Suffering for Suffrage

Votes for Women buttons

Collection of pins, Library of Congress

As I walk to the polling place

I think of times not long gone by

Of those not welcomed in this space

Votes for women, I hear ghosts sigh

 

A robin sings from a pine tree,

Above him blue is the summer sky

Cloudless space, bright tranquility

Votes for women, I hear ghosts sigh

 

Yet elsewhere votes do not get cast

Here flowers bloom, no one will die

To have this right, and hold it fast

Votes for women, I hear ghosts sigh

 

Bread and roses, not much to ask,

Yet, jail and death, and people cry

Freedom and rights, take up the task

Votes for women, I hear ghosts sigh

 

Standing on shoulders of giants,

I walk, I vote, I watch birds fly

Free and high, no fear of tyrants

Votes for women, I hear ghosts sigh

 

Votes for Women

Votes for Women, Washington, D.C. March, Library of Congress

 

For a brief time under New Jersey’s Constitution of 1776, anyone, male or female, black or white, could vote, as long as they could meet monetary or property requirements (this was standard for the time). This right was taken away in 1807. (You can read more here. )

The Fifteenth Amendment, ratified in 1870, prohibited the denial of voting rights to citizen’s based on “race, color, or previous condition of servitude,” thus giving formerly enslaved black men the right to vote.

On June 4, 1919, Congress passed the Nineteenth-Amendment to the U.S. Constitution stating “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States on account of sex.” The amendment was ratified on August 18, 1920.

Poll taxes and bogus literacy tests (and intimidation) were used to effectively disenfranchise many black voters in the south until the passage of additional laws, including the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were passed. More recently, some states have passed voter ID laws, which often prevent citizens from voting.

Of course, in many places, men and women are still fighting for the right to vote, or the right to vote without fear of violence.

Here’s Judy Collins singing “Bread and Roses”  . The words originated in a 1911 poem by James Oppenheim, “Hearts starve as well as bodies, give us bread by give us roses.” The women striking in the textile mill of Lawrence, MA, used the slogan, and it became popular again in the 1960s.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

17 thoughts on “Suffering for Suffrage

  1. Reading this it only now occurred to me that our presidency is changing in the same order as suffrage. Black man before women. Is this a coincidence?

  2. Great post, Merril. Funny how people fought for the right to vote and these days, either don’t exercise it or would like to find out how NOT to vote. We have our Federal election in a month and I live in a marginal seat so my vote actually counts but I’m not sure either party is going to do much.

    • We had a primary here in NJ–to pick candidates for the two parties, both for the federal presidential election and for local and state offices. The states have primaries at different times.

  3. ‘Standing on the shoulders of giants’ so true. It’s so good to know history, especially of the last several hundred years…it is really not so long ago.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s