Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day Special: Woman Suffrage

Women voters have been assiduously courted in this election, and they're likely to sway the outcome. Here's a look back at the history of women's right to vote in Montana.

When miners discovered gold at Grasshopper Creek in 1862, women in the United States could not vote, could not work in most professions, and could not attend most colleges. The road to woman suffrage was very long. Between 1869 and 1871, seven western legislatures considered giving women the vote. Montana was not one of them. Men dominated Montana Territory seven to one. There were a few small steps. In 1887, an amendment to Montana’s territorial constitution gave women the right to vote in school elections and the right to hold elected positions as school trustees and county superintendents. Equality stopped there. The authors of Montana’s first state constitution—all men—considered granting women the right to vote in 1889. But the idea met defeat forty-three to twenty-five. Montana women, however, organized in the 1890s, founding the Montana Woman Suffrage Association and the Women’s Protective Union in Butte, which was the first all-female union in the West.

It's possible that the woman standing in the car is Jeannette Rankin.
Postcard courtesy of Debbie Little Wilson. http://dlcowgirl.wordpress.com/
Woman suffrage repeatedly came before the Montana legislature and failed. And surprisingly, not all women favored suffrage. Those against it, called “Antis,” argued that no woman could possibly find time for politics without neglecting her family. Harriett Sanders, wife of pioneer attorney and politician Wilbur Fisk Sanders, countered the opposition, saying that suffrage made women better mothers. Better mothers kept better homes, and their children were better educated. Better homes and educated children in turn improved the nation. In 1913, Governor Samuel Stewart took up the cause of woman suffrage, and the amendment finally passed with only two dissenting votes in each house of the legislature. In 1914, women won the right to vote in Montana, six years before it became the national standard. In 1916, Montana women went to the polls for the first time.

No comments:

Post a Comment