Conservatism and Women's Votes

A century ago next year, women in the United States won the right to vote thanks to a movement that was largely conservative and religious in nature.

Out of the suffrage movement came the Declaration of Sentiments, which was drafted ahead of the Women’s Rights Convention held in Seneca falls, New York in 1848, and drew heavily from the American Declaration of Independence.

In addition to insisting on equality with men where the law, education, and employment were concerned, the document proclaimed that women must also be afforded the right to vote.

Our foremothers in the mid-19th century relied upon their faith in God, and they were strongly influenced by the Second Great Awakening, which totally revolutionized the way women viewed their role in this country, particularly by promoting the cause of abolishing slavery.

Many supporters of the early suffrage movement were also very much involved in the abolition movement. It was while fighting the battle against slavery that those women became convinced that it was indeed a law of nature that all men (and women) were created equal, and that no law contrary to this should be valid.

This map appeared in the magazine Puck during the Empire State Campaign, a hard-fought referendum on a suffrage amendment to the New York State constitution—the referendum failed in 1915 (via Wikipedia)

When the issue finally came to a vote in May of 1919, the 19th Amendment was passed.

It passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 304 in favor and 89 against, with 104 Democrats and 200 Republicans voting in favor. In the Senate, the Democrats voted 20-17 in favor, while the GOP voted 36-8 for women’s suffrage.

Over time, of course, Democrats began to embrace the cause of women’s equality more fully. Today, though, the left’s support for women has become self-interested, predicated on the willingness of women to toe an ideological line.

Like our suffragette antecedents, many American women still rely on our faith and our belief that all people are created equal. And like them, we recognize how important our contributions are to this country and its future. While we remain firmly committed to upholding those foundational principles, however, today we are more likely to be attacked by the media than celebrated.

Headlines in the mainstream media today talk about the “betrayal” of white women voters; they speculate that all white women are brainwashed, describe women as foot soldiers of the patriarchy, and worse. The media have been playing identity politics with us, and women who don’t conform to their expectations are routinely shunned, ignored, or belittled.

There is a war on women, and the media have been waging it. Their message is: if you’re a woman and you’re not voting the way we think you should vote — then you’re somehow a traitor to your gender.

The suggestion is that women who are independent thinkers, who have decided to make our own decisions, and who do not blithely accept the dictates handed down to us by the media, the left, or our feminist “betters,” are indeed looked down upon by those who disagree with us.

If the feminist movement was designed by women for women in order to create a more perfect society, then it should take all women seriously regardless of how they vote, and it should respect all women for their unique contributions to society.

Instead, the media hurl insults and criticisms at women who take advantage of the freedom and equality we have won to think for ourselves. They want to confine us and define us, in much the same way as the so- called “patriarchy” that women fought against in the past.

You see, the media have been attempting to exercise the very type of control over women that we were fighting to free ourselves from in the first place.

Ladies: They don’t want you and I to think independently. They don’t want you to follow your dreams; they want you to follow theirs. They endeavor to stop you by shaming and manipulation. The media have poisoned the political atmosphere.

They have become the new self-appointed standard-bearers of what is acceptable thought among females. After all these years, they are essentially maintaining that women still can’t think for themselves.

Talk about a major cultural fail.

Consider the closing remarks of the Declaration of Sentiments:

Now, in view of this entire disfranchisement of one-half the people of this country, their social and religious degradation — in view of the unjust laws above mentioned, and because women do feel themselves aggrieved, oppressed, and fraudulently deprived of their most sacred rights, we insist that they have immediate admission to all the rights and privileges which belong to them as citizens of these United States.

In entering upon the great work before us, we anticipate no small amount of misconception, misrepresentation, and ridicule [sound familiar?] but we shall use every instrumentality within our power to affect our object.

Wow. It appears that, in some ways at least, we’re right back where we started. That is unacceptable, and we don’t have to tolerate it.

Ladies, we are ridiculed because those who want to tell us how we should vote — and what we should care about — are actually afraid of us.

We are numerous, and we can be persuasive. We must work to effect change when our society fails to live up to its ideals of equality, but also make sure to defend the gains we have already won. If you’re already involved, stay involved; if not, get involved.

I believe that God has placed each one of us here purposely — not by chance, not by mistake, but purposely placed us where we are, right now, at this time. You and I are here for such a time as this, when so much of the future of this country seems to hinge on one election.

We’ve got to fight to preserve our liberties, and it just may be our turn to do something radical — like our suffragette sisters before us.

We owe those women a life dedicated to preserving our Constitution. We must be willing to put in whatever time and energy is necessary to ensure a free and prosperous future for a generation of people we may never know. Our foremothers did that for us.

Finally, we are being offered a choice between a country whose organizing principle is the individual, or a country whose organizing principle is bureaucracy.

The suffrage movement succeeded by appealing to the principles of individual liberty that form the foundation of our system of government, but its hard-won gains are now under attack from those who seek to enforce ideological conformity at the expense of individuality.

Nearly a century after women won the right to vote, our cause remains a fundamentally conservative and religious one.