What is more central to being an American than our right as citizens to vote? Some would argue this is at the heart of it all. By voting, each of us can express our voice for the path of our entire nation. But according to the US Census Bureau, less than half of Americans vote.
Though these numbers are disappointing to say the least, we are not going to debate why this is the case. Rather, let’s spend the next few weeks looking at how half of the citizens of our country fought to even have a voice. Perhaps by connecting to their struggles and seeing that Ohio was at the heart of this battle, we can find a new appreciation for one of our most essential rights.
The Suffrage Movement in the United States historically dates from 1840-1920. The first date marks when Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were barred from attending the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London. The latter date signifies the passage of the 19th Amendment, and women officially having the right to vote. Though these dates are significant, these do not accurately represent the true fight women have had in this country.
Women fought for their voice and equal representation in the United States since its inception in 1776. Letters between Abigail and John Adams in March of 1776 reflect that Abigail was concerned about “unlimited power in the hands of husbands.”
As her husband was working with the Continental Congress and drafting new laws for the newly formed nation, she urged him to “remember the Ladies” and warned “if particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”
But even this was not the beginning of women taking a political stand in this country. Even before the United States existed, the Iroquois Confederation, some of whom lived in what is now New York and Ohio, had their own political system in which women controlled the land and the food.
These women had political voices and could even remove a Chief from power if he was unfit. They had social equality and respect that colonial women did not. The ways of the Iroquois had a huge impact on European women such as Lucretia Mott, who witnessed their way of life when she visited Seneca. Women had equal responsibilities with men in all aspects of life, and when Mott returned to her friends in New York, she had much to share with them.
Mott was deeply inspired by the Iroquois and as she and Elizabeth Cady Stanton prepared for the first ever Women’s Rights Convention to take place in Seneca Falls, the goal of this convention became clear. This convention would not just be about equal suffrage for women, but also establishing equal rights for women.
The first women’s rights convention took place in 1848. Two weeks later, another was held in Rochester, New York. These conventions continued to be held annually, and in 1851 it took place in Akron, Ohio.
Join us next time, as we look closer at this convention and the impact Ohio would have on the growing momentum for women’s equality.