Different Perspectives About Women Being Allowed to Vote
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My name is Sarah Grom, I am 26 years old living in Richmond, VA in 1919. I decided to look into different groups around town to get different perspectives about women being allowed to vote. I’ve looked into the following groups: Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA); Equal Suffrage League (ESL); National Women’s Party (NWP): the League of Women Voters (LWV): and the Virginia Association Opposed to Women’s Suffrage (VAOWS).
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I decided that after researching these groups that I wanted to join more than one of them. The women that I met from these groups made me feel welcome because we all had similar interests. I joined to have a voice with other women and socialize with other mothers..
First, I’ll describe the YWCA, members of the YWCA stated that women were more capable of fighting for poor women and their families because they were mothers. Suffrage groups used traditional gender roles to assert that women, as the purer sex, would uplift society by making the right choices with the ballot. In general, women bluntly claimed that they could do a better job with education, childcare, clean food and drug laws, and other motherly issues because all men cared about was earning money. A friend in the group named Elna C. Green said Middle class reformers often saw the ballot as a weapon in their battle against poverty, child labor, alcoholism, and poor working conditions. Even though women were disillusioned by the outcome of the enfranchisement of women suffragists continued their respective club work and reform activities. The association was dedicated to offering a helping hand to young women, especially factory girls, who were believed to need protection from nefarious men.
Then there is the Equal Suffrage League (ESL). I found the office at 802 East Broad Street, conveniently located near Capitol Square. This group formed close relationships, often living together because of work or as a matter of mutual support. ESL supported grassroot efforts, where states would grant suffrage apart from the federal government. By 1919 the league had 30,000 women following.
Next I found the National Women’s Party (NWP) which was founded in 1913 as the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage (CU). The National Woman’s Party (NWP) was instrumental in raising public awareness of the women’s suffrage campaign. One of the main disagreements of this group was whether to a national amendment over grassroots movements within localized areas. This group was considered racial as its members protested outside the White House and went on hunger strikes in support of a national amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The NWP was located in Washington D.C. effectively commanded the attention of politicians and the public through its aggressive agitation, relentless lobbying, creative publicity stunts, repeated acts of nonviolent confrontation, and examples of civil disobedience.
Finally, there was the Virginia Association Opposed to Women’s Suffrage (VAOWS). This group was an anti-suffrage group. Although it fought against enfranchising women, once the 19th amendment passed, its female membership registered to vote, believing in the duty of all citizens to participate in elections. As I was touring the different groups I learned a lot more than I knew. Women in the (YWCA), the (ESL), and the (LWV) formed close relationships, often living together because of work or as a matter of mutual support. While the (ESL) experienced an organizational shift once voting rights were won, groups such as the (YWCA) experienced no institutional change and continued their programs uninterrupted. The Leagues and the (YWCA) began as grassroots organizations which joined with the larger national organizations but still operated on a local basis.
Women from (YWCA) the would join with the (LWV), working for the passage of legislation protecting female workers. (ESL), and later the (LWV) were not single issue pressure groups. Like the (YWCA), the Leagues fought for maternity rights, protections of women workers, world peace, child care laws, and more. The (YWCA) and the Leagues both worked for social uplift.
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