Develop relevant search terms.
*The Long Road to Women’s Rights* – question 1
The Constitution the Founders crafted was a product of British common law and 18th-century thinking, neither of which was particularly friendly to women. At the time of the Constitution’s ratification, for instance, a woman’s rights depended almost entirely on her marital status: in most states, unmarried women, including widows, could own property, enter into contracts, and live where they pleased. But the rights of married women were totally subordinated to the rights of their husbands. (Salmon, 2016)
Moreover, by establishing a system of federalism, the Constitution left most questions of day-to-day rights—the right to vote, to marry, to inherit property—to the states, whose policies were highly restrictive toward women. At the time of ratification, New Jersey was the only state that allowed women to vote—and it rescinded that right in 1807.
Members of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, before a meeting with President Woodrow Wilson.
The long campaign to expand the rights of American women has gone on for almost two centuries, and it has seen both victories and defeats. In Theme: Communicating Historical Ideas, we will focus on two major goals of the women’s rights movement. The Nineteenth Amendment, which guaranteed women the right to vote, was ratified, after decades of effort, in 1920. But the Equal Rights Amendment, which would have ensured women “equality of rights under the law,” was defeated after a contentious national debate that came to a close in 1982.
The women’s rights movement began in earnest in July 1848 with the Seneca Falls Convention*, a two-day gathering in upstate New York that drew 300 participants “to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of woman.” Its principal organizers, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, had met eight years earlier at the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention in London—at which the women delegates, including Mott, were barred from speaking and were required to sit in a segregated area. (Wellman, 2004)
The following chart summarizes some of the major historical factors that led to the birth of the women’s movement at the Seneca Falls Convention:
The Seneca Falls Convention was the product of a wide range of historical factors:
- The rise of the abolition movement, many of whose leaders strongly encouraged the participation of women;
- The religious revival known as the Second Great Awakening, which inspired many women to become active in social causes;
- The influence of the Society of Friends, or Quakers, some of whose more progressive branches advocated an expanded role for women in religious affairs; and
- The political movement in support of Married Women’s Property Acts, state laws that accorded married women some limited economic rights. (Wellman, 2004; Library of Congress, 2013)
The Seneca Falls Convention produced the famous “Declaration of Sentiments,” based on the Declaration of Independence, which included the simple but radical assertion: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal.” The Declaration was followed by a series of 13 Resolutions calling for legal and social equality for women, including the assertion that “it is the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise.” (This link will take you to the full text of the Declaration of Sentiments.)
In its early years, the women’s movement focused on economic and social issues, including the lack of educational opportunities for girls and women. The advent of the Civil War brought an almost exclusive focus on the abolition of slavery, but while the end of the war meant an end to slavery, it also created profound disappointment for many women’s-rights advocates. The failure of Congress to include women in the guarantees of legal and voting rights, which were extended to freed slaves in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, caused a schism in the women’s movement.
While leaders of the movement agreed on the goal of woman suffrage*—securing for women the right to vote—they disagreed strongly over the best way to achieve that goal. In 1869, Stanton and Susan B. Anthony created the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), which focused on changing federal law; the NWSA opposed the Fifteenth Amendment because it excluded women. That same year, Lucy Stone, a prominent lobbyist for women’s rights, helped form the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA), which supported the Fifteenth Amendment and focused its efforts at the state level. (U.S. House of Representatives, 2016)
While these two groups would eventually unite, more than 50 years would pass before woman suffrage would be enshrined in the Constitution by the Nineteenth Amendment. And, with the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment, the larger goal envisioned by those who attended the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848—full legal equality for all American women—has yet to be realized.
2) Congress held its final vote to approve the Nineteenth Amendment on June 4, 1919. Was this a necessary or a contributory cause of the success of the woman suffrage movement?
3) The National American Woman Suffrage Association supported the U.S. decision to enter World War I and publicly encouraged women to support the war effort. Was this a necessary or a contributory cause of the success of the woman suffrage movement?
*Types of Causes* – question 2 and 3
In looking for the causes of a historical event, a primary consideration is chronology*—that is, the order in which key events took place. (Waring, 2010) For one event to have caused another event, it must have taken place before the second event. But chronology does not tell us the whole story: just because one event happened before another does not necessarily mean that it caused the second event.
