Even when there is a common end goal, there are often deep ideological divisions among allies and former friends. Such is the case for the rise of two prominent women’s organizations from the previously unified group.
The division came mainly over two things: different views of the gender-specific wording in the 14th Amendment allowing African-American men the right to vote and whether women should try for a full-on constitutional amendment to secure the right to vote or go for a more conservative state-by-state approach.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B Anthony founded the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) based in New York. It was a more radical faction that refused to endorse the proposed 14th Amendment, had “The Revolution” as its short-lived newsletter, had all-female leadership, wanted to go straight to the federal level of constitutional amendment to secure women’s right to vote, and pushed for major social reforms for equality on all levels, not just getting the vote.
Lucy Stone, Julia Howe, Henry Blackwell, Mary Livermore, and Henry Ward Beecher headed the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) based in Boston. It took a more conservative approach, supported the 14th Amendment, had the very successful and long-lived “Woman’s Journal” as its newsletter, had both men and women in leadership roles, was trying for a state-by-state approach, and solely concentrated on securing the right to vote believing that all other issues could be addressed afterwards.
The main controversy over the 14th Amendment was in Section 2:
Representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the executive and judicial officers of a state, or the members of the legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such state, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such state.
Up until this point, the language of the Constitution had only used the word “citizen” without any gender specification. Anthony and Stanton felt that its passage would set back women’s rights since they could no longer claim the Constitution was gender neutral. Stone and her group felt that when African-American men got the right to vote they would be sympathetic and help women get the vote since the suffrage and abolition movements were intertwined from the start.
It took over two decades for the NWSA and the AWSA to eventually reunite under the title of National American Woman Suffrage Association NAWSA—more on that in a future post. In the meantime, we leave our suffrage leaders to go their separate ways for a while. The 14th Amendment was ratified and added to the Constitution on July 9, 1868.
This week’s song pick:
“Miss Me When I’m Gone” by Anna Kendrick https://youtu.be/cmSbXsFE3l8
Episode 21 Sources