Eleanor (1996) has pointed out that the women’s right to vote was one of the key issues covered under the women's suffrage movement and it refers to the economic and political reform movement that was aimed at the right to vote for women. Blackburn (1 April 1999) argues that the manufacturing industry opposed women’s suffrage because they knew if the rights were granted, women would prohibit child labor, women slavery, and sweatshops.
Class Division - society women were big anti-suffrage lobbyists. The need to go state to state for the right to be granted made it hard; Civil War and World War I- everything was put on hold during the civil war and torn between loyalty and vote.
It was presumed that women voters would have a civilizing effect on politics and would tend to support controls on alcohol and this would have a telling effect on the alcohol industry and bring intemperance. Alcohol was widely regarded as one of the factors for the breakdown of families. In addition to branded products, there were thousands of illegal distilleries which contributed to drunkenness among men and putting families in dire financial position. It was felt that women would first target the alcohol industry (Eleanor, 1996).
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The industrial revolution had set in and women and children were made to work very hard, without sufficient wages and exploitive conditions. It was felt that women would vote for more benefits for women and children and this would hurt manufacturing (Eleanor, 1996).
It was believed that many women were against slavery and that if they were allowed to vote, they would pass laws that would ban slavery. Slavery was one of the mainstays of the economy and slave labor helped the US and other colonies to grow. It was felt that if women were allowed to vote then they would abolish slavery (Eleanor, 1996).
It was felt that women would become more independent and influential and thus upset the intention of the white male fathers and brothers who wished to dominate them. Women were not regarded as very high in those days and men felt that women should not be allowed to vote or have a say in the politics (Eleanor, 1996).
It was also felt that if women were given the right to vote, they would stop the practice of polygamy where men were allowed to marry more than once, often deserting their previous wives.
Race- if women got the right to vote, black women would too. White males had a disregard for both white and black females and believed that white females would side with the blacks Blackburn (1 April 1999).
Allison (1997) has pointed out that The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) had many detractors who were bent on ensuring that the amendment would not be passed. In early 1920,t The National Women's Party placed the ERA in front of Congress where Senator Charles Curtis and Rep. Daniel R. Anthony introduced it for the first time. Donald (2005) has pointed out that though the ERA was introduced in every session of Congress between 1923 and 1970, it was always diverted into some form of committee or the other who sat on the bill for a few decades. The ERA was strongly opposed by the American Federation of Labor and other labor unions as well as by Eleanor
Roosevelt and most New Dealers, who contended that women needed government help and should not be forced into the workplace to compete with men. The main reasons and factors are (Donald, 2005):
- Opponents of the ERA argue that its passage would have far-reaching implications, obliterating traditional distinctions between the sexes. Women, ERA opponents claim, would be required to register for the draft just as men do. This was rather a smokescreen that overprotective men, with vested interests, tried to project. Very few women felt positive about this and hence the movement remained bifurcated and divisive. While one faction believed that women were equally capable of operating a machine as they were of raising up children and demanded equal opportunities, the other group felt that it would lead to further exploitation of women (Donald, 2005).
- They would have to serve in combat just as men must. Many opponents of the ERA suggested that if ERA was passed, women would have to serve in the war and participate in combat. They opposed this suggestion. Others felt that women were capable of serving in the armed forces (Donald, 2005).
- The ERA would also remove laws that specially protect women, such as labor laws in heavy industry. Men traditionally felt that industries such as oil drilling, mining, construction, factories and other dangerous areas were not suited for women and the ERA would remove this protection. Other women again felt that this was acceptable since women could make a choice Allison (1997).
- Some people also argued that the ERA would require the integration of single-sex schools, sports teams, and even restrooms. Some purists felt that coed schools would have to be made the norm and were opposed to the idea of young girls mixing with boys Allison (1997).
The paper has discussed the issues and progress of Women’s right to Vote and also discussed why the Equal Rights Amendment bill was delayed for a few decades.
- Allison Held, Sheryl L. Herndon, and Danielle M. Stager; The Equal Rights Amendment: Why the ERA Remains Legally Viable and Properly Before the States, William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law (Vol. 3, Issue 1, Spring 1997), 113-136
- Blackburn, Susan (1 April 1999). 'Winning the Vote for Women in Indonesia' Australian Feminist Studies, Volume 14, Number 29, pp. 207-218
- Eleanor Flexner (1996), "Century of Struggle: The Woman's Rights Movement in the United States, enlarged edition with Foreword by Ellen Fitzpatrick (1959, 1975", Cambridge and London: The Belknap Press of the Harvard University Press, 1996) ISBN 0-674-10653-9
- Donald T. Critchlow. Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism: A Woman's Crusade Princeton University Press, 2005. 422 pp. ISBN 0-691-07002-4.