Published 23 Jun 2017
In Susan B. Anthony’s speech, Constitutional Argument, she denounced the apparent prejudice of society against women especially in the right of suffrage, in response to her arrest for her “crime” of “illegal voting.” What this implied was that women were not considered citizens of the United States as far as Anthony was concerned. What is interesting to note in her statement was she quoted the paragraph in the Declaration of Independence that stated “all men are created equal” and “corrected” it by adding something said by a Quaker preacher “and women” to underscore the existence of women in American society and making it known they take offense on being excluded and marginalized, especially when they were expected to abide by the laws of the nation (Zieren 153).
Anthony deplored the apparent double-standard of the incumbent government. She was making it loud and clear the government, or society cannot deceive women into believing they have no other role in American society aside from the “traditional” ones – to serve her husband and raise children. Anthony was reminding her audience that women are also citizens of the United States and she underscored that fact when she quoted the preamble of the Constitution, particularly giving emphasis to the phrase, “We the people.” She believes that they, the women, are part of the “we” since it did not specify who it exactly is (Zieren 154). She further stated that just because the word “women” is not stated in the Declaration and the Constitution (just “men”), it does not mean they are automatically excluded as far as rights are concerned.
It can be said here that Anthony was a woman of courage which demonstrated when she dared to vote because she believed it was also her right and wanted everyone to know about it. She did not keep silent following her arrest and when the opportunity presented itself, she reacted to it though not violently, but for the purpose of asserting herself in trying to take society to task for their apparent “error” in taking for granted women’s rights as citizens of the United States which Anthony believed is inherent yet implicit and needed no amendment to make it known. Nonetheless, she had the courage to challenge the government to revise the Constitution with regards to the use of masculine pronouns. She argued (sarcastically) that if the letter of the law would be followed, women should be exempted from other duties such as paying taxes or obeying laws, underscoring her intelligence and judicious use of logic in stating her case.
Amelia Bloomer expressed a similar idea in her statement, Woman’s Right to the Ballot. Like Anthony, she had also shown she had an acute logical sense when she emphasized that when democracies evoke the word, “people,” this also includes women. To exclude them by not saying they are “people” would be very preposterous and absurd. Like Anthony, Bloomer asserted that women are also entitled to the same rights as men in the United States for the obvious reasons they are citizens of this nation and as such, have a say on determining the direction of society by electing its leaders. According to Bloomer, to deprive or deny women the right to vote would not only be an injustice to them, but a great disservice to the United States which prides itself on being a democratic society, a society “of the people, by the people and for the people” (Zieren 356).
She debunks the fallacies or false facts that polling precincts were no place for women for they might be subjected to ridicule or be repulsed by the coarse behavior of men there. Bloomer thought of this as nonsense and regarded as a lame excuse to keep them out by a seemingly chauvinistic society. She once again showed flashes of logical brilliance by saying if it was “corrupt for women to go to is also too corrupt for men to go to” as well (Zieren 339). She finds this assumption also absurd and was somehow able to see through the deceit being woven as she also asserted women’s right to vote, claiming that women can also contribute to the betterment of society in their capacity as citizens of the United States beyond their “traditional” roles. She stated that granting women the right to vote would not drastically affect their duties to their families. It can be further surmised that
Bloomer, like Anthony, was encouraging women to fight for their right to vote so that when they attain it, this would be a moral victory as they would prove they are not inferior and old assumptions about them are wrong. Furthermore, to grant women the right to suffrage would enhance America’s moral standing and truly make it a democracy as everyone’s rights are recognized. By way of an epilogue, history has shown them to be right all along.
In a different topic, Elizabeth Stanton spoke out on the case involving Daniel McFarland and Albert Richardson where the latter was shot and killed by McFarland for trying to marry his ex-wife. What is noticeable here is that why would a man try to kill someone who was marrying his former wife? It is understood that if a woman divorces her husband, their marriage is annulled and she is no longer bound to him. In this particular case, it would seem that McFarland still felt Abby, his former wife, belonged to him, and that no other man could have her. As far as Stanton, and even Anthony, were concerned, this was wrong. What is deplorable here is that women are treated like property of their husbands the moment they enter into marriage. This is something considered rather appalling considering this was practiced in the United States and would be considered anathema to its democratic ideals.
In her statement, Stanton was very vocal and one can sense the weight of her words on how passionate she was, as underscored by the use of strong language (by 19th century standards), especially by a woman like her, already passing judgment of Mr. McFarland, calling him a criminal (Zieren 126). In her mind, that was what McFarland was for his act. He deprived his ex-wife the right to be happy by thinking that divorce did not completely dissolve their marriage nor forfeit his rights over her and as such, should have been kept behind bars and his insanity plea should be invalid. It was rather apparent that McFarland was in control of his faculties, well enough to commit the nefarious deed. Moreover, it further made Stanton justify her stand on divorce. It can be inferred here that Stanton believed that women have a right to live a happy life and not be kept in bondage by an unhappy marriage. Divorce provides that proverbial key to freedom and must not be denied from them. Furthermore, it can be surmised that men who treat their wives like property do not deserve to keep them.
One caveat here is that Stanton was not encouraging women to resort to divorce at the slightest conflict. She still encouraged them to make marriage work, and that love must prevail over lust or any other vice that would ruin marriage.
All in all, the three women were very persuasive in their call to the plight of women in 19th century society. They not only stated their cases from their hearts, but also demonstrated exceptional intellect in supporting their arguments, further debunking false notions that women rely too much on their emotions. After going over their statements, they were anything but emotional. As stated before, although they did not live to see the progress of their work, history vindicated them and proved them right.