One Hundred Years of Women and the Vote

About this Episode

Guests
Susan Hartmann, Treva Lindsey, Sarah Paxton

On the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment the Ohio State University College of Arts and Sciences hosted a conversation with a panel of experts. They discussed the legacy of enfranchisement, especially for women of color; the ongoing gender disparity in elected officials; and how history informs the 2020 election. Panelists included: Susan Hartmann, professor emerita, Department of History; Treva Lindsey, associate professor, Department of Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies; Sarah Paxton, JD; PhD candidate, Department of History; Producer, Prologued podcast; and Leticia Wiggins, PhD, Department of History; Multimedia Producer, WOSU Public Media.

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Cite this Site

Leticia R. Wiggins , "One Hundred Years of Women and the Vote" , Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective
August, 2020
https://origins.osu.edu/historytalk/one-hundred-years-women-and-vote?language_content_entity=en.
August, 2020

Transcript

Leticia Wiggins 

Hello everyone and welcome to our webinar on 100 years of women and the vote. I'm Leticia Wiggins, and I'm going to be the host today. I'm really excited to join everyone today. And this is a great effort on behalf of the History Department at The Ohio State University. So I'm a multimedia producer at WOSU public media. I produce different podcast series such as "Rivet" also "StoryCorps Columbus" and initiatives like "Letters From Home", which is dealing with the current COVID-19 pandemic. I received my PhD in history from Ohio State in 2016, so it's great to see everybody again today and work with everyone again. Again, we're happy everyone is joining us today. Today is a really important day. It marks the 100 years since the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, which granted women the right to vote on the federal level in the United States. Currently, we have the third female vice presidential nominee of a major political party, a female Speaker of the House of Representatives, and an unprecedented number of both liberal and conservative women running for federal office. So this is all happening 100 years since the vote. But, backing up. We're going to talk today about why and how women were granted the vote in 1920, the activism surrounding the amendment, and the changing of American politics and inclusion of women over the last 100 years. Perhaps most importantly, we'll consider how the past century of women's suffrage and political participation informs our modern expectations and the future of the political process. Just a little bit about the format: we're delighted to welcome three experts on women's history. We have Susan Hartmann, a professor emeritus of history at Ohio State University. She has published and lectured extensively on women's movements and women in politics. Treva Lindsey is an Associate Professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies at The Ohio State University and the author of "Colored No More: Reinventing Black Womanhood in Washington, DC". And last but not least, we have Sarah Paxton, who's an attorney and PhD candidate who specializes in women's legal and political history, and is the host of the recently released podcast, "Prologued", which analyzes women's rights activism and the historical divisions within the female electorate. So to begin, I'd like to open a discussion among our panelists, based on a viewer's question submitted during registration. I want to note we'll also be collecting questions throughout/during the event, so please send them in. We've received dozens of questions, and we'll do our best to answer as many as we can. But to begin, with is viewer's question. 100 years marks a huge milestone, and people are talking about this, but do we think it should be a bigger deal? Is it a big enough deal? They asked: "What is so important about this movement in this moment?" And Sarah, I'll begin by throwing this question to you.

 

Sarah Paxton 

Okay, I like how this was phrased: "what's so important about the movement", because that's actually the key. The movement, not so much the achievement of the 19th Amendment itself. And there was a lot of reasons for that, for the most part, society was pretty blasé about the 19th amendment after it was passed. It was accepted with little controversy, and there were several different reasons. Let's see, the 19th amendment was born at a time of really rapid change in society. There was World War I going on, a lot of states had already passed their own suffrage amendments. And so a lot of women were voting and women were out in society in really big numbers. So the 19th Amendment didn't really change society all that much, unlike, say, like the 14th and 15th amendments, which essentially created a whole new constitution...Like I like to tell my students that there were three constitutions: there's the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution, and then the post-14th amendment constitution. But the suffrage movement itself is the key, because it was born from a racial justice movement, the anti-slavery movement, and was the product of cooperation between a variety of different social groups. And this kind of set the stage for the long story of women's rights activism that has direct ties and parallels to the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, and especially the feminist movement in the second half of the 20th century.

