Skip to main content

tv   QA Elaine Weiss The Womans Hour  CSPAN  November 30, 2020 5:58am-7:00am EST

5:58 am
in the future for our country. so thank you very much. adm. mcraven: my pleasure. thanks very much. great to join you all today. thanks. david: thank you. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2020] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] on c-span's "washington journal" this morning, new america's lee drutman discusses his proposal that would increase the federal government's role in the election process. and then chief american health care association dr. david gifford discusses covid-19 impact on long-term care facilities. be sure to watch c-span's "washington journal," live today at 7:00 eastern. and be sure to join the discussion with
5:59 am
texts and tweets. to harry to burn from a national public tv documentary and then come back and talk about him. student of national and international affairs. she took matters with all public issues. some of the farmers were illiterate and couldn't vote. burn and why harry does he play a central role in your story? youngest was the legislator in the general assembly in 1920. he was a freshman delicate and
6:00 am
he was up for reelection in the fall. small town of the in east tennessee which was the republican part of tennessee. voted with the anti-separatist and for theificationists 19th amendment, he changed his mind because of a letter he received from his mother who he describes in that clip. mind tilted the vote by one vote and that's how the 19th amendment finally got ratified. the vote fors ratification of the constitutional amendment come down to tennessee? guest: a convoluted path. constitution says that new
6:01 am
amendments have to be passed by vote in each 2/3 chamber and then it has to be ratified by three quarters of the states and the union. at that time, there were 48 states which meant 36 had to ratify. in the summer of 1920, 35 had ratified so you had just one more state which was needed before ratification and it would enter the constitution and american women in every state would be able to vote in the 1920 election. that was a presidential year so it was a pivotal election. tennessee wasthat the last possible choice for a place, for its state to ratify. most of the other states in the south had actually already agreed -- had already a drip --
6:02 am
rejected the 19th amendment and there were a few outstanding states but two of them were in new england, connecticut and vermont. the governors they 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 role in their political lives. they refused. there were two southern states still not heard from, north carolina, which everyone knew what was going to not ratify and florida, same thing. so tennessee was the only one left. it was still a dangerous place to stage this probably final battle for women's suffrage the constitutional level. the suffragettes were not happy about having to stage this, to
6:03 am
fight for the last state in a southern state which makes it more complicated for reasons i'm sure we will discuss. difficulta very realization that tennessee was the one but they had to deal anti-suffragists, it was something of a last stand. the governor of tennessee didn't want it here -- there. the tennessee legislature did not want to be the deciding factor. a lot of powers tennessee not have to be in a pivotal position that it turned out it was. host: if tennessee had failed to ratify, what would've happened to women's suffrage? guest: that's an interesting speculation because as i said, there were two northern states
6:04 am
still in play but the governors had totally refused, completely refused to call their legislatures back and they probably would not have done that for the 1920 election. what the suffragists sensed, and i think they were correct, is that the nation was swinging conservative more frame of mind. the progress of your was over, we had just emerged from a very unpopular war, the great war, wasd war i, and the nation swinging away from that idea of america being the beacon of the free world, going into a more isolationist position. there were a lot of domestic problems that were having to be decided. so this is a pivotal election. the suffragists felt if they
6:05 am
could not yet tennessee to ratify, the momentum would be lost. the momentum in the spring had been against them. there had been several rejections including moderate delaware. delaware rejected the 19th amendment. they were really nervous that if they couldn't resolve this ratification in tennessee, in the summer of 1920, they were not perhaps going to see it ratified in their lifetime or for the foreseeable future. what they feared is that once the election was passed, there was pressure from the political establishment that would be over and the nation was having second thoughts. there were several states that wanted to rescind their prior ratification of the 19th amendment and also it was being challenged in court. correct but were they felt that they couldn't get it done now, it was not going to
6:06 am
happen and those folks who have lived through the equal rights amendment which was the successor amendment to the 19th and it was introduced into congress in 1923 know that an amendment can come close to the finish line as the e.r.a. has and yet not make it into the constitution. i think their fears were well-founded. host: by 1920, how many states allowed women to vote? about 12 or 15e states allowed for what was called. or it. andets kind of complicated our federalist system. the constitution provides that the states are in charge of voting requirements for their citizens and also for the administration of elections and we know that because that's why there is such a hodgepodge of
6:07 am
election law today because the states are in charge and they can make the decision. you can get the right to vote by two paths. one is your state gives it to you by a change in the in theution, a change fundamental laws of voting in that state and the other is through a constitutional amendment which would supersede all of the states requirements and give the vote in one fell swoop to all women in every state. the suffragists had pursued a double track, shall we say, from the beginning. they worked in the states in referenda in which men were the only people who could vote where the women deserved the vote. so you had scores of referenda in many states and they would try again and try again several times.
