Hard to believe that the concept of women casting a ballot, and actively participating in the democratic process, was once considered extreme . . . by men.
Even after the 15th Amendment was adopted after the Civil War declaring that the “right of citizens of the United Starts to vote shall not be denied or abridged on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude,” women were not allowed to vote.
The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, called the most revolutionary document in the history of the world, states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” Women were certainly not their equals.
It wasn’t until 1920, when the 19th Amendment became the law of the land, that women were at long last allowed to cast a vote for the men who had denied them equal rights since the founding of the nation.
For those that have forgotten, the League of Women Voters was formed in 1920 by one of the leaders of the women’s suffrage movement.
The women who had led that battle wanted to make sure that women registered to vote — and also were educated about the issues and the candidates. Yet, as one of its founding tenants, the League decided not to endorse any candidate for office. It was non-partisan. Still is.
Nearly a century later, political pundits are saying a tidal wave of angry women voters may alter the course of American history this fall. It’s a predicted reaction not only to President Trump, but to increasing outbursts of intolerance toward minorities and immigrants by private citizens and public figures. It’s a backlash against increasing gun violence and the inability of our country to act decisively to make schools safe.
And, in a way, the recent wave of political activism is an outgrowth of the types of concerns that launched the crusade for women’s suffrage in 1840.
Men in power continue to use their positions to abuse women and extort sexual favors from them.
The fight for equal rights, equal wages and fair treatment continues.
For hundreds of years, before Roe v. Wade, women were forced to have back-alley abortions in butcher shops because wealthy and influential men took the position that abortions were immoral and made them illegal. Yet, the very men who impregnated the women often refused to take responsibility. The laws and the courts made it difficult for women to prosecute men in court, and even in cases of rape women often were victimized and accused of sexual promiscuity.
Things change. But not so much.
The League of Women Voters is the sort of organization that doesn’t get much attention these days.
It does not scream for attention. It actually encourages civil discourse among those who hold differing points of view.
But it remains consistent. It continues to encourage voters to research issues before taking a stand. It urges people to register to vote, and to know the issues and the candidates. It advocates for responsible citizenship.
We think that’s a worthy goal.