Founding Feminists is FMF’s daily herstory column. Each day, we serve up our take on the feminist headlines of yore.
Alice Paul arrived in Chicago today, and immediately announced that there would be women picketing outside the Republican National Convention each day that it’s in session here next week unless a 36th – and final – State ratification is obtained for the Susan B. Anthony Amendment.
The proposed 19th Amendment reads:
The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Paul is aware of the fact that a resolution supporting the Anthony Amendment will be passed by the delegates, but said:
We are not content with words on suffrage which are not backed by party pressure. We are protesting against the continued disenfranchisement of women, for which the Republican Party has now become responsible, and are demanding that the Republican Party secure ratification immediately in one more State, so that millions of women may vote in the Presidential election.
It had been hoped that the Republican-controlled Delaware Legislature would have ratified by now, but yesterday the Delaware Assembly refused by 24-10 to even vote on the ratification resolution, then it adjourned for the year. In Vermont and Connecticut, there are believed to be enough votes in their State legislatures to ratify, but because both have already ended their regular sessions, they can only meet again this year if called into “special session” by their Republican governors, and both have refused to issue the call, despite intense lobbying.
It’s as ironic as it is frustrating that the party which has done by far the most for suffrage is now starting to be seen as the party blocking it just short of victory. The Anthony Amendment was first introduced into Congress by Republican Senator Aaron Sargent of California on January 10, 1878. When the amendment was passed for the second time by the House on May 21, 1919, the vote was 102 Democrats in favor and 70 opposed, their support level of 59% falling short of the 2/3 needed. But 200 Republicans voted in favor, and just 19 were opposed, so their 91% support pushed the measure to well over the 2/3 needed. The final vote was 304-89, 42 votes more than the 262-131 required for passage by the 393 members present and voting, with 1 Farmer-Labor Party member and 1 Prohibitionist Party member providing two of the favorable votes.
When the Senate voted on the Anthony Amendment on June 4, 1919, there were 20 Democrats in favor and 17 opposed (54% support) with 36 Republicans in favor and 8 against (81.8% support) giving the measure two votes more (56-25) than was needed for passage by 2/3 (54-27) of the 81 Senators present and voting.
Once passed by Congress, the Anthony Amendment went to the 48 State Legislatures for ratification. The Constitution requires approval by 3/4, which works out to 36. Of the 35 which have ratified so far, 26 have Republican legislatures, 6 are Democratic, and in the remaining 3, one party controls the Lower House, the other the Upper House.
Reaffirming its strong and traditional support for equal suffrage, the Republican National Committee passed the following resolution just two days ago:
Whereas, the Republican National Committee at its regular meeting has repeatedly indorsed woman suffrage and the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and has called upon Congress to pass, and the States to ratify such amendment; and
Whereas, such amendment still lacks ratification by a sufficient number of States to become law, therefore be it
Resolved, By the Republican National Committee, that the Nineteenth Constitutional Amendment be, and the same is hereby again indorsed by this committee, and such Republican States as have not already done so are now urged to take such action by their Governors and their legislators as will assure the ratification of such amendment and establish the right of equal suffrage at the earliest possible time.
But an Anthony Amendment with only 35 ratifications wins the vote for no one, so the pressures and tactics which have gotten suffrage this far must be kept up, and even increased as registration deadlines in States where women cannot presently vote approach. According to Alice Paul, ten thousand letters have been sent by the National Woman’s Party to suffrage supporters in and around Chicago asking them to take part in the upcoming protest. So when the Republican Convention opens on June 8th, delegates and party leaders may have to walk through quite a large number of picketers, all asking why the party is giving the appearance of support for Constitutionally banning sex discrimination at the ballot box, but not providing ratification by a 36th State for an amendment that would guarantee that result.