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119: Women’s Suffrage & the Passage of the 19th Amendment
History That Doesn't Suck
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It's Saturday afternoon, March 25, 1911.
We're at the corner of Washington Place and Green Street,
in New York City's Greenwich Village,
on the 8th floor of the Ash Building,
where employees of the triangle shirt waste company are
visually cranking out their namesake product.
The ever popular, simple, yet professional,
button down women's blouse, known as the shirt waste.
This is no small enterprise.
Occupying all three of the 10 story ash buildings top floors,
the triangle shirt waste company boasts 500 plus workers.
Most are recent Ellis Island arrivals,
so heavily Italian and Jewish,
and almost entirely female.
Yes, as we look across the open workspace of the 8th floor,
at the rows of tightly packed and humming sewing machines,
and the seven long, cloth covered cutting tables,
it's predominantly women and teenage girls
that are making everything here operate.
It's now 440 pm,
about time to close up shop.
Workers are grabbing their hats and coats,
and preparing to descend at least eight
if not all 10 floors to head home.
Oh, and it's a Saturday night.
Nothing more you for, than only they have the day off tomorrow,
but just as that end of the work week
the week is starting to set in,
among the 8th floors workers,
a terrifying one word cry echoes across the room.
Samuel Bernstein flies into action,
the short, stocky forming, grabs the red pales peps
for such emergencies.
He and others immediately gals the flame,
but that doesn't do it.
They've got to move quickly then.
This floor has over 9,000 square feet
covered with highly flammable cotton.
There isn't a moment to lose.
Each floor's stairwell has a hose.
Samuel yells across the floor to shipping clerk Lewis sender me.
Lewis, get me the hose as quickly as you can.
The hose is brought out as Lewis turns the spigot,
but no water comes.
Oh God, it's soon clear that there's no fighting this fire.
Samuel yells to all to leave their things and get out.
Everyone flies to the exits.
Opening the door to the green street stairway,
the women find fire and smoke.
They pivot to the other door.
The one whose stairway goes to washing to place.
They won't open.
Is it locked?
Help me owners max blank and Isaac Harris,
do take such measures to guard against employee stealing materials
to protect an unscheduled breaks.
Or is it that amid the fear of burning the death?
The crowd is simply pressing too firmly
against these inward opening doors.
They don't need to be open.
The company's top machinist, Lewis Brown, forces his way through.
The pulls out of heat.
Is he actually using it?
We don't know for sure, but he gets the door open and women fly down the winding staircase.
But his so narrow, you can descend at once.
Many will die if they can't find another way out.
There are the elevators, and thankfully, some elevators are operators.
By 27 year old Italian immigrant, Joseph Zito,
are bragging the flames and heat to make as many trips as possible.
Maximum occupancy is 10, but amid the sight of women on fire,
Joseph crams about 40 survivors in his last trip.
Desending, he hears repeated crashes from above.
Joseph realizes women are jumping down that elevator shaft.
He's hearing women die as their bodies slamming to an elevator roof.
Others clamber down the fire escape on the building's exterior.
It doesn't even compost reading the ground, and it fills blimzy.
So the first few break of window and reend to the building on the sixth floor.
Those behind them aren't so long ago.
The fire escape pulls free from the building itself.
Women clung to the gas. Spectators feel the streets below.
They stare up and pour at the ashville.
At the hot blow and thick smoke spewing from between those.
At the sight of women and girls filled with despair dangling from the eight stories windows.
The people scream up to them.
Don't jump! Help is coming, but the heat is silent hands.
Some do. They crash lifelessly onto the sidewalk below.
Only minutes later, firefighters arrive.
Manuvering around bodies on the ground, they crank their ladders into the sky.
But they're too short. These ladders were made for normal, six story buildings,
not these new steel beam skyscrapers.
The firefighters find the same problem with their hoses,
which can't spray past the seventh floor.
Damn it! Undoanted, our rescuers turned to their nets.
They'd never caught someone from such heights, but they've got to try.
A woman jumps to them.
She strikes with such force that net rips right through the fireman's hands.
Giving no thought to their now lacerated, bloodied palms.
The firefighters take up their nets to keep trying.
But it won't work.
With no hope of survival.
Women and girls fall like rain from the top floors.
Some tumble head over feet.
Some flame like human torches.
All splatter on the street.
And some take one last measure of human comfort and friendship.
They hold their sister, their mother, a friend, and jump together.
To their united and certain end.
The blaze is soon under control, but it's too late.
Some 80 bodies wipe broken in the streets.
A score filled the elevator shafts, and 50 more are charred, unrecognizably inside.
Hardened policemen, we plight children at the site.
146 workers, 23 men and boys, and 123 women, teenage girls are dead.
Welcome to History that doesn't suck.
I'm your professor, Greg Jackson, and I'd like to tell you a story.
The gut wrenching, McCobb seen at the Triangle shirt waste factory fills New Yorkers
Particularly as they recall, these women had recently gone on strike over unsafe working conditions.
They were largely ignored, now they're dead.
While much of the outcry focuses on workplace regulations, some come to a different conclusion.
They become convinced that American women need the ability to fight for themselves at the ballot box.
And that brings us to how we pivot to today's tale, the long winding path to women's suffrage.
To do it justice, we're starting back in colonial America.
We'll learn what legal rights women hold in the colonies.
Meet one colonial woman who allegedly does vote and check out revolutionary New Jersey,
where women are in fact voting.
But here, the long path to women's suffrage starts to wind.
New Jersey disenfranchises women and, decades later, will bear witness as he lives with Katie Stanton,
Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, and others reignite the idea of women's suffrage.
Entering the late 19th century, will find the Western territories and states in franchising
and even electing women.
Yet, across the nation, will also meet ladies who are leading the charge against women's suffrage.
But finally, in the 20th century, a rising generation of British influenced marching
protesting hunger striking suffragists will come to the fore. This and more will eventually lead us
to a constitutional amendment guaranteeing women the vote at the national level.
I told you it's a long path. So shall we begin? Very good. Then it's time to leave progressive
era New York and revisit colonial Massachusetts. Rewind.
