tv QA Elaine Weiss The Womans Hour CSPAN August 17, 2020 5:58am-7:00am EDT
start our conversation on the centennial of women's suffrage with a clip of someone whose story you tell in your book, "the woman's hour." >> my mother was a college student, student of international affairs who took a an interest in public issues. she could not vote yet that tenant farmers on our farm, some of whom were illiterate could vote. host: who was harry byrne and why does he play a central role in your story? guest: harry thomas byrne was the youngest legislator in the tennessee general assembly in 1920. he was a freshman delegate. he was up for reelection in the fall. he represented a small hill town in east tennessee, the republican part of tennessee. and he, although he voted with the anti-suffragists and the anti-ratificationests, when the 19th amendment was up for ratification in that tennessee general assembly that summer, he changed his mind because of a letter he received from his mother we described in that clip.
that change of mind tilted the vote by one vote, and that is how the 19th amendment was finally ratified. host: how did the vote for ratification of the constitutional amendment come down to tennessee? guest: a convoluted path. says that new amendments have to be passed by congress by a two thirds vote in each chamber. then it has to be ratified by three quarters of the states in the union. at that time there were 48 states which meant 36 had ratified. in summer of 1925 -- she had just one more state. american women in every state would be able to vote in the 1920 elections. that was a presidential year, a pivotal election. it turns out, that tennessee was the last possible choice for a place, for a state to ratify.
most of the other states in the south had actually rejected, already rejected the 19th amendment. and there were a few outstanding states, but two of them were in new england, connecticut and vermont. the governors that refused to call their legislators back into special session, which is what it would have required. because the legislature was not in session at that time. and they refused. they were under corporate pressure, from their corporate interests who played a big role in their political lives. so they refused. there were two southern states still not heard from, north carolina, which everyone knew was going to not ratify, and florida, the same thing. and so tennessee was the only one left. it was still a dangerous place
suffrage, at the constitutional -- a dangerous place to stage this, probably final battle for women's suffrage, at the constitutional level. and the suffragists were not happy about having to stage this fight for the last state, in a southern state, because that makes it much more complicated for reasons we will discuss. so it was a very difficult realization, that tennessee was the one. but they had to deal with that. and for the anti-suffragists come the anti-ratification it also was something about last stand. so the governor of tennessee wanted to duck. he did not want it here, there. the tennessee legislature did not want to be the deciding factor. and so you had a lot of powers trying to make tennessee not have to be in this pivotal position.
but the governors had totally refused, completely refused, to call their legislatures back. they probably would not have done that before the 1920 election. what the suffragists sensed, and i think they were correct, is that the nation was swinging toward a much more conservative frame of mind. the progressive era was over, we had just emerged from a very unpopular war, the great war, world war i. and the nation was swinging away from that idea of america being the beacon of the free world. it was going into a more isolationist position.
there were a lot of domestic problems, that were having to be decided. so this was a pivotal, pivotal election. and the suffragists felt if they could not get tennessee to ratify, that momentum would be lost. delaware rejected the 19th amendment. and so they were really nervous that if they cannot resolve this ratification in tennessee, in the summer of 1920, they were not, perhaps, going to see it ratified, in their lifetimes, or for the foreseeable future. because what they feared was that, once the election was passed, the sense of pressure from the political establishment, would be over. and the nation was having second thoughts, there were several states that wanted to resend
-- resend their prior ratification of the 19th amendment, and also it was being challenged in court. so they just felt, and i think they were very correct, that if they could not get it done out, -- done now, it was not going to happen. and those of us who have lived through the vicissitudes of the equal rights amendment, which was meant as a successor amendment to the 19th, and was introduced into congress in 1923, know that an amendment can come very close to the finish line, as the e.r.a. it has, and yet not making it to the constitution. so i think their fears were well-founded. host: by 1920, how many states allowed women to vote? guest: i believe about 12 or 15 states allowed for what was called 'full suffrage'. you have to understand it gets complicated in our federal system.