 

Treva Lindsey 

Yeah, I would add to that I think that's a really great framing. And I love that you started, Sarah, with the anti-slavery conventions being such an important way to think about how suffragists came to understand their activism, came to understand their politics. And so, while many will talk today about Seneca Falls, and the convention of 1848 as this landmark moment, and it is, and I think today what we're doing is being more expansive about how we think about the history of the 19th Amendment, is really pushing farther back and going to 1837 in the anti-slavery convention that's happening there, where we're thinking about rights and some of the same attendees at Seneca Falls are also at that slavery convention, and move forward to these different milestone moments. So as you mentioned, the 14th and 15th amendments, which were very consequential amendments to what the United States looks like, what the legal landscape, the political landscape looks like, which is quickly followed by Jim Crow laws, which essentially disenfranchise African American men who had just recently been enfranchised as a result of the 15th Amendment barring/prohibiting folks based on race, color, or former condition of servitude to do that, into the 20th century, where we arrive at the 19th Amendment. But that's still not the point at which women across races, classes, ethnicities, citizenship status, etc., can vote. Really we demarcate that in 1965, with the passing of the Voting Rights Act, which...essentially puts us closer to what I would consider inclusive suffrage or approximating universal suffrage for adults. So really, we're talking about over 100 years of activism in which women were taking to the streets for the elective franchise and that this looks different. There's solidarities, there's frictions, there's tensions, etc. But I think what the 19th, what we have an opportunity to do today, in commemorating it is to get into the weeds of that history.

 

Leticia Wiggins 

That seems like such an important piece. And I just think it's a good time to, sort of, bring up this question of: what did the 19th Amendment even say? You know, we talk about like the right to vote, right, and you then think about not garnering that until the 60s for certain populations. So maybe getting into that a little bit.

 

Treva Lindsey 

One of the important ways to think about is, essentially amendment it tells you what you can't do, as opposed to something that you get a right to do something versus saying that you cannot be barred on the basis of sex to vote. But we do know is in practice, as Sarah mentioned earlier, what happens after is far less exciting. It's almost kind of anticlimactic. Yes, women do vote, they're registering to vote. In fact, in 1920, you see a surge of African American women attempting to vote despite various laws, practices and extra-legal practices that bar them from exercising the actual right to vote. And so, it's important when we think about these amendments, both the 15th, which is the one that says you can't prohibit on the basis of race and color or the condition of servitude, and this one is saying what you can't prohibit against. And so states prior to that had already been enfranchising women. There are states that have enfranchisement ... in the late 1800s. So I think what this federal level does when the constitutional amendment happens, is producing a context in which that prohibition has the weight of the federal government behind it. But it still does not stop states from finding other ways to ensure that the electorate still remains in the hands of a certain group of people. And the movement for suffrage or voting rights as we start to talk about it post-19th amendment more acutely, is really led by women of color, folks of color, who were not effectively enfranchised by the ratification passage and adoption of the 15th, or the 19th amendments.

 

Leticia Wiggins 

I think this is another point to just bring in a quick viewer question. And this is something to think about the states that were allowing this right to vote earlier on. Have you ever wanted to know, how were rural women involved in getting the right to vote? And thinking about this a little bit? And let's mention the western states, shall we?

 

Dr. Susan Hartmann 

Those in fact, we're the only states that passed women's suffrage before, I think 1912 or so. And those were mostly rural states. Most of the people lived in rural areas in those states. So, there were a lot of rural women involved. The Farmers' Alliance and the Populist Party, were two major organizations that were the earliest national organizations to support women's suffrage. So it was largely an urban movement, but certainly not exclusively, and those Western states were critical in the final adoption of women's studies. They sent more than 100 representatives and senators to Congress, and all of them voted for the 19th amendment. So, the western states were really, really critical. They also showed that when women got the right to vote, the world didn't fall apart. So that was another, and the suffragists in the East use those examples as part of their campaign. Women in the West are voting, why aren't we voting?

 

Sarah Paxton 

Yeah. And to build on that it's so Kansas, for example, allowed women to vote in local elections in, I think it was 1887, I remember was second half. So women were not only voting there, a lot of times they were being elected. So Kansas had the first female mayor, who was elected in Argonia, Susanna Salter, who was elected because, actually, it started as a joke, because the men who nominated her didn't think that she would get elected. And then she did. And then of course, you have Jeanette Rankin, who was sent from Minnesota. So if the western states, and like Dr. Herman said, the very rural areas were essential to the increase of women in public and political life.

 

Treva Lindsey 

One thing I want to point out even prior to this is just to say, like, women's suffrage becomes an interesting issue, because prior to what we formerly known as the United States, when we're talking about colonies, there are a number of places where actually women are voting pre-this. That stops at 1807, New Jersey becomes the last state in which women are enfranchised. And so there's a turn that happens that relegates, and so this movement for women's suffrage, it's really important to contextualize because it is a right that some women did have prior to the kind of more formalization of what we know as states and areas. And there is this period, even once they're formalized states, post, right, the constitution being drafted, etc., where you do have women who are voting. And I think when we think about women's suffrage, to really put that into perspective, that women are fighting for something that at one point, at least some women had access to, and then are gradually across a span of 100+ years, and really, in certain cases, almost 200 years, ran it back into the franchise. So it's this interesting historical trajectory that I think often people don't know, I think it's just that no women were voting prior to this point. And I think it's super important for us to drive home the point of how important women have always been and how women have consistently been pushing towards access to the elective franchise across this nation's history, really.

