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“Thousands of women fought against the right to vote”: Now they are in Congress and on Supreme Court

Women who opposed their own right to vote

… the ridiculousness of “Originalism”

Let us be realistic about one thing: The founding fathers believed very strongly in “all men” being created equal.

For those who want to place them on a pedestal, that did not include women, anyone who did not own property, anyone who was a slave … and down the list.

That meant that women did not have the right to vote and many other rights for centuries — centuries.

In fact, many women demonstrated against the campaign to give females the right to vote. Why would they do this?

Because they were of the same mentality of many contemporary, 21st Century women who believe that those of the female persuasion should not have the same rights as men, that they should be in the kitchen and not in the workplace or in the college classroom.

In effect, they believe in the conservative position of originalism in which the founders approved of slavery and the limitations on women’s rights.

Susan B. Anthony

In fact, some of these right-wing women believe that Susan B. Anthony was a conservative who was opposed to abortion. They have no evidence of that, but conservatives do not believe in evidence or science or equal rights.

A book published about eight years ago traces that movement in New York State and details how women actually demonstrated against the 19th amendment,

Susan B. Anthony stood on a stage in Upstate New York, asking a crowd to support the suffragist cause, when someone in the audience asked a question: Do women actually want the right to vote?

Her answer was hardly unequivocal.

“They do not oppose it,” Anthony replied vaguely.

She had little reason to believe otherwise, as recounted in Susan Goodier’s book, “No Votes for Women: The New York State Anti-Suffrage Movement.” It was 1893, and suffragists were traveling across New York to build support ahead of a constitutional convention, when lawmakers would decide if the word “male” should be removed from the wording of the state constitution. Until then, most of the opposition to women’s suffrage had been dominated by men.

But as the suffragists would soon learn, women would play a crucial role in attempting to prevent women from gaining the right to vote. As the suffragist movement gained momentum, women mobilized committees, circulated petitions, and created associations to oppose women’s suffrage in New York and Massachusetts. Thousands of women would eventually join their fight.

Samantha Schmidt, “Thousands of women fought against the right to vote. Their reasons still resonate today,” Washington Post, August 9, 2020

Their reasons for doing this were varied, but they were interesting.

Not just men opposed the right to vote

The question that resonates today was why women would oppose a right so central to their rights as citizens,

Granting women the right to vote, the anti-suffragists argued, would lead to a disruption of the family unit, of a woman’s role as a wife and mother, and of what they considered a privileged place in society — themes that would parallel those of Phyllis Schlafly, the conservative activist who would successfully campaign against the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s.

But their reasons for opposing suffrage were often more complex, focusing on the idea that women already had their own form of power. Many of the women in the anti-suffrage movement felt that the political system was a corrupt space, and if women joined it, they would inevitably become just as corrupt as the men, said Anya Jabour, a history professor at the University of Montana.

They felt women could better achieve their aims through influencing others — particularly their husbands and sons — using their supposed moral superiority to persuade men to do what they wanted.

“The argument was if they traded that for raw political power, they would lose female influence, and that would be a bad trade,” Jabour said.

The National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage, founded in 1911, distributed a pamphlet explaining why women shouldn’t be allowed to vote:

“Because it means competition of women with men instead of co-operation. Because 80% of the women eligible to vote are married and can only double or annul their husbands’ votes. … Because in some States more voting women than voting men will place the government under petticoat rule.”

The pamphlet then offered a few tips to housewives, among them: “You do not need a ballot to clean out your sink spout. … Control of the temper makes a happier home than control of elections.”

Samantha Schmidt, Washington Post, August 9, 2020

After they lost …

So, what did these women do after they lost? They became women like Amy Coney Barrett, who think that the founders’ prejudices against women, blacks, and slaves should still be ingrained in the Constitution,

Once women were granted the right to vote, many anti-suffragist leaders faced a dilemma over what to do next, said Sunu Kodumthara, associate professor of history at Southwestern Oklahoma State University. After New York state passed a suffrage amendment, a New York Times article in September 1919 captured the contradicting messages in the office of the national anti-suffrage association.

On one wall, a sign read: “Politics are bad for women and women are bad for politics.” On the other side of the room was a sign urging members to register to vote.

Across the country, many anti-suffragists had resolved to use their newly granted voting power to push for their conservative views, Kodumthara said.

In fact, just two years after Oklahoma granted women the right to vote, the vice president of the state’s anti-suffrage association, Alice Robertson, decided to run for office. She became the first woman from Oklahoma elected to Congress.

Samantha Schmidt, Washington Post, August 9, 2020

So, do people like Barrett believe that women should still not have the right to vote? If you believe the concept originalism, that if it is not contained in the original document of the Constitution it should not be law, the answer is yes.

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