In the 1890s, the people who opposed women`s suffrage in the regions of Maine and New Brunswick had similar arguments. However, these groups expressed them differently and thus the outcomes were different too. In New Brunswick, the most vocal adversaries were male and were represented in the Legislative assembly. In Maine, a group of elite women led the fight to keep the females from voting. During the 19th century, both genders in the United States and Canada openly debated the issues regarding the rights of women to vote. There were other factors such as citizenship and the right to own property that catalyzed the anti-suffrage movements during this period. Some of these outcomes, comparisons, and differences of the anti-suffrage movements are still present today. These are salient features in regard to the societal change and the structure of the industrialized modern world.
The American State and Canadian provinces lay significant differences in how anti-suffragists argued their points and especially those who were entitled to express those arguments. On the other hand, in Maine, the anti-suffragists were focused on preserving the traditional family structure. That is the values that treated a man as the head of the family. Across the border in New Brunswick, men argued to limiting the political influence of the females. In addition, although the systems of governments in the United States and Canada are different, they both saw similar arguments posed against women’s political participation. Moreover, in both nations, the anti-suffragists` arguments were directed to those who truly had political power. Pro-suffrage women were often dismissed by their opponents as an insignificant minority in the political arena. However, due to the persistence of the anti-suffragists, the New Woman emerged in the late 19th century.
The opponents of woman suffrage thrived in a culture that was not willing to see the females gain equal participation in the political realm. However, pro-suffrage women continued to fight for political equity. In Maine, in the 1850s, during the abolitionist era, women petitioned the state legislature to provide them with the right to vote, and, again after the passage of the fifteenth Amendment in 1870 that defined citizenship and gave black males the franchise.
In both places, the economic, social and political elite gave voice to anti-suffragism. This group represented the larger population who felt besieged by the rapid changes of the modern world. The working world was also under the wheel of rapid changes that were challenging the prevailing hierarchies. By the 1880s, the workers increasingly joined unions to fight for their grievances such as better wages and safer working conditions. Women were part of these unions and they staged their first union activity in the textile mill towns of Lowell and Lawrence. Similarly, in Canada women began taking an active role in Knights of labor in 1884 through their established unions. Additionally, in Maine, the Knights supported a pro-woman suffrage platform in 1887 and accepted the female involvement in their unions. On the other hand, the anti-suffragists continued to hold on to the supremacy of white leadership.
Further, labor groups factored new ways to address the capitalist economy. The idea of sharing the wealth, division of labor and equal political participation was actually threatening the status of those who supported the anti-suffragist group. Continually, the legislators debated on how far equal voting rights should be extended. Many argued that stricter citizenship qualifications were deliberately meant to favor the Whites. On the same note, the Orthodox Christian beliefs seemed to give way to secularism. Additionally, in both Maine and New Brunswick, there were a lot of debates on whether the school should teach protestant values and eschew the French catholic influence. In this case, the male clergy was left at a crossroads. For instance, an American historian Ann Douglas demonstrated that the male clergy formed close ties with female parishioners. In the eyes of the congregation, these clergymen appeared to be the same as the women. The interpretation is that the clergy had lost their potency. All of these things directly challenged the entrenched class who fought desperately to keep their position. The elite used all means possible to keep their fortune either by quashing trade unions, endorsing conservative church practices and most relevant fighting against the possibility of women being provided with the right to vote.
During the 1880s, the suffragists in Maine and New Brunswick faced significant public resistance. The female-led opposition in Maine pushed the suffragists to intensify the fight for the same voting rights. On the other hand, in New Brunswick, the male opponents bitterly expressed their disapproval in the provincial legislative assembly. In comparison, the parliamentary system in Canada comprised more males than the republican system in America. However, despite these differences, both anti-suffrage movements sought the consensus of men alone on the subject. These activities succeeded in the late 1800s.
