“Men had always taken for themselves the prerogative to decide for women, unilaterally determining what women should do, prescribing what they must not do, announcing which rights women were ‘entitled’ to have. Men decided what was ‘best’ for women, without their consultation or consent, then wrote laws to codify this judgment. That was the way of the world, learned men liked to say, claiming God had bestowed upon them such authority: one half of humanity held dominion over the other half, by right of a certain shape of genitalia.” — Elaine Weiss, “The Woman’s Hour”
Happy International Women’s Day! (You might be thinking oh, she’s a day late, but it’s 2018 and there’s still an outrageous gender wage gap, not nearly enough women in political or business leadership roles, and a society that has made sexual harassment the norm rather than the exception, so let’s not point fingers over delayed timing.)
This book is a, I kid you not, minute to minute history of the fight to ratify the 19th Amendment which would give women the right to vote in the U.S. Even though the country had emerged from its first World War, in which women stepped into the roles of men who went abroad to fight, (the parallels between our country then and now are uncanny) and even though many of the other world’s leading nations at the time had already granted women the vote, it was almost unthinkable in this so-called land of the free and franchised. To say this fight wasn’t pretty is to put it lightly. Women came out in favor of their own continued subjugation; women on the side of the vote included women of color when it played to their advantage and quickly excluded them when it didn’t; and when all was said and done and women finally got the vote, it was clear to all that this was no moral or Constitutional reckoning, but rather a battle for mere political gains.
As pleasing as it is that the quote I’ve included is in the past tense, we still have a long way to go. In that sense, big round of applause for Alva Belmont who, as the book states, “refused to vote until she could cast a ballot for a woman president.” Still holding out for the day we get there.