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Location: ZOOM
Fee: No charge / Max: 100
Lifelong Learning membership required 
Course #20/FY-CPDV-2814-01 

At some point this year, you will hear that 100 years ago women were given the right to vote. Don’t believe it. No one gave women the right to vote. They worked, they wrote, they organized, they beseeched, they battled, and they fought for the right to be involved in deciding who represents them. They were blocked, belittled, badgered, and eventually imprisoned by the very people that supposedly represented their interests. Local mayors and judges upheld laws to block women’s ability to function within society as equal partners. The list of things women could not do included many things, but owning property was a key one. There were many more. Congressmen passed laws that prevented women from having any say in their own futures. The courts were no help. The Supreme Court read the laws as they always had been read: women were “delicate flowers” to be “protected.” 

The irony was heavy as these so called “delicate flowers” decided to protest in the nation’s capital and were “protected” by being thrown into prison by a progressive president with three daughters. Having tried congress, the courts, and now the president, women knew nothing would change until they secured the ability to change the laws beginning by electing legislators that heard their voices. 

While the goal may have been to protect women, reality played out much differently. Widowers and mothers with children but no husbands faced impossible problems. Laws stacked against ownership of property forced widows to look for husbands quickly, but that legally transferred their property to the new husband! Women without property whose husbands had died in the factory would require jobs to feed their family, but the only work for women paid poorly. Maids, cooks, nannies, or cleaning positions all offered long hours and low pay. Often, the pay was only room and board. In the cities, immigrant women worked as seamstresses in large factories eventually known as sweat shops. 

Then, as now, education offered an advantage and a way out but getting that education could be a fight. Few colleges accepted women. Those that did only allowed women to study in “women’s fields” such as librarians, teachers, and nurses. Those jobs were only theirs until they married. If an exception allowed them to continue after that, it was usually due to the lack of a replacement. The job certainly terminated once she became pregnant.

The urgency to gain the right to vote required people willing to fight. One hundred years after the founding of the country, fighters arose from the ranks of women. We will meet a few in these classes. Celebrate the anniversary of this massive achievement, and witness the fight by the women who made the achievement possible! 

Fighting for the Right to Vote: Susan Anthony and Elizabeth Stanton
Monday, March 2; NOON TO 2 P.M. 

Susan Brownell Anthony, a fiery speaker and fierce proponent of justice, spent her lifetime fighting to advance the cause of equal rights for all. Anthony excelled, first within the abolitionist movement and later as an active participant in the growing women’s movement. When Anthony met Elizabeth Cady Stanton, their friendship formed the leadership whose actions galvanized women across the country. She and Stanton co-founded the American Equal Rights Association, and Anthony’s lectures raised money to fund newspapers and outreach. 

Outraged when the post-Civil War voting rights amendments excluded women, Anthony’s speeches became protests built on expressions of cold logic. Stanton’s writings and Anthony’s speeches outraged and discomforted those that were willing to go along with the way things were. The two women formed the National Woman Suffrage Association to push for a constitutional amendment on women’s rights and increased their efforts. 

By 1872, Anthony moved toward open protest and voted in New York’s presidential election. She refused to pay the fine, demanding her day in court. President Grant and everyone else simply wanted her to go away. That did not happen. At trial, Anthony’s eloquent defense demolished the prosecutor’s argument and has sounded as a clarion call through the decades. At the 1876 Centennial Celebration, Anthony, reading Stanton’s words, continued to demand to be heard as she declared “Men, their rights, and nothing more. Women, their rights, and nothing less.” 

Meet Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton as they worked to keep the issue of women’s equality alive in the run up to the 20th Century! 

Achieving the Right to Vote: Carrie Chapman Catt and Alice Paul 
Monday, June 1; NOON TO 2 P.M. via Zoo

As the 20th century dawned, the women’s movement divided. The National American Woman Suffrage Association took the traditional approach, Carrie Chapman Catt fought her way through the barriers of society. She was the only woman in her graduating class from Iowa State University. She advanced from teacher to the first female school administrator in Mason City, Iowa. She did it by proving she was the best choice. Her approach in leadership was a similar moderate method. Frustrated in the courts and in congress, Catt’s plan was to work the individual states, passing legislation locally to get the vote for women in individual states. Their overall goal was to get congress to pass a constitutional amendment on women’s suffrage. It was a winning strategy with a stony path. It worked, but it took effort, energy, and emotional fortitude. 

Alice Paul split with the group and led the public march on the eve of President Wilson’s inauguration. Eight thousand women were cheered and jeered along the parade route, but the size of the march opened eyes, excluding President Wilson’s. He told the women “it was not yet time” for a constitutional amendment. Paul responded with further “unseemly” public protests and picketers. She pushed society to face the reality that women were no longer passive and delicate flowers but active and engaged in their efforts to achieve equality. Her methods included parades, protests, and eventually the picketing of the White House with 1000 “Silent Sentinels” starting in 1917. 

When the U.S. entered World War I, the president and public were outraged that the protests did not stop. With the ire of the nation, Paul continued on. See how the story plays out, and meet the two women who led the fight that achieved the right to vote! 

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