from: Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You
written by Jason Reynolds
Little, Brown and Company, 2020
(Adapted from the National Book
Award-winning Stamped From the Beginning
by Ibram X. Kendi)
Suffrage: The word is an old one. It’s from the Old French sofrage “plea, intercession” and comes directly from the medieval Latin suffragium “support, ballot, vote; right of voting; a voting tablet.” https://www.etymonline.com/word/suffrage
The word’s first usage as “the political right to vote” is found in the U. S. Constitution, 1787 (same source as above).
It is not related to sufferage which is not even a word, even though I want it to mean the noun-form of suffer.
Susan B. Anthony was not the only suffragist, then called the diminutive suffragette to belittle and demean those on whose shoulders we all stand, men and women alike. You probably know she was joined by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Angelina and Sarah Grimke, sisters who were outspoken abolitionists. Here are some others you may know.
Jane Addams won the 1931 Nobel Prize for Peace.
Amelia Bloomer wore pants. The word bloomers was coined in her honor.
Molly Brown was an actress who survived the Titanic.
William Jennings Bryan was a newspaperman and orator.
Julia Ward Howe wrote “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
Alice Paul introduced the Equal Rights Amendment in 1923, right after Woman’s Suffrage was granted.
Lucy Stone studied Hebrew and Greek in college to find out if passages in the Bible were translated properly. She looked for “evidence” that stated a man’s dominion over a woman. You can find an interesting and long international list at https://www.britannica.com/topic/list-of-suffragists-2058290
Lots of Black suffragists were important to women getting the vote, too. I never learned that in school. Besides Sojourner Truth (Isabella Van Wagener), here are a few important women I never heard of.
Mary Ann Shadd Cary studied law at Howard University. She graduated in 1883, and became one of the first black female lawyers in the country.
Marry Church Terrell attended Oberlin College as a young woman where she became one of the first African American women to earn a college degree.
Nannie Helen Burroughs worked with Marry Church Terrell to found the National Association of Colored Women.
Ida B. Wells-Barnett, born into slavery, became a journalist who spoke out against lynching.
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, one of the first popularizers of African American protest poetry, she focused on issues of slavery, gender, and racial discrimination.
While many of these passionate women and men did not live to see the passage of the 19th Amendment, one who did was Carrie Chapman Catt. Ahead of the vote, she swung through Nashville encouraging support for Women’s Suffrage.
The Amendment had been approved by the Senate (25-4) and now went to a divided House of Representatives. When the final vote was taken, a Representative from Tennessee, Harry T. Burn, surprised everyone by voting “aye.” When asked what moved him to change his position, he said he received a letter from his mother. Dear Son, it read, …don’t forget to be a good boy and help Mrs. Catt put the ‘rat’ in ratification. She signed it, Your Mother. Representative Burns went on to add, “I know that a mother’s advice is always safest for her boy to follow, and my mother wanted me to vote for ratification.”
Exactly one hundred years ago today, August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the 19th Amendment. Finally, women could vote legally in all elections throughout the United States.
Mom told me Gram marched for women’s suffrage. My great-grandma arrived in Baltimore in 1906, with her with bundle of belongings from the Old Country and my three-year-old grandmother in tow. Gram joined her husband who she married in Belarus, but she was nothing if not independent.
By the time I came on the scene decades later, Gram’s demonstrating days were behind her. I felt determined and proud, though, as I imagined my own young face superimposed on hers.
Gram knew her mind. She knew what was right. She tied up her oxfords and marched for the freedom and responsibility that propelled her decision to cross an ocean.
-—stay curious! (and vote)
A note on my post on the Post Office (7/28/2020): I hope I did not mislead anyone to think Louis DeJoy is a good guy. His is not. The post office is a public service and its employees are civil servants. They have a civic mandate central to American business, society, and civic culture. The USPS is a vital part of our government, ensuring communication free from censorship, timely delivery of medicine and medical supplies, and dependable shipments of everything from frivolous wants to significant necessities.