Sunday, November 6, 2016

19th Amendment in Salem: Help for Great Experiment of Democracy

Probably in direct or indirect ways you've been giving some thought to the 19th amendment.

Oregon had already settled things locally in 1912*, and while in 1920 it was the front page headline, it didn't totally dominate the page. Even though the determining vote just scraped by with the minimum, only eight years after our own vote there was a hint of been-there-done-that for us. Instead the tone seemed to be "about time."

"Tennessee Ratifies National Suffrage Amendment"
August 18th, 1920
From the paper:
Tennessee Ratifies National Suffrage Amendment
Votes for Women Assured In Coming Election Through Ratification by 36th State
Vote is Close in Tennessee House and Effort Will Be Made to Reconsider Tomorrow - Bitter Fight Over Ratification -Tie Vote Upon Rejection Preceded Favorable Action
A young Susan B. Anthony
via "Granddaughters of
the Revoution
Nashville, Tenn., Aug. 18 - Tennessee today became the thirty sixth state to ratify the Susan B. Anthony federal suffrage amendment. The constitutional change thus will become effective in time for the 17,000,000 women of the country to vote in the presidential election in November, unless the lower house of the Tennessee assembly rescinds its action of today in adopting the ratification resolution, 49 to 47.

Speaker Walker, leader of the anti-suffragists, put opponents in a position to demand reconsideration by changing his vote from nay to aye and moving to reconsider. The house adjourned until 10 o'clock tomorrow, when the speaker's motion will have the right of way. Suffrage and anti-suffrage forces tightened, their lines this afternoon, for the final fight, and both sides were claiming victory.

The suffragists, however, had the advantage of today's victory and expressed confidence that Speaker Walker's motion would be voted down tomorrow. The next step then would be the certifying of the action to the secretary of state of the United States, who would issue a proclamation declaring the amendment ratified.

The Tennessee senate ratified the amendment last Friday by a vote of 25 to 4.

Seek Another State
Suffrage leaders declare they will not slacken their efforts, as they desire to have at least one other state ratify before the November elections, as they expect a fight to be made against Tennessee's action because of the clause in the state constitution which prohibits any assembly from action on an amendment not submitted before the members were elected. Both United States Solicitor General Frierson and the attorney general of Tennessee have declared this clause to be unconstitutional in the light of the recent decision of the supreme court in the Ohio referendum Case.

Ratification by the Tennessee legislature was the culmination of an intensive drive made by suffrage proponents to have the amendment made effective in time for the women of the country to vote In the presidential election in November. The drive was started when West Virginia became the thirty-fourth state to ratify early this year.

Other States Fail
Washington was the thirty-fifth to ratify and on the same day it acted - March 22 - Governor Townsend of Delaware called a special session of the legislature of that state to act on the amendment. The Delaware assembly met early in May and the senate quickly ratified, but action by the house was delayed. Finally, June 22, the legislature adjourned with the ratification resolution still in the house committee of the whole.

Meantime the Louisiana legislature met and efforts were made to have it act favorably. President Wilson appealed to Governor Parker to recommend ratification, but the governor declined to do so. The ratification resolution was taken up late in May and was debated at intervals. Governor Cox, democratic presidential nominee, threw his influence on the side of the amendment, declaring that the democrats of the legislature owed it to their party to ratify the amendment.

The legislature finally adjourned July 8, however, without acting.

While the Louisiana legislature was considering the question, appeals for planks favorable to suffrage were made to both the republican and democratic conventions and the republican convention was picketed by representatives of the woman's party.

Lineup of Parties
The lineup of the democrats and republicans on the vote for ratification follows:
Democrats - Aye 35, no 34, absent 1
Republicans Aye 15, no 12, absent 3

The suffragists won the preliminary victory in the house today when a motion to table the ratification-was lost on a tie vote, 48 to 48. Some of those keeping tally recorded the vote on this motion as 49 to 37 [47?] In favor, and first reports were that suffrage had lost. The official tally showed a tie vote, however, and to make assurance doubly sure, a second roll call was ordered. The vote again was recorded 48 to 48.
The next day there was bluster and pushback.

August 19th, 1920 - Allegations!
Back on the 18th, at least one paper here welcomed it.

the editorial page - "triumph" and "a square deal"
On the editorial page:
Tennessee To the Rescue

For half a century not much has been heard politically from Tennessee. The state that formerly played an important role in affairs and furnished three presidents and many of our illustrious statesmen, has been without influence in national life since the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson.

Today, however, Tennessee stands redeemed, and enshrined in the hearts of the women of America for Tennessee, with true southern gallantry has rushed to the aid of women at the crucial hour, by ratifying the suffrage amendment to the federal constitution, thus giving the 17,000,000 women of America political equality and a vote in the elections of 1920.

Tennessee is the 36th state to take favorable action and supplies the needed two-thirds majority necessary to put the amendment into effect. Hereafter women will share with men the responsibilities of government and help make the great experiment of democracy a success.

The long battle waged for many years by a few courageous women, greeted for decades with jeers and derision, has been crowned with success. The cause for which so many brave women struggled valiantly for years, has triumphed, even though none of the gallant little band of pioneers survive to see the day of victory. And its triumph is due to the ideal of a square deal implanted in the heart of the American people - and as along as such ideals animate the people, the nation is safe.

* For more see "Woman Suffrage in Oregon" and Century of Action: Oregon Women Vote 1912-2012.

Postscript, Election Day

21st Century Pilgrimage - via Twitter
(a few more here)

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