 

Dr. Susan Hartmann 

And actually, a lot of native women had political power in the early 19th century. In many Indian groups, it was women who chose the male leaders, and they could eject them ... they were expected to give them advice to tell them what to do. And suffrages, especially in New York, where some Native American groups existed where women had considerable power. They inspired suffragists knew about this and they inspired white suffragists.

 

Sarah Paxton 

I'm really glad you mentioned native women. I interviewed Dr. Daniel Rivers, who's another professor at Ohio State. And one of the things he told me was that a lot of these nations that let women or had women who were more politically involved in tribal politics, they actually, after first contact started pulling back the women's rights during the 19th century, because they were trying to kind of curry favor with the white colonizers who they had come into contact with now. So ... while women in, like, New Jersey in 1807 have their rights pulled back, other women of color have theirs pulled back at the same time because of Old English colonialism.

 

Leticia Wiggins 

I think this is a great segue into another viewer question. Just thinking about opposition, they say many women were opposed to suffrage and campaigned against the 19th. And they're wondering why.

 

Sarah Paxton 

Oh, yeah. Okay, so anti-suffragists. There are a couple different reasons. Um, I guess probably the biggest one were the anti-suffragists just who thought that, okay, I'm going to define a term first, because it'll make it really helpful. It's called the "cult of true womanhood", which is this idea that women by their very nature are more pious and virtuous and have all these characteristics that are associated with mothers and, thus, their role is in the home. And during the 19th century, that type of idea started being pushed outward to justify kind of being society's caretaker. So getting more involved in more social work things, so taking care of orphaned children, etc. So a lot of women were actually concerned that if you gave women the right to vote, not only did it potentially go against the "cult of true womanhood" idea, because politics were dirty, and would corrupt women, it also would kind of lose women that leverage of moral superiority, because then they were corrupted by politics, and would be no better than men. So you had a lot of that. And then you also had, anti-suffragists who actually started as suffragists, such as Kate Gordon in Louisiana, who initially worked with suffrage organizations like the National Association. So that was like Susan B, Anthony and them. But she really in a lot of people didn't want black women to be in enfranchised with white women. And when they started hyper focusing on a federal amendment that would essentially be set up like the 15th amendment that would allow the federal government to come in and say you have to let them vote, that's when she started pushing back on the 19th amendment.

 

Dr. Susan Hartmann 

While it's important to see the women who are anti suffragists, there was also powerful opposition from, really, from business interests. Breweries and alcohol distributors assume assumed that if women got the vote, they would help to enact prohibition. And so they put hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of dollars into campaigns against suffrage. And also other corporations were also opposed to suffrage, because they believed that if women got the vote, they would be pushing legislation to regulate child labor, for example, to regulate the number of hours that you could push workers to work. And they didn't want that regulation. So there was a lot of money put into the campaign against suffrage and that pretty much came from the corporate world.

 

Leticia Wiggins 

And thinking about all this opposition, something that always strikes me about this movement is that ... against that opposition, there needed to be a lot of action. And I was hoping we could sort of talk about the action that was taken and some things that we might not think about when we think about picketing, or some of the actual violence that happened. So I just want to open it up to talk a little bit about that as well.

 

Dr. Susan Hartmann 

Well, borrowing heavily from the British suffragists, a part of the American women's suffrage movement started around 1910 to put women out on the streets. They would get up on a soapbox and start talking about women's suffrage, they staged massive parades, and in 1917 a small faction started picketing the White House. And they were the very first people to do that. Suffragists introduced a new tactic into American politics. They were attacked by people on the street, by men on the street. They were put into jail. Some of them went on hunger strike, they were force-fed. So they endured a tremendous amount of suffering for suffrage. But, I think an important thing happened around 1910, and that's when women started putting their bodies on the line through parades, through speaking outdoors. And that was just a key turning point in terms of strategy and tactics.