It's October 30, 1756, and the small New England village of Uxbridge is in the midst of
a town meeting. The issue before them stems from the same problem currently plaguing all of
British North America. The French and Indian War, aka Seven Years War.
For two years, this contest between the empires of France, Britain, and their respective
indigenous allies has raged primarily in the Ohio country. But now, the province of Massachusetts
Bay is asking Uxbridge for funds to help with the war effort. That request is what brings today's
deliberations and soon will require a vote from the town's landholding men. But before these
gents voiced their will, a point is raised. What about the tapped family? Captain Josiah Taft
isn't here. A sickness took the former militia captain to the grave last month. God arrest his soul.
Worst yet, he caught it from his 18 year old son Caleb, who fell ill and died at Harvard College
only a week or two prior. God arrest both their souls. Thus, the Taft family lacks an adult male,
yet, as one of the wealthiest landowners in Uxbridge will bear much of the burden if the town
approves the tax. And that wouldn't be right since everyone in British North America knows
that taxation is a gift from the people, or, as one slogan will later put it. No taxation
without representation. Sounds like there's only one answer. Josiah's widow, Lydia, must speak
for her family. The landholders vote. But the crucial support of Lydia, the tax, barely passes.
The 44 year old widow just became the first woman ever to cast a vote, and what will become
the United States of America? Or so the story goes. Historians will later debate whether Lydia
really voted or not. But big gift true, and besides how awesome that we had a reason to mention
the seven years war, more than 100 episodes into this podcast. Joking aside, Lydia's story sets
up an excellent question. Could this happen given the legal status of women in British North America?
Let's figure that out. In these last decades before the revolution, colonies more or less run
with England's common law. In brief, this means legal decisions by judges set legal precedence
that influence future interpretations of the law. Okay, check. Well, within this body of precedence
is the doctrine of covercher. Derived from the French word, Kuvyatu, which means to cover,
covercher means husbands cover, conceal, or absorb their wives in a legal sense. As 18th
century England's great legal thinker, Sir William Blackstone puts it, by marriage, the husband
and wife are one person in law. That is, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended
during the marriage, or at least incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband.
Ah. Thus, legally, economically, and politically speaking, the wife's individual identity
disappears. But what about an unmarried woman? Sticking with French,
common law designates her as a thomsoil, not covered by a man, these sole or single women
can own some property, make contracts, own businesses, but they do not vote. Not even those
who are widows. In fact, when a man dies, the land that would trigger voting rights, the estate
doesn't transfer to his widow, but to an heir, a son. Ah, but in Lydia's case, her 18 year old adult
son Caleb has just died. So is that sufficient cause for us to believe Lydia voted?
To riff off of historian J. L. Bell's analysis, it's not beyond the pale that, in this context,
the town's men may have let, wealthy, elite, Lydia weigh in. But Bell has his doubts, and I do too.
The split vote that makes her the decision maker feels a little too fairy tale ask for a historic
event that's first written record appears more than a century later, in 1864, at the hand of a
tapped family descendant in the less. Further, while her son Caleb is dead, what about her older boy,
23 year old Josiah Jr. So, again, did the men of Uxbridge make the extraordinary decision to
let newly widowed and thus found sole Lydia vote? Well, I don't know if it's as out there as a
certain cherry tree tale from Mount Vernon, but I'm uncomfortable calling it fact, but feel free
to stew on that a bit yourself. We do have other documented pre united state steps towards women's
rights, though, and the most famous countryma Abigail Adams. We touched on this in episode 8,
but here's a refresher. In early 1776, America's original power couple, John and Abigail Adams,
are state's apart. John's fighting the good fight for the independence vote in Philadelphia,
Abigail is holding down the fork in war torn Massachusetts. Thus, they're communicating through letters,
but when John writes about independence and a new nation, which Abigail loves,
she makes a revolutionary suggestion of her own, replying on March 31st.
And by the way, in the new code of laws, which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make,
I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors.
Do not put such unlimited power in the hands of the husbands. Remember all men would be tyrants if they
could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to
film into rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or
representation. Many historians question whether Abigail is talking about women's suffrage.
The vast majority of people, women included, don't have women's suffrage on their radar yet.
Hence, suggestions that this may be more of a call for greater rights in other protections
sorely lacking within the doctrine of curvature. But whatever her intention,
John's response shows that he doesn't take this seriously. With a tongue in cheek tone,
he replies that wives are already the real masters, not the husbands, and therefore,
We know better than to repeal our masculine systems, which would completely subject us to the
despotism of the petty code, close quote. And yet, the spirit of 76 is producing women's suffrage in one state.
On July 2, 1776, the very same day the continental Congress votes in favor of independence.
New Jersey becomes the fourth state to establish its own independent from written
constitution. It's fourth article describes voters as follows, quote,
that all inhabitants of this colony, a full age, who are worth 50 pounds proclamation money,
clear a state in the same shall be entitled to vote for representatives in council and assembly.
Close quote, hmm, inhabitants is a gender neutral word. And while the masculine pronoun
he is all over the document, it's excluded from this article on voting, which uses day.
Now, the article does have a property requirement, which likely excludes married women's
subject to curvature, but the wording still opens the door for the single woman, the fam's soul.
Is this intentional? Future historians will argue over it. Some will point out that several state
constitutions use gender neutral language. They bring Delaware likewise says inhabitants,
yet these states don't grant women the vote, but other historians disagree. They'll argue
that under the logic of no taxation without representation, it only follows that as the head of
her household, a thom's soul should vote and some in revolutionary America surely see that.
Whatever New Jersey's intentions in 1776, the state 1790 lost settles the question.
It only applies to seven of New Jersey's 13 counties, all of which are heavily
quaker and federalist, but while describing where a voter may ballot, the 1790 lost says,
and I quote, he or she, close quote, take that in for a second. In 1790, the New Jersey
legislature unequivocally describes a potential voter not only as he, but with the word, she.
