Up until the 19th Amendment in the American Constitution, the women living in the United States did not have a legal right to vote. Therefore, it was neither customary nor common for women to voice their issues like it is deemed to happen in a democracy. The women’s right to vote referred to as The Woman’s Suffrage Movement paved the way for countries across the globe to allow women to vote.
The Seneca Falls Convention
When the American constitution was being constructed, the founding fathers faced this exact question. They thereby let the states decide this matter on their own. This devolution did not act favorably for women, as this matter was easily forgotten by the all-male state legislators.
After the 1820s, various smaller movements had started gaining momentum calling for women to be given more rights, among several other objectives. The pivotal moment for the movement came in 1848 when Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott were successful in arranging the Seneca Falls Convention in New York. Historians record, as stated by the History Channel that around 300 members were in attendance, with a majority of them being women.
The participants of the convention presented and passed a resolution resembling the Declaration of Independence, where they pressed for women to have an autonomous identity, and thus being given the right to vote.
Since the overall perception of the suffrage movement was not favorable, the media rigorously mocked the convention. Newspapers had headlines calling this convention a joke. The concept of allowing women to be given the right to vote was considered to be a threat to mankind.
The Movement Carries on
Nevertheless, the movement got carried on by the prominent figureheads, mainly being Stanton and Mott. They later went on making the National Woman Suffrage Association, while some other figureheads like Lucy Stone proposed the idea of getting the states on board first. Stanton achieved her first victory in 1869 when the Wyoming Territory allowed women to vote.
Woodrow Wilson Joins Hands
As Stanton and Anthony had become aged, Carrie Chapman Catt rose to become the next leader of the movement. Before the 1920s, 17 more states gave women the right to vote. The turning point came when President Woodrow Wilson took the Senate Floor and propagated for the acceptance of the amendment, but that too got rejected by the Senate in 1918 with merely two votes.
The struggle was restarted by Representative James R. Mann, who presented the amendment to the house. The resolution got accepted with 304 to 89 votes, with a significantly high margin in his favor. The resolution then moved to the senate, where it passed by just two votes over the required majority
Tennessee the tie-breaker
The matter of ratification of the 19th Amendment then moved to the states, where a three-fourth majority was required for the amendment to pass. By March of 1919, 35 states had already passed the amendment, but since the southern states were not willing to see it through, the resolution was practically stuck. It later depended entirely on Tennessee to cast the tie-breaker vote. The situation inside the Tennessee legislator had become balanced too, where there was a tie of 48 to 48 votes. It depended on the 23-year-old Republican Harry T. Burn to break the tie.
An Obedient Son
The single vote of Rep. Burn had the fate of the suffrage movement in his hands. And after a little convincing by the representative’s mother, Rep. Burn voted in favor of the resolution, thereby bringing a monumental change to world history.