we know that because that is why there is such a hodgepodge of election law today, because the states are in charge. and they can make those decisions. you can get the right to vote by two paths. one is your state gives it to you by a change in the constitution, a change in the fundamental laws of voting in that state. as the other is through a constitutional amendment, which would supersede all the state requirements, and give the vote in one fell swoop, to all women, in every state. and so the suffragists had pursued a double track, shall we
say, from the beginning. they worked in the states, on referenda, in which men, of course, the only people who could vote that women deserve the vote. same had scores of referendums. sometimes it took five or six times, and sometimes it failed and was never revived. at that time around 15 states, most in the west, but pivotally, illinois had given women the vote in 1917, and new york also in 1917, i may be wrong on the illinois one. there were a few outposts of midwestern and eastern states. the northeast corridor was very, very reluctant about women's suffrage. so they managed through enormous effort to get these 15 states to allow women to vote. this starts in the western
states which are not very populated, wyoming, idaho, colorado, then goes up through california, oregon, washington and so you have, when new york allows suffrage in 1917, that is a big milestone when things begin to move again. it is most populous state. and then the politicians cannot ignore women's suffrage anymore. so you have states where it women can vote and then you have other states post-world war i in , the last year or two previous, i gave women the right to vote in presidential election. they cannot vote for their governor, their senator, their congressman, they could vote for president. so now you have quite a few women who can vote in the presidential election even if they do not have full suffrage. politicians have to pay a little more attention to the will of the women electric and so you
see a different calculation in their minds in 1920. host: could you describe the standing of women, the legal standing of women in american society at this time? guest: is best to go back into the 19th century when the movement begins. at that time, the idea of women's legal rights to some was an oxymoron. because they have so few rights. a woman cannot own her own property, if she was married. everything belonged to her husband. if her husband died, it often went to his brother. so his brother, her brother-in-law, would now be in charge of everything she owned. a woman did not have custodial rights over her children. so if she left the marriage for
any reason, she could not have custody of the children. they belonged to her husband. a woman could not keep her own wages, her own inheritance. again, all those property rights revert to the husband. she cannot testify in a court of law. she could not bring civil suit in her own name. she could not serve on a jury. and of course you cannot vote. she could not enter most colleges or universities. most occupations and professions were closed to her. so, this is what, this kind of outrage at this, is what stimulates the women's rights movement in the mid-19 century. coming to 1920, some of those property laws, which are state laws, have been improved. not all, but some have been improved. so women can claim their own property, in certain states.
the women's colleges have opened. so women have more access to higher education. and some state universities are open to women. a few professions are letting a few women in. as we know that will not change until the 1970's. so, you see a very small change is is important. but their haphazard. and they are also very hard-fought. women fight for decades to make these changes. that is one of the reasons that they want the vote. the movement begins as a women's right movement. and they are asking for a lot of changes. it begins to now it's -- narrow it's focus into suffrage for the right to vote as the turnkey. this is what women, if women have representation in the
places where policy and laws are being made, then maybe they can change those laws, through the legal system. so that is why suffrage becomes the leading edge of this women's rights movement. and then, following, alice paul says ok, we have the vote. now we want to make sure we are leveling the playing field and all the other aspects of women's legal rights. and that is where the equal rights amendment comes in. host: the two sides were nicknamed the 'suffs' and the 'antis'. we have heard your arguments for the 'suffs'. what were the arguments for the 'antis'? guest: the one that comes to mind are men. there are reasons men might not women to vote. one is that they might have to share power.