Seven years later, in 1797, New Jersey extends its clearly intentional women's suffrage to
all 13 counties. It also ditches the words, clear a state on the property requirement.
So does that mean all New Jersey women, regardless of marital status, have the vote?
It sure sounds more justifiable in any case. The percentage of women voting dramatically increases.
Despite whatever doubts, historians harbor about Abigail Adams's intentions when writing to John
all those years ago, she welcomes the news, cheering her country women in the garden state.
But why New Jersey? It's likely for the same reason free blacks are voting here. Unlike other
states, that tend to be solidly democratic Republican or federalist, the garden state is split,
and parties are happy to pick up any votes they can. It could be that federalists ensured
only women in their counties got the clear legal nod in 1790 while Republicans caught up with
the method by 1797. But neither free blacks nor women will have the vote for long here.
Both become scapegoats for any irregularities in elections. This is especially true of Essex
County's 1807 vote to decide whether Elizabeth or Newark will become the New County seat.
The voter fraud is so obvious, the New Jersey state legislator rejects it all together.
Then, in October of that same year, the state legislature does as many other states are presently
doing. It limits the vote to, quote, free white male citizens. Close quote.
Thus, as the door closes on black voters in various northern states, New Jersey, the low
and American state that had enfranchised women amid the revolution. Close as the door on both groups.
Little movement or visible agitation for women's suffrage is seen for the next few decades.
Not until the 1830s. As you might recall from episode 40, this is a time when several social
reform movements, like the abolition of slavery. The alcohol limiting if not ending
temperance movement and public education start to take off. With women at the forefront of
much of this, these movements begin indirectly encouraging women's suffrage. For instance,
when Kentucky establishes a school system in 1838, that same law also grants the state's
rural tax pain, thom's souls, the right to vote on issues related to taxation and education.
But sometimes it's the negative experiences within these social movements that propel women's
rights and suffrage. Specifically, I'm referring to the 1840 London based world anti slavery
convention. Even after Elizabeth Katie Stanton and Lucretia Montt travel all the way across the
Atlantic to be there, the men running the show vote to exclude women. Lucretia and Lizzie are
understandably furious, and that fury leads them to hold the United States first ever women's
rights convention in 1848 at Seneca Falls, New York. I gave you the details on the Seneca Falls
convention in episode 40, but here's a quick refresher. Helved at the Wesleyan Methodist Church
in Seneca Falls, New York. The convention attracts roughly 300 attendees. Day two includes a few men,
notably the powerful orator and selfie man's painted abolitionist, Frederick Douglass. The convention
votes to sign a document called a declaration of sentiments. It has a very declaration of
independence vibe as it asserts that, quote, all men and women are created equal. Close quote,
then continues with the list of injuries and user patience, not inflicted by a king upon
colonies, but by men upon women. The convention also votes on 11 accompanying resolutions.
A fly through unanimously with the exception of the knife, which makes the daring claim
that women should have the right vote. So while many women are prepared to speak up for more
rights than the doctrine of coverage or currently affords them, calling for the vote,
that feels too radical, even for them. It's only with the hard lobbying of Elizabeth and Frederick
that the ninth resolution passes. The Seneca convention is a great success. It also starts a
blossoming friendship between Elizabeth Katie Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Frederick Douglass.
There's a natural alignment between their causes after all. Both groups are seeking their civil rights,
but no one better illustrates this alignment than those who fall in both groups. Black American
women, and one black American woman is about to make a big splash in the public sphere.
It's the morning of May 29, 1851, where in Akron, Ohio, attending the second day of a women's convention,
a thin, 50 something black woman rises and addresses the audience. She says in part,
May I say a few words? I want to say a few words about this matter. I am a woman's rights.
I have as much muscle as any man, and can do as much work as any man. I have plowed,
and reaped, and hushed, and shocked, and mode, and can any man do more than that?
The poor men seem to be all in confusion, and don't know what to do. Why children? If you
have women's rights, give it to her, and you will feel better. You will have your own rights,
and they won't be so much trouble. I can't read, but I can hear. I have heard the Bible,
and have learned that Eve caused man to sin. While if women upset the world, do give her a chance
to set it right side up again. And how came Jesus into the world, through God who created him and
woman who bore him? Man? Where is your part? But the women are coming up, blessed be God,
and a few of the men are coming up with them. But man is in a tight place. The poor slave is on him,
woman is coming on him, and he is surely between a hawk and a buzzard.
Convention President Francis D. Gates will produce a different version of this speech during the
Civil War. In Francis's account, the speaker, a formerly enslaved New Yorker named Sojourner
Truth, somehow has a plantation dialect as she asks the audience, a dire woman. Though likely
less accurate, it's that version of Sojourner's speech that will make her famous. And so,
the fight for civil rights advances with leaders like Lizzy, Susan, and Frederick
forging friendships and alliances between their sometimes overlapping groups. But soon,
difficult choices, priorities, and prejudices will test the strength of this alliance,
particularly in the aftermath of the Civil War.
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It's May 12th, 1869. More than 1,000 people, mostly women, are gathered in New York
cities, gorgeous new concert venue near Union Square. Steinway Hall. This is a meeting of the
American Equal Rights Association. For three years, this organization has fought to enfranchise
all American citizens, irrespective of race, color, or sex. But now, yet to be ratified 15th
amendment has led some, including Elizabeth Katie Stanton, to question if they should support
this amendment while it excludes women. She's used harsh words, recently asserting that women
should certainly get the vote before. Quote. Unwashed ditch diggers, black boots, butchers and
barbers, fresh from the plantations of the south. Quote. So today, right now, in fact, Stephen
Foster is taking Lizzie to task, questioning her leadership in the organization. The two are
arguing back and forth. It's quite the spectacle. Finally, the salt and peppered abolitionist
Frederick Douglass has had enough. He rises to speak. There is no name greater than that
of Elizabeth Katie Stanton in the matter of women's rights and equal rights. For my sentiments
are tingeed. I must say that I do not see how anyone can pretend that there is the same urgency
in giving the ballot to women as to the Negro. With us, the matter is a question of life and death.
