The History of the Vote: Understanding the Past is to Build a Better Future
Tuesday November 8, 2016

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Today is election day in the United States. The first Tuesday after the first Monday as written in the U.S. Constitution. Many have already voted (believed to be more than a quarter of who is predicted to vote), and an all-time high in Oregon have mailed their ballots in already as of November 1st. Whomever you voted for, for whatever reason you have chosen to vote early, it sure did feel great to drop the ballot in the box and walk back to the everyday routine, didn’t it? The illustration above summed up quite succinctly how it felt for me at least.

But here’s the thing. Whether you voted early if you are able or are voting today (Oregonians can drop their ballot off at a county ballot box up until 8pm today), it’s important to participate in the democratic process. Why?

The theory of a social contract began with philosopher Thomas Hobbes and was furthered by John Locke and others, along with Jean-Jacques Rousseau who stated, “As soon as any man says of the affairs of the State ‘What does it matter to me?’ the State may be given up for lost.” 

There is no promise that what we vote for we will see materialize. But we are guaranteed to never be heard if we do not vote. While the history of women’s suffrage holds my attention and serves as a reminder to refrain from ever taking for granted the rights I hold dear, there have been many more arduous battles for enfranchisement from those not only not male, but due to their skin tone, their heritage and even their age (did you know women in Britain over the age of 30 were given the right to vote before the voting age was lowered to what it is today?).

As many (but not all) of TSLL readers are women, I thought I’d take a look back through history at the struggles and triumphs women have endured on their way to have the right to have a voice at the ballot box and thus in the country, state and city they live in as a reminder that the battle wasn’t easy, but I am certainly grateful for all those who came before me.

Did you know . . . New Zealand was the first country to give women the right to vote in 1893?

Did you know . . . the most recent country to grant women the right to vote was Saudi Arabia in 2011?

Did you know . . . in 1872, Susan B. Anthony registered and ultimately voted in a Rochester, New York election? When it was discovered that she had cast a vote as a woman, she was arrested for “voting illegally” and brought to trial. She was ordered to pay a $100 fine. She never did.

Did you know . . . that women in Argentina didn’t receive the right to vote until 1947 with the help of First Lady, Eva Peron?

Did you know . . . African-American men were granted the right to vote by the 15th Amendment in 1870. But even after the 19th Amendment extended voting rights to African American women, discriminatory practices effectively disenfranchised many African-American voters.

Did you know . . . the first convention for women’s civil rights and political protections took place on July 19-20, 1848, in Seneca Falls, New York, and was hosted by a founding suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott?

Did you know . . . Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Stanton beginning in 1863 organized women in support of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery.

Did you know . . . it was the 15th amendment that saw Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Fredrick Douglass part ways as Stanton refused to support an amendment that didn’t grant enfranchisement regardless of sex?

Did you know . . . in Britain many suffragettes went to prison as a result of their actions and their campaigns did not always stop there – whilst in prison, they often chose to go on hunger strike to continue gaining publicity for their cause and as a result were sometimes force fed. One of the most infamous suffragettes was Emily Davison who, in 1913, threw herself in front of the King’s horse at the Epsom Derby. She later died of her injuries and became a martyr to the cause.

Did you know . . . the term “suffragette” was given to suffragists in Britain, the British WSPU lead by Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst, as a derogatory term to define “a female campaigner for women’s suffrage willing to undertake militant action or to break the law.” The suffragists in England chose to embrace it (those in the United States chose remained with the former term) and even named their publication “The Suffragette”, offering this response as to why they chose the intended diminutive term, “We have all heard of the girl who asked what was the difference between a Suffragist and a Suffragette, as she pronounced it, and the answer made to her that the ‘Suffragist jist wants the vote, while the Suffragette means to get it.’”

Did you know . . . the western territory of Wyoming allowed white women over the age of 21 the right to vote and Utah in 1870?

Did you know . . . in 1913, Ida B. Wells founded a suffrage organization specifically for black women and worked to integrate the women’s-rights movement?

Did you know . . . beginning in 1917 Alice Paul and her fellow suffragists began picketing peacefully the Wilson White House and were arrested on charges of purportedly blocking traffic. In prison, the women were treated poorly and denied counsel. Alice Paul and other suffragists went on hunger strikes and were force-fed. (Watch Iron Jawed Angels and read Alice Paul’s biography).

Did you know . . . it took 70 years of protest, petitioning, organizing, suffering, detainment, educating and demanding that women in the United States have the right to vote? Beginning with the Seneca Falls Conference in 1848 and culminating with the ratification of the 19th amendment to the Constitution on August 18, 1920, while the founding members Stanton, Anthony Mott and others didn’t live to see what they fought so vigilantly and passionately for come to fruition, women have had the right to vote for fewer than 110 years here in the states.

May your election day go well and may your ballot be cast.

~View the Archives for more posts on Femininity:

~Why Not . . . Be a Femininist?

~Having it All: A New Definition

~The Right Ending Sending the Wrong Message?

6 thoughts on “The History of the Vote: Understanding the Past is to Build a Better Future

  1. OMG I’m following the US election here in Australia, very frightening!
    Voting is compulsory here and it is a very different system, so interesting to observe what is going on, but glad I’m only an observer. Good luck to you all today! Gaby

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