There is a popup exhibit from the National Archives titled, “Rightfully Hers,” at the Calvert City branch of the Marshall County Library celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.
Barbara Fielder and Bobbie Lewellyn of the Marshall County Republican Women had an opportunity in January to secure this exhibit for the area and wanted to share it with the Calvert City Library. “Rightfully Hers,” explores the history of the Suffrage Movement, ratification of the amendment, women’s voting rights before and after the amendment and it’s impact today.
That amendment reads:
“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
No one could have predicted just how much this would change the lives of women in the United States and inspire women around the world.
Webster’s Dictionary defines the word suffrage as “voice, ballot, testimonial, or the right to vote.” However, not all women wanted that right or responsibility.
In the early 1900’s, a person’s role in life was based on gender. Men were the providers, protectors and breadwinners of their families; women took care their husbands, children and homes. There were many responsibilities on both sides, but women weren’t generally used to making many of the major decisions for their families. According to the Nebraska Association Opposed to Women Suffrage, Omaha some of the reasons for not wanting to vote were:
• “Because they have not lost their faith in their fathers, husbands, sons and brothers, who afford full protection to the community, there being no call for women to relieve them of the task.”
• “Because the primary object of government is to protect persons and property. This duty is imposed by nature upon man, the women being by nature absolved from assuming a task to-them impossible.”
• “Because woman suffrage will not enhance peace and harmony in the home, but, on the contrary, in the heat of a campaign, it is sure to bring about dissension and discord.”
But, then there were other women who questioned the limits placed on their roles in life. Some of these limits included:
• Girls were not usually educated past the basics, and were instead taught about housework such as cleaning, cooking and child rearing.
• A woman usually only obtained a job because of the death of her husband, or if she never married. Only a small number of jobs were available to women, and these jobs had low pay and required extremely long hours.
• Marriage was very different than it is today, and women didn’t always have much to say in whom they married. Females could not legally own property when married, and any property previously owned was handed over to their husbands by law. Many historians agree that both their husbands and the law treated wives as property.
Some states, such as Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Idaho already allowed women to vote in all elections, including the presidential election, well before 1920.
After its ratification, many more laws would follow to further equalize the rights between men and women.
In 1938 the federal minimum wage began with the Fair Labor Standards Act, eliminating common pay differences between men and women for hourly jobs.
In 1963 the United States passed the first legislation requiring equal pay for equal work, but it would need to be expanded in 1972 to salespeople, executives and administrators.
In 1968 it became illegal to place help wanted ads specifying gender.
In 1974 the Equal Credit Opportunity Act passed in the United States Congress. Until then, banks required single, widowed or divorced women to bring a man along to co-sign any credit application, regardless of their income.
The list of progressive measures continues to grow for equality in all aspects of life for all women not only in the states, but also around the world.
Fielder commented, “The women of the Suffrage Movement 100 years ago paved the way for the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution and also paved the way for women to voice their choice at the ballot box today.”
The Calvert City Library plans to hold the exhibit until the middle of September. Surrounding this display is a large variety of books on the topic of the Suffrage Movement and the complete history.