The women’s suffrage movement advocated for equal rights of all women as citizens of the United States of America. Sparked by the abolitionist movement, women’s suffrage incited attention from political leaders all over the world. Dr. Kuhlman and Dr. Woodworth-Ney provide educational insight into the movement and the effects that it had on the social and political climate in America. They both agree that the nation’s political system was controlled by a fraternity of men who passed down rights to women. Thus, this fraternity consisted of elite white men, and it was only through them that women were able to gain voting rights.
Dr. Kuhlman cites Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities, as an example to show that America was not a political unit that shared a common culture, history and language because it was founded by a group of immigrants. She further demonstrates this point by noting Anderson’s ideal that the nation was ruled by a fraternity, a group of men, who imagined a community. Thus, she notes that the historical relationship of women and the nation has always been problematic due to women’s limited rights as citizens. Thus, Dr. Woodworth-Ney also agrees that the right to vote was controlled by a group of egalitarian white men who had more education and power than women.
Dr. Kuhlman also notes that there was no discernable pattern for women’s suffrage throughout any national territories in the East, West, South or North. But Dr. Woodworth-Ney contends that states in the American West, such as Texas actually passed voting rights to women earlier, which reflected the frontier experience and expansion of freedom in the West. While Dr. Kuhlman also pointed out a trend in the women’s suffrage movement. She asserted that a trend in religion showed that Protestant nations granted suffrage more readily than Catholic nations. Dr. Kuhlman noted that the abolitionist movement was one of the major factors that spread the ideal of freedom and equality to all people and incited the women’s suffrage movement. But Dr. Woodworth-Ney noted some concerns that surfaced in regards to the suffrage movement. Anti-suffrage advocates believed that if women were granted the right to vote, than black voters would outnumber white voters. But women pointed to the Jim Crow Laws that prohibited blacks from voting and argued that suffrage would help to increase the white vote. Also, the number of illiterate women made it difficult for them to gain voting rights and participate as equal citizens to men.
As a result of increased number of women in employment, a decline in birthrate, and state’s fight to limit black voter, urged many states to grant women the right to vote. Thus, as the social and economic climate changed due to the growing number of women workers, the suffrage movement became a natural progression. Women were beginning to assert themselves in male-dominated fields and were pushing their way to gain equal rights. According to Kuhlman and Foner, the onset of wars was sparked by the concept of freedom, and thus gave rise to the suffrage movement. Also, Dr. Woodworth-Ney points out that women’s issues such as domestic concerns became political issues and the demand for other reforms such as equal economic rights, protection of property and divorce reform helped to progress the suffrage movement.