Little Bits of History

Suffrage

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 27, 2012

Women picket outside the White House

February 27, 1922: Leser v. Garnett is decided by the US Supreme Court. Universal suffrage has been a sought after ideal since democracies began to reappear. Athens, in 508 BC, became the first well-known democracy. This form of government is based on the premise that power comes from the people who are free to express their wishes via a free electoral system. In ancient Athens free men could vote or have their say. Women and slaves were excluded from the process.

Democracies were replaced by monarchies or oligarchies until the Middle Ages when some forms of representative government once again emerged. Voting rights and permissions have been slowly increasing. Property owners (males only) were first given a role in their own rule. Slowly, the amount of property a man needed to posses was lowered. The next step was for all free men to be given the vote. In the US, the end of the Civil War brought freedom to slaves. Race remained a stumbling block on the way to the voting booth.

The 15th Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified on February 3, 1870, less than a year after it was proposed. Now all men, regardless of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude” could vote. Women, regardless of race, were still not granted this basic right. The women campaigned for equality of voting privilege and finally – 50 years later – the 19th Amendment was ratified. On August 18, 1920 the right to vote was no longer predicated on the citizen’s sex. The last state to ratify the Amendment was Mississippi which finally did so on March 22, 1984.

On October 12, 1920 Cecelia Streett Waters and Mary D. Randolph registered to vote in the state of Maryland. The state Constitution limited voting rights to men only. Oscar Leser and others filed suit against the state board of registry demanding the women’s names be stricken. The case listed three reasons for the invalid nature of the 19th Amendment. The US Supreme Court heard the case January 23-24, 1922 with Chief Justice William H. Taft presiding. Louis Brandeis wrote the unanimous opinion of the court. The 19th Amendment was indeed valid and women could vote. Case closed.

In democracy it’s your vote that counts. In feudalism it’s your count that votes. – Mogens Jallberg

The difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is that in a democracy you vote first and take orders later; in a dictatorship you don’t have to waste your time voting. – Charles Bukowski

If God had wanted us to vote, he would have given us candidates. – Jay Leno

I think it’s about time we voted for senators with breasts. After all, we’ve been voting for boobs long enough. – Claire Sargent

Also on this day:

Party in New Orleans! – In 1827, Mardi Gras was celebrated in New Orleans for the first time.
Andersonville – In 1864, the Confederacy’s POW camp at Andersonville opened.
The Lord and the Luddites – In1812, George Gordon Byron spoke out in the House of Lords.

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