 

Treva Lindsey 

I echo all of that. It's such a fascinating history that we tend to think of suffragists, like, if any of your textbooks had this in high school, there was a suffragist, like, someone sitting in a portrait, like, in a corner and it seems very static and unmoving, and there's nothing kinetic about the kind of energy. There's nothing dynamic about this. These are pioneering moments - that image of people protesting in front of the White House, that is an iconic moment. It sets a precedent to know that that is a possibility of how do you engage power? How do you draw attention? How do you use theatrics to gain attention for these causes? So, these suffrage parades that are popping up all over the country, one of which being the 1913 parade in Washington, DC, goes down Pennsylvania Avenue that's been organized by Alice Paul and African American women in particular are excluded from this. But you have the drama of Ida B. Wells going to march with the Illinois delegation at this march, in spite of the racist exclusionary tactics that were used, even within the movement. You have members of Delta Sigma Theta sorority marching in their first public acts since being founded at Howard University just a couple months before, marching with their banner, Mary Church Terrell marching with them. They're being heckled, they're being spat upon, they're being called names, there are threats to their well-being. And so that idea of women using their body is, as Dr. Hartman said, it's so important in terms of contextualizing both the bodily autonomy that women take up and occupy their own bodies in service of this goal, and the kinds of violence that they face on the other end of that. And we tend to think about voting rights violence almost exclusively, in terms of this country, with like, Selma becomes the big example of seeing the images of the late John Lewis having been beaten and what happens as that group of protesters are crossing the Pettus bridge. But knowing that that is not uncommon in the context of voting rights activism. That violence is actually par for the course in the 1900s forward, and prior to that in the 1870s through the 1900s, through the 1965 as it appears to African American men, and African American communities more broadly, to Chinese recent immigrants who are attempting to vote as well. So you see the solidarity coalesce around the body and what the body will do in the face of this opposition to suffrage.

 

Dr. Susan Hartmann 

In that 1913 Parade, they actually had to call in the National Guard to protect the marchers. And there was an investigation afterwards, and I think the police chief lost his job because they weren't doing their job of protecting the parade.

 

Sarah Paxton 

Beyond just not protecting the parade, a lot of the cops who were told to help the marchers down the street, joined in with the anti-protesters yelling at the suffragists and spitting on them. And that's one of the reasons the National Guard had to get called in.

 

Leticia Wiggins 

Yeah, these are all amazing examples and sort of this thing where we see modern day activism and thinking about the long roots of that that even go back farther. But it's just a really interesting thing to think of these first women picketing the White House, right? As being the first to do so, which is pretty incredible. There was a question that came in earlier and I'm thinking of a way to ask around this, because I think it's really interesting. They said, I understand that women were able to vote in school races, why was that? And I just am kind of curious the acceptance of women voting in certain aspects of life, and then not in others, and how that's changed, and how we think about this moment in 1920 and beyond as sort of positioning women in different ways, like we think of the private sector, like your life at home versus public sphere, and just kind of general comments surrounding that as well.

 

Dr. Susan Hartmann 

Well, education was, or concern for children, was associated with women's traditional roles. And I think that's why that was the first step that some areas took to enfranchise women. But, that was so, and women could vote for school boards in Ohio, I think in the 1890s. But that was the first enfranchisement that Ohio women got. And I think that points to the kind of fragmentary nature of the progress of enfranchisement for women, because there were all kinds of different portions of the suffrage that women achieved before the 19th amendment. Illinois was the first state, it was in 1912 or 1913, to allow the presidential suffrage. And several other states passed laws to grant women the right to vote for the president, but for no other offices, and in fact, Ohio women, the legislature voted in, I think it was 1917 or 1918 for presidential suffrage for women in Ohio. The opponents of that move then got a referendum adopted, and in that referendum, the men voted it down. So Ohio women had presidential suffrage for a minute, it was taken away. They got it again in 1919, right before the 19th Amendment was ratified. But suffrage really did come in bits and pieces all over the country.

 

Dr. Susan Hartmann 

Yeah, I like to think of it as kind of like you have these two side by side spheres: the public sphere and the private sphere. And there's all these things that are inside the private sphere. And then during the 19th century women or using stuff in the private sphere to kind of, like, push the boundaries out further and further until it encapsulates the public sphere. Because, like, when Jeanette Rankin was running for the Minnesota State Legislature, she talked about how women should be nursing their children after they get typhoid, but they should also have a voice in regulating the milk that caused it. So, it's using those types of things that cover motherhood and child-rearing and the house to justify voices in other parts of society. And it's just, it's slow and piece mealy.

 

Dr. Susan Hartmann 

That's so, kind of as a justification, women need the vote because they have children. But because they had children, also motivated them ... to become suffragists. There's a woman in Texas who said, "I floated into suffrage on a sea of bad milk". And I just love that quote, because she got involved in the suffrage movement when she tried to get her city to regulate local dairies, so that the milk she purchased to feed her family would not poison them. And a lot of women became engaged in the suffrage movement, when they tried to do things in their neighborhoods that they thought were important in order to protect their family.