In a famous example often cited by logicians, the fact that a rooster crowed before sunrise does not mean that the rooster caused the sun to rise. This is an example of what logicians and historians call the post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy*. (Carroll, 2015)
Historians also distinguish between proximate causes and ultimate causes. A proximate cause* is an event that immediately precedes, or is directly responsible for causing, some other event. The proximate cause of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment was the vote by the Tennessee House of Representatives to approve the amendment on August 18, 1920.
An ultimate cause* (also known as a distal cause) is an event that, when viewed at a higher level, may be considered to be the real reason an event occurred. One of the ultimate causes of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment was the shift in American public attitudes toward the role of women in society.
At the most simplistic level, a proximate cause tells us how an event happened; an ultimate cause is more likely to tell us why it happened. It’s important to remember that most historical events have multiple proximate and ultimate causes. (Palazzo, 2007)
In considering the relative importance of different causes, historians often divide them into necessary causes and contributory causes. (Waring, 2010) A necessary cause* is an event or trend that is essential to causing some other event; without the necessary cause, the second event could not take place. Approval by 36 state legislatures was a necessary cause for ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment.
By contrast, contributory causes* are not essential to causing some other event, but they may make that event more likely to occur. President Woodrow Wilson’s eventual decision to come out in favor of woman suffrage was a contributory cause for ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, but it was not an essential factor in the Amendment’s success.
Once again, most historical events have multiple necessary and contributory causes.
4) Look at this website for information about women’s suffrage at the Library of Congress:http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/primarysourcesets/womens-suffrage. Using the A.R.I.A. criteria, answer the following questions:
What is the purpose of this website? Is the information on this website easy to locate? Can you use a search box or a navigational menu? How reliable and current is the information presented? Would this website be appropriate to use in a research paper?
5) Look at this website about the Paycheck Fairness Act:https://www.aclu.org/equal-pay-equal-work-pass-paycheck-fairness-act. Using the A.R.I.A. criteria, answer the following questions:
Who sponsors this website? Is it easy to navigate and find information? Is it modern looking? How current and accurate is the information on the website? Does it promote a specific opinion or point of view? Would this website be appropriate to use in a research paper?
6) Accuracy: Are references provided? Does the reference list include other scholarly sources?
Relevancy: Would this article be useful for a paper examining the similarities between political sentiment in states that granted women the right to vote before the Nineteenth Amendment? Would it be useful in an essay focusing on the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), an activist group based in New York that was dedicated to nationwide woman suffrage?
Intent: What is the point of this article? Is the author making an argument?
Authoritativeness: What are the author’s credentials? What about the publication’s?
*Exercise: Examining Scholarly Sources* – question 6
As you research sources for your historical event analysis, you will encounter many scholarly journal articles. These might feel daunting at first. If you break them down by initially evaluating them using the A.R.I.A.* criteria, they will become more approachable. In this exercise, you will examine a sample journal article about the woman suffrage movement and answer questions about it.
The following passage is excerpted from a scholarly journal article titled “The Limits of State Suffrage for California Women Candidates in the Progressive Era”. This reading is provided by the Shapiro Library. Click on the link to view the full text of the article. You will have to log into Shapiro Library with your SNHU credentials to access this article.
Examine information from the article below. You will be asked questions based on your evaluation.
The Limits of State Suffrage for California Women Candidates in the Progressive Era
Author: Linda Van Ingen
Source: Pacific Historical Review. February 2004, Vol. 73 no. 1, pp. 21-48
The author is a Professor of Women’s Studies, 20th Century United States, Race and Gender, and Historical Methods in the history department at the University of Nebraska, Kearney.
California women gained the right to run for the state legislature and Congress when they won the vote in 1911. Coming nine years before the Nineteenth Amendment enfranchised women nationally in 1920, this era of state enfranchisement appeared ripe for women’s electoral success. The ongoing national suffrage movement, the California Progressive Party, and the extensive network of California women’s clubs could all have worked to advance women’s candidacies. Instead, these factors created conditions that undermined women’s political ambitions. Not until 1918, when passage of a national suffrage amendment seemed imminent and the power of the Progressive Party in California faded, did women find success as candidates. Their delayed victories reveal the limits of state enfranchisement for women’s political power.