6:08 am
sometimes it failed and was never revived. about 15 states, most of them in the west, but pivotally, illinois had given women the vote in 1917i believe and new york also in 1917. i may be wrong on the date but there were a few outposts of midwestern and midwestern and eastern states. the northeast corridor was very reluctant about women's suffrage. they had managed through an enormous effort to get these 15 states to allow women to vote and it starts in the western states which are not very populated, white only, idaho, colorado and then goes through california, oregon, washington. when new york allows suffrage in
6:09 am
1917, that is a big milestone. that's when things begin to move again because it's the most populous state in the politicians cannot ignore women's suffrage anymore. you have these 15 states where women can vote and then you have several other states post-world war i, so just in the last year or two, who gave women the right to vote in presidential elections. they couldn't vote for their governor, their senator, their congressman but they could vote for president. now you have quite a few women who can vote in the presidential election even if they don't have full suffrage. politicians have to pay a little willore attention to the of the women electorate. you see a different calculation in their minds in 1920. host: could you describe the
6:10 am
standing of women, the legal standing of women in american society and this time? tost: it's best to go back into the 19th century when the movement begins. time, the idea of women's legal rights is almost an oxymoron because they have so few rights. ownman could not own her property if she was married, everything belong to her husband. if her husband dies, it often went to his brother and so his -- her brother-in-law would be in charge of everything she owned. it woman did not have custodial rights over her children. 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 against the property rights
6:11 am
which revert to her husband. she could not testify in a court of law. she could not bring civil suit .n her own name stop she could not enter colleges or universities or most professions so this kind of outrage of this is what stimulates the women's rights movement in the mid 19th century. those into 1920, some of property laws which are state , nothave been improved all, but some have been improved so women can claim their own property in certain states. of course, women's colleges are open so women have more access to higher education and some state universities are open to women. if you professions are leading a
6:12 am
few women in. that won't change until the 1970's. -- so, you see a very small you see very small changes that are important but they are haphazard and they are also very hard-fought. women fought for decades to make these changes. that's one of the reasons that they want the vote. the movement begins as a women's rights movement. and they are asking for a lot of changes. focusins to narrow its into suffrage for the right to vote. inwomen had representation the places were policy and laws are being made, then maybe they can change the laws through the legal system so that's why suffrage becomes the leading edge of this women's rights movement.