 

Leticia Wiggins 

Thinking about this as so piecemeal, it makes sense when we think about even the progression, passing along in the legacy of this amendment. ... And I know, we've already kind of touched on this, but two points is that: the 19th Amendment did not enfranchise all women, and so thinking about why that is. And then also about the power of women's vote is it did not match that of men, women's voting that is, until the 1960s. And so, just kind of bringing those two things up and thinking about this legacy, this piecemeal way that women are given the vote, what are the historical kind of context that we need to know for that?

 

Leticia Wiggins 

Never use the word "given".

 

Leticia Wiggins 

Yeah.

 

Treva Lindsey 

Yes, this is a hard-fought battle every step of the way. And I think it's important in thinking about the post-1920 moment, that we still need the Indian Citizenship Act, which, just as a context in which indigenous folks here are able to access the right to vote and citizenship, although many at that point had, this shores that up in a different way. ... In 1943, when we actually have the opportunity for Chinese immigrants to have a pathway to citizenship, which then produces the right to vote as well, that inclusion. And then of course, in 1965 with the Voting Rights Act, which puts in many protections and rights that ensure that African Americans are largely able to vote and really folks across race and ethnicities are able. But suffrage and voting rights, especially to the elective franchise, continue to shift over time, right? When we dropped from 21 to 18, that's important. When we have poll tax is banned, that's important in terms of access to the polls. We don't often think about this in terms of class, we talk about often around race and ethnicity, but what barriers that that put up? Or literacy tests prior to that, how literacy, class, race, ethnicity, former condition of servitude, immigration status, all of that would play into access to ballot, and later provisional ballots that come in. So of course we see, and that's not until the '80s that we arrive at that, and so this progression in historical context. So although there are these milestone moments, it's the sesquicentennial for the 15th amendment, it is the centennial for the 19th, and it is the 55th anniversary for the Voting Rights Act. But there are all of these markers that I think are super important to include in the historical context, and thinking about the ongoing activism for voting rights. And we still have voting rights activism that's happening today. And so, these women suffragists are part of a long legacy that is part of this nation's history from almost its inception as a nation. And I think that that is a story that we don't often tell. We really truncate how we think about suffrage over about a 72-year period, as opposed to a movement that really is at the soul of the nation about who can vote, what does that vote mean, and what will that vote do in terms of outcomes for the state of the Nation. And so we're now at a point where women out-vote men. And I think that's a really important transition to see from 1920 moving forward in the '60s, where you have, you know, equal participation, to exceeding participation at this point that now need to be courted, that need to be addressed, that need to be thought about. And so that private sphere expansion that folks, you know, used and mobilize in organizing for suffrage becomes so important as a political space and a political arena, in which people who elected officials have to really wrestle with that space. That women become a formidable force. Although dynamic, not monolithic, extremely diverse and divergent in perspectives and opinions, I think we have to reckon with how women become the force that they are, and the 19th amendment is one very important part of that story.

 

Leticia Wiggins 

Well I made a note, never use the word "given". ... If anything's, like a good takeaway from this whole talk, that is number one. Just to bring it to present, because I think this question was great from Mia, who was asking thoughts on how the women's suffrage movement can inform us on how to combat contemporary voter suppression today.

 

Dr. Susan Hartmann 

Well, persistence. Persistence is one thing that they taught us. You know, women who started and even joined in mid-19th, ... late 19th century, were dead. I mean, they worked, some of them gave their lives, devoted their whole lifetimes to suffrage, and they never saw it happen. So I think that persistence over the years, with defeat, after defeat, after defeat, Ohio had several referenda, and they were all, you know, they were all turned down. So I think persistence is one of the things that we can learn. I think it's also interesting to look at how women's organizations evolved from 1920. We might not have exhausted this topic, but really, the racism on the part of white suffragists, their willingness to shove aside black suffragists who were very active in the movement, to shove them aside when it was politically expedient to do so. And after ratification of the 19th amendment, and black women tried to vote in the south and were turned away, some of them came to the National Woman's party, which was the most radical wing of the suffrage movement. And were told that it was a race problem, not a sex problem, not a sex issue, and therefore, it was beyond the purview of the National Woman's party. The other organization that succeeded the suffrage movement, the National League of Women Voters, also did not take up the cause of black women being denied the suffrage. But 100 years, turn the clock up 100 years, and the League of Women Voters is one of the most active organizations working against voter suppression. I mean, they have put in, that's probably their top priority right now, working against all those devices and laws that, that try to suppress the vote. So in a way, it's kind of a redemption of those suffragists who turned their back on black women who wanted to be in the middle of the movement 100 years ago.