Organized American suffragists held their first convention in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York. Under the sponsorship of the National Women Suffrage Association, men and women in Maine petitioned their state legislators for women’s enfranchisement. The suffrage movement partly becomes dormant during the Civil War but the sentiment still remained solid. In the early 1870s, the suffragists in Maine were up again in circulating the petitions. Similarly, in Toronto in 1876 Women Literary Club dropped its disguise and emerged as the first national women`s suffrage society in Canada. The official name remained unchanged until 1884.
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In 1887, an anti-suffrage campaign launched by elite women in Portland became extremely active. Their activities were supported by an already established one in Massachusetts. They also used similar tactics as the suffragists in protesting against the woman’s vote. They acted publicly to articulate their ideas. In New Brunswick, men primarily expressed the public anti-suffragism in both the legislative assembly and the press. The anti-suffrage agitation created very different outcomes in these regions.
The early anti-suffragists in Maine never organized in a clearly-defined structure. The earliest protest came from the clergy, editorials and male legislators. Even the women who agreed with these sentiments did not take the front seat. However, by 1887 a group of upper-class women from Portland took up their pens appealing to others of the same class to do the same. As they gained momentum, their actions continued up to the early 1990s. For example, these activities encouraged women like Mrs. Clarence Hale to stage an organized protest at the beginning of the 20th century.
Early Maine remonstrant fit the demographic that historians have identified in places such as Massachusetts and New York. The anti-suffragists in Maine were part of the elite that mostly resided in the richest neighborhoods of Portland. They were living in affluence and with great popularity in the community. By the time the first anti-suffrage petitions were submitted in 1887, this group was already feeling the weight of the modern era. Their husbands occupied such positions as brokers, politicians, lawyers, and judges. Their social values were also aligned with both the Republican and Democratic parties. The year 1889 marked success in Maine for the remonstrants in spreading their influence. For example, Mrs. Samuel Bracket rounded 11 signatures from Cumberland County. Spring was successful in gathering 263 signatures. The Baxter family was the most prominent to get involved in anti-suffragism. When the ninetieth Amendment was signed into law, their son, Percival Baxter was governor by 1921.
As the New Brunswick legislators struggled in defining the male dominance by revising the statues of 1885, questions arose whether or not women should access the franchise. Simultaneous to these events was the advent career of Andrew Blair as Premier of the province. He still represented traditional beliefs regarding women. During his tenure, the House hotly debated on women’s suffrage. As a result, 12 strong anti-suffrage advocates went on record with their views.
Woman suffrage in Britain reached a new stage of development in 1897 when various groups merged to form the National Union of Woman Suffrage Societies. Some members soon decided that its policies were timid and indecisive. In 1903 there was a more dissident and military faction. Under the leadership of feminist Emmeline Pankhurst, the Women’s Social and Political Union was established. Pankhurst would soon be famous for boldness and militancy. These organizations used boycotting, bombing, picketing and harassment of anti-suffragist legislators’ tactics to express their grievances. In 1913 one dedicated suffragist deliberately hurled herself to death under the hooves of horses racing in the derby at Epsom Downs. Due to their provocative behavior, the police had to employ strict measures in regard to the suffragists. They were frequently fined or jailed.
By the late 1990s, the second generation of suffrage women replaced the early pioneers of the movement. It was the struggle for new arguments and for the necessity to provide women with the right to vote; moreover, innovative tactics and strategies were implemented. These women were virtual daughters of pioneers and some were literal descendants. For example, young Harriet was raised by a reformer. While other Victorian girls followed their mothers into quiet lives, Harriet was taught to be assertive and independent. Her mother prepared her to embody her convictions about the untapped capabilities of females. Similar to other ideas of suffragism, she believed that if suffragists were ever to win, they could go behind the scene and engage in political maneuvering. They would lobby that women had traditionally repudiated as the unhappy consequence of the male monopoly in public life. At this point, opposition to suffrage had moved from ridicule to avoidance. One time, Harriet and other leaders tracked down an elusive senator.
