100 Years Ago Today

A History Of Events And Happenings From Exactly One Hundred Years Ago

Suffrage Amendment Defeated In The House

Alice Paul was born in Mt Laurel Township, New Jersey in January 1885. Upon graduating college she went to Great Britain to work with the Women’s Social and Political Union fighting for women’s rights in Britain. After being arrested at a demonstration, Paul met Lucy Burns, an American from Brooklyn, New York who had been attending graduate school in Germany before joining the women’s rights struggle with British activist Emeline Pankhurst. Paul and Burns both lamented on the inactivity and ineffective leadership of the American suffrage movement.

Alice Paul

Alice Paul

Paul and Burns returned to the US in 1912 and joined the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Paul was appointed Chairwoman of their Congressional Committee where they organize a suffrage parade for President Wilson’s inauguration. Both women wanted to push for a constitutional amendment but the leaders of the NAWSA did not think it practical and wanted to work on a state by state basis. Paul and Burns thought otherwise. In 1914, they had become dissatisfied with the leadership and direction of the NAWSA and formed the Congressional Union. The Congressional Union initially focused on putting pressure on the Democratic Party, which controlled both houses of Congress and the White House. At first they fought to have a Suffrage Amendment voted on in the Senate. That went down in defeat in March 1914. The Congressional Union then focused on having an amendment brought up in the House.

Lucy Burns

Lucy Burns

On January 12, 1915, a suffrage bill was brought before the House of Representatives. 10 hours of debate took place between pro and anti suffrage representatives to a packed gallery that had many female spectators. In the end, the Suffrage Amendment was defeated by a vote of 204 to 174, (Democrats 170-85 against, Republicans 81-34 for, Progressives 6-0 for). This will not hamper the move for universal suffrage in the US when the states of Washington, California, Oregon, Kansas, Arizona and Illinois already have full suffrage and several others are inclined to follow suit.

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