When women won the vote in California in 1911, they also won the right to run for elective office on the state and national levels. Granted the rights of full citizenship long before the national suffrage amendment passed in 1920, California women began to run for office at their first opportunity in 1912, when ten women ran for their party’s nomination in the primary elections. Most of these candidates ran as third-party contenders on either the Socialist or Prohibition tickets. Only one ran as a major-party candidate: Mary Ella Ridle, of San Luis Obispo, who ran for the State Assembly as a Democrat. Exceptional in her bid as a major-party candidate, Ridle nevertheless shared the experience of failure with the other women. Indeed, no California woman won office until 1918, seven years after the state enfranchised women. Clearly, women faced obstacles as candidates. As Ridle noted at the time, “there has never been a step taken in history that has not received its share of derision. It is the usual fate of innovations of any kind. However, someone has to make a start. In accepting this candidacy I feel that I am filling that want.” 1 Her bold efforts, however, had little impact. As this article argues, possessing the rights of full suffrage before ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment actually impeded California women’s opportunities for electoral office. Women like Ridle had little chance of winning office on the state and national levels.
At first glance, this era of enfranchisement for women before 1920 appeared ripe for political success. The national suffrage movement was constantly revisiting its cause as political and social circumstances changed; it could have welcomed the advancement of women as candidates. The Progressive Party, needing women as political workers, saw itself as inclusionary and championed women. With California playing a critical role in its plans to become a permanent party, it could have supported Progressive women candidates. Clubwomen understood the process of public policymaking and the value of their leadership. They could have extended their interests to women’s candidacies. Indeed, all these factors could have encouraged women’s candidacies. The evidence shows they did not.
Instead, these factors worked against women running for office in the Golden State. The importance of California suffrage to the national suffrage movement, the rise of the Progressive Party in the state, and the critical role played by women’s clubs in both the suffrage and Progressive movements created conditions that impeded women’s success as candidates for state or national office.2 This article examines the dissuasive tactics of national suffragists, the obstacles placed by organized clubwomen—including the ideals of women’s noncompetitive altruism, solidarity, and nonpartisanship—and the impact of the California Progressive Party, as the party in power, on women’s electoral ambitions for higher office. While these factors overlap significantly, when considered independently they reveal the extent to which a woman’s ability to run for office in California was thwarted during the years preceding national suffrage. Only when the burden of a national suffrage movement eased and the power of California Progressivism faded in 1918 did California women find some success in their bids for office. Ironically, however, state enfranchisement had by then limited women’s political power by establishing a bias against women as partisan candidates, a bias that would follow women into the 1920s and beyond.3
1. San Luis Obispo Daily Telegram, July 31, 1912, p. 4.
2. See Jackson K. Putnam, “The Progressive Legacy in California: Fifty Years of Politics, 1917-1967,” in William Deverell and Tom Sitton, eds., California Progressivism Revisited (Berkeley, 1994), 248; Donna C. Schuele, “‘A Robbery to the Wife’: Culture, Gender and Marital Property in California Law and Politics, 1850-1890” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Berkeley, 1999), 206-215.
3. While four women won State Assembly seats in 1918, only ten more would do so in the five decades that followed, from 1920 to 1970. See Linda Van Ingen, “Campaigns for Equality: Women Candidates for California State Office, 1912-1970” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Riverside, 2000).
7) * See attached essay * Building on the keywords you identified in Theme 1, and the research of secondary sources you have done so far, what subjects, events, people, and time period are related to the topic you have chosen for your historical event analysis essay? Identifying these pieces will be useful as you search the primary source databases.
- Who (either a single person or an organization) created this poster? Why did this person or organization write it?
- Who is the intended audience? What methods does the creator(s) use to target this audience? How might the intended audience have encountered this poster?
- Can you detect any biases in this source? What words does the creator use that might point to his or her biases or assumptions?
- What biases might you bring to your interpretation of the source?
*Exercise: Analyzing Primary Sources* – question 8 and 9
What should you look at when you’re examining a primary source? In order to effectively research for your historical analysis essay, you need to be able to critically examine primary sources.
The primary source below was printed in 1910. Read the information on the poster, then answer the questions that follow it. You can find this primary source here in the Library of Congress database.