GREENVILLE — The Fort GreeneVille Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution, city administration and League of Women Voters are inviting the public to attend the 100th anniversary of Ohio Ratifying the 19th Amendment-Womens Right to Vote with a commemorative rally and suffrage parade that will be held June 15, beginning at 11 a.m. on the south lawn of the Darke County Courthouse.
All interested women, children and men are invited to participate in the parade to honor the efforts of foremothers in this historic feat.
The struggle for the women’s franchise was no minor effort. The reform movement spanned more than 70 years, from the first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y., to the ultimate victory in 1920.
This amendment, when finally ratified, after garnering the approval of the 36 states needed for ratification, gave all women in this country the right to vote. Ohio was the fifth state that voted to give women this right and Tennessee was the 36th, putting it over the top in August 1920.
A demand for the enfranchisement of women was first seriously formulated at the first women’s rights convention held in Seneca Falls, organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, two women who met at the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention in London, where they were barred from participation on account of their sex. The Seneca Falls Convention took place July 29 and 30, 1848, at the Wesleyan Methodist Church where Elizabeth C. Stanton introduced the Declaration of Sentiments, a document that stated the rights that the participants (of approximately 260 women and 40 men) felt women deserved. These rights should include equitable property rights between the genders, unbiased educational opportunities and women’s suffrage among others. In April 1850, the second Ohio Women’s Temperance Society (1853) convention was held in Salem, Ohio, and the first national convention was held in October 1850 in Worcester, Mass., where Sojourner Truth, a female ex-slave, gave her famous “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech. Yearly conventions were held between 1850 and 1861 in various locations (1853 in Cleveland and 1855 in Cincinnati).
The struggle for women’s rights was incremental involving many regional and national organizations whose direction was sometimes dictated by the leadership.
In 1869, a rift developed among women’s rights activists over the proposed 15th amendment which only allowed the right to vote to black men by striking the word “white” from the wording while leaving the word “male” intact. Some, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton among them, refused the amendment because women were excluded. They prioritized working toward a federal amendment to ensure women’s right to vote Others, including Lucy Stone and Julia Ward Howe (wrote the lyrics to The Battle Hymn of the Republic), argued that once black men were able to vote; women’s enfranchisement would follow. Their strategy was to work state-by-state to gain these rights.
Another Women’s Rights Convention was held in 1869 where these different views and methods were aired. The split between the groups was defined and Lucy Stone and others formed the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) while Stanton, Anthony and their allies formed the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA). The suffrage movement did not hold a unified convention again until 1890, when the two organizations merged into the National American Women Suffrage Association (NAWSA).
The NAWSA national headquarters was moved from Washington, D.C., to the home of Harriet Taylor Upton, a suffrage leader from Warren, Ohio, in 1903. She had served as the president of the Ohio association of NAWSA and treasurer of the NAWSA. This was to be a temporary arrangement, but it lasted for six years. During this time, Ohio was the focal point for women’s rights and the association’s offices were relocated in 1910 to the ground level of the Trumbull County Court House. Susan B. Anthony, a good friend of Upton’s, visited Warren many times during this time.
The movement became global with the founding of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance in 1904. Many long-experienced suffrage reformers would learn of new tactics from visits abroad. This influence was a shot in the arm to NAWSA which had nearly fossilized after the death of Stanton in 1902 and Anthony four years later.
Women who had worked with the British suffrage movement challenged these attitudes and the women in NAWSA’s Congressional Committee, who were having little luck with the Senate and no luck with the House in bringing the Suffrage Amendment to a vote, revived their base into the “Congressional Union.”
Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, Harriot Stanton Blatch and Mary Beard inspired younger women to begin working within NAWSA, but then took their Congressional Union in a different direction with the organizing of a giant parade to be held during the inauguration of President Woodrow Wilson.
On March 3, 1913, as many as 8,000 women marched form the Capitol past the White House. They proceeded to the Continental Hall, owned by the Daughters of the American Revolution, for an evening rally. Many of the prominent members of the suffrage movement, such as Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, Juliet Ward Howe, Belva Lockwood, Frances Willard and Ohio’s Harriet Taylor Upton were also members of the DAR. Washington police misjudged the likely response to this event and failed to protect the marchers from jeering men who attacked the women. The result was a huge wave of public sympathy and the loss of the police chief’s job. The suffrage cause was energized.
The 1914 elections served as a wake-up call to the NAWSA and, at their 1915 convention, Anna Howard Shaw withdrew her presidency and was replaced by Carrie Chapman Catt. Catt, who had exhibited genuine political skills during her first stint as president of the group in in 1900, was aware that effective campaigns usually relied on large contributions of money. She appointed a board consisting of women of independent means who would not only help with donations to the cause, but could work for the movement full-time. The elections also got the attention of President Wilson who was up for re-election in 1916 and slowly he began to see that he needed to take a stand for suffrage for political, if not constitutional, reasons. There was also considerable desire among the politicians of both parties to have the proposal made part of the Constitution before the 1920 elections.
The U.S. House passed the suffrage amendment for the first time in January 1918, but the Senate delayed their debate until September. Catt and NAWSA’s support deemed them as patriots and helped sway Wilson to appear before the Senate asking for passage of the 19th Amendment as a war measure. The measure was defeated by only two votes and NAWSA campaigned to defeat four Senators who had voted down the amendment bringing labor unions and prohibitionists into their alliance. Catt called for the creation of a league of women voters in her opening address to the NAWSA Convention held in St. Louis in March 1919.
After the elections, Wilson called a special session of Congress where, finally, the suffrage amendment was passed on June 4, 1919. It now was passed to the 48 states where 36 of them were needed for ratification. NAWSA had been working on a plan for support since April 1918, with ratification committees in the state capitals, each having a budget and work plan.
The Nineteenth Amendment became a law when it was certified by the U.S. Secretary of State on Aug. 6, 1920. Six months before its ratification, at NAWSA’s last convention on Feb. 14, 1920, the League of Women Voters was created as NAWSA’s successor deeming Carrie Chapman Catt as an honorary president for life and Maude Wood Park as the actual president.