Deeds not Words
Updated: Sep 28, 2020
Sept. 27, 2020
The right to vote in the United States of America is a vote that everyone 18 years of age and older has. But it is common knowledge that women, lower-class citizens, and people of color once didn’t have the right to vote. Out of these three groups, women were the last to have the right to vote. The 19th Amendment that would give women the right to vote wasn’t passed until 1920! Although the amendment wasn’t passed until 1920, the fight for women’s suffrage began long before then.
Photo by Bettmann Archive/Getty Images
The fight for women’s suffrage was a long and hard battle that was fought by many powerful women (and men) and faced many ups and downs throughout the years. The fight for women’s suffrage even lasted for more than a century. It wasn’t until after World War 1 that women were allowed to vote. So, what was the journey like for women for them to be given the right of voting?
The fight for women’s suffrage began in the 19th and 20th centuries. Two main political groups that fought for women’s suffrage formed in these times; the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) and the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). These groups were also known as the Suffragists and the Suffragettes; names used by the public to ridicule them. Both of these groups fought for women’s suffrage but had different tactics to do so. The Suffragists, run by Millicent Garret Fawcett, were peaceful protesters who believed that by being calm, well-mannered ladies would help convince parliament to give them the right to vote. The Suffragists only campaigned for middle-class, property owners to vote. Overall, they were somewhat successful and convinced parliament to pass a few bills in favor of women’s suffrage. In the end, it wasn’t enough to obtain it.
While the Suffragists were peaceful protesters, the Suffragettes were more known for their more violent and rowdy behavior. The Suffragettes were formed by Emmeline Pankhurst who broke from the Suffragists (NUWSS) to form the Women’s Social and Political Union (Suffragettes). Overall, the Suffragettes were more inclusive than the Suffragists and fought for every woman's right to vote, no matter race or wealth. The slogan “Deed not Words” was used by the Suffragettes to assert their power and show they were ready to fight. The Suffragettes began their protests in 1905 and they were known to break windows, plant bombs, and go on hunger strikes all to fight for their right to vote. Many of the Suffragettes would be arrested and go on hunger strikes in prison, meaning they wouldn’t eat. These women would be held down and forced to eat in order not to get ill. The tactics of the Suffragettes weren’t very successful though until they joined forces with the Suffragists.
During World War I, Emmeline Pankhurst and Millicent Fawcett put their differences aside and encouraged women to join the war effort. Together, they convinced women that helping out in the war might help them earn their right to voting. The role that women held in the war was very important and it indeed helped lead women to their right to vote. After World War I, the 19th Amendment was finally passed which gave women the right to vote. The hard
work and determination of the Suffragists and the Suffragettes helped women earn their right to vote.
Art from Library of Congress, Music Division.
Many hardworking and courageous women sacrificed so much to give women the right of voting. Now that women have the right to vote, we do not take it for granted. Remember to exercise your right and vote in this upcoming election on November 3rd, while remembering the hard-fought battle that allowed us, women, to do so.