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Author Topic: Women's Suffrage in the United States
hobsen
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Recently Pete at Home challenged my assertion that women's right to vote in the United States was opposed by conservative Christian churches. That led me to look up the history of the Nineteenth Amendment, which was sent to the states by Congress on May 21, 1919 and ratified by the 36th of the then 48 states - Tennessee - on August 18, 1920.

The twelve states which failed to ratify the amendment in a timely manner included eight states of the former Confederacy plus the border states of Delaware and Maryland. That is by no means a random distribution, but I am no longer certain the reason was Bible Belt Christianity. Perhaps race was involved somehow, or differences in Southern customs. But that is what happened, and the details can be found by looking up the Nineteenth Amendment on Wikipedia.

Anyway Arkansas and Texas did approve the amendment, indicating there was less opposition to the west. And Connecticut and Vermont did not, which probably means only that their legislatures did not get around to considering the amendment in a timely manner. Only Delaware and Maryland, plus six of the former Confederate states, actually voted on the amendment and rejected it.

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Clark
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Glancing through the wikipedia article on Women's Suffrage in the US, I found this graphic which shows suffrage prior to the 19th amendment. It basically shows that western states were far ahead of those in the East, and particularly the South in giving women the right to vote.

Wyoming, Utah, Idaho and Colorado were decades out in front of the 19th amendment. New Jersey specifically gave women the right to vote in 1790, but then excluded them in 1807.

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Dave at Work
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The Western states were as a general rule admitted to the Union at a later date than their Eastern counterparts by people that were generally looking for something different than what they left behind. This is just a guess, but perhaps when they formalized their state governments and the laws of their lands, new ideas were incorporated which were probably looked at askance by the older established states. When new ideas like Women's suffrage came knocking, these newer states were probably more fertile and less hostile soil to take root in than the older more established states.
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Paladine
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I believe that Utah permitted women to vote and was actually forced to prohibit them from doing so by the federal government. At the time when it permitted women to vote, Utah was essentially run by the LDS Church. Pete knows the history there much better than I do though.
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Clark
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As I understand it, Paladine is correct about the history in Utah. (Some people would say that the state is still run by the LDS Church. [Wink] ) Women were given the right to vote again in Utah when it became a state in 1896.
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RickyB
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"I believe that Utah permitted women to vote and was actually forced to prohibit them from doing so by the federal government. "

I read that the Feds did the prohibiting when it turned out the newly enfranchised women weren't voting en masse against polygamy, as they were expected to...

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Pete at Home
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New Jersey only briefly enfranchized women who owned property; it was never a general female emancipation; otoh only propertied men could vote as well.
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Pete at Home
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Turns out the Bible Belt term was first coined by Menken in 1924 to refer to those southern states.

(Hehe ... did you know that Norway, Sweden, and the Netherlands each has its own "Bible belt"?)

The reason I looked is that the south has not *always* been more religious than the Northeast. But I guess folks were already making that association by the time of the women's emancipation movement.

I'm curious if opposition to women voting was organized from or around the churches in the South. The LDS broke our general rule about politics in churches and organized support for women's emancipation from our meetinghouses; I would not be surprised if the same was not done in other churches.

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RickyB
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"Hehe ... did you know that Norway, Sweden, and the Netherlands each has its own "Bible belt"?"

I knew about The Netherlands. [Smile] Seems to be a protestant thing. I don't think you see quite the same phenomenon in Catholic countries. Then again, I could be speaking from ignorance here.

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RickyB
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[URL= http://www.questia.com/googleScholar.qst;jsessionid=McpPZL1fGpSyJT4Tlp2C1S9vgVkgqC0QY2V7143cLpxknXccb5BQ!1566849592!1380883283?docId=97937172]Here[/URL]

As I began researching religion and woman suffrage in the South I asked a
prominent historian of southern religion if he knew of any sources. I had
assumed that religion and woman suffrage had an intimate relationship in the
South, since historians have amply documented the close connection between
southern religion and culture. After scratching his head for a moment,
however, he commented dryly, "There really aren't any sources. That will be
a short paper." He went on to explain that religious arguments were seldom
used in the struggle for woman suffrage, that natural rights ideology and the
social benefits of moral women voting were more common defenses than ones
based on Scripture. Even antisuffragists relied on the threat of black women
voting and the superfluity of women voting when they were represented by
their husbands at the ballot box more often than explicitly religious argu-
ments.