if women can vote there half the electorate and men's power is diluted. that is a political argument. men also were very nervous about upsetting the political status quo. and whether men who are running for office were very nervous about having to appeal to women, women voters, they were sort of a different persona they might have to project. they are even worried about what they look like, which they never had to do when they were just appealing to men. but then you have the more interesting anti-suffrage and then anti-ratification 'antis' who were women. the fact that they were organized groups of women who opposed women's suffrage was kind of shocking to me when i
first encountered it in my research. because they were not as numerous in 1920. back in the late 19th century you did not have to have an anti-suffrage movement because most people were anti-suffrage. the suffragists were a kind of minor fringe group of women. they were considered radicals. they were derided as unpatriotic, and deranged. so the idea of organizing to oppose suffrage does not really become a reality until around 1911 when the suffrage movement is gaining traction. so even women get worried about this. why would women oppose their sisters getting the vote? a variety of reasons. one is that women 'antis' are political, cultural, religious conservative women who leave
this is going to upset gender roles and it is going to destroy the american family if woman have a sense of equality and there is all kinds of anti-suffrage propaganda materials that show women abandoning their family. to work for suffrage. it shows a woman going out of the family home door, leaving dad with screaming babies or having to do the wash on a washboard and of course this civilize is the fall of civilization. the idea that this is going to affect your private life, it is not just a political issue. because this was not just a political issue. it really was a questioning of women's rights and women's role in society. this is what makes a more complicated issue. if you can say women are equal, they have an equal vote at an equal voice to men, well, then, what does that mean in the home?
and the anti-suffragists are very concerned that this means men are going to be emasculated and women are going to become more masculine and this was dangerous for the family, so they really see this as the downfall of civilization, and moral society. they also, for those who are religious conservatives, they use the bible. they say this is against god's plan. god, as they interpreted, made adam over eve and to question -- made adam to be dominant over eve, and to question it, they used biblical arguments against suffrage and you see that over and over again or they say god does not want this. and of course we hear echoes of that today and many debates about social change.
so you have this constellation of men and women, who are very afraid and very opposed to the idea of women getting about. and there are some notable intellectuals, who are women, who are actually against suffrage. host: the mid-19th century set a -- centerpiece was the seneca falls conference, 1848. susan b anthony, elizabeth cady stanton, and frederick douglass. you write in your book these three people, extraordinary 50 year partnership, change the course of our history. what is important for people to know about how the three of them worked together to advance rights in our society? guest: you're very right. i would say that they are very important names. i will make one small correction, which i did not know this until i had to delve into it. frederick douglass is at the
seneca falls meeting in 1848. susan anthony is not. susan anthony joins the movement a few years later. she is working as a temperance, she is a teacher, and she is working in temperance and abolition. those three notables come together through the abolition movement. that is a really important thing for us to understand, that the women's rights movement, the women's suffrage movement, is a direct outgrowth of the abolition movement. and the women we think of as the foremothers, elizabeth stanton, susan anthony, lucretia mott, lucy stone, or actually abolition workers. very active abolition workers, before they were suffrage workers. and the idea of all human beings having the divine spark. having the right of freedom.
and in a democracy, the rights of voice in their government, comes out of the central tenet of abolitionism. that no human should be property. that no human should be a slave. and women realize that in some ways, not to make a direct connection between women's oppression and slavery at that time, but women had very few rights. so they see the connection, there is something very wrong in our society. and they band together. so you have these women, for 20 years, working very hard, in the abolition movement. and also beginning to start speaking about women's rights. as the fact that frederick douglass was at seneca falls, and again i do not know this before i started my research,
was just startling and extraordinary to me. now it was no coincidence. he did not just happen to pass by. he lived 50 miles away in rochester. he was publishing the northstar. elizabeth cady stanton invited him to come. she invited him. she presented her declaration of rights, a lament of all the reasons women are oppressed and it is a direct echo of the declaration of independence. she uses jeffersons language. then she has resolutions to solve these problems. one of them, the ninth resolution, is the idea of the vote. and that is considered so
radical , and so unattainable, that even her fellow reformers at the seneca falls meeting, say, please do not put that on the table. they ask her to take it off the agenda and she refuses. and it is frederick douglass who stands up and says, you must, you must demand this. you must demand the vote. it is not going to be given to you. just as it is not going to be given to me as a black man. unless we are willing to fight for it. it is frederick douglas who convinces the other very reluctant participants at seneca falls, to sign onto this resolution number nine and approve it. and i think we would possibly never have heard of seneca falls, if it was not for frederick douglass convincing the others, to pass it. and he calls himself a woman's right's man for the rest of his life.