When women, because they are women, are hunted down through the cities of New York,
New Orleans. When they are dragged from their houses and hung from lamp posts,
when their children are torn from their arms and their brains dashed out upon the pavement,
when they are objects of insult and rage at every turn, when they are in danger of having their
homes burnt down, then they will have an urgency to obtain the ballot equal to our own.
A voice calls out from the crowd. Is that not true about black women?
Frederick fires back. Yes, yes, yes. It is true of the black woman, but not because she is a woman,
but because she is black. Standing up for her dear friend, Susan B. Anthony enters the fray.
Mr. Douglas talks about the wrongs of the Negro, but with all the outrageous that he today
suffers, he would not exchange his sex and take the place of Elizabeth Katie Stanton.
I want to know if Grant and you the right of suffrage will change the nature of our sexes.
It will change the pecuniary position of women. It will place her where she can earn her own bread.
The debate rages on. By the days end, both groups feel betrayed by the other.
The American Equal Rights Association collapses within the next year. This post civil war era,
that is, the reconstruction era, doesn't only end the alliance between black leadership and women's
suffrage leadership. It also splits the women's suffrage movement. Elizabeth Katie Stanton and her
friend Susan B. Anthony take a hard line. Feeling betrayed, they established the National Women's
Suffrage Association, or the NWSA, which does not support the 15th Amendment. The NWSA focuses on
federal action, seeking a constitutional amendment to enfranchise women. Meanwhile, less radical
suffragists, like Lucy Stone and her husband, Henry Brown Blackburn, form the American Women's
Suffrage Association, or the AWSA. This more moderate group includes men, supports the 15th
Amendment, and focuses its attention on state level action. I know the names are similar,
but if that's throwing you just think of Major League Baseball. The MLB has the National
and American League's women's suffrage has the National and American Associations.
Easy, right? Okay, now let's see how each association does.
Early on, the more moderate AWSA's strategy seems more promising, particularly out west.
In 1869, the same year of the organization's creation, the territory of Wyoming in franchisees
women. In 1870, the territory further makes history when Wyoming resident, Esther Hobart Morris,
becomes the first woman to serve as justice of the peace in the modern world. That same year,
the Utah Territorial Legislature votes unanimously to enfranchise women, which allows Utah and
Sarah F. Young to become the first American woman to cast a ballot under a modern women's suffrage law.
Many Americans are happy about women's suffrage in Utah. They assume that the territory's
women will use the ballot box to strike out against the polygamous teachings of the Church of
Jesus Christ of Larity Saints, or Mormon Church. But they don't. As such, when Congress clamps
down on Mormon polygamy in 1887 with the Edmunds Tucker Act, it also strips the franchise from Utah
women. This leads to a conundrum for the nation's suffragists. They want suffrage for Utah's
nonmorent women. Certainly, but aren't so sure about Mormon women, who are now fierce advocates
of suffrage and polygamy. Yet, the uncomfortable work continues and the question settles when,
as we learned in the last episode, the Utah dominant Church officially ends polygamy in 1890. But
ceasing to allow further polygamous unions doesn't end those marriages or families already in existence,
which leads to a curious situation when Utah becomes a state and women's suffragists are stored
in 1896. That same year, Martha Hughes Canon, a Welsh immigrant, staunch suffragist, and polygamous
Mormon, is elected to the new Utah state legislature. Thus, Martha, or Maddie, as a friends
caller, becomes the first American woman to serve as a state senator. And among the candidates,
the polygamous woman's defeated is her own husband, Angus. As this unique drama plays out in Utah,
women continue gaining the vote out west. There are a few reasons for this, but an overarching
one is that these states are trying to attract more settlers, including women. Colorado in franchises
women in 1893, while Idaho does so in 1896. Let's not get ahead of ourselves, though.
What's been going on back east? Particularly with Elizabeth Katie Stanton and Susan B. Anthony's
in WSA. During these same decades, the NWSA is focused on the national fight.
Rather than seek a new amendment, though, Susan B. Anthony and others are first trying to argue
that the 14th amendment already grants women the right to vote. It's true that this first of
the reconstruction amendment speaks of male citizens, and it's essentially three fifths compromise
repealing section two. But looking to section one, the strong jaw'd be spectacled woman
argues that the right to vote is inherent to the rights of citizenship. By this logic, members of the
NWSA all over the country, including Susan herself, registered to vote in 1872, which, by the way,
is the same year that Victoria Woodhold technically becomes the first woman to run for U.S.
President. Susan even successfully votes in New York. She is promptly arrested and fined $100.
She never pays. The rest garners national attention. Some large Susan's resolve, others mock her
attempt in radicalism. Meanwhile, Missouri's Virginia minor, who's led the charge in women trying
to vote this year, Susan, when she's denied the vote. She and her support of husband press the
case all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1875. But the court isn't having it.
Scotus rules in minor V haper set that U.S. citizenship does not be still the right of suffrage.
The NWSA continues its national fight. In 1878, a woman's suffrage constitutional amendment is
even introduced in Congress, but it's defeated. And frankly, neither of the two women's suffrage
association sees much movement in the next decade. Perhaps, then, it's time to reunite the
fractured women's movement. Encouraged by a new generation of younger suffragists,
the two associations may triarks bury their two decade old hatchet in 1890. The more moderate,
states oriented American women's suffrage association, or the A.W.S.A. and the more radical,
amendment focused national women's suffrage association, or the NWSA, merge their names and ideas
as the national American women's suffrage association, or Nasa. Nasa will work the state and federal
level. As for the division first caused by the 15th Amendment, that's largely handled by ignoring
the issues facing the black community. As Jim Crow laws cut away at the black male vote,
Nasa won't enter the fight. As in years before, black women following in the steps of the
now deceased Sojourner Truth, like a young Ida B. Wells, are stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Elizabeth Katie Stanton serves as Nasa's first president. She does so more symbolically, though,
allowing her dear old friend Susan B. to drive the organization, which Susan will continue to
do during her own presidency. But this healing reunion under these pioneering aging leaders
doesn't mean all as well for women's suffrage. Not when so many women still oppose it.
