Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ideals & Idealism (a rerun in honor of the 90th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment)

[Originally posted September of 2008] My oldest has turned 18 and is preparing to vote for the very first time. She is looking carefully at the candidates and weighing her choices quite seriously. There are several local and state contests, as well as the highly publicized national election. I am proud of her and how responsible she has become. I dare say quite a few of our adult citizens could learn a lesson from her.

I've been thinking a lot lately about suffrage. I wrote a paper in high school about the women's suffrage movement. While I don't recall a single word of the essay, I do remember asking my mom if my grandmothers had marched in picket lines and if they had shared with her what it was like to vote for the very first time (they would have been 32 and 34 in 1920). To my great disappointment, my grandmothers not only didn't picket, they never voted. Not once. My teenage-self was shocked! Embarrassed! Appalled! All those big teenage emotions!

My adult-self is much more understanding.

Reality check: Some women were for women's suffrage. Some were anti-suffrage. Most were apathetic.

The anti-suffrage women were by-and-large part of a group labeled the Cult of Domesticity or Cult of True Womanhood. The domesticity cult believed "true women" would possess these four virtues:

1. Piety - women were believed to be more religious and spiritual than men
2. Purity - pure in heart, mind, and body
3. Submission - held in "perpetual childhood" where men dictated all actions and decisions
4. Domesticity - a division between work and home; men went out in the world to earn a living, home became the woman's domain where a wife created a "haven in a heartless world" for her husband and children. [source: Wikipedia]

On the flip-side the suffragettes argued that women would bring a moral voice to elections and surely with women voting, corruption and vice in politics would be eliminated. The needs of children would be women's focus.

Both sides of the issue had high ideals. The Antis painted a beautiful, romantic picture of home life. Happy and peaceful. The Suffragettes implored us to put our values into action and use our vote to improve the human condition. Make the world a better place for all.

88+ years later women are still divided. The Cult of Domesticity still exists - visit any number of the so-called "Proverbs 31 woman" sites. They remain small in number and virtually invisible to the public eye. In this election they won't vote for McCain/Palin (unless their husbands tell them to) because McCain is a moderate and they believe Palin should be home taking care of her family.

The suffragettes mutated into liberal feminism....Since I can't think of a single nice thing to say about liberal feminists, I'll say nothing at all. They won't vote for McCain/Palin because they vehemently despise McCain & Palin.

The majority, then and now, are somewhere in the middle. Just the same as my grandmothers. You see, Grandma Myrtle and Grandma Iris didn't vote because they didn't follow politics. They weren't cult of domesticity types, both were wage earners. Although the census says "homemaker" the reality was they earned money by taking in laundry, cleaning houses, and working seasonally at the canning factory. Plus they raised 11 and 10 children respectively. The majority of women have always fallen into this category. Hard working, family loving, quietly doing what needs to be done.

The ideals of the suffragettes are still alive and reside somewhere in the middle, with the women like my daughter who still believe their vote matters and they can change the world for the better from the ballot box. And perhaps she is right, perhaps her generation can succeed where the past 3 have failed miserably.

She has already succeeded in making this cynic a bit more idealistic.


Virginia Harris said...

Thanks for remembering the amazing suffragettes!

Most people are totally in the dark about HOW the suffragettes won votes for women, and what life was REALLY like for women before they did.

"The Privilege of Voting" is an exciting, new FREE e-mail series that reveals ALL that happened to set the stage for women to finally win the vote in England and America.

The story is shocking, sometimes heartbreaking, very inspiring and ALL true!

It's rocky road to the ballot box, but in the end, women WIN!

Exciting, sequential e-mail episodes with lots of historical photos are great to read on coffeebreaks, or anytime.

I hope you will subscribe, and share this opportunity with others.

It's free at

Sue Bee said...

Yes, it is probably spam, but I am curious so I set up a free gmail account and signed up for the suffragettes' story. If it is just spam I can abandon the mail box. We'll see what the agenda is....