19th Amendment turns 90

August 23, 2010
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The following post was written by IL reporter Rebecca Berfanger.

This week and last week mark two anniversaries of women’s rights in the United States in the form of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (finally) giving women the right to vote. The amendment was ratified by the 36th state on Aug. 18, 1920, and the ratification was certified Aug. 26, 1920. Indiana was the 26th state to ratify the amendment in January 1920.

Women had been asking for the right to vote since at least the drafting of the U.S. Constitution. Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams, is often credited for trying to convince her husband to “remember the ladies” in 1776. But women, as well as non-property owners, slaves, and other classes of people, did not receive this right in the original draft of the U.S. Constitution.

In the mid 1800s, regular women’s rights meetings began to take place following the Seneca Falls Convention in New York in July 1848. That and subsequent meetings included discussion on the right to vote for women, even though another seven decades would pass before that right was made official.

While hopefully this isn’t new information to most of our readers, it may have gone unnoticed that to get a firsthand look at the women’s suffrage movement, one need not travel farther than downtown Indianapolis.

The President Benjamin Harrison Home at 1230 N. Delaware St., Indianapolis, has an ongoing exhibit, “Bustles to Ballots” , that, according to the website, “features a display of the First Ladies from Martha Washington to Michelle Obama and a collection of women's suffrage artifacts acquired though a generous gift from the Lacy Family and the Lacy Foundation honoring the memory of Edna Balz Lacy. The suffrage collection is from the Cecelia E. Harris Collection.”

While I have been meaning to make it over there as a way to pay my respects to the women who came before me to ensure rights and opportunities that I try not to take for granted, I was intrigued by this description of the Harrison family’s contribution to women’s rights:

“(President Harrison’s wife) Caroline Harrison refused to donate any money to Johns Hopkins Medical University until they admitted women. She wrote them a check when they did so in 1891 and helped a committee raise $100,000 for the school. (Harrison’s daughter-in-law) May Saunders Harrison sat on the committee for the Women’s Building at the Columbian Exhibition in 1893. The Harrison women came from a background and family setting in which they were encouraged to be well educated.”

I also didn’t realize that President Harrison was the first president to hire a woman in a role that was not as a domestic servant: Alice B. Sanger started as the White House stenographer in 1889. There was also a female candidate running against President Harrison for the presidency.

In addition to the exhibit, which is open when the museum is open, there will be an event presented by the Indiana Women’s History Association with support from the League of Women Voters-Indianapolis. That event is Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. and will take place at the Propylaeum, just north of the Harrison Home at 1410 N. Delaware St. Historic interpreters will perform the stories of three generations of Indiana suffragists. See their website for more details.

Are you doing anything to commemorate women’s suffrage?
 

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  • Indiana State University's Women's Equality Day
    Thursday, Aug. 26 marks the 90th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote. The Women's Studies Program and Interdisciplinary Programs invites everyone to attend a celebration of this event on Thursday, beginning at 4 p.m. in the library's events area. This program and reception will also celebrate the 2010 Awardees of the Charlotte Zietlow Women Faculty Research Grant. Dr. Zietlow, recognizing the gender gap in tenure, determined to do something about it and created the endowment that funds grants to support pre-tenure women faculty. For more information about this grant (application process for the next round will be Spring 2011), please visit http://www.indstate.edu/wmnstudy/awards.htm.
    Following the reception, consider staying on for a showing of a powerful movie, Iron-Jawed Angels, 6:15 - 8 p.m. Please urge your students to attend this film. Starring Hilary Swank as Alice Paul and Angelica Houston as Carrie Chapman Catt, this 2004 film forcefully portrays how many women put their lives at risk to give women what is now often taken for granted: the right to vote. Students are also welcome to attend the Women's Equality Day/Zietlow function.

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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