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In the 1890s, Goldwyn Smith began to criticize the grounds of women’s suffrage as an attack against society. He believed that there were few women who wanted suffrage. Still, the remonstrants could not yet bring forth the same number for their petitions as the suffragists. In Smith’s writings, there was a debate over women’s equality with men and whether it extended to political rights as well. The period between 1880 and 1890 represented a time of change within the pro-suffrage ranks. Women were no longer fighting to vote on grounds of equality, but rather as women. The females believed that they were morally superior and therefore if granted the right to vote, they could clean up decadence in the society. However, there were instances that this group agreed that women’s place was in the home. It was an issue that the antis argued for up to the beginning of the 20th century.
The women in New Brunswick and Maine finally received the right to vote in 1918 and 1920 respectively. The anti-suffragists fought until the very end. However, even with the passage of the law, some northerners were hesitant to support women who ran for office. The debate surrounding women’s political participation and its impact on society still continue in society.
After the 1930s, the diffusion of ideas across borders triggered the expansion of the suffrage movement. Equal voting rights increasingly became an international norm. For example, as former colonies became independent, women were typically guaranteed to vote without the mobilization of the massive suffrage movement. However, these changes were reached slowly and with great difficulties. For women`s suffrage, it took more than eighty years, from Seneca Falls conference in 1848 until 1930, for twenty states to adopt it. In the next twenty years, from 1930 to 1950, at least 48 countries adopted women`s suffrage laws. Seemingly, the speed of normative change has accelerated significantly in the 20th century.
A qualitative analysis of the acquisition of suffrage rights its dynamism. Prior to a threshold point of 1930, no country had adopted women’s suffrage without strong pressure from domestic organizations. Between 1890 and 1930, western countries with strong national movements were most likely to grant female suffrage. However, after 1930, international influences became particularly important to facilitate the practical impact of this norm.
To a larger extent, some countries accepted it even without domestic pressure to do so. However, strong linkages between domestic and foreign organizations do not always guarantee success for a transnational movement. Advocacy campaigns must have strong ideas to overcome the opposition. For example, women suffrage groups in Britain had the best organization. Yet, suffrage was granted in countries like Denmark and Finland before British women received the right to vote. Virtually, everywhere in the world, women can participate in the voting process, but some countries still deny such rights to any or all of the people.
During World War 1, the British suffragists ceased agitation and tried hard to contribute to many aspects of the war, favorably influencing public opinion. In 1918 Parliament enfranchised all women householders and women university graduates aged 30 and above. It also lowered the voting age of women to 21 thus giving them complete political equality with men. In 1929, British trade union leader Margaret Bondfield became the first woman cabinet member in British history. A major breakthrough occurred in 1979 when Margaret Thatcher became the first female prime minister of Great Britain. She served for three consecutive terms before leaving the office in 1990. Another significant advance came in 1997 when 635 women sought for parliamentary seats. After the general election in May, the number of female legislators increased from 62 to 120. Five women were also appointed to the cabinet.
In addition to Thatcher, women have attained national leadership posts as prime ministers in modern times. These are Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan, Indira Gandhi in India and Julia Gillard in Australia. With a widespread extension of the franchise to the females, the women’s rights movement broadened its scope during the 20th century. Currently, they are advocating for a variety of concessions and advances throughout the world. These include the right to serve on juries, the right to own and retain property after marriage and the right to retain citizenship after marriage to a noncitizen.
In early American history, married women did not merely take their husband’s name when they wed. For all intents and purposes, the man owned his spouse and children and any property in his wife’s possession. If he decided to beat his family or send them to a workhouse where the poor were forced into labor, they had insignificant recourse to object. The divorce settlement tended to favor the husband in the 1900s. However, the modern suffrage has expanded not only in the voting issues but also to enable the woman to gain greater control over their holdings and basic rights.
Some of the outcomes, comparisons, and differences of the anti-suffrage movements are present to date. These are salient features of the societal change and the structure of the industrialized modern world. Before, women were denied the right to vote. However, due to the activities of anti-suffrage movements, modern women do not only have the right to vote, but also other rights like property ownership, political leadership and retaining citizenship after marriage to non-citizen husband.
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