he is, in my mind, the hero, one of the great heroes of the story. he believes that universal suffrage. so he will be fighting for universal suffrage for all adult citizens. what will happen is there will be a great disappointment after the civil war and the reconstruction period, and the reconstruction amendments, the 14th and 15th amendments. and basically congress says, i know you are all expecting to get about. but, the nation cannot handle two big reforms that once. so it is either going to be, black man get the vote or women get the vote. and black men need it more elementally, because they are subject to horrible violence and lynchings going on. they need a vote to protect themselves. frederick douglass has to tell them, "the women's hour has not come." it will come eventually but you
will have to wait. and this produces a schism, that takes quite a while to heal. and so race is part of the story. from the very beginning. from the abolitionists to the split in the reconstruction. , when the women are betrayed. they really are betrayed. so they get very angry. anthony and stanton say vile racist things. the friendship with douglas is repaired, between them, the personal one. and he still attends women's rights conventions, for the rest of his life. in fact, he dies in 1895, just a few hours after attending a women's rights convention in washington. and so the idea that he truly, truly believes in women's rights, is borne out and it is actually a beautiful story. and he maintains that, even when
he is betrayed himself, by the suffragists. host: so it seems as though phase two of this after the 14th and 15th amendment, began in the 1870's and 1880's. the first legislation want to congress in 1878. guest: there were a couple of attempts before that, in this house and senate. those did not go far at all. finally, in 1878, stanton and anthony work with their friends in congress, and they get it actually introduced. and it is stalled there for the next 40 years. 40 years. every year, the suffragists go up and testify, before whatever house and senate
committee is hearing it at that time. and they give their very well constructed legal arguments. elizabeth stanton used to say that she would be giving her - and she had a great legal mind. she would be giving this testimony. the chairman and the other members of the committee would be eating their lunch, reading the newspaper, clipping their nails, doing anything but listening to the women. she says, at one point she had restrained herself from throwing her manuscript at their heads, she was so angry they were not listening. so this gets thrown back to the file cabinet, every year, for 40 years. and it is not until after world war i that it finally emerges. and even that is really hard. it passes the house.
again there has to be a two thirds majority. it passes the house by a margin, very small. it passes the senate with only a two vote margin. there are senators who are sitting on it, after the house passes it, actually in 1918. and it takes until june 1919, before it passes both houses. and then the senate knew they were sending it out for ratification in the states, and what is called an off year, when most state legislatures were not going to be in session. and that was sort of purposeful, to make it more difficult. so the suffragists had to convince 30 governors to call their legislators back into special sessions to consider the amendment. and many were reluctant to do this. it is expensive. it put them in some political jeopardy because other things
might come up in the special session that they did not want to deal with. the suffragists say, we will serve as your chauffeurs, as your secretaries. because the idea of that it is too expensive to pay per diem. there are all kind of excuse of and makes it much more difficult. that is the situation, of the federal amendment. for a long time it is and what is called the doldrums. it does not even come up in the early part of the 20th-century. it does not even come up for committee debate. and alice paul, who breaks off from the mainstream suffrage organization, around 1915, makes it her, the centerpiece of her organization, that they're going to revive the constitutional amendment. and they're going to demanded.
