I am pleased to report that the Senate recently adopted Senate Resolution 147, a measure I introduced that commemorates the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted women the right to vote.
Today, the impact of that landmark amendment has faded somewhat as society has seemingly forgotten the uphill battle against millennia of chauvinistic history waged by dedicated women such as Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, Carrie Chapman Catt and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
The women’s suffrage movement in America can be traced back to an 1848 convention in Seneca Falls, New York. That meeting was well before the 1870 enactment of the 15th Amendment – which stated that "the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged ... on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."
Unfortunately, that Amendment did not include women and the battle continued on.
Over the ensuing years, the women’s suffrage movement grew in strength and scope and as such led to one not very glorious day for the U.S. House of Representatives.
On Jan. 12, 1915, Congress took up the issue of women’s suffrage during a 10-hour debate and records show the proceedings — in a time before political correctness, C-SPAN and social media — were very much reflective of the sentiments of the male-dominated society of the early 20th Century.
North Carolina Congressman Edwin Webb is recorded as saying: “Mr. Speaker, I am opposed to woman suffrage, but I am not opposed to woman. I am unwilling, as a southern man, to force upon her any burden which will distract this loving potentate from her sacred, God-imposed duties. I am unwilling to force her into the vortex of politics, where her sensitiveness and her modesty will often be offended.”
Congressmen Charles Carter from Oklahoma added that: “Were it not for shattering an ideal, were it not for dethroning her from that high pedestal upon which we are accustomed to place her, and dragging her down to the level of us beastly men, I believe I might even today be willing to vote for universal woman suffrage.”Not everyone held those beliefs.
In fact, Congressman Edward Taylor of Colorado offered that: “In future years we will look back and marvel at the supreme effrontery of the male population arrogating to themselves all the wisdom, honesty and patriotism for so many generations after generations. Posterity will be amazed when it reads the history of the many centuries that women were disenfranchised.”
These comments clearly show that any changes to the status quo would have to confront and overcome deeply entrenched beliefs and biases. As such, on Jan. 12, 1915, the Suffrage Amendment failed in Congress by a vote of 204 to 174.
It would take four more years and the courageous efforts of women across our nation before Congress approved the 19th Amendment on June 4, 1919.
On June 24, 1919, Pennsylvania became the fourth state to ratify the amendment. Little more than a year later, enough states had ratified the amendment and the rest, as they say, is history.
This is a history and a struggle that must be memorialized and never forgotten.In closing, I encourage local residents to visit my website, www.senatorlaughlin.com, and my Facebook page, www.facebook.com/senatorlaughlin, to keep up to date with state government news and learn more about state services and agencies.