You heard that correctly. From the days of Lydia Taft to those of Abigail Adams and on,
the fight for women's suffrage hasn't only been against unsupportive men, but against unsupport
of women. Elizabeth Katie Stanton complains of, quote, the contempt with which women themselves
regard the movement. Close quote. At the time of the 19th Amendment's passage,
future Nasa president, Carrie Chapman Cat, will estimate that about one third of women's
support suffrage, another third oppose it, while the last third is indifferent. Yet, even those
figures will be an improvement. Right now, in the 1890s, there are arguably 15,000 organized suffragists
across the whole United States. Compare that to 20,000 organized anti suffragists in the state
of New York alone. Wow. And sadly, the sister against sister fight is sometimes quite literal.
Take for instance, the Nathan Sisters, modern Annie. Both are strong women from the same
Sephardic Jewish New York family. Yet, by the 1890s, they could not disagree more on women's suffrage.
Mod speaks at pro suffrage gatherings, addresses the state legislature, and attends international
suffrage meetings. While her sister Annie, who is a founder of New York City's first
liberal arts college for women, Barnard College, is publishing hundreds of letters to the
editor criticizing the women's suffrage movement. The two elite New York sisters will publicly
exchange, verbal and written blows over suffrage for years to come. I know. From the 21st century
viewpoint, this sounds nuts. How does an educated, smart, strong, wield woman like Annie,
not support women's suffrage? Or, to give another example, how does the brilliant,
muckraking reporter? The woman who took down the man, John D. Rockefeller, in episode 113,
yes, Ida Tarbel, struggle with the idea of women's suffrage. Well, I can't speak perfectly
for either of them, but we can get into the main anti suffragist arguments.
First and foremost are the gender norms of the day. As museum curator and author, Jessica D. Jenkins
puts it, quote, most people saw life as two distinct halves, with men ideally suited by nature
to rule public life while women reigned in the home. Their introduction into the political
ring would mean chaos in both spheres. Close quote, that one quote sums up just about every anti
suffrage political cartoon I've ever seen, which often mock suffragists and derides them for
destroying the home. For example, one depicts a man in an apron on his knees, cleaning as his wife
pinches his ear and chastizes him. It's captioned as follows, quote, my wife's joined the suffrage
movement. I've suffered ever since. Close quote, a second issue for anti suffragists is the
perception that women's suffrage is radical. A number of suffragists support other ideas seen as
friend or dangerous. Socialism, free love, or the example we got a little earlier out west,
polygamous Mormonism. Many respectable women condemn women's suffragist bad by association.
Finally, some anti suffragist women would tell you that using the masculine ballot box would
actually cost them power. Women's clubs have been influencing social issues for decades
and elite, educated, aridite women can wield enormous soft power even over politicians.
They fear women's suffrage may threaten there as they put it, indirect influence.
It's likely for some or all of these reasons that, some months after that tragic fire at the
triangle shirt waste company, one anti suffragist leader is organizing on a national level.
It's November 28, 1911, and a group of women is gathered in one of the posh homes inside the
new red brick 12 story luxury apartment building at 563 Park Avenue, New York City.
This is the home of Josephine Joule Dodge, and as her home suggests, she's no slouch.
The daughter of a former US minister to Russia, she studied briefly at Vassar College before
marrying her husband Arthur. Now a widow, Josephine, or as she's still called, Mrs. Arthur Dodge,
is known for two things. One, funding free day care for the city's lower class working mothers.
Two, fighting against women's suffrage. She's personally testified before the state legislature
and led a state level anti suffragist organization. But now, with women from various states gathered
in her breathtaking apartment, the 56 year old grain widow is prepared to take a bigger step.
Today, she's organizing the national association opposed to women's suffrage.
The women began by selecting their leaders. The irony isn't lost on me either, but more to the point,
they choose Mrs. Robert Garrett of Maryland as treasure and our hostess, Mrs. Arthur Dodge as
president. And with the reference to the pro suffragist yellow flag, the newly elected
president soon describes what this organization is about. We believe that political duties for
women interfere with the proper performance of civic duties for which they are peculiarly adapted
and women may maintain their independence only by keeping out of politics and away from the
ballot box. Our national association is brought into existence to combat the yellow peril.
Women's suffrage, it will follow the yellow flag and endeavor to stamp out the pestilence.
Under Mrs. Dodge's leadership, the national association opposed women's suffrage
sees more than 100,000 women join its ranks within the first year. As it publishes pamphlets
and newsletters, that number will swell to half a million before the decade is out.
Leading the nation's almost exclusively male legislators to listen with curiosity,
to contradictory messages they're receiving from women on in franchising women. But it's not just
the anti suffragists up in their game. A rising generation of suffragists is convinced that
if they really want to vote, it's time for new tactics, stronger tactics, like those used across
the Atlantic by the British sisters. And with this inspiration, the fight for women's suffrage
is about to hit a whole level. In the last two weeks, podcasting and storytelling has taken
me on the road. New York, Dallas, I know you're not feeling sorry for me and it's not a complaint,
amazing experiences, but those hotel beds started to catch up with me. When I laid down
my sleep number bed last night, I was out, dead to the world. That's what I get with my sleep
number set to 50. My abset is much too. I crushed my usual sleep score IQ of 74 with an 81.
But more importantly, I feel the difference. I'm back to my usual energetic self.
Why choose proven quality sleep from sleep number? Because every great day starts the night before.
And now, it's time for sleep numbers biggest sale of the year where all smart beds are on sale.
Say 50% on the sleep number 360 limited edition smart bed for a limited time. Only at sleep
number stores or sleep number dot com slash HTDS. My name is Malcolm Gladwell and in season 7
of my podcast division history, we throw off the shackles of convention and go when no podcast
is there to go before. An entire season devoted to experience. Because if we are honest about ourselves,
the list of things we don't know is longer and the list of things we do know.
Listen to revisionist history wherever you get your podcasts.
