Elizabeth Cady Stanton Tag

Let me note at the outset that if any readers are devoutly religious, please understand that no individual offense is felt or intended by my following remarks. I respect your spirituality, if not always your belief system. But I do feel strongly that the United States was founded as a secular country and must remain so.

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 franchise—and they weren't particularly eager to share it with anybody who didn't meet those identifying qualifications. The ignorance all of us—female and male, people of color and white people—have been infected with is painful and  poisonous, but lancing and draining it will also hurt, as that requires an honesty to which we apparently as yet only aspire. Honesty means I have to start this week with two corrections. First: last week I ended with a quote from Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, who said she wore white to the State of The Union speech in honor of Alice Paul and the suffrage movement but also carried a kente...

As you probably know, we’re approaching the 100 birthday of the 19thAmendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1920, which proclaims, The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Well, that seems simple enough, and a damned good thing, too, hard-won through more than a previous century of organizing, picketing, divorces and child custody losses and job firings, arrests and beatings and jails and rapes and hunger strikes! What’s not to celebrate? Historical illiteracy, that’s what. It’s not your fault if you don’t know something, but it’s somebody’s fault if you’ve been kept from knowing something. This subject sure as hell is going to come up a lot in the next months, and it would be nice if we were equipped with some real facts. Historians, alert! Please don't have conniptions! Please keep in mind...

Historic Parliament Square in London pays homage to 11 male statues—mostly white, middle-aged, male aristocrats—but now, after nearly 200 years, the first female figure stands among them.

This will be my last blog post until September—I think. I can't guarantee that some news development won't send me leaping to my keyboard, however, so those of you who subscribe to this blog might be surprised.