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The Difficulty of Women Trying to Vote in the 19th and 20th Centuries

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Women fought a long, and difficult fight in order to gain the same privileges that males have. Despite their efforts, women today still aren’t as equal as we’d like to be. However, we wouldn’t be at the place we were now if it weren’t for the suffragettes of the late 19th century and early 20th century.

The fight for women’s suffrage was difficult, especially because the American society was completely against it. The idea of women being able to hold their own, and have a voice and opinion, and not just be stuck in the house with the children frightened many. Most people were not used to the new idea, and were stuck in the sexist mindset that a woman belongs in the house where she can take care of the children and clean, and weren’t open to change. Religion was also a strong factor in this society. Today, more people are able to be free thinkers and face little judgement as compared to back then. This usually kept people believing there were only right ways and wrong ways to live, and women being able to fend for themselves in the world was definitely wrong in their eyes.

The NAWSA and NWP were two organizations dedicated to fighting for women’s suffrage. NAWSA’s methods, however, differed from NWP’s. Carrie Chapman Catt, who was president of NAWSA, believed in getting women’s suff rage by going from state to state. Alice Paul, however, who was founder of NWP, believed that would take too long and wanted to get women’s suffrage nationally. Also, Paul and NWP went about achieving it in a different way. They were more aggressive, and they had more of a militant strategy. For example, they picketed the white house with signs, and continued to do so until they were arrested.

One of the suffragettes that were arrested was a woman named Emily, who was the wife of a senator. She was a character who portrayed many wives of politicians in actuality. When he found out she was supporting the cause, he was astonished and also somewhat insulted because he was in the fight against the movement and depended upon his wife’s support. In response to her constant support, however, he closed her account and made her unable to donate money. Later on, he made their children go to his mother’s house because he didn’t want them to be around ‘a radical such as herself.’ His reaction at first was somewhat understandable, since he was fighting the cause so strongly and he was sure his wife saw eye to eye with him, but he should’ve been more accepting rather than try to discourage her.

Being a suffragette was a courageous thing during this time. In the film, it expressed this a multitude of times. I believe that when Inez continued to go on and give her speeches despite getting extremely ill was a very courageous thing to do. She knew that the others depended on her, and she couldn’t just back out because she wasn’t feeling good. Also, when the other suffragettes were arrested for picketing. When jailed they were treated poorly, yet they still faced it head on and were very courageous about it. Alice Paul, also, was an extremely courageous woman. Especially when she had decided to lead a picket after the other girls were jailed. She knew that if they were arrested, she would be singled out because she was their leader, yet that didn’t stop her.

Once they were jailed, they were treated horribly. When Lucy Burns began to protest and try to get the women treated nicely, and properly fed and clothed, they responded aggressively by grabbing them and forcing them into cells. Lucy’s hands were handcuffed to the doorway, leaving her in a very uncomfortable position. If anything it only fueled their anger even more, and gave them more of a reason to fight. Also, when the women went on a hunger strike and were force fed was an awfully cruel procedure. It was taking a toll on them, and it probably wasn’t the healthiest to have a tube jammed down their throat with food being pumped into an empty stomach. Overall it seemed they didn’t take their conditions nor wellbeing into consideration.

After the poor treatment of these women reached the public, they were soon released and the 19th Amendment began taking shape. I believe Alice Paul and the NWP should be able to be credited for the amendment’s passage. For too long it always seemed like women’s suffrage was ‘about to happen soon’, however as soon as these women endured what they did, and the public caught wind of the poor conditions, it became a reality.

If I myself were in this situation where I was unable to vote, I would most definitely follow suit of Alice Paul and NWP. Even if I myself wasn’t personally interested in voting, I would still fight for every other women who wanted to. Besides, voting for women’s suffrage wasn’t just about voting. It was opening the world to change, and this would be the first step of women to gain full equality. As mentioned prior, women today still aren’t as equal as men, however if we hadn’t taken the first step, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Which is a major improvement, that’s for sure.

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The difficulty of women trying to vote in the 19th and 20th centuries. (2018, December 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved October 28, 2020, from
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