Would you have enjoyed living 100 years ago, given the few rights for women, before the passage of the 19th Amendment? Why were women denied their rights? How was it acceptable? Standing in the way of rights for women was The Cult of Domesticity, a middle class social schema for white people in the US and England. Women were to act like pure, religious flowers with no rights and no responsibilities outside of the home. Their only weapon was their purity and shaming their husbands into civilized behavior. lot of this “look” was maintained by healthy middle-class wages along with poorly compensated servants or in the South, slaves. The Cult of Domesticity had its heyday between 1820-1860. It was fairly easy to get people to accept this idea for a while. However, both the Civil War and WWI relied on women to do men’s jobs, leaving women wanting their share of society. See photos here.
Add to this mix the efficiency movement, encouraging productive lives for everyone.
The new wish for freedom as well as health made 1919 a time when corsets were falling out of favor, being replaced with bras and girdles. Women wanted undergarment freedom along with the right to vote!
Carrie Chapman Catt, who grew up in Charles City, Iowa, and graduated from Iowa State, was a leader in the Suffrage Movement, which, by 1917, was beginning to rely on militant protests such as hunger strikes and arrests as suggested by Alice Paul, shown below being force fed.
By 1918, president Woodrow Wilson, who had been a target of protests, agreed to support the cause. The 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote, was passed on June 4, 1919. It came after a push of nearly 100 years.
It then needed to be ratified. Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin were the first states to do this on June 10. At the end of 1919, 22 states had ratified it. 36 states were needed. This was achieved in August 1920. Women had won the right to vote.
It took until 1984 for all states to agree to ratify. Those in purple lagged behind.
1919 saw gains for women’s equality. Women have only recently had equal rights and these rights did not come easily, nor will they be easily regained if lost.
A teacher friend of mine asked her class if they had heard of the Suffragettes. All stared at her blankly. Not even 100 years has passed! 1919 and the 19th Amendment are too important to forget.
Modern playing card honors the Suffragettes.
In any case, 1919 stands out as a shot across the bow of the Cult of Domesticity. Let’s not go back in time.