Undaunted by this discouraging word, I continued to research this topic.
Unfortunately, I found that he was right. Religious arguments were not the
primary line of defense for pro- and antisuffrage advocates but more often the
third or fourth if on the defensive line at all. Attacks on the Bible by
suffragists did not appear in the South as in the North, nor were frequent
diatribes preached against the sins of Eve and her suffragist daughters. 1 Protestant Christianity in the South did not intersect with woman suffrage as
historians have shown it did with other social issues, such as slavery,
prohibition, or evolution. 2 Despite the reputed religiosity of the South, despite
the "cultural captivity" of southern churches, the Bible was not the formida-
ble weapon I would have expected for suffragists and their opponents. 3 For
weeks I searched in vain for some helpful little nugget.

After protracted mining, I am happy to say, I did hit pay dirt, and I
concluded that although my historian friend was partly right, he was also
wrong. I did find nuggets of Protestant Christianity buried in the struggle for
woman suffrage, cropping out in veins I did not anticipate and absent where I
expected to find them. While religion played a different role in the woman
suffrage movement than with other social issues, it did have a significant
impact, manifesting itself in at least three ways. First, religion was used in
both pro- and antisuffrage arguments, if not as the primary argument, at least
as an element. Second, it played an important role in the motivations of
individual suffragists. Third, and most important, suffragists made the vote a
religious crusade, imbuing it with respectability and righteousness. Their
partial success in baptizing woman suffrage as a religious cause shows both
the unquestioned dominance of evangelical Protestant Christianity and its
power to legitimate a social issue, even an unpopular one. Ultimately, woman
suffrage in the South was simultaneously supported and hindered by religion.

At this point a few clarifications are necessary. First, "the South" refers to
the states of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama,
Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Florida, and Louisiana. Of
these states only three ratified the Nineteenth Amendment: Arkansas, Ken­
tucky, and Tennessee.4 Second, this paper does not address the movement of
black women for suffrage.5 The leaders of the southern suffrage movement,
the people making speeches, writing articles, and leaving diaries that reflected
their religious concerns, were overwhelmingly educated, wealthy, white
women. Epitomes of the Southern Lady, these women had a strong sense of
family, prominent social position, and ideas born of privilege.6 Their racism
was evident in their exclusion of black women from the movement and in
their arguments that allowing white women to vote would offset black voting
strength and that woman suffrage would not alter voting qualifications for
black women.7"

"Ms. Kirkley is assistant professor of American church history in Colgate
Rochester Divinity School/ Bexley Hall/ Crozer Theological Seminary,
Rochester, New York. "

[ June 19, 2010, 07:31 AM: Message edited by: RickyB ]

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Pete at Home
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quote:
First, religion was used in
both pro- and antisuffrage arguments, if not as the primary argument, at least
as an element. Second, it played an important role in the motivations of
individual suffragists. Third, and most important, suffragists made the vote a
religious crusade, imbuing it with respectability and righteousness. Their
partial success in baptizing woman suffrage as a religious cause shows both
the unquestioned dominance of evangelical Protestant Christianity and its
power to legitimate a social issue, even an unpopular one. Ultimately, woman
suffrage in the South was simultaneously supported and hindered by religion.

Sounds right. But points 2 and 3 suggest that it was more helped than hindered, since sufferage but not antisufferage became the religious crusade.
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hobsen
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At the beginning of this post I failed to mention that western states led the way in giving women the right to vote because only a small part of the U.S. population lived west of the Mississippi prior to the Civil War. Dave at Work is probably right that these states were more open to new ideas at the time. In addition the very small populations meant that one leader who felt strongly about something could sway a whole legislature, so some odd laws got passed.
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Doug64
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quote:
Originally posted by RickyB:
"I believe that Utah permitted women to vote and was actually forced to prohibit them from doing so by the federal government. "

I read that the Feds did the prohibiting when it turned out the newly enfranchised women weren't voting en masse against polygamy, as they were expected to...

I don't remember reading of outsiders ever expecting Mormon women to vote against polygamy, but yes, the disenfranchisement of women in the Utah territory by Congress was part of the anti-polygamy campaign, intended to strengthen the political power of non-Mormons. (Utah didn't have Republican and Democrat parties at the time, but essentially Mormon and Gentile parties.)
quote:
Originally posted by hobsen:
At the beginning of this post I failed to mention that western states led the way in giving women the right to vote because only a small part of the U.S. population lived west of the Mississippi prior to the Civil War. Dave at Work is probably right that these states were more open to new ideas at the time. In addition the very small populations meant that one leader who felt strongly about something could sway a whole legislature, so some odd laws got passed.

I believe there's also the fact that much of the West had a serious lack of women and wanted to make themselves more attractive to female immigrants.
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