1971. South Carolina finally in 1973, and Mississippi in the Orwellian 1984.

Life magazine (the original founded in 1883 prior to Henry Luce’s launch in 1936), edited by illustrator Charles Dana Gibson, was New York’s leading bon vivant journal of humor and culture. A staunchly male magazine, it surprised its readers when it published the “Pro-Suffrage Number.” The cover indicates all the riffraff of questionable character (Life was known for its racist and antisemitic depictions) who could vote, while the well-bred female is bereft of the same right. This was a recurring argument.

Artists rose to the cause. Some of the cartoons (below) overtly support the suffragettes, while others took sly stabs at women’s rights and “liberation.” Here is one such stab.

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