6:13 am
following that, alice paul says we have the boat and now we want to make sure we are leveling the playing field and all the other aspects of women's legal rights and that's really equal rights amendment comes in. i have her through your explanation with the arguments were but what was the argument for anti-women's suffrage? guest: there are several varieties of anti-suffragists. the one that comes most easily to mind is men. we think, there is reason that men might not want women to vote. one is that they would have to share power, that's the most basic one. then there'svote, a path to the electorate and men's power is diluted. that is certainly a political argument. nervous aboutvery
6:14 am
upsetting the political status whether men who were running for office were nervous about having to appeal to women voters. it was a different persona that they might have to project. they were worried about what they look like which they never had to do when they were just appealing to men. then you have the more interesting anti-suffrage and antis who wereon women. the fact that there were organized groups of women that opposed women suffrage was shocking to me when i first encountered it in my research. in they were not as numerous 1920. back in the late 19th century, you didn't have to have an anti-suffrage movement because most people were anti-suffrage. for a minor fringe
6:15 am
group of women. they were considered radical, they were derided as unpatriotic and arranged -- and deranged. idea of organizing to oppose suffrage does not really become a reality until around 1911 when the suffrage movement begins to get some traction. even women get worried about this. why would women oppose their sisters getting the vote? it's a variety of reasons. sne is many of the women anti are political, cultural religious conservative women. they truly believe that this will upset gender roles. and it's going to destroy the american family women have a sense of equality and there's all kinds of anti-suffrage showganda materials that
6:16 am
women abandoning their family to work for suffrage and it shows a woman going out of the family home door and leaving dad with screaming babies are having to do the wash on a washboard. they predict the fall of civilization and the idea that this will affect your private life -- it's not just the political issue because this wasn't just a political issue. it really was a questioning of women's rights and women's roles in society. this is what makes a much more complicated issue. if you can say women are equal and they have an equal vote and an equal voice to men, then what does that mean in the home? concerneds are very that this means that men are going to be emasculated and women are going to become more this was dangerous
6:17 am
for the family so they see this as the downfall of civilization and moral society. for those who are religious conservatives, they used the bible. they said it's against god's plan. interpreted made adam to be dominant over eve and to question that by saying women have political equality is to question god's plan and these biblical arguments against the idea of suffrage. againe that over and over where women say god does not want this and we hear echoes of that today in many debates about social change. constellation of are veryomen who afraid and very opposed to the idea of women getting the vote and there are some notable
6:18 am
intellectuals who are women who are actually against women's suffrage. host: the mid 19 century centerpiece was the seneca full conference in 1848 with three names that everyone knows for books,t from the history you write that these three people had an extraordinary 50 year partnership and change the course of our history. what's important for people to know how the three of them works 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 is often -- i didn't know this until i delved 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 teacher. she is working intemperance and
6:19 am
abolition. those three notables come together through the abolition movement. that is an important thing for us to understand that the women's rights movement, the suffrage movement is a direct outgrowth of the abolition movement. as theen we think of four mothers, susan anthony, lucy stone, they were abolition workers, very active abolition workers before their suffrage work. idea of all human beings having the divine spark, having the right of freedom in a democracy and the right of a voice in their government comes out of the central tenet of abolitionism, that no human should be property, no woman
6:20 am
should be a slave -- no human should be a slave. not to make a direct connection but women had very few rights. connection that there is something 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. douglassthat frederick was at seneca falls -- and again i did not know this before i started my research -- was just startling and extraordinary to me. it's no coincidence, he didn't happen to pass by. he lives about 50 miles away in rochester. he was supported by
6:21 am
abolitionists, especially abolitionist women. he was publishing the northstar, and sheition newspaper she invited him to come. there is a lament of all the reasons why women are oppressed of thes a direct echo declaration of independence. she uses jeffersons language. and she has resolutions to solve these problems. one of them, the ninth revolution -- resolution is the idea of the book and it's considered so radical and so unattainable that even her fellow reformers who were at the seneca falls meeting say please, don't put that on the table, it's really too radical and it will make us seem ridiculous. they ask her to take it off the agenda and she refuses. frederick douglass stands up and
6:22 am
says you must, you must demand this, you must demand the boat. it will not be given to you just as it will not be given to me as a black man unless we are willing to fight for it. it's frederick douglass who convinces the other very reluctant participants at seneca falls to sign on to this resolution and approve it. possibly neverd have heard of seneca falls if it douglassr frederick convincing the others to do this and he called himself a wound woman's rights man -- a woman's rights man. he truly is. in my mind, he is one of the great heroes of the story because he believes in universal suffrage so he will be fighting for universal suffrage for all adult citizens. what will happen is that there will be a great disappointment
