In 1976, in an obscure scholarly article, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, an American historian of early America and the history of women and a professor at Harvard University, wrote, “Well behaved women seldom make history.”
Ratified on August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granted American women the right to vote–a right known as woman suffrage. At the time the U.S. was founded, its female citizens did not share the same rights as men, including the right to vote. The legal right of women to vote was established over the course of several decades in the U.S. beginning in the 1800s. In order to achieve the right of women to vote in the U.S., many brave (and yes, brazen) women were jailed, suffered, bled, and died before the “fairer sex” across the U.S. could have their own agency–distinct from that of their husbands, fathers and brothers.
These women were not well behaved. They raised a fuss. And, in doing so, these women liberated their daughters. We are their daughters and heirs. And, it’s up to us to carry on their evolution towards equality.
While in the last hundred years, women in the U.S. have made progress, women still have a long way to go to obtain equal rights. I don’t need to list the statistics. You already know them well.
Women still are paid less than men.
Women still face inequity in education, employment, and healthcare.
Women still operate in a body politic where we have to be devoid of human emotion to be taken seriously.
Women still function in a society where if we express normal emotion to even the remotest slight, we are described as being emotional, irrational, or hysterical.
Women still live in a society where our silence is deemed consent. In other words, women in the U.S. still live in a patriarchy committed to “keeping us in our place.”
But, for we women, our mothers–those brave, brazen women of the past–told us that “our place” is anywhere we please. That takes me back to The 19th Amendment: the right of women to vote.
I’ve read it in the newspapers. I’ve heard it on the T.V. They say 2018 is going to be “The Year of the Woman.” Perhaps . . . but only if we make it so. This year, more women (and men who support women’s rights) are running for office–at the local, state and national levels. We are seeing women across the racial, ethnic, religious and political spectrum, out in the streets–raising a fuss, protesting, speaking real truth to power, and asserting their agency as a force to be reckoned with.
They are changing the national discourse.
But, those brave, brazen women need my help and your help. VOTE. Today’s suffragists have laid the groundwork for what truly could be something for the history books. But all of their hard work means nothing if we don’t show up at the polls.
Susan B. Anthony was arrested for voting in the presidential election of 1872. The judge directed the jury to deliver a guilty verdict. When he asked Anthony, who had not been permitted to speak during the trial, if she had anything to say, she responded with what one historian has called “the most famous speech in the history of the agitation for woman suffrage”. She called “this high-handed outrage upon my citizen’s rights”, saying, “… you have trampled underfoot every vital principle of our government. My natural rights, my civil rights, my political rights, my judicial rights, are all alike ignored.”
Anthony was not a well behaved woman. You and I don’t have to endure the indignity that Anthony did. We are not called on to pay the price that she did. But, we are called on to continue her fight so that one day our daughters, granddaughters, and every female U.S. citizen will achieve equality.
November 6th is Election Day. VOTE.
Go out and make history.