Women sacrificed to get voting rights

March is Women’s History month. Many women take for granted their right to vote, but we all need to be thankful to our “ansisters” who worked hard to secure that vote for us. We need to keep working until the Equal Rights Amendment is passed, prohibiting all discrimination on the basis of gender. It was first proposed in 1823.

The United States Constitution was written in 1787, ratified in 1788, and began being formally used in 1789. It was flawed, but built in a way to keep itself improving by means of adding amendments, even if it has taken years and amendments to actually reflect the Declaration of Independence’s statement that “all men are created equal.” It is an incredible document.

The Preamble states, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

The Preamble lays out the scope and plan of the Constitution, which is the supreme law of our country. So what is important is:

1. The establishment of justice. That would imply that the government would be fair, and reasonable, offering equal consideration to all.

2. Insure domestic tranquility. Domestic means within our country. Tranquility is calmness or peace. Our forefathers wanted people to live peacefully with each other.

3. Provide for the common defense. This meant that there would be a militia that would defend the country as a whole.

4. Promote the general welfare. Welfare actually means the health, happiness, and fortunes of a person or group. We commonly think of it as giving financial or medical assistance to people in need, but it is more. Creating parks, transportation systems, supporting scientific discoveries, creating educational systems so people can succeed are all part of promoting the welfare of the people. General means for all of us.

5. Secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity (future generations). The forefathers wanted freedom for themselves and their descendants. However, several of them had slaves. Their wives couldn’t vote. Their selective blindness was addressed by petitioning groups of women and abolitionists, who wanted to end slavery, and let all people vote. Sadly it led to the Civil War. It was the first real test of this Constitution. And it was paid dearly for with American blood on both sides.

The Constitution, which gives the framework for the laws of the United States of America reflected their 18th century patriarchal thinking. Married women were subject to their husbands’ wishes, and men without property were vulnerable to their landlords. The constitution writers wanted independent free thinkers to make the country’s laws and policies. So the vote went to white land holding males.

Yet according to former first lady Rosalynn Carter in her piece, “Women Who Shaped the Constitution,” in the book “A Voice of Our Own,” there were intelligent women who corresponded with and had an influence on the American forefathers. One was Abigail Adams. She was the wife of second president John Adams, and mother to sixth president John Quincy Adams. She accepted her place. Most women did because they didn’t know there could be an alternative. However, her influence is recorded in the many letters her family preserved.

Another is Mercy Otis Warren who shared her brother’s Harvard College class work. She knew most of the founders of the Constitution, and “corresponded with them about social and political issues, the ideals and ideas of the day … She argued for the complete protection of human rights … She influenced the language of the Constitution even though she was not allowed to be present at the convention that adopted it.”

“In 1823, the National Women’s Party proposed an amendment to the Constitution that prohibited all discrimination on the basis of sex. The so-called Equal Rights Amendment has never been ratified (made officially valid).”

In the late 1830s, abolitionists seeking to abandon the practice of slavery were aided by women, who also had as an agenda to get their right to vote. Things went on hold during the Civil War. However, in 1869 Congress passed the 15th Amendment giving African American men the right to vote.

1n 1890, two women’s groups merged, forming The National American Woman Suffrage Association. Suffrage means the right to vote. These groups believed that if woman had the right to vote, communities would be more moral and pure.

Starting in 1910 some states in the west began extending the vote to women. In 1916, NAWSA president Carrie Chapman Catt organized a blitz campaign that mobilized state and local suffrage organizations all over the country. The National Women’s Party focused on more dramatic publicity for their cause. They picketed the White House and were sometimes beaten and thrown in jail. They had hunger strikes and were painfully force-fed.

World War I slowed their campaign, but demonstrated that they were highly valuable on behalf of the war effort, and just as deserving of citizenship. In August 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was finally ratified … almost 100 years after the movement was first started. Yes, our Constitution was flawed, but built into it were the means to improve and update it.

Our U.S. ancestors believed in our honesty, morality and intelligence. If you will be 18 or older on Nov. 8 start paying attention to what the candidates are saying.

Let us make sure that we vote for candidates with those qualities. Keahi Tucker, a local newscaster on two Hawaii TV channels, demonstrated how one candidate lied in his campaign and a member of that candidate’s party acknowledged that he did that at times. No. This is not acceptable. We deserve better than that. Can we trust one who lies at times? Know that your voting can make a difference and be grateful that we can vote.


Hale Opio Kauai convened a support group of adults in our Kauai community to “step into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families on a wide variety of issues. Please email your questions or concerns facing our youth and families today to Annaleah Atkinson at aatkinson@haleopio.org For more information about Hale Opio Kauai, please go to www.haleopio.org.


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