The first twenty years of the 1900’s woman fought for the right to vote. Suffrage rocked the masculine mystique that held women under the perception of the fair sex, which disabled them to make important decisions politically, which influenced American government. However, in 1920 that mystique was shattered when women were granted the right to vote and given a voice in shaping the nation. This new group of voters was now influencing the 1924 presidential, state, and local elections. Men in the United States held social perceptions of women that influenced the women’s suffrage movement and the election of 1924.
Efforts were made to persuade women to vote and participate in democracy; however, political parties also reacted to these new potential voters concerning campaign strategies and tactics to keep women away from the polls. Despite this massive change for the voting rights of women, the election of 1924 was only slightly impacted by the wave to newly franchised women voters. The history of the women’s suffrage movement goes farther back than the early 20th century social movements. The seeds of women suffrage were planted through the Seneca Falls convention in 1848.
This convention organized by New York women in response to oppressive U.S. government that held women socially inferior. The women of the Seneca Falls convention raised many grievances against the United States government in a similar format as to how American patriots wrote the Declaration of Independence, (Sparacino, 2004). Suffrage was not the entire or main focus of the movement. Instead, the convention focused on a wide range of social injustice that they believed affected women. The document that held the grievances was known as the Declaration of Sentiments, and it was the first big step for American women to gain their social freedom.
The convention at Seneca Falls gives a good starting point to the women’s suffrage movement, which lasted over 70 years until women’s voting rights were finally granted in 1920 by the passing of the 19th Amendment. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony were both extremely influential women’s rights activists who helped organize the Seneca Falls convention. In 1878, Stanton and Anthony had drafted an amendment to the U. S. constitution that would prohibit any U. S citizen to be denied the right to vote based on sex.
Forty-one years later the amendment was finally submitted to the United States Senate for ratification. Since the federal ratification of suffrage was such a long process, women activists made strides to grant women suffrage on the state level. For instance, historian Holly J. McCammon argues that “By 1919, when Congress passed the 19th Amendment granting women full voting right in the United States, 13 out of the 16 western states had already granted women full suffrage” (McCammon & Campbell, 2001) The amendment that Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B.
Anthony had drafted went through much turmoil and disappointment before it was finally enacted in 1920. Upon the amendments first appearance, it would have to survive a long period of waiting. The amendment posed to the United States senate in 1878, where a large majority voted it down. After this setback, the women’s suffrage movement stagnated, as there were no major political victories for women’s rights for about 30 years (Patterson, 2008). Some political party’s understood that the women’s vote would be very helpful to them if they could captivate women’s ideals.
For example, Woodrow Wilson pushed for the installment of the 19th Amendment because the progressive women vote would help him in elections. Since Wilson was a deemed a progressive president, the liberal votes of women would certainly boost his electoral votes. Negative and debilitating social perceptions of women during the women’s suffrage movement stalled the progress of women’s rights. The stereotypical women in the early 1900’s were far different from the ideals of independence that Susan B. Anthony had hoped to attain.
For example, in the short article “The Home Builder”, Lyman Abbott, a congregational clergyman from Indiana, explains what he believes is the ideal wife in the early 20th century. Abbott argues that women do not need education, because their main priority is to keep a clean house. Abbott quips, “She is not a scientist; but she needs no scientist to tell her that the germs of insidious disease lurk in dirt” (Joshi, 2006). These stereotypes are still present in the modern United States despite the ever creeping equality that women have gained throughout the 20th century.
Feminists during this era would scorn at the statements made by Abbott, since they believe that education is one of the main means for which women can reach personal liberty and break from the toil of constant home making. It was thought by feminists that without the proper education women could never reach equality and liberty. Another excerpt that explains the living conditions of women during the progressive period is “The Normal American Women”, written by an education specialist, and Harvard graduate Charles W. Eliot.
Eliot takes a similar, but more respectable stance toward the role of women than did Abbott. Eliot argues that child rearing and housekeeping require considerable intelligence and that it is not a shame that women take this role in society, (Joshi, 2006). These social perceptions of women were strongly held by many men in the United States, and many women were comfortable with unequal status in society. Many of these women, known as anti-suffragists, openly hated the idea of blending the women’s sphere of influence into the male’s sphere of influence (Camhi, 1994).
The views of women that held them in dependence of male supervision were now being challenged by grass roots organizations of women from all over the country. The suffrage movement would not only have to deal with opposition from men, but from many women too that were quite comfortable with the traditional way of living where the women is expected to do house work, and rear children. After women were given the vote, they were in a position to shape government to meet their ambitions. However, the perceptions of women and what was expected of them, limited women involvement in the 1924 election.