It's almost 12 new March 3rd, 1913. One day before the inauguration of President
Elect Woodrow Wilson, at least 5,000 people possibly 10,000 and almost exclusively women are
assembled in Washington DC. Currently, this massive crowd is by the Civil War inspired peace monument
just a stone's throw from the US capital. But they're not here to stand. They're preparing
to march through the nation's capital city for the cause of women suffrage. Two women on horseback
take their place at the front. Jane Walker, Burlson, and Inaz Millheim. Jane is the grand marshal.
Meanwhile, Inaz simply captivates. We're in a golden crown and flowing white cape,
the horse woman exudes confidence, toys, and unparalleled beauty. All of this is by careful
design. Though an eloquent and brilliant lawyer, 26 year old Inaz, is known nationally for for beauty.
The beautifulest suffragist, according to the New York Tribune, and savvy March organizer Allis
Paul is guessing the media will give the march more coverage with dark, haired vibrant Inaz at the front.
Allis called it right. But hey, look, this procession is starting. Let's watch.
Nine bands strike up a patriotic tune as our grand marshal in the stunning Inaz Millheim ride forward.
And apparently endless procession follows. First are the floats and representatives of
an international suffragists. Canada, Australia, and more. Ah, there's Chinese George Washington
University student, Mesh Huang Lu, riding a float with her nine month old baby girl.
Next are the pictures of the women's movements, pioneers, and subsequent progress.
Take note of the college robbering new woman, as educated,
bounded pushing women are now called. Then we see women from various professions march by.
Educators, librarians, courage, factory workers, lawyers, physicians, even famous actresses.
State allegations follow next.
Amid all the pageantry are perhaps 40 black women, a majority of whom are Howard University students.
Some organizers attempted to relegate black participants to be end of the procession,
but integration went out. Join to protect it by two white friends,
Ina B. Wells is probably marching at the head of the Illinois delegation.
Coming to the back, we have about 70 supportive males. The national men's elite for women's
suffragists here, as well as some congressmen, like representative Richmond Hobbson,
of Alabama. It's a courageous and bold move given the deep south strong anti women's
suffragist sentiments. Following his conscience, will cost him his seat in 1916.
Yellow and purple banners sore, trumpets sound bands continuing to play hundreds of women
in our name form. There are more than 20 floats, including one with a large sign, reading.
We demand an amendment to the constitution of the United States in franchising the women of this
country. Meanwhile, a crowd of a quarter to a half a million watch. Wow. That's what happens when
you plan your procession for the day before presidential inauguration. Genius. But the heckling
starts almost immediately. A voice calls out. Where are your skirts? Police are slow to
intercede. Some even join in the ridicule. Like they not aware, he's addressing the wife of
the congressman, one officer yells at Genevieve Stone. If my wife were where you are, I'd break her hand.
People fill the street and the procession stops and goes as main grab, shove, gear, and even
drunkenly climbing the floats. The suffragists keep their composure, though the occasional
silent tier escapes. After an hour of this, the military finally arrives. Soldiers clear the path,
the procession continues. This massive march in Washington DC was, as the buffalo evening news reports,
the American women's suffrage movements, quote, most elaborate demonstration in history.
Close quote. And it was smartly done. No, I don't just mean the organizing. I'm talking about
outshining the new president in the media by holding it the day before his inauguration.
Placing Inaz Mill Holland, whose femininity, beauty, and grace contradict the anti suffragist
narrative of the new woman, in a position visible to the public media, and crushing it visually
as they did with their tabloor or tablovi vone. If you're unfamiliar with the term,
this describes a group of people striking a pose and freezing like they're in a painting.
Well, a group of classically dark women did this on the treasury building steps,
depicting the virtues and ideals Americans often envision as a living women,
such as liberty, peace, charity, and of course, the personification of the U.S. of A herself,
Columbia, the press A all of this up to. Women's suffrage is hitting a new stride as we into the
19 teams. It needed it, not a single state budge on the issue from 1896 until 1910,
of a thorgic dead era, sometimes called the Dol drums. These years also saw the death of
two lifelong leaders, Elizabeth Katie Stanton, who passed in 1902, and Susan B. Anthony,
who followed in 1906. But in 1910, women in the state of Washington obtained the vote.
California followed in 1911, and last year, 1912, Arizona, Kansas, and Oregon all gone on board.
Along with the four early adopters, again, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, and Idaho, that brings us
to nine states now where women have the franchise. Oh, and in 1914, two more western states,
Montana and Nevada follow. Make that 11. What's going on? Well, women across the nation are
pressing the issue. But some of the new found wind in the sales of women's suffrage is due to two
young suffragists named Alice Paul and Lucy Burns. They've brought a British flair that's
adding some punch to the American movement. Under the leadership of Emily Pankhurst, the British
based women's social and political union marches soap boxes interrupts political meetings and
chains themselves to parlance railings. Not to overstate, but at their greatest extreme,
some of these suffragists, known as militant suffragists, even resort to acts of arson and
bombings. Things we would call terrorism in the 21st century. The violence is typically aimed at
property, not people, but that line is crossed occasionally. In fact, a young president of the
board of trade got horsewiped a few years back. You might have heard of him. His name is Winston
Churchill. Now, don't worry, Alice Paul and Lucy Burns are not a casting any future world war
two heroes. But while studying in the UK a few years ago, they did become militant suffragists,
or to introduce a word the British press likes to use to be little this particular crowd.
Suffragettes. The term will outlast the intended insult. They protested and got arrested several times.
That's how they met actually, under arrest at a London police station in 1909. And when these
arrests led to imprisonment, they did as their fellow suffragists did, demanded to be treated as
political prisoners and went on hunger strikes. The hunger strikes resulted in forced
feedings. See, no official wants to be the guy who let a lady die while in prison.
But rather than acquiesce and grant them political prisoners status, the powers that be
resorted to forced feedings. To do this, a small team holds the woman down and shoves the tube up
one nostril until it circles down her throat. Alice Paul recalls well that, quote,
while the tube is going through the nasal passage, it is exceedingly painful and only less so
as it is being withdrawn. I never went through it without the tears streaming down my face
and often moan from again to end and sometimes cried aloud.