-- demanded. they are no longer asking for it. we demand an amendment to the constitution, for the women's vote. host: alice paul is a name people should note from the second generation as someone who often became more radicalized. who are some of the other names of the second generation people should know about? guest: i would say there are three generations involved. you have the first one to enter the movement in the mid-19th century. then you have another group that comes to the fore in the 1880's, 1890's, the first part of the 20th century. that includes very important like harriet chapman cats, protege to susan anthony. and she is chosen by susan anthony to lead the movement into the 20th century. there is anna howard shaw who becomes the president of the mainstream suffrage organization, the largest, the
national american. you have that second generation. and i would put alice paul who is only in her early 30's and 1920, in the third generation. the third generation emerges in that second decade of the 20th century and says, ok. we are done with waiting. we are no longer going to be polite. we are no longer going to ask for the vote. we are no longer going to be ladylike and polite. we are going to be confrontational. we are going to be in the face of a congressman and the president. we will embarrass them if necessary. we will carry on a public spectacle. and rattle the cages. and make sure everyone knows how american women are being betrayed by congress. betrayed by politicians.
we are going to demand the vote. they are seen as insurgents. the mainstream suffragists are not happy about this. they do not approve of their methods. these confrontational methods which are imported from great britain, where they have been used. these include, in great britain they are militant in that there are bombs and there is arson and all kinds of very nasty things done by the suffragists there. in america, it is really demonstrations. demonstrations in a way that has never been used. there has been marches for years. alice paul stages this unbelievably large national suffrage parade in washington in 1913, on the day before woodrow wilson's inauguration. but now, they are going to revert to far more confrontational methods, such as picketing the white house.
picketing the white house, never been done before. here are women standing in front of the white house, day and night. and in all weather. with picket signs, saying, mr. president, how long must women wait for liberty? during world war i saying, democracy begins at home. how can we be fighting a war to make the world safe for democracy, when half of our nation does not have a voice in their own democracy? so they are being far more confrontational. they are considered unpatriotic, and perhaps treasonous, by many americans. the mainstream suffragists, carrie cat and the national come are very nervous about having these kind of tactics, much like today. you, there is an element of the movement, that does not want to
be portrayed as to radical, as violent, they see it as being actually holding the back, making enemies for their movement, and we still go through that and movements go through this regularly. we see this kind of schism over tactics and almost every long-term social and political movement. it happened in the labor movement where the wobblies come up and say we are going to be violent about it. it happened in the 20th century. it happens in the gay-rights movement. it is not unusual for a long-term movement to split like this. that is what happened with alice paul. she and carrie catt in 1920 are the leader of the rival women's suffrage organizations. carrie katz national american much bigger, claiming to lien
-- 2 million members. alice paul's women's party, much smaller, but very vital. host: when the women were staging the demonstrations, where they putting our lives in danger? what was the public reaction to the public protests? guest: yes they were. from the very beginning there was violence. susan anthony, stanton, lucy stone, were all pelted with rotten eggs, and spoiled vegetables. susan anthony, the great organizer, travel the country back and forth every year, used to say she can mark the progress of the movement by the kind of projectiles that were thrown at her. [laughter] when there were no longer rotten eggs, just just plain eggs, that was progress. their banners were accosted and ripped, their clothes are riapped.
they were used to a certain amount of violence. but once the picketing begins, and once president woodrow wilson, who is very embarrassed by this, in front of the white house. and there also in lafayette park. just the summer we saw protesters in lafayette park be arrested. and all i could think of was wow, that is just how the suffragists were arrested in lafayette park, for demonstrating. and only exercising their first amendment rights of assembly. but the women's party suffragists are arrested, on really bogus legal standing,
things like obstructing the sidewalk. it is a broad sidewalk in front of the white house. or like to get a match after sunset, that was one of my favorites. and they are hauled into jail. they refuse bail for the most part. they are imprisoned in horrible jails in washington, d.c. and virginia. the jails are rat-infested, and they are given moldy bread. they are tortured, accosted and assaulted by the prison personnel. there is something called the night of terror, where they are truly, truly abused, in the prison. they go on hunger strikes.