For example, Kevin Corder argues, “every known instance of available data in the U. S. has revealed a lower rate of turnout or registration among women as compared to men”. (Corder & Wolbrecht, 2006). This is very understandable when considering that women in many states were not used to voting. Also, the traditional male dominated society looked down upon woman voting. Kevin Corder also presents evidence that “The cultural prescriptions against political activity for women were considerable. ” (Corder & Wolbrecht, 2006). In addition, the process of voting is a skill, and is something that must be learned.
In order to vote you should be politically informed and able to pick a candidate that represents your opinions. Since women had been denied voting rights, they were unable to grasp the process of voting immediately when it was permitted by the 19th Amendment. Frederick Lewis Allen, an early 20th century historian stated that “Few of the younger women couldn’t rouse themselves to even a passing interest in politics: to them it was a sordid and futile business, without flavor and without hope” (Allen, 1964). The first women to vote in the 1924 election without a doubt affected the election in a number of ways.
Firstly, women’s views tended to be more progressive and liberal than that of men’s in the 1920’s. Lawrence W. Kenny argues, “Suffrage coincided with immediate increases in state government expenditures and revenue and more liberal voting patterns for federal representatives” (Lott & Kenny, 1999). Also, women in the 1920’s had different problems than men. Men and women were not socially or economically equal at this time. Lawrence argues, “Since women tend to have lower incomes, they benefit more from various government programs that redistribute income to the poor, such as progressive taxation.
”The redistribution of wealth was a progressive policy and main concern for low and middle class women who desired higher wages. A continuing trend occurred during the early 20th century where the size of government increases as female voter turnout increased (Lott & Kenny, 1999). While it is clear to see that newly enfranchised women influenced elections in the United States and added millions of new votes into the electoral system, it also seems that women voting for president for the first time did not heavily impact the election of 1924.
The election of 1924 took place at a time when the economy was booming, and Americans were beginning to reach a standard of living never seen before. The incumbent president and former vice-president, Calvin Coolidge, had taken office in 1923 when the current president, Warren G. Harding, had died in office. Calvin Coolidge was the obvious favorite heading into the election due to the extreme growth of the economy and the lack of foreign problems abroad. Americans at the time of the election did not see many reasons for change.
The United States seemed to be on stable footing with the Republican candidate Coolidge at the presidential helm. The democratic candidate for president, John W. Davis, was a conservative politician who offered little appeal to Americans that resided outside of the southern states. In addition, the more progressive third party candidate, Robert M. La Follett, swallowed up many votes that might have gone to Davis. Therefore, the reason why women did not influence the 1924 election was that the election had a clear favorite from the beginning.
Coolidge and Davis ran campaigns promising similar goals. One of the only differences was that Coolidge already had presidential experience and had the advantage of becoming president in a time when the American economy was unstoppable. Calvin Coolidge won the electoral vote by 25%, one of the largest margins of victory in United States history (Wikipedia. org). The second reason why newly voting women did not crucially influence the election was the lack of time that women had to understand and utilize the voting process. As stated earlier, voting is a process that needs to be learned.
At the times of the election, most women were not politically informed. Political science had traditionally been reserved for men to study and was deemed unnecessary for women to learn. Most men were not willing to educate women about politics, as many were against the 19th Amendment in the first place. Therefore, for many women who were still confined strictly to home life, they still did not have the means to make an impact politically. Women may have had the right to vote in the 1920’s; they did not have the knowledge or experience with voting until later.
In conclusion, the long process of suffrage for women did not end by the adoption of the 19th Amendment. Although grassroots women activists had managed to join the voting process, many women were still held under the same social perceptions that kept them as homemakers. While the process of getting women the vote was over, encouraging women to go out and vote was still beginning. Politics was a field that women had never been a part of in American history. Therefore, the process of including women into the political circle was a slow one, and both men and women had objections to the changing idea of equality of the sexes.
Although the 1924 election does not represent the influence of the female vote, women in America would continue to become more politically involved and start using their new constitutional power to influence the United States government. References Adams, K. H. , & Keene, M. L. (2008). Alice Paul and the American suffrage campaign . Urbana: University of Illinois Press. Allen, F. L. (1964). Only yesterday: an informal history of the nineteen-twenties. New York: Perennial Library. (Original work published 1931) Andersen, K. (1996). After suffrage: women in partisan and electoral politics before the New Deal.
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