Between October and November, 1909, Alice endured this twice every day.
So that's the British experience Alice Paul and Lucy Burns brought back to the United States.
Now for the record, they aren't out to blow anything up. That would be a huge change of
pace for Quaker raised Alice. But the marching, the demonstrate, that side of Milton's suffrage,
basically what we'd call political activism in the 21st century. That's the sweet spot.
Hence, the 1913 women's procession in Washington, D.C.
But Alice and Lucy part ways with the National American Women's Suffrage Association,
or Nasa shortly after the procession. The young duo's British suffragettes are just a bit
much for this calmer, well established organization. The split leads Alice and Lucy to convert
their congressional union for women's suffrage into a full on political party in 1916.
Called the National Women's Party, its goal is to convince the women in states where they can
vote to support politicians, or public in, Democrat, no matter, who support a constitutional
amendment for a nation wide women's suffrage. They also spread the word. This includes running
a weekly national newspaper, the suffragist, and continuing to engage the public with appearances
and speaking tours. Sadly, he's efforts lead to a tragic end for our horse riding friend from
the 1913 women's procession, Inaz Mill Holland. The parting on a speaking tour in early October
1916, Inaz doesn't realize that the chronic exhaustion and irregular heart beats she's recently
experienced are symptoms of prunicious enemia. She tries to power through, but this catches up with her.
While addressing a crowd of 1,000 at Los Angeles's blanched hall on October 23rd, she collapses.
Within a month's time, it becomes apparent that the one strong and vital Inaz,
the woman whose horse mounting image will later inspire the creation of the superhero
Wonder Woman, has exhausted the last of her life in the pursuit of women's suffrage.
Inaz passes on November 25th. News papers and speeches across the nation
compare her to Joan of Art, and call her a soldier, and a martyr.
Yet, even amid the sorrow of Inaz's passing, November 1916 brings nowhere the progress for women's
suffrage. While women in most states still cannot vote, Montana nonetheless relax
Jeanette Rankin as the nation's first congresswoman. And as 1916 gives way to 1917,
the national women's party turns at the pressure on the president of the United States.
Although, Woodrow Wilson isn't opposed to him in suffrage on a state by state basis,
he hasn't supported a constitutional amendment, and that isn't good enough for Al's
Paul and Lucy Burns. Thus, they make the NWP the first group
ever to pick it at the White House.
Starting in January 1917, banner carrying women become a constant sight at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
From 10 a.m. to 430 p.m. six days a week, they stand in front of the northern gates,
holding banners that indict the president for not taking more action on women's suffrage.
One quotes the last words of Inaz Mill Holland uttered before collapsing on stage.
President Wilson, how long must we wait for liberty? The 2000 or so women who rotate through
bearing these banners remains civil and orderly at most chaining themselves to the gates.
It's their relative silence that results in their nickname as silent sentinels.
Initially, the silent sentinels are tolerated well enough, but that changes when the U.S.
interests were won in April. Many Americans, even some sympathetic to women's suffrage,
find these methods distasteful with the nation out war. They preferred not to
present and carry Chapman cats approach. Support the war effort and show that women are
patriots who deserve the vote. The silent sentinels continue, though. In fact, they up the ante.
In June 1917, as Russian diplomats come to the White House, protesters hold a 10 foot
banner proclaiming that the U.S. is, quote, not a democracy. Close quote. Anti suffragists,
men and women are incensed and spectators tear the banners from the protesters hands.
The silent sentinels answer by continuing to show up. They have more banners,
with more slogans like this one. Quote. We shall fight for the things which we have always
held nearest our hearts. For democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have
a voice in their own governments. Close quote. Of course, those words come verbatim from the
president's war speech just to find America's entry into the conflict. And tensions continue to
escalate. Counter protesters aren't full force. Police begin arresting silent sentinels for
obstructing traffic. Alice Paul and several others find themselves before a judge,
facing a $25 fine or 60 days in jail. Given those options, the British trained suffragist
knows exactly what to do. She and her suffragist sisters opt for jail. They demand to be treated
as political prisoners then go on a hunger strike. As in the UK, Alice endure as forced
feedings. She's moved to a hospital for the insane. Meanwhile, more than 30 of her fellow
silent sentinels are sentenced to Virginia's Aquacuan Workhouse. Here, they face brutality.
On the night of November 14, 1917, prison superintendent W. H. Whittaker orders 40 guards
to beat the silent sentinels senseless. These men charged with keeping the peace, chain up national
women's party cofounder Lucy Burns. They throw Doris Lewis into an unlit cell.
Her head slams into an iron bench knocking her out cold. Women are choked, beaten, and told
if they say a word there will be hell to pay. But that doesn't stop Mrs. Brandon from speaking
up. On November 25, 1917, the New York Times quotes her husband, Dr. John Winters Brandon,
as he passes along her words. Here's a brief segment. From my wife's account, it is evident
that the suffrage prisoners were deliberately terrorized when they entered Aquacuan and were
treated with great brutality by the men guards who handled them and knocked them about with the
theory of thugs under the immediate direction of Mr. Whittaker himself. Who called out that the
men would be glad to get their hands on them and handled them rough. In some cells, there were
three women with nothing to lie on, but one narrow bed and two straw mats. Mrs. Henry Butterworth
of New York was carried off alone into the men's section of the jail and deliberately told
there would be no other woman with her and there she was left all night, the sound of men's voices
on all sides. The silent centenals will never forget Aquacuan, but above all, they'll never forget
November 14th, a night they know as the night of terror. The public is outraged. President
Woodrow Wilson is outraged. All of the silent centenals are released and be at their activism,
the quieter hard work of Nasa, or perhaps both. Woodrow finally gives his public support to a
constitutional amendment guaranteeing women's suffrage on January 9th, 1918. The House of Representatives
votes on the amendment the next day. It passes with the exact two thirds majority required by the
constitution, 274 for it and 136 against. It takes the Senate longer, but it two conceives in June
1919, and once it does, the silent centenals stop their White House protests.