 

Sarah Paxton 

I think we can also learn the importance of cooperation from the suffrage movement. When we think of the suffrage movement, we think of organizations like the National Women's party and NAWSA and things like that. But it was so much more expansive than that. It was cooperation between labor movement and labor organizations, cooperations between the club women during the club movement and during racial justice organizations, it was born from the anti-slavery movement, the WCTU ... the Temperance Union. And it heightens the idea that women and women voters are not single issue, but voting rights encompasses all of it. So there's a common thread that between all these different organizations and all the different issues and applying that cooperation to the modern fight for voting rights would be an excellent lesson to take.

 

Treva Lindsey 

Yeah, I would agree. I think these are both great points. I think only what I would add would be in learning from in that cooperation, grappling with those tensions and those conflicts, and those divergent perspectives head-on, one of the things that absolutely had this halt in the movement, when we think about the post-15th amendment movement is because of the virulent racism that comes out of that you have a fracturing of the movement. And so, when we think about voting rights, and whose voting rights are at stake, that it's really important for those who do have their voting rights to think about who doesn't and why they don't. To be very critical and reflexive about what barriers still exist that make it possible for some communities to vote and some communities not to vote. So everything from thinking about where polling stations are, where are they located? How accessible are they? Are they near public transportation? How did you receive information about voting? One of the things that the League of Women Voters does, and I'm so glad that Dr. Harmon brought that up is, you know, you can get voter education, one of the ways that the women's suffragists immediately after that form into the League of Women Voters, particularly in a state like Ohio, is that now that we have the right to vote, we gotta educate people on how to vote. And so part of that indication is knowing how to vote and knowing when your vote's at stake, when there's voter suppression that is possible and working diligently against that. And that does become a little bit of the work initially in terms of voter education, but that working towards voting rights and working against voter suppression is such an important frontier of the ongoing movement for voting rights in this nation. I think that's also the lesson, that it's an ongoing movement. Yes, there are rights that are had, but there are still a lot of folks who do not have the right to vote and face substantive barriers in attempting to both register and exercise their right to vote. So I think if we are taking up the legacy of suffragists from the 19th and 20th centuries, it requires us to still ask the question about, do we have universal suffrage? And if we don't, we need to hit those streets and persist just like our foremothers, forefathers, there are male allies who are male suffragists, who are doing and keep pushing for that. That actualization still hasn't happened. There's still unfinished business with regards to voting rights in the United States.

 

Leticia Wiggins 

And a current example of this comes from another question from Howard. He says, "Ohio has recently prevented people from voting based on cleansing the rolls. He was wondering why there is no substantial pushback on this within the citizenry of the state, especially organizations such as the League of Women Voters. I don't know if there's any comments on that at all.

 

Dr. Susan Hartmann 

Well, I think there has been pushback and I don't remember, you know, who exactly is pushing back? But the Dispatch has covered it and WOSU, and so I think there is pushback, but I can’t say who was pushing back and why. You know, how far they have gone whether, there might even be litigation in the courts right now. I think the last I heard, there was, but.

 

Treva Lindsey 

There is litigation and the League of Women Voters is definitely on this in addition to the kind of the security of our elections as well, which is another big issue that's been taken up. But the purging of voter rolls, which is not unique to Ohio, as well, we think about this in a national landscape. And so leagues across the nation are some of the folks who are deeply involved in legal cases that are going forward, pushing and engaging with the secretaries of state in different spaces. And so it's happening, but there can always be more. So whenever I have the question of why aren't more people doing this, I make sure first I do the self-check, am I doing it? Am I participating and being part of the thing that I'm saying that's not happening and pushing towards that? And how do I get folks around me in my own community to be engaged around this issue as well? I think oftentimes, the question that propels that is also a question we need to internalize, ask ourselves, and so many suffragists, if we're learning other lessons from them, absolutely mobilized at the local level, as well. They're organizing in their communities, they're talking to one another, they're talking to one another at clubs that in these kind of literary book club spaces, what we would call literary salons, in the late 19th century. They're finding ways to connect within their communities and that local grassroots, we don't think about suffrage also as a grassroots movement, but it is absolutely grassroots. So if we're seeing that folks are being purged from voter rolls, how do I mobilize the folks in my community around this issue, and continue to push and get involved with those organizations already doing some of that work, but are stretched very thin? Because it's a very important issue, but it also is an issue that, unfortunately, is more widespread than we'd like to think in terms of a democratic republic.

 

Leticia Wiggins 

Thank you. Yeah. Thank you for the answers there. So thinking back maybe backtracking just now, I guess, a couple decades. We're looking at the ERA, somebody was wondering, why did the 19th amendment pass, but years later, the ERA failed? Which is another big question.

