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Women’s History

From Jean Watkins, Founder of WHCC, on March 28, 2018.

“2020 is the 100th anniversary of women getting the right to vote in the United States. 

This is a big deal. A lot of people don’t know how much blood, sweat and tears were shed by thousands of women to secure the vote for future generations. 

It is very appropriate that we remember and honor these women’s sacrifice in a war for freedom that was fought on our own soil, just as we honor the sacrifices of our military who fought for freedom on foreign soils. And the first step is to become aware of the battle they fought.

In our country, in colonial and pre-revolutionary time,  women who owned property could vote. But that all changed in 1787, when the Constitution was written. It gave the states the right to decide who could vote, and one by one, all the new states took away the right of women to vote. 

For the next 80 years women lobbied peacefully and unsuccessfully for women’s rights and the right to vote. It wasn’t until women activists joined with slavery activists, that they had a louder voice and were heard.

But surprisingly, after the civil war, when the slaves were freed and women thought that they, as well as slaves would get the right to vote, the opposite occurred. The 14th Amendment, which gave citizenship to former slaves, gave males slaves the right to vote, but specifically stated that women as a whole, could not vote. It became a federal offense for a woman to try to vote. 

Now, if a woman tried to vote, or carried a sign asking for the right to vote, she could be thrown into a federal prison. Women who peacefully demonstrated had rocks thrown at them and put in prison, and this went on for years. 

Men thought women were weak and if you roughed them up enough, they would give up, but that didn’t happen. In spite of being tortured,humiliated, stripped naked, hung by their wrists from walls, beaten with clubs, they didn’t give up. 

The turning point that led to the 19th Amendment being passed, was the Night of Terror on November 15, 1917,  when 33 women who were peacefully demonstrating were arrested and taken two by two into cement cells, where they were beaten, stabbed with the broken staffs of their banners, thrown against metal rods and left without medical treatment, to live or die in the hands of God. 

They were fed food filled with worms and maggots, and many were close to death when they were released, but they didn’t give up.

The public outrage at how these women were treated led to Congress passing the 19th amendment in 1919, followed by enough states ratifying it to become the law in 1920.

The 72 year battle these women fought is a permanent part of our nation’s history. We should be proud of what they did and celebrate it. And we can do that if we start now.

I ask you to look at your organization and think about where you would be if there were no women here to support your organization, or lobby for it and for what you hold dear. If you own a business, where would you be if women did not buy your product or recommend it to their neighbors and friends. 

This is the time to put your heads together and think of events your group, or your business, can sponsor in the next two years to honor this rich part of our heritage, and to recognize the value of women in our society. 

I know there are many things that can be done throughout 2020, the Women’s Suffrage Centennial year and I welcome your support to make this happen.

 Thank you

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