Radification moves quickly in the now 15 states where women have the vote and still others.
Nasa and the NWP both work hard to get more states to ratify. By the summer of 1920,
35 states have done so. That means if one more of the 48 states legislatures ratifies,
will cross the 75% threshold, and that will bring the amendment to life. No wonder the pressure
is so intense as the men in the Tennessee House of Representatives vote.
It's August 18th, 1920. We're in Nashville, Tennessee. Inside the state's gorgeous
neoclassical limestone capital building, seated in the Tennessee House of Representatives chamber.
The galley seats are crammed with yellow rose wearing suffragists, and red rose wearing anti
suffragists. The whole room is tense as everyone knows this very split legislative body,
which nearly table the vote moments ago is about to make one group euphoric, the other in
raged, and either way it will likely come down to one vote. Speaker of the House Seth Walker
rises. He announces, the hour has come. Suffragists and anti suffragists alike hold their breath
as state representatives call out their vote in the chamber below. Harry Burn is ready.
0] This handsome, dark hair 24 year old freshman legislator feels the eyes of his fellow representatives
0] and those in the galley seats falling on him. Few doubt what he'll do. An anti
0] suffraged red rose adorns his lapel after all. Then, the young rap rises and votes.
0] I, a pregnant pause envelopes the chamber, but once the shock of registers,
0] women seated above erupt with excitement and rain rose petals on the chain below.
0] Why did Harry change his mind? The reason is an on his lapel.
0] It's in his pocket. A letter just received from his mother. In it, she wrote, quote,
0] hurrah and vote for suffrage and don't keep them in doubt. Close quote. Harry sure his constituents
0] will hate him. But as he'll say later, a boy should mind his mother's advice. In doing so,
0] he's broken the chamber's tie and may tendency the 36th state to ratify the proposed amendment.
0] In another eight days, an August 26th, 1920, everything becomes official. Women's suffrage is
0] now a constitutional right in the United States, guaranteed by a new 19th amendment. It reads as follows.
0] The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the
0] United States or by any state on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this
0] article by appropriate legislation. And so, we come to the end of our long and winding road
0] to women's suffrage. From colonial voices like Abigail Adams, if not Lydia Taft, down to
0] Tennessee's last minute convert, Harry Burn. We met women and men who played crucial roles in
0] what eventually led to women's suffrage becoming a constitutional right. Perhaps Alice Stone Black
0] well, the daughter of noted suffragist couple Lucy Stone and Henry Blackwell, put it best when she
0] described women's suffrage as a fight quote of broad minded men and women on the one side against
0] narrow minded men and women on the other. Close quote. More specifically, though, we've met women
0] like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Katie Stanton who lived for women's suffrage. We met
0] Inais Milholen who gave her life for women's suffrage and still others who amid hunger pains,
0] forced feedings and the brutality of aquacquangards proved ready to give their lives for it.
0] Personally, when I think about what these women endured, the earnestness with which they
0] craved the vote, I can't help but hear the echoes of Patrick Henry. Give me liberty or give me death.
0] And thanks to them, American democracy became greater. In other words, the United States became
0] a yet more or Virginia. Seeing the task complete, the more moderate national American women's
0] suffrage association. Nasa comes to an end, though it more or less morphs into the League of Women
0] voters. But the National Women's Party isn't going anywhere. By 1923, Alice Paul's working on
0] Equal Rights Amendment. That, however, has a story for another day. Yet, with women's suffrage secured,
0] another question begs to be answered. Is an American woman such as Ida B. Wells taking care of?
0] Or are the Jim Crow laws of the New South that we've learned about back in Episode 101,
0] still puncturing and frame the value of the reconstruction amendments? Next time, we'll meet a
0] rising postfredric Douglas generation of black leaders, including Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois.
0] As we turn our attention to that story.
0] History that doesn't suck is created and hosted by me, Greg Jackson. Episode Research and Written by Greg
0] Jackson. Additional research and drafting by Josh Popham and Diana Avela. Production by Airship,
0] audio editing by Derek Barrens. Sound designed by Molly Bob. Being music composed by Greg Jackson,
0] arranging an additional composition by Lindsey Graham of Airship. For Bibliography of all primary
0] secondary sources, salted in writing this episode, is an HTDS podcast.com. HTDS is supported
0] by fans at patreon.com.org slash history that doesn't suck. My gratitude to Kind Souls
0] providing funding helps keep going. Thank you. And a special thing to our patrons, who's monthly
0] gift, puts them at producer status. Luke Antioco, Roberto Estenzi, N.A. Avril, Palboroski,
0] Christopher Beckett, Victoria Bennett, James Black, Boosh, Amanda Kelsberg, Henry Brungis,
0] Thomas Bug, Will Callleau, Beth Inchrist Jansson, Christopher Pothel, Jason Carson's Charles and
0] Shirley Clinton and Matthew Corley, David DeFazio, Charles Devier, John Fruble Dughal, Kyle Decker,
0] Bob Drazovich, Joe Doevis, Mark Ellis, Michael and Rachel Ripley, Paul Gorenger, Lee Goldman,
0] Brad Burnett, Jennifer and Houston Mike Healey, Noah Hoff, Melanie Jan Decks Jones, John
0] Keller, Kristen Kennedy, Todd Time, Amber Clandred, Soon Lane, Art Lane, Anla Pellis,
0] Chris Mendoza, Rich Miller, Matthew Mitchell, Jamie McCreary, Liz McNeill, Donald Moore,
0] Jeffrey Moods, Nick Nivoda, Fox Osborne, Sean Pepper, Christopher Pullman, Sean Rage,
0] and Nate Robertson, John Relief, John Shaper, Shannon Stewart, David and Alzander Sharpe,
0] Scott Slaymaker, Durante Spencer, Thomas Stewart, Bill Thompson, Sarah Traywick,
0] TJ Walker and Jeff Watts, join me in two weeks where I'd like to tell you a story.
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