March is a special month for women around the world. In the United States. March is women’s history month. Our school will share stories of amazing women who helped change and shape our country. March 8 is International Women’s Day. The holiday celebrates women’s accomplishments from around the world. Both celebrations, remind women that we have made great strides but our work isn’t done. Here is an epic road trip around the United States tracking the United States Suffragette Movement. I’m glad we’ve got a fairly new car for the journey so that we’ll at least have a comfortable ride! Not sure I would be quite as keen on the trip if my car was on its last legs, I’d probably look at car lease options, to be truly honest. The road will twist in turn thru various spots in the suffragette movement to make an epic road trip.
Stop 1 ~ Chicago, Illinois
The road trip starts in Chicago with a visit Ida B. Wells-Barnett House. Ida B. Wells-Barnett was a well know African American Activist while her primary focus was African American rights. She helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs. Her writing includes work on how lynching is used to control the African American population in the south. She worked to organize women and encouraged them to vote.
Stop 2 ~ Akron, Ohio
During the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio, a former slave named Sojourner Truth gave a passionate speech about being a women and an African American. The speech has become known as “Ain’t I a Woman?.” This would be the first of many speeches Truth would give on the subject. Truth was an impressive speaker and my favorite story about her speeches was when she was accused of being a man. She bared her breast and proved she was a woman.
Stop 3 ~ Rochester, New York
Head over to Rochester, New York. Here we will pay our respects to Susan B. Anthony. Susan B. Anthony tirelessly worked for social reform and women’s rights. She along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton founded the Women’s Loyal National League, American Equal Rights Association, and National Woman Suffrage Association. She led the National American Woman Suffrage Association when the NWSA combined with the American Woman Suffrage Association.
In 1872, she managed to vote in the 1872 presidential election by quoting the Fourteenth Amendment along with fourteen other women. Anthony was arrested at her home in Rochester. She was then tried and convicted of illegally voting and fined $100. She never paid and the case was not pursued further to prevent Anthony from taking the case to the Supreme Court. The house is now a museum dedicated to her life. Susan B. Anthony was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery. Her grave is often covered in “I voted” stickers after elections.
— John Kucko (@john_kucko) November 8, 2016
Stop 4 ~ Seneca Falls, New York
The fourth stop is Seneca Falls, New York. Seneca and nearby Waterloo is one of the most important stops on this road trip. Seneca and Waterloo are home to the Women’s Rights National Historical Park.
I would get a cup of tea and walk by this house. It is only open to the public on special occasions.
One summer afternoon in July 1848, five women meet for a cup of tea. These women were Lucretia Coffin Mott, Mary Ann M’Clintock, Martha Coffin Wright, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Jane Hunt as the hostess. On thing led to another and by the end of the tea party, the idea for the first convention of Women’s rights was founded. After their meeting, they set the date for their convention as July 19–20, 1848.
Next visit the M’Clintock House. Home to Mary Ann and Thomas M’Clintock, the house was used for further planning of the Seneca Falls Convention. The Declaration of Sentiments was written here by Elizabeth Stanton. The Sentiments laid a “grand movement for attaining the civil, social, political, and religious rights of women.” The Declaration of Sentiments was signed at the Convention by 68 women and 32 men.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton House
The last house to visit is the Seneca home of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She lived in this house while planning the convention. She was one of the leading activists to support women’s right to vote.
Wesleyan Methodist Church
Wesleyan Methodist Church was selected by the ladies as the site of the first convention. It was selected for several reasons. The first was the Richard Hunt (of the Hunt house and husband of Jane Hunt) had financed the building of the church. The second was the chapel had regally hosted reform lectures such abolitionists (anti-slavery) speeches.
The convention lasted two days and about 300 men and women attended. The first day was for women only (except for young children with their mothers). About 40 men were allowed to attend if they remained silent. The Declaration of Sentiments was debated and changes were made by the women during the day. The second day both sexes were invited to speak and there was much debate about adding the line about women’s right to vote.
Famed African-American abolitionist Frederick Douglass spoke in support of women’s right to vote. He couldn’t accept the right to vote as a black man if women couldn’t also vote.
Stop 5 ~ Worcester, Massachusetts
The fifth stop takes us back to Massachusetts to visit the site of the first and second National Woman’s Right’s Convention in 1850 and 1851. The Conventions took place in Brinley Hall. The original building no longer stands but the original street is still there and the site can be found at 340 Main Street. Over 900 people attended from 11 states with a majority being men for the first convention. Many of the speeches were published afterward. Susan B. Anthony took up the cause after reading the speeches in a newspaper. There were regular conventions throughout the United States until the start of the Civil War.
Stop 6 ~ Boston, Massachusetts
The sixth stop is the Massachusetts General Court in Boston, Massachusetts. Angelina Grimké a prominent southern born abolitionist and suffragette was invited to speak before a legislative committee. In February 1838, Grimké spoke out against a variety of issues such as slavery and a women’s right to petition. Her speech was the first time a women had testify before a legislative body in the United States.
