This is the third and last installment of a three-part meditation on women’s suffrages—plural. Parts One and Two examined the tortured twisting path of suffrage in this country, which always prioritized white, Christian, land-holding, property-owning males. Contrary to all the national mythography, the record shows historical hostility toward women and toward those men who were poorer, or “foreign.” That is, unless they were useful: Native Americans whose land and lives were for the taking, Africans abducted and forced here into enslavement, Chinese “imported” to build railroads and infrastructure and then no longer welcome, and so on. Women? Servants of the indentured, slaves of the slaves.
In Parts One and Two, I tried to offer consciousness-changers that have meant much to me and that I recommend as sources for self-education about a legacy with which we are both burdened and privileged. The burdened part—well, see above. The privilege comes in, for every American, because the Framers (white, propertied, highly flawed males) nonetheless shared an impossibly impractical, aspirational vision that had not been put to the test of practice anywhere, ever. They knew that realizing that vision in reality would be a continuous, arduous task. The phrase "To form a more perfect union” in the Preamble to the Constitution reveals a diplomatically cautious James Madison trying to affirm the vision and not insult the original 13 states yet acknowledge the endless road ahead.
So that was the goal of Parts One and Two. Now it’s time to get personal.
In last week’s blog post, I tried, albeit superficially, to show that the century-long movement for women's suffrage, which finally won the vote for (some) women in 1920, took place in a context and country where originally only white, Christian, property-owning, land-holding males possessed the...