Political Hay

Republicans and Women’s Rights: A Brief Reality Check

The GOP's longstanding "war on women" includes such horrors as giving them the vote.

By 4.30.12

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When the Obama reelection staff began developing its general strategy for duping a majority of the electorate into once again supporting the President, they knew they needed to drive a lot of disenchanted female voters back into the Democrat herd. Thus, they concocted the fictional Republican "war on women." And, knowing that our government education system has long since given up teaching history, Obama's minions had little fear that the public would realize that the GOP's support of women's rights goes back to its founding in 1854. Nor were the President's men worried that Democrat front groups like the National Organization for Women, much less the "news" media, would remind female voters that their very ability to cast a ballot was won for them by the Republicans over the vehement objections of the Democrats.

Most educated Americans vaguely remember that the amendment granting women the right to vote was passed by Congress in 1919 and ratified by the states in 1920. But the number of people who know anything about the forty-year legislative war that preceded that victory is smaller than the audience of MSNBC. That war began in 1878, when a California Republican named A.A. Sargent introduced the 19th Amendment only to see it voted down by a Democrat-controlled Congress. It finally ended four decades later, when the Republicans won landslide victories in the House and the Senate, giving them the power to pass the amendment despite continued opposition from most elected Democrats -- including President Woodrow Wilson, to whom the suffragettes frequently referred as "Kaiser Wilson."

One of the most interesting battles in the long congressional war over women's suffrage involved the Mormons of Utah. In 1870, nearly fifty years before Congress passed the 19th Amendment, the territory of Utah granted women the right to vote. This was encouraged by congressional opponents of polygamy, which was practiced by some wealthy Mormons. Their hope was that given the vote, Utah's women would quickly put an end to "the abomination of bigamy." And the women of Utah did indeed prove to have strong opinions regarding this issue. They voted overwhelmingly in favor of it. Congress responded by passing the Edmunds-Tucker Act of 1882, which disfranchised Utah's women while also violating the First Amendment by outlawing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and seizing much of its property.

Meanwhile, the Republicans continued to introduce the 19th Amendment in Congress every year, but the Democrats were able to keep it bottled up in various committees for another decade before allowing either chamber to vote on it. In 1887 it finally reached the floor of the Senate. Once again, however, it was defeated by a vote of 34 to 16. After this setback, advocates of women's suffrage opted to put pressure on Congress by convincing various state legislatures to pass bills giving women the vote. This met with some success. By the turn of the century a variety of Republican-controlled states, including Wyoming, Colorado, and Idaho, had granted women suffrage. During the first ten years of the new century, several other states gave women the vote, including Washington and California.

Congress, however, didn't deign to vote on the issue again until 1914, when it was once again defeated by Senate Democrats. It was subsequently brought up for a vote in January of 1915 in the House, where it went down by a vote of 204 to 174. Nonetheless, the Republicans continued to push even after it was defeated yet again in early 1918. The big break for 19th Amendment came when President Wilson, a true Democrat, violated his most solemn campaign promise. Having pledged to keep the United States out of the European conflict that had been raging since 1914, he decided to enter the war anyway. This set the stage for the 1918 midterm elections in which voter outrage swept the Republicans into power in both the House and the Senate. This finally placed the GOP in a position to pass the amendment despite Democrat opposition.

During the following spring Rep. James R. Mann, a Republican from Illinois, reintroduced the 19th Amendment in the House and it finally passed by an overwhelming majority. Shortly thereafter a now Republican-controlled Senate also passed it, clearing the way for ratification by the states. By this point, President Wilson had also faced the reality that women would inevitably get the vote and abandoned his opposition. But the Democrats' resistance was by no means dead. They did their level best to prevent the amendment from being ratified: "When the Amendment was submitted to the states, 26 of the 36 states that ratified it had Republican legislatures. Of the nine states that voted against ratification, eight were Democratic." Many of these Democrat-controlled states refused to ratify the amendment until the 1970s.

Obviously, the Obama reelection staff is desperately hoping that most women voters don't know this story and are counting on the "news" media and the unions that control our government education system to keep it from being told. They know that, if the voters hear the truth about the roles the two parties have truly played in women's rights, all but a few Obamazombies will see the "war on women" as the red herring that it is. If that happens, they might be faced with the deadly prospect of discussing Obama's abysmal record. And they know that almost certainly means they will lose on November 6.

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About the Author

David Catron is a health care revenue cycle expert who has spent more than twenty years working for and consulting with hospitals and medical practices. He has an MBA from the University of Georgia and blogs at Health Care BS.