6:23 am
after the civil war and the reconstruction period and the reconstruction amendments, the 14th and 15th amendments and basically congress says, i know you were all expecting to get the vote but the nation cannot handle two big reforms at once. so it's either going to be black men get the vote or women get the vote, it cannot be both. -- need iteeded more more elemental and because there is horrible violence and lynchings going on so they need the vote. it's a terrible rift in both frederick douglass had to tell them that the woman's hour has not come. it will come eventually but you will have to wait. schism thats a takes quite a while to heal. race is part of this story from the very beginning from the
6:24 am
abolitionists to the split in the reconstruction period where women are betrayed so they get very angry. anthony and stanton say vile racist things in 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 aft just hours after attending a human rights event in washington. the idea that he truly believes in women's rights is borne out and it's actually a beautiful story and he maintains that even when he is betrayed himself by the suffragists. host: it seems as though phase andof this, after the 14th 15th amendments were passed, began in the late 1870's, early
6:25 am
1880's. the first legislation went to congress in 1878. what was it that it said? guest: there were a couple of times -- there were a couple of attempt before that in the house on the senate and those did not go far at all. 1878, stanton and anthony worked with their they getn congress and it actually introduced. it is stalled there for the next 40 years -- 40 years. every year the suffragists go up and testify before whatever house or senate committee is hearing at that time and they give a well constructed, legal argument and elizabeth stanton used to say that she had a great legal mind and she would
6:26 am
be giving this testimony and 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 said at some point in her said that she had to restrain herself from throwing her manuscript about their heads that they were not listening. this gets thrown back into the file cabinet every year for 40 years. i's not until after world war that it finally emerges. even that is really hard. it passes the house and it has to be a two thirds majority. it passes the house by a thin margin. it passes the senate with only a two vote margin. there are senators who are sitting on it after the house
6:27 am
passes it in 1918 and it takes until june of 1919 before it passes both houses. then the senate knew they were sending out ratification in the mosts in an off year when state legislatures were not going to be in session. 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 session to consider the amendment. many were reluctant to do this. it was expensive and it put them in some political jeopardy because other things might come up in the special session that they didn't want to deal with. suffragists say we will serve as your chauffeurs, serve as your because they say
6:28 am
it's too expensive to pay perdiem. they had all sorts of excuses and it makes it much more difficult. that is the situation of the federal amendment. for a long time it is in 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 are going to demand it. they are no longer asking for it. the banners say, we demand an amendment to the constitution, for the women's vote. host: alice paul is a name people should know 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?
6:29 am
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 names like harriet chapman katz. 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 -- early 30's in 1920 in the third generation. the third generation emerges in that second decade of the 20th
6:30 am
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 about this and polite. we are going to be confrontational. we are going to be in the face of the congressmen 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 most. -- 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.
6:31 am
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 has staged 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. 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? and during world war i, saying,
6:32 am
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 even treasonous by many americans. the mainstream suffragists 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 pretrade as too radical, as -- portrayed as too radical, as violent, they see it as being holding them back, making enemies for their movement, and we still go through that and movements go through this
6:33 am
regularly. we see this kind of schism over tactics in 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 civil-rights movement. 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. and that is what happened with alice paul. she and carrie catt in 1920 are the leaders of the rival women's suffrage organizations. carrie katz national american much bigger. alice paul's women's party, much smaller, but very vital. host: when the women were staging the demonstrations, were they putting their lives in danger? what was the public reaction to the public protests? guest: yes they were.
6:34 am
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 and traveled 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. they are attacked by gangs of angry men and boys all the time. they are thrown from their floats and parades. their banners were accosted and ripped in half. their clothes are ripped. they were used to a certain amount of violence. but once the picketing begins,
6:35 am
and once president woodrow wilson, who is very embarrassed by this, in front of the white house. and they are also in lafayette park. just this summer, we saw protesters in lafayette park be arrested. and all i could think of was well, 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 lighting 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
6:36 am
jails in d.c. and in virginia. they are rat infested, they are cold. they are given moldy bread. they are actually tortured and 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 of the women do collapse and there are 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 she is threatened with being committed to a mental institution. so, yes, they did put their lives on the line.
