Arkansas cel­e­brates 100th an­niver­sary of the end of women’s suf­frage

The Saline Courier Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By Kristen Fite

On July 28, 1919, women across Arkansas cel­e­brated their state’s hand in the rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the 19th Amend­ment, get­ting them one step closer to of­fi­cially declar­ing their right to vote.

Women in Arkansas started the con­ver­sa­tion for vot­ing rights in 1848, col­lec­tively fight­ing for op­por­tu­nity to have a voice. How­ever, the move­ment didn’t gain much mo­men­tum un­til af­ter the Civil War.

Women cre­ated suf­frage groups in the 1880s, in­clud­ing the Arkansas Women’s Suf­frage As­so­ci­a­tion and the Po­lit­i­cal Equal­ity League.

These groups were ex­clu­sive to white women, though, and Africaname­r­i­can women were forced to cre­ate their own groups.

The Na­tional Amer­i­can Women’s Suf­frage As­so­ci­a­tion would not let women of color at­tend their meet­ings, so black women were forced to march in suf­frage pa­rades sep­a­rately from the white women.

When Susan B. An­thony and Elizabeth Cady Stan­ton wrote their book, “His­tory of Women Suf­frage,” in 1881, they show­cased the dis­re­gard of white women to their colored coun­ter­parts. In re­turn, Nan­nie He­len Bur­roughs, a known black suf­frag­ist, wrote about the need for women of ev­ery race to work to­gether for the right to vote.

Colored women were also in­spired to help pur­sue the vot­ing rights of colored men, cre­at­ing groups such as the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion for the Ad­vance­ment of Colored Peo­ple.

This, along with the push for black men’s suf­frage, put these women be­tween two big move­ments in Amer­ica, nei­ther of which in­cluded them. This led many black women to ad­vo­cate for uni­ver­sal hu­man rights, rather than sup­port one over the other.

Once the 15th Amend­ment was pro­posed, po­ten­tially al­low­ing black men the abil­ity to vote, women pushed even harder for their turn.

Miles L. Lan­g­ley, a res­i­dent of Arkadel­phia, mailed a let­ter to Susan B. An­thony in 1868, point­ing out the ob­vi­ous lack of in­clu­sion of women in the con­sti­tu­tion, “The new con­sti­tu­tion – a copy of which I send you – makes no dif­fer­ence be­tween men, on ac­count of race or color and con­tains other ex­cel­lences; but alas! It fails to guar­an­tee to woman her God-given and wel­learned rights of civil and po­lit­i­cal equal­ity.”

In June 1919, Congress voted to ap­prove the 19th Amend­ment, but needed 36 states to vote in favor of this be­fore the law of­fi­cially re­flected it.

One hun­dred years ago, the Arkansas leg­is­la­ture met and voted to rat­ify the amend­ment. This was largely thanks to the at­ten­tion gained af­ter re­cent vis­its from na­tional suf­frage ac­tivists such as Alice Paul, a leader of the Na­tional Women’s Party, which pushed for the pass­ing of the amend­ment, and Car­rie Chap­man Catt, who founded the Na­tional Amer­i­can Women’s Suf­frage As­so­ci­a­tion.

The vote was over­whelm­ingly sided with the women, recorded to be 74-15.

This made Arkansas the 12th state to rat­ify the amend­ment, and the 36th was fi­nally found in Ten­nessee in Au­gust 1920, al­low­ing men and women equal op­por­tu­nity to vote in the fol­low­ing elec­tion.

The amend­ment states,

“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.”

Prior to this rat­i­fi­ca­tion, Arkansas women were al­lowed to vote in pri­maries in May 1918, but not in gen­eral elec­tions.

Be­gin­ning in the 1870s, African-amer­i­can men were given the right to vote, but de­spite theirs and white women’s abil­ity to vote, women of color were largely left out un­til the 1960s.

African-amer­i­can women such as Ida B. Wells, Har­riet Tub­man, So­journer Truth, and Rosa Parks, were large voices in the move­ment to give colored women the same rights as the rest of the coun­try.

While African-amer­i­can women were tech­ni­cally al­lowed to vote, those in south­ern states like Arkansas were faced with prej­u­dice and of­ten forced to wait up to 12 hours to reg­is­ter to vote. These women were also ex­pected to re­cite and in­ter­pret the Con­sti­tu­tion to be able to reg­is­ter as a voter.

Colored women in the North faced less ad­ver­sity when div­ing into politics, with An­nie Simms Banks be­com­ing the first black woman to be elected as a del­e­gate in 1920, serv­ing Ken­tucky’s Repub­li­can Party.

It wasn’t un­til 1965, when the Vot­ing Rights Act was passed and banned racial dis­crim­i­na­tion at the polls, that black men and women were fi­nally able to freely ex­er­cise their vot­ing rights.

To­day, pieces of women’s suf­frage his­tory can be found around the state. In Cen­tral

Lit­tle Rock, the Pike-fletchert­erry House is used as an art gallery and is the for­mer home of Adol­phine Fletcher Terry, a ded­i­cated women’s rights ac­tivist who used her so­cialite sta­tus for good, bring­ing light to the is­sue.

Adol­phine Fletcher Terry and Mary Lough­bor­ough, a suf­frag­ist who started the Arkansas Ladies’ Jour­nal, which dis­cussed women’s is­sues, are both buried in the Mount Holly Ceme­tery in South­west Arkansas.

In 2017, Gov. Asa Hutchin­son cre­ated the Arkansas

Women’s Suf­frage Cen­ten­nial Com­mem­o­ra­tion Com­mit­tee to try and spread the ap­pre­ci­a­tion for women’s vot­ing rights and to help Arkansans re­mem­ber the strug­gles women had to face for those rights.

To dis­cover more about women’s suf­frage his­tory and the Cen­ten­nial Com­mem­o­ra­tion Com­mit­tee, visit www.arkansashe­r­itage.com.

Spe­cial to The Sa­line Courier

Arkansas women held a suf­frage reen­act­ment in 2017, com­mem­o­rat­ing the strug­gles women went through a hun­dred years ago for their right to vote at the Arkansas State Capi­tol.

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