Thursday, August 19, 2010
The 19th Amendment to the US Constitution was adopted by Congress on June 4, 1919. There were 48 states in the union at that time, and a three-quarters majority of them (36) was required to vote in favor of amending the Constitution. These votes took place in state legislatures. Twenty-one states had voted in favor of suffrage by the end of 1919. The pro-suffrage organizations hoped to have the amendment ratified before the 1920 elections. By July of 1920, 35 of the necessary 36 states were in place. On August 18, the Tennessee House of Representatives took their vote. (The Tennessee Senate had already voted to ratify.) The lobbying had been intense, and no one had an accurate count on how the representatives would vote because the numbers kept changing. The pro-suffrage groups chose a yellow rose as their symbol, and the antis chose a red rose. The vote stood at 48-48 to table the resolution, when the Speaker (knowing that a tie would kill the measure, and feeling pretty secure) called for a vote to ratify. The youngest member of the Tennessee House, Harry Burn, had voted to table. Now, still wearing a red anti rose, he cast his vote to ratify. In his pocket was a letter from his mother, telling him to be a good boy and vote for suffrage. On August 26, the US Secretary of State issued a proclamation of final ratification, in time for women to vote in the 1920 elections.
New Hampshire was the 16th state to vote in favor of ratifying the 19th Amendment, in a vote taken on September 10, 1919. The town of Sandwich had already voted in favor of women’s suffrage, some 17 years earlier, according to Sandwich, New Hampshire 1763-1990, the excellent town history written by the Sandwich Historical Society. In fact, the people of Sandwich were incensed to learn that their elected state representative had voted against ratification, and so, they voted him out at the next election. Given our state legislative schedule, NH was certainly early to vote in favor of suffrage. When it comes to equality issues, NH gets it right more often than not.
That’s one reason why it’s painful to read the faux-feminist lamentations of the pro-war crowd, who attempt to use the plight of women to justify warmongering. Remember all those purple fingers? Remember all that phony concern from George and Laura Bush about Iraqi women? What a load of codswallop. Say what you will about Saddam Hussein, the Baathist regime was largely secular, and protected women from the kind of religious extremism that quickly moved into place with the US invasion. Women had more equality before we blundered in. It was women who bore the brunt of the sanctions against Iraq. It is women who bear the burdens caused by the US destruction of the Iraqi infrastructure. They are the ones who have to deal with having little or no electricity or clean water. It is their bodies that are treated as spoils, during wartime. Yet, for a time, the tearful (in the most Beckian sense) lamentations about Iraqi women were touted as a justification for a war that can never be justified.
The same tactic is being employed to justify the ongoing war in Afghanistan. One of the documents released by Wikileaks is a CIA analysis on how support for the war might be shored up, in part by using Afghan women as a tool. I don’t know that this is a valid document, but the government has not said otherwise. The document suggests that using Afghan women to speak out against the Taliban might have an impact on female audiences in the US and Europe. The cynicism is breathtaking, especially when we consider how the Taliban came into being. During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, a group of conservative religious rebels formed to engage in resistance. They were called mujahideen, or holy warriors. The US decided that the Soviets were a threat to our interests in the Gulf, and so we began giving the mujahideen money, weapons, and CIA training. President Carter initiated the aid giving. President Reagan continued – praising the mujahideen as freedom fighters. Some of those weapons went to a new mujahideen group formed by a young rebel named Osama bin Laden. When the Russians finally left Afghanistan, the chaos the US helped along left a void filled by a new group that some of the surviving mujahideen morphed into – the Taliban. The CIA continued to arm and fund them well into the 1990’s. The Taliban is our creature, just as Saddam Hussein was. US interference in other countries politics and wars has been nothing short of disaster. We are no friend to the women in these countries.
I wonder about these becktearian faux-feminists. They claim concern for the women of Afghanistan in order to justify the ongoing war. They have no apparent concern for the US women serving in the military, despite the statistics that show that one out of every three of them will be raped by a male soldier. The becktearian contingent is silent on the horrifying reality of a backlog of some 180,000 untested rape kits sitting around in labs around the United States. They don’t seem to wonder how it is that this can happen – or how it is that cases can be closed without examining the evidence.
Their concern is solely for women who aren’t real to them – women in a war zone thousands of miles away from here. They cynically use these nameless, faceless women to justify their support for wars that have shamed us as a nation and bankrupted our treasury. It’s also safe to say that some of these same people would have voted gleefully against ratifying the 19th Amendment in 1919 – and would today, given the opportunity.
"The women's suffrage movement is only the small edge of the wedge, if we allow women to vote it will mean the loss of social structure and the rise of every liberal cause under the sun. Women are well represented by their fathers, brothers, and husbands." Winston Churchill
published as an op-ed in the August 20, 2010 edition of the Conway Daily Sun
© sbruce 2010
Posted by susanthe at 12:32 PM