there are force fed, with tubes rammed down their noses. many women collapse and their poignant pictures in the library of congress of women being released from jail and they cannot walk, they are so weak. alice paul herself was put in solitary confinement and threatened with being committed to a mental institution. so, yes, they did put their lives on the line. host: 168 women went to jail during this time. what was the news coverage like? what was the public reaction to the stories of these women being subjected to this kind of punishment for speaking up? guest: while it is very interesting. the wilson administration, in collaboration i should say, with carrie cat and the national association, the mainstream suffrage movement, actually called and newspaper editors and said, you know, don't give this radical group too much play in the newspapers.
you know? you are playing into their hands. it is most the way we talk about giving coverage to terrorists. and they did consider these women terrorists. so there was literally a cabal to not cover them very much. but after the 1913 parade in washington, which is attacked by men and boys, viciously, there is coverage. the silent sentinels are covered in some newspapers. remember even in 1920, a lot of suffrage news appears on the women's pages, along with recipes, and notices about the local bridge club. it was shocking to see that they were still being covered there. so, the coverage is very conflicting.
it shows them being arrested but it almost says, they deserve it because look what they are doing to embarrass president, or embarrassing the congress. you see this, but then you also see a revulsion against the harsh treatment. it is one thing to arrest someone perhaps if it is illegal and they are just exercising their first amendment rights. it is another to torture and put them in prison for months. their prison terms were six-month or nine months. there does again to be a revulsion, both in the newspapers and in the public. and in 1919, when the suffragists have finally been released from prison, only
because it is getting too embarrassing for president wilson to have this in the papers anymore, they are released and they go on this amazing public relations foray. where, it is called the prison special train. they rent a pullman car, pulled across the country on a northern route and then a southern route, packed with 28 suffragists, from young women to grandmothers, all of whom have been imprisoned for demonstrate for suffrage. they go across the country and discuss in every city and they hold rallies and marches. they hold all kinds of outdoor speeches. and they say, we are your mothers. we are grandmothers, we are your daughters and sisters. we have been imprisoned and tortured, for asking for the right to vote in america.
and this also begins to get the public uncomfortable about, just what is - why are they being treated like this? i think it helps convince congress they cannot sit on this amendment any longer. host: you talked about the many cross currents in american society during that time. one of those in 1920 was the rise of the lost cause movement, the rise of the kkk. there were black suffragist movement. did the white women's groups welcome them into the ranks or did they work separately? guest: that is a fascinating and complicated, and in the end, disappointing chapter in the whole movement. the nation was severely segregated. we have to understand that is how the world was at the time. that does not excuse the suffragists. the suffragists had to convince quite a number of racist white
men in congress, from the southern states, and from a few other states, but mostly from the southern states, they had to get a large segment of them, to vote yes, to pass the federal amendment. and so they used arguments. they would have to go back to them in their state legislatures. so they used arguments that relate should make us wince -- really should make us wince today. but in the political scheme of things at the time was convenient for suffragists. arguments like, don't worry this is going to upset the apple cart. because the federal amendment does give the right to vote to all women, blacks and whites. and so, they are seen, there are
seen, their more white women in the south than black women, so don't worry, it is not going to, it is just going to double the white vote. they also try to distance themselves from the black suffragists, the black women who have been organizing in every city, in every town. day, the black women, understand the importance of the vote. they have seen their men who are guaranteed the vote, with the 15th amendment, be robbed of the right to vote, by jim crow laws. so they feel and even more visceral need to obtain about. they are working in every city. what is wonderful about the centennial, is that it has spurred more research, into what black women suffragists were doing. because they were not for the most part, with where exception, allowed into the white establishment, suffrage organizations. society was segregated. for the most part they had to
form their own. and so you see black women organizing through the black women's clubs, through the church groups, through social uplift groups of the time. so you see these black suffragists, very, very energized, and very engaged in that. but they have to work on it separately for the most part. you see the white suffragists time and again putting a distance, knowing how important it is to make sure black women are also on board for this, but still keeping their distance so that they can mollify both southern women, who do not really want black women to vote, and, of course, the southern men. and so you do see this terrible forced split, between what the
