In 1878 U.S. Senator from California, Aaron A. Sargent, husband of suffragist Ellen Clark Sargent and friend of Susan B. Anthony, introduced the “Susan B. Anthony Amendment” to Congress. The proposed amendment stated “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.” Those exact words penned in 1878 would eventually become the wording of the 19th Amendment but not for another 42 years.
Sargent even had the audacity to make the unusual request that suffragists be allowed to address the Congress itself! He stated, “We ask that women may be permitted in person, and on behalf of the thousands of other women who are petitioning Congress…to be heard…before the Senate and House.” And so they did. Among those who testified were Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Reverend Olympia Brown, the first woman ordained in the U.S.
The senators listened politely but decided to postpone the amendment indefinitely. Some senators objected to this but they were not in the majority. Senator George Hoar of Massachusetts remarked, “The American people must extend the right of Suffrage to Woman or abandon the idea that Suffrage is a birthright.” Senators John Mitchell of Oregon and Angus Cameron of Wisconsin were among those who objected to the postponement.
Senator Hoar was not deterred. In 1882, with the assistance of Senator Henry Blair of New Hampshire, he proposed the creation of a Select Committee on Woman’s Suffrage. It was created in January of 1882 and by June of that same year, the committee released this statement, “We conclude…every reason…which bestows the ballot upon man is equally applicable to the proposition to bestow the ballot upon woman.” And then nothing…until a full five years later in 1887 when the Senate took its first official vote on Woman’s Suffrage. It failed miserably. The vote was 34:16 with 25 members absent from the vote.
As explained in Episode 23, historical political parties have the same name as the current parties but party platforms have changed radically. Many of the senators such as Sargent, Hoar, and others who were in favor of suffrage are listed historically as Republicans but at that time, the Republican party favored big government, was against open trade, and was pro income tax. They were the socially liberal party very similar to the current Democratic party. Conversely the historical Democrats were socially conservative, preferred State’s rights over Federal ones, were in favor of free capitalism, against income tax, and were more similar to present day Republicans. Historical figures should always be viewed in their proper context and not used for current political points. Modern day propaganda from both parties try to make themselves look better using misplaced historical party platforms. Regardless of which side represents your values, be an informed voter. Judge the current parties on their current platform and make sure the candidate’s recent voting record truly reflects your values.
This week’s song pick:
“Reflection” from the movie “Mulan” https://youtu.be/lGGXsm0a5s0
Episode 33 Sources:
How to research a candidate’s record:
How to find your Representatives/Senators and track issues that are important to you. This is a non-government site devoted to transparency in government. Created in 2004, govtrack is the oldest website devoted to transparency and has a good track record of being accurate and non-partisan:
(Don’t get overwhelmed; just do your best. There’s a lot of information out there. You don’t have to do it all. Pick one or two issues you care about the most. Start there. Even suffragists like Susan B. Anthony had to stay focused on just getting the vote and let other people become leaders on issues like education, marriage laws, reproductive rights, labor laws, etc.)