6:37 am
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: well, it is very interesting. the wilson administration, in collaboration i should say, with carrie catt and the national association, the mainstream suffrage movement, actually called in 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 getting 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
6:38 am
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 really 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. they are embarrassing the president or embarrassing the congress. you see this, but then you also see a revulsion against the harsh treatment.
6:39 am
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 them and put them in prison for months. their prison terms were six or nine months. there does again to be a revolt in, 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
6:40 am
route and then a southern route, and it is packed with 28 suffragists, from young women to grandmothers, all of whom have been imprisoned for demonstrating 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. and 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
6:41 am
rise of the lost cause movement, the rise of the kkk. there were black suffragist movement. -- black suffragist movements. 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.
6:42 am
they would have to go back to them in their state legislatures. and so they used arguments that really should make us wince today. but in the political scheme of things at the time was convenient for suffragists. that was arguments like, don't worry that 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 saying, there are 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 lack suffragists, the black women who black suffragists, the black women who have been organizing in every city, in every town. they, the black women, understand the importance of the vote.
6:43 am
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. and so they feel and even more -- feel an even more visceral need to obtain the vote. 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 rare exceptions, 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
6:44 am
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 suffragists involved in some of the higher levels, the national levels of the movement. for the most part, they are kept at a distance. host: we have about 12 minutes left with you in this hour on
6:45 am
the women's suffrage centennial. so what tipped the scales for president woodrow wilson? why did he decide to reverse himself and support it? 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. and 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. and the next day they are asking for a meeting at the white house and they bombard him for weeks and months and years afterward. he just puts them off and says, you know, i have never really
6:46 am
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, the president of the national american association, the largest mainstream group, who was 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 will vote outlaw war.
6:47 am
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 when you are not giving women democracy at home? so you have this good cop, bad cop between carrie catt and her approach to wilson and alice paul. what happens also is that woodrow wilson, as the war closes in november 1918 in early 1919, just when the suffrage
6:48 am
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 very 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. and so you see him very slowly,
6:49 am
and again, under pressure, from carrie catt and the mainstream suffragists and utter embarrassment from alice paul, slowly reverse. but it is also apolitical -- 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, 27 million women are eligible to vote. now, 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
6:50 am
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 known 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. he looked presidential. they gave him the vote. what happens, though, is now, only one out of three eligible women has gone to the polls.
6:51 am
the press goes to carrie catt and says, so you were 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. and so she says 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. i came up with a few answers. even though it is not -- even though it is now legal to vote, in a lot of your hometowns, it
6:52 am
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. so i think you have that going on. 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 did not want black women to vote. what we will also see happen on
6:53 am
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 the 19th amendment will be subverted and undermined by the jim crow laws of undersea tests 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.
6:54 am
and congress, which has the power to enforce the 19th amendment, will never step in and 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 look at the suffragists -- 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. they were secretaries. they were factory workers. they were of all races. they worked to right injustice over three generations, over 70 years. and for quite a few of these
6:55 am
women, that fight would continue. and 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 law bring -- they are lobbying in 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
6:56 am
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. and by some counts, 900 campaigns at the state, local, and national level. 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. and 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 restriction laws. i think we have to stand up and
6:57 am
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 an appreciation how these women were able to create a movement, when there is no mass media. you know, they did 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.
6:58 am
and 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 it 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. >> thank you so much, susan. pleasure to be with you. ♪ [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2020] >> all q&a programs are available on our website or as a podcast at >> here is our live coverage on c-span today --
6:59 am
two supreme court oral arguments, first trump versus new york on whether the president has the authority to prevent noncitizens from being counted in the census. that's followed by van buren versus the u.s., a case dealing with computer fraud. the house begins the week with a pro forma session with no votes scheduled but later in the week, they will take weapon measure -- take about measure of legalizing marijuana. on c-span2, middle east institute host a form to combat isis in syria and iraq and a 1 p.m. eastern, coverage of the arizona secretary of state's certification of the 2020 election results and the senate is back to consider a judicial nomination for the southern district of mississippi. coming up on today's "washington journal," new america foundation political reform project will share -- later,


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on