 

Dr. Susan Hartmann 

Well, the women behind the ERA, I mean, this is just one reason, I mean, obviously, the movement that arose to oppose it, there's a reason why it failed. But the women behind the ERA were not as organized as a suffragist. The suffragists just did not go away once the 19th amendment came out of Congress. They were ready at the minute to go into the states, to get the states to ratify. And so you get an organization of suffragists, who just who state by state made sure that ... the 19th Amendment was ratified. You didn't have that kind of organization behind the Equal Rights Amendment. You didn't have the numbers, and you didn't have the state-by-state organization. So I think that was a big reason. And because it stretched out over the years, it gave the opposition time to stop it, time to do their own organizing and stop it in enough states.

 

Treva Lindsey 

I would agree. I think that there also, you know, history is long and suffrage, you know, as we said, if we're thinking back to anti-slavery conventions, when some of these questions start to arrive, we still are talking about almost 100 years of organizing, building, reorganizing, reconstituting, figuring that out, and the ERA as it emerges, has a slightly shorter history at the point where it reaches its height of peak national interest in the conversation around the Equal Rights Amendment. And once again, it's super important to say that women are not a monolith. Not all women, even women who might have been suffragists ... might not have been ERA supporters. That wasn't necessarily the formidable transition that happened. There are many that are and that become lifelong support, of course, like an Alice Paul and others, but there are others who are like, we got the right to vote that makes us equal, who invested in the equality that would come through the elective franchise, and don't see the continued labor around the Equal Rights Amendment as significant and really become something associated deeply with a feminist movement in the nation, as opposed to just a women's movement. I think those parse out in different ways. Suffragists have, certainly people who we would identify today as feminists who are involved in it and who would identify with kind of the markers of that, but there are also women who are suffragists who wouldn't necessarily have politics that would align with feminism. And I think ERA got picked up in ways that were closely aligned and associated with women's liberation movement, or what we come to term as kind of "second-wave feminism". And so those who were not in support of feminism, as a project, as a political project, as a cause also diverted from that movement. And then you had this building and growing fierce opposition to the ERA that emerged that is populated by quite a few women and some very notable women such as Phyllis Schlafly, that do considerable grassroots work on these issues and push back against the Equal Rights Amendment. And so it's an interesting set of characters, contexts, and events that do this, and ERA becomes a hot-button thing, but loses steam over time, in ways that suffrage has a reconstitution, but there's not necessarily the loss of full steam ahead towards that at the state level, or at the national level.

 

Leticia Wiggins 

That reminds me of something, I know Susan, you've mentioned before, that there is no women's vote. And I just was thinking about that. And we were talking earlier about trends. And if you mind sort of sharing that. Like, it's this idea that there's this women's voting bloc, and how do we discount that, or, you know, how do we talk about that?

 

Dr. Susan Hartmann 

Well, women are as divided by class, region, religion, race, as much as men are. So there, there isn't a women's vote. There is, however, a gender gap. And that is that for the past four or so decades, women have been much more supportive of the Democratic Party, men have been much more supportive of the Republican Party. But that is driven by specific groups of women. It's driven by black women, especially, it's driven by women who work outside the home, it's driven by women who are not married. But I think ... why would you expect there to be a women's vote, because we're all so different from one another.

 

Leticia Wiggins 

Wow, this conversation is amazing, and I can't believe it's already 4:50. So there's that, but there's also this idea of women's participation in politics. And so Karen brought up, she asked, "Why do you think that it has been so hard for women to break the ceiling of the top jobs, such as vice president or president of the United States", so maybe it's time we transition there?

 

Dr. Susan Hartmann 

Hillary Clinton did get a majority of the popular vote. I mean, she got 3 million more votes than her male opponent did in 2016. But she also faced a lot of sexism, and I think female political candidates do face sexism when they campaign, especially when they go for a top office like that. I don't think it's going to be a lot longer. I think that, again, the election of 2016 was a unique election. We don't often have many elections, where the person who wins the popular vote does not become president. And I think that probably the sexism that diminished her campaign could have been responsible for her loss in those key states that would have turned the electoral college.

 

Treva Lindsey 

Yeah, I'm kind of a one-word answer with this one. I'm like, "it's sexism". And the history of, I mean, I think it would be one of the great disappointments of our suffragist foremothers that there has not been a woman as head of state, that all 45 of our heads of state have been men. And I think that speaks volumes about where we are. This is certainly no longer a conversation about qualifications. We now have women in various positions across that would qualify them to hold the highest office, to be commander in chief. And I think that the way that sexism has moved throughout history tells us that those barriers are real, that the ceiling is not so easily shattered. And that even when we see the ceiling about to shatter, there's a deep and abiding kind of reinforcement ceiling that's right there. That, I think, is what we've seen. I was certainly encouraged by the number of women running for elected office across the board at local, national, and state levels in 2018, and certainly in 2020, that we're seeing. I think this is an important moment to reckon with some of that. But even the coverage that we see of women who were running for president prior to are kind of narrowing down as we have at this point in this presidential election, revealed some of the same sexism that we saw in 2016. Some of the same sexism that women faced throughout the history of them running for president, which is a much longer history than people tend to acknowledge that women have run for office, not always with major parties, clearly, but certainly with parties and have been forces in that way. And so I think it's also acknowledging how sexism plays out. Those who invest in the idea that a woman should not leave the nation. And I'd be remiss to say if I don't know people in my own life who have reservations about women in that position of leadership. And so I think that we're still reckoning with long-standing ideas about gender and leadership that need to continue to be pushed. And I think we're seeing that push even farther. And I'll be curious to see what happens in November.

