Women's Suffrage Movement I

Women's Suffrage Movement I

When the U.S. Bill of Rights included the words "All Men are Created Equal" it was based on English common law. Under common law, voters were restricted to property owners, which at the time were white males. The females became upset with the statement because many of them had supported the war, lost family and resisted the British. Even though they had suffered they did not gain any benefits from the struggle.

A group of females (mostly Northern white females from wealthy families) decided to become involved in politics in the early 1800's. They decided to become active in the abolitionist movement (freedom of slaves). They felt if they could secure the rights of others, they could secure their own rights. While the men did not feel it was right for women to become involved, several of these women were wealthy widows. How could they say no?

Susan B. Anthony was considered the leader of the Women's Suffrage movement. In the late 1800's, there was a international convention in London on "Women's Rights". Susan Anthony and several group members appeared at the convention only to be turned away. Seems the convention was for men only. Not to be deterred, they decided to hold their own convention outside on the patio. The outside convention became a major event. 

At the end of the Civil war, the Women's Suffrage Movement felt their cause had won. However the new constitutional amendment only provided rights for "Black males", women were excluded again. They decided they need to focus on providing voter's rights for white females. They wanted to include all females in the issue, but was concerned the issue of race would distract from the main issue - rights for women. 

They decided it was necessary to address many problems in society that was causing problems to women, children and families. The local saloons provided alcohol and prostitutes to the family men. The men would come home drunk and abuse the women and children. The prostitutes were providing diseases that were killing the spouse as well as the male. The movement would shut down these saloons and run the prostitutes out of town. The Women's Suffrage Movement was responsible for the establishment of the constitutional amendment banning alcohol (Prohibition), child labors laws and the first abuse laws (even though domestic violence laws were not enacted for many years). 

In London, husband and wife Quaker ministers visited the worst prison in England, Newgate prison. Elizabeth Fry noticed there was a section containing women and children. This section was located at the bottom of the prison. It had dirt floors and little else. The conditions were extremely bad. It seems that if a male did not pay his bills, the wife and children were placed in prison until the debts were paid. Elizabeth Fry became a major crusader in prison reform and improving the rights of female inmates. 

Dorothea Dix grew up in North Carolina to a wealthy family. She was in poor health most of her life. A friend suggested taking a cruise to France to improve her health. While enroute to France she became very ill and had to stay in a convalescent home for several months. She met an interesting person by the name of Elizabeth Fry.