We have made partners of the women in this war. Shall we admit them only to a partnership of suffering and sacrifice and toil, and not to a partnership of privilege and right?
President Woodrow Wilson in 1918 address to the U.S. Senate
Good day SK friends,
Today is an anniversary of President Woodrow Wilson’s plea for Women’s Suffrage.
Yes, today in 1918 Wilson urged the Senate to approve a Constitutional Amendment that would allow women to vote.
Not too much earlier, Wilson was, shall we say, noncommittal on the issue. Women picketed for the right to vote in front of the White House, while he carried on business in the Oval Office.
Some of the women activists were arrested, which at first did not stir Wilson, until he learned that they were being physically abused while imprisoned. Realizing that American women, the very ones who sacrificed their fathers, sons, brothers and husbands for war, and who took up the slack in labor force while the men were fighting, were being roughhoused and force fed.
Force Feeding is a form of torture where a victim is strapped to a chair, a hose is inserted from their mouths through their esophagus to their stomach. A funnel is placed on the mouth end of the hose and a pureed food is forced through.
Once learning the women’s fate, that was sometimes fatal, Wilson formed an opinion. The following is from his Sept 30, 1918 address to the Senate.
“The women of America are too noble and too intelligent and too devoted to be slackers whether you give or withhold this thing that is mere justice; but I know the magic it will work in their thoughts and spirits if you give it them.
I propose it as I would propose to admit soldiers to the suffrage, the men fighting in the field for our liberties and the liberties of the world, were they excluded. The tasks of the women lie at the very heart of the war, and I know how much stronger that heart will beat if you do this just thing and show our women that you trust them as much as you in fact and of necessity depend upon them.”
Unfortunately, the measure was two votes shy of the ⅔ majority needed in the Senate. It had passed by a single vote in the House earlier.
Two examples given by naysayers:
- Once women are given the right to vote, women of color will be wanting to vote (the Amendment never claimed to give only white women voting privileges.)
- Allowing women voting rights would give the Women’s temperance advocates an edge in outlawing alcohol sales.
But all was not lost. The country was that much closer to passing a Constitutional Amendment that was first written in 1868. The 19th Amendment was ratified during Wilson’s presidency.
Hope you have big plans to celebrate today! xo LMA
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