white suffragists are doing and the black suffragists. but there are black and white suffragists involved in the higher levels, the national levels of the movement, for the most part there kept at a distance. host: we have about 12 minutes left with you in this hour on the women's suffrage centennial. what tipped the scales for president woodrow wilson? why did he decide to reverse himself and supported? guest: woodrow wilson spent most of his life greatly opposed to the idea of women's suffrage. time and again, he expresses this. remember he has a whole career as the president of princeton. then he is governor of new jersey. then he is president. when he is president, again, alice paul has organized this
unbelievably large, like a thousand women marching down pennsylvania avenue in march, 1913. the next day they ask for meeting at the white house and they bombard him for weeks and months and years afterward. he puts them off and says, you know i have never really thought about suffrage. or, i cannot do anything, because i have to wait for my party, the democratic party, to decide what to do. and he uses many, many excuses. what happens when america enters the world war, is there is a bit of a shift. partly, carrie chapman katz come the president of the national american association, the largest mainstream group, who is a pacifist herself, and who formed the women's peace party a few years before, makes a political and moral compromise,
that she cannot impose her personal philosophy on the movement. and that, although she hopes that when women can vote they vote to outlaw war, that is one of her goals for the suffrage movement, she sees they cannot sit on the sidelines during this first modern cataclysmic war. she decides to pledge the loyalty and work of the members of her organization, to the war effort. this is a big 'get' for president wilson. and he is very grateful for his. alice paul refuses to support the war. she has her picketers out there saying, how can we fight this war for democracy, and you are not giving women democracy at home? so you have this good cop, bad
cop between carrie katz and her approach to wilson and alice paul. what happens also, is that woodrow wilson, as were closes, in november, 1918, early 1919, just when the suffrage amendment is coming to a head in congress, he is trying to get the league of nations passed by congress. he wants this to be his legacy, an international organization that will prevent the kind of war the world has just gone through. so he sees women, whom he evaluates and says women care more about peace, and they know what war is like, and they have lived through this horrible experience recently. they will support the league of nations. they will push their senators and congressmen, if they can vote. and so he comes around, partly out of that political
calculation, that if his legacy is to be established at all, as a peacemaker and not just a war president, then he needs women to be able to vote. so you see him very slowly, and again, under pressure, from carrie katz and the mainstream suffragists, and utter embarrassment from alice paul, slowly reverse. but it is a political - it is also a political compilation he makes. -- calculation he makes. host: we started with the dramatic story of the vote in tennessee that put the amendment over the top. it became officially part of the constitution on august 26. tell me about election day in 1920? how many women were able to vote? and how many really turned out? guest: so when the amendment is
ratified on august 18 in tennessee 27 million women are , eligible to vote. this does include african-american women. it does not include native american women. they are not considered citizens at that time. and it does not include asian american women, because they are also not considered citizens in 1920. like african-americans it will take them decades more to win the right to vote. what happens is there are 27 million women who are eligible. but only about 10 million vote in the 1920 election. and ironically they give a landslide victory, they help give a landslide victory, to the republican presidential candidate, warren harding, who, not knowing much at the time, was a womanizer, and was also tended toward allowing his cronies to run free and run a corrupt administration. that is what he is known for now.
but he looks presidential, they gave him the vote. what happens, though, is now, only one out of three eligible women has gone to the polls. the press goes to carrie katz -- carrie catt and says, so you are working on this for seven decades, what happened? why aren't all women running to vote? she explains it and says, you know, voting is a learned habit. you have to learn to get in the groove that you vote in every election. women do not have that. they have it in a few states. it is very new to them. even in new york, they have never voted in a presidential election before. so they will learn it. one thing she does to help them learn it is she establishes the league of women voters, to teach women how to study the issues, study the candidates.