Stop 7 ~ Uxbridge, Massachusetts
The third stop on our women’s suffrage road trip is Uxbridge, Massachusetts. On October 30, 1756, a wealthy widow in Uxbridge became the first women to legally vote in America. Mrs. Lydia Chapin Taft was granted the right to vote due to recent personal tragedies in her life. With the sudden death of her eldest son and husband, she was left as a wealthy land and bond owner and her other son is a minor. The town was voting on providing support French and Indian War. This critical vote needed the support of all tax paying landowners. As such Uxbridge voted to give Lydia a vote as proxy for the estate.
Stop 8 ~ Washington D.C
Next stop is Washington D.C. The capital city of the United States saw a fair amount of action during the Suffragette Movement.
Just before Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration in 1913, Alica Paul of the National American Woman Suffrage Association organized a massive parade called the Woman Suffrage Procession. It featured 8,000 marchers, twenty-six floats, and nine bands. The marchers were harassed and over 200 people were injured. A group of boys from the Maryland Agricultural College formed a human barrier to protect the women.
An ugly side to the Women’s rights movement was seen here. Often African American women were excluded or segregated in their participation the women’s rights organizations. Many of the Southern Women’s right organization where only organizing for white women to gain the right to vote.
U.S Capitol Building
The Congress building saw several attempts to pass a bill that would grant women the right to vote. The measures failed many times. The first debates where held in 1884 and no vote was held. In 1916, Jeannette Rankin entered the House of Representatives as the first female member of the House of Representatives from the state of Montana.
Three years later, Congresswomen Rankin would open the debated for the Nineteenth Amendment which would grant women the right to vote. She would see the Amendment pass and head to the states for ratification.
For almost two and half years starting in 1917, a group of women protesters camped outside the White House fence. They wanted to hold President Woodrow Wilson to his promise to support women’s rights. The women were called the Silent Sentinels. The peacefully stood in front of the White House with signs. The women were regularly arrested and harassed. Nearly 2,000 women would take part in the protest before the end. Over 200 would be arrested including organizers Alice Paul.
The protested ended with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution by Congress. All that was left was for 36 states to ratify the amendment. Carrie Chapman Catt of the National American Woman Suffrage Association would lead the charge for ratification.
Stop 9 ~ Lorton, Virginia
Lorton is home to the former Occoquan Workhouse. Occoquan was where most of the convicted Silent Sentinel women were sent for their prisons sentences. They were regularly beaten and abused and the whole workhouse was unsanitary. The women didn’t stop protesting even in jail. Alica Paul’s arrive brought about the start of hunger strikes. The Strikes led to force-feeding and further brutalizations. Eventually, after the horrific night of November 14, 1917, the newspapers got wind of the horror and the women were released.
Stop 10 ~ Nashville, TN
The last stop on the road to passing the Nineteenth Amendment was the Tennessee State Capitol building. Where on August 18, 1920, a short letter from a mother to her son fundamentally changed the United States. The Nineteenth Amendment had seen 35 states ratifying the amendment. It was one state short and the ratification period was running out.
Suddenly the state of Tennessee became the battleground for Women’s Right to Vote. A win in Tennessee would add that amendment to the U.S. Constitution. A loss didn’t mean the end of the amendment but the road to passage would be much more difficult. The time became known as the Tennessee ‘War of the Rose.’ Anti-Suffragists wore red roses while suffragette wore yellow roses.
Activists from all over the United States descend on Tennessee to count the rose of the legislators. Counting the roses the amendment would fail the vote 49-47.
Two votes short.
During the roll calls to table the resolution, Rep. Banks Turner yielded to party pressure and voted for the nineteenth amendment. This deadlocked the resolution and brought about a ratification vote.
As the ratification vote started, a 24-year-old first-term representative wearing a red rose was facing a choice. In his pocket was a seven-page letter from his mother.
Hurray and vote for Suffrage and don’t keep them in doubt. I noticed Chandlers’ speech, it was very bitter. I’ve been waiting to see how you stood but have not seen anything yet…. Don’t forget to be a good boy and help Mrs. Catt with her “Rats.” Is she the one that put rat in ratification, Ha! No more from mama this time.
With lots of love, Mama.
In a surprising move, Harry T. Burns was a good boy and voted for the Nineteenth Amendment. Mrs. Febb E. Burn raised the young man who placed the final vote to “free 17 million women from political slavery.”
This original letter can be seen in Knoxville Library upon appointment. I think it should either be seen to the Women’s Rights National Historical Park or be put on display in the Tennessee state capital.
Other stops to add to extend your Suffragette Movement road trip
Cheyenne, Wyoming – In 1869, the territory in Wyoming gave women the right to vote. It was a marketing ploy. Wyoming had a women problem. As a territory, it had an estimated 6 men per 1 women. This meant finding a wife to settle down with was hard.
“My heart is with all women who vote. They have gained it now, and they should not quarrel about the method of using it.”
~ Charlotte Woodward, the only signer of the Declaration of Sentiments to see the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, alas ill health prevented her from voting.