Thursday, August 26, 2010

The tricky act of demanding rights

Today is the 90th anniversary of the 19th Amendment being made the law of the land:

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.
Through a series of clicks, I found this article in the Washington Post which suggests that Elizabeth Cady Stanton was for many years largely forgotten as a mover and shaker of the women's suffrage movement because she was critical of organized religion as one of the forces behind women's oppression, while Susan B. Anthony "held her tongue for fear of driving away women of faith from the suffragist cause and offending religious men who had the power to continue to deny women the vote."

(I know a certain historian who reads this blog who I hope will chime in here.)

For me this raises the question: if you are trying to acquire right A, but to do so you must be circumspect about proclaiming truth B (or what you think is truth B), what do you do? How much is too much to ask for? How long is too long to wait? What action is beyond the scope of the goal you hope to accomplish? How do you reconcile using the help and resource of people with whom you violently disagree in order to reach the goal you desire?

From what little I know of the suffragist movement, it was long, it was hard, it was complicated, it was violent, and it was full of compromise. How do you come out of something like that with your integrity intact?

Something I need to consider as the struggle for human rights continues--and no doubt will never end. For today, I am so grateful to the many, many women who made it possible for me to vote.  It's a right and a privilege I take most seriously.


it's margaret said...

That "place" --to stay in, to quit, is probably different for each of us....

My grandmother was one who suffered long and hard and worked for rights for women... she wouldn't quit... but she was so stubborn that she graduated from UC Berkeley as a nurse and entered the Army to serve as a nurse for WWI --and nobody even knew she was stone-cold deaf.... Couldn't hear a peep.... maybe it just takes that kind of determination.

Anonymous said...

I don't know much about why it's been easier to remember Susan B. Anthony than Elizabeth Cady Stanton - another forgotten suffrage leader whose name may have been forgotten for many of the same reasons is one of Stanton and Anthony's co-authors on the 4-volume History of Women Suffrage, Matilda Jocelyn Gage (tip of the hat here to Evelyn Kirkley, who taught me everything I know about Gage).

If Stanton has been overlooked by most Americans because of her religious iconoclasm, though, how ironic that it is she, and not Anthony, whom the Episcopal Church honors as a saint along with Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and Amelia Bloomer!