by Eric Alderman
When Founding Father John Adams went to Congress to discuss independence from Great Britain, his wife Abagail Adams, in a letter to her husband dated March 31, 1776, wrote the following.
"I long to hear that you have declared an independency – and by the way in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could."
Though heartfelt, her plea to her husband did not have the desired effect. In the early Republic, women did not have roles in elected office and universal suffrage did not exist. They were, however, active in social, cultural, and political causes which undoubtedly impacted the fledgling Republic.
Conservatives recognize that the protection of the family is paramount and that threats to children and the family unit must be recognized and fought. Women have been at the forefront of the defense of the American family throughout history. The role of women in the protection of the family has been downplayed in a history that over-emphasizes national political action and progressive change over local involvement, religious leadership, and family nurturing. Women’s history is therefore filled with unsung heroes who, throughout the centuries, have allowed families to remain strong and connected.
In the early 19th century, women provided extensive leadership in faith-based anti-slavery movements and anti-alcohol temperance movements. They believed that slavery was a threat to the greater society and that alcohol abuse was a threat to the family. As protectors of the family and children, women pushed for changes in the overall American social structure.
In the late 1800s and as late as the 1910s, Republicans in Congress tried to guide a Constitutional amendment through Congress to allow women the right to vote. However, the Democrats held control of Congress through much of the 1910s and voted down all attempts to pass a women’s suffrage amendment and send it to the states. Why would the Democrats want to stop what would become the 19th Amendment? Very simple: if women had the right to vote, a Republican would surely be elected president in 1920.
When the Democrats lost control of Congress after the 1918 mid-terms, the Republicans pushed the 19th Amendment through Congress, guaranteeing women the right to vote. When the Amendment went to the states, it was those with Republican-led legislatures who led the way to ratify the 19th Amendment and make it a part of the Constitution in August 1920, just in time for the 1920 presidential election.
Not surprisingly, women strongly supported Republicans in the 1920 Presidential election, and Republicans were swept into office, unleashing a decade of low regulation and prosperity.
Though the suffrage movement was an important milestone in history, it was just one small part of a tapestry of freedom and equality woven by many brave and dedicated women throughout history.
In our current era, when significant segments of the popular culture, the media, and even US Supreme Court justices have trouble defining a woman, we celebrate, honor, and support the wives, mothers, sisters, and grass-roots activists who today make us a strong party, representative of all the people.