and that is also celebrating its centennial anniversary this year. that said, i have thought about why only 10 million women? i came up with a few answers. what is that even though it is not legal to vote, in a lot of your hometowns, it might not be accepted. your pastor might still be railing from the pulpit about how this is going to bring down the american home. your garden club colleagues may not really have been supporters of suffrage. your family may still not approve of you voting. so it still takes a bit of courage and nerve, and unsettling moves out of your comfort zone, to stand at the polling place and vote. it is also just 10 weeks from
elections, from the time it enters the constitution to election day. and quite a few states did not extend the registration deadlines. in georgia they refused to extend registration, and did not allow any women to vote because they do not want black women to vote. what we will also see happen on election day, is that the beginning of the suppression of black women's votes begins. right then and there. there are some horrible incidents in florida, where women who try to vote are attacked and there are lynchings and we begin to see how, in the south, the 19th amendment, will be subverted and undermined, by that jim crow laws of literacy tests and poll taxes, and intimidation and violence. and that will hold, that will prevent many black women, not all in the south.
again, they are voting and other parts of the country, african americans. but the population is still centered in the south, the great migration has just begun. so the southern states will use these very vicious jim crow laws to undermine the 19th amendment. and congress, which has the power to enforce the 19th amendment, will never step in and of enforce it until the voting rights act of 1965 put some legal teeth into enforcement. host: as we close our hour together, how should we as americans think of suffragettes and their contribution to american history? guest: i think the way to, and they are an incredible group. again, they had many male allies. but i will talk about the women.
they were grassroots activists at every level. they were teachers. they were nurses. there were secretaries. they were factory workers. they were of all races. they worked to write injustice over three generations, over 70 years. and for quite a few of these women, that fight would continue. so i think we need to see that their persistence, their creativity, their ability to use both protest and demonstration, but also very savvy political tools. they become master politicians. they become orators. they become campaigners. they are lobbying and congress, at a very very high level. and in the white house. they master both protest and political tools. and i think we need to look at that as a blueprint for social
and political protest today. there is protest in around the country right now. and how do you mobilize and marshall the political strategy? you have to have both. and you have to very sustained political strategy, for how you are going to get very specific goals. the suffragists narrowed their broad agenda of women's rights into women's suffrage. some say that was a mistake and they should have been fighting on a broader level and that could be. but i think it does give us a very interesting look at a movement that had to persist over three decades, and 70 years. but i think it also teaches us that our democracy is always having to be tested and improved. and we are at a moment right now
when voting rights is a critical, critical problem. in many states have taken advantage of the gutting of the voting rights act in 2013 by a supreme court ruling and they have installed onerous voting restrictions. i think we have to stand up and say as the suffragists did and the civil rights movements and millions who work for civil rights in the 1960's, we have to go back into the trenches. we have to protect a citizen's right to vote. i think it gives us both and appreciation, how these women were able to create a movement, when there is no mass media. you know, they do not have facebook to organize. yet they organized all over the nation, over a long time. we hope it does not take that long.
but we see how necessary it is to build alliances, to be strategic, and to be nimble. you have to have plan b and plan c. the suffragists were defeated more often than they succeeded. but they kept at it. i think that is a good lesson. and the lesson of the importance of fighting for voting rights. perhaps every generation has to stand up for it. we are at the moment where we have to stand up for right now. host: the book is called "the woman's hour: the great fight to win the vote." elaine weiss, thank you for telling us the story. >> pleasure to be with you. ♪ [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] ♪ all q and a programs are
available on our website or as a podcast at c-span.org. >> later today on c-span, dnc chairman tom perez and joe biden's campaign manager jennifer o'malley dillon offer a preview of the democratic national convention live at 104510 -- 10:45 a.m. eastern on u.s.illary clinton foreign policy hosted by the atlantic council. and the president travels to minnesota to give remarks on the economy at 3:00 p.m. eastern on c-span. coming up on this morning's washington journal, politicos holly otterbein previews the start of the democratic national convention tonight. jeff cohen, cofounder of