 

Sarah Paxton 

Yeah, I don't have a ton to add to that. Both of those were great. I think it's just important to acknowledge, the insidiousness of sexism, in that it molds itself to how society is currently set up. So like Jeanette Rankin, who I think I said was a Minnesota Congresswoman, she was Montana, when she actually voted against World War One. And this was used as an example of women can't make the hard decisions, even though she was voting thinking of the poor mothers in her state where it's their sons who were going to go insert and die. Well, now we have a lot of that overt sexism, but now we have also additional, more subtle sexism, what I call the "but not this one" sexism, to where you'll have, like, Geraldine Ferraro, when she ran as vice president, there were polls everywhere that said people were very willing to accept a female vice president, and actually that would shore up the women's vote for Mondale and then women voted for Reagan, because they didn't want that particular woman. And it was the same thing. And it's you heard it a lot with Secretary Clinton where it's "I'm all for a woman president, but not that one."

 

Dr. Susan Hartmann 

Well, and I think, you know, the very traits that we want in a president: ambition, strength, assertiveness, they don't make women likable to, at least, part of the voting public. I mean, they're, you know, women are accused of being too tough, too aggressive, too ambitious. And the very traits that you need to be a national leader are not seen as appropriately feminine to significant portions of the population.

 

Leticia Wiggins 

I think to push that, it's like, a couple of folks were bringing up a good point of nations around the world have more women in powerful political positions, so what about this is uniquely us also?

 

Treva Lindsey 

Our sexism! Our unique brand of sexism, it is built in. I think that ... we have to do a lot of divestment from that. There are a lot of ways that we can think about how sexism shows up in the way that we're governed beyond who's in the White House. As President, it shows up in various ways, whether we're talking about paid family leave, whether we're talking about childcare, whether we're talking about there are states that literally say we have 50/50 We should have 50/50 in terms of representation as a way to combat how sexism has shown up and governance and politics and those ideas about what makes a qualified someone to be president and seeing how deeply that's tethered to ideas about gender. So I'm like, who runs for president who isn't ambitious? Right? I mean, it seems almost ridiculous to say that that person is ambitious, like they're running for president, of course they are. That's an ambitious goal. There are only 45 people, right 45, well less than 45, but there have only been 45 presidencies, right, over the course of history. So of course, right, this looks a certain way, but we don't look at that as the ambition of those individuals. But ambition is absolutely maligned for women. It is absolutely seen as stepping outside of and then candidates have to navigate both that and are they good mothers? Are they good parents? Do they take care of other family members? Are they nurturing and then if they're too nurturing, well, they're not strong enough. If they haven't faced these kinds of challenges, then we doubt that they're actually going to represent the nation in a way. And it's the understanding and the gendering of the nation as this ,kind of, nail that we need someone who's going to take care of it and protect and provide, which has a long history of seeing as kind of masculine space, and then someone who takes care of the home front in a very particular way, which is often relegated to kind of feminized space. And so that is where women can occupy. So we're fine with the school boards, we're fine with these other kind of what we see as caretaking politics, versus commander in chief level politics, where decisions executive decisions are made on behalf of the nation. And so that skepticism and that sexism, I think, is deeply embedded, and it's something we're weeding out piece by piece, but we have a considerable way to go. Because even if one person is, we're still talking about a history in which the majority, the vast majority, with the exception of that one isn't. So an exception is not always progress. An exception can be exemplar of a possibility moving forward.

 

Leticia Wiggins 

I think that's an amazing note to end on. And now I wish we had at least an hour more to start talking about this, so I'm going to try to wrap up just by saying a quick thank you so much to Susan Hartman, Treva Lindsey, and Sarah Paxton for sharing their expertise today. And also thank you for everybody in the College of Arts and Sciences, especially Clara Davison, the history department, Harvey Goldberg Center for Teaching and Excellence, and the magazine Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective for their sponsorship. So thank you, everyone, and thank you for all the amazing questions and your connection to Ohio State. Stay healthy, and see you next time.

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