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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Essay on Women's Right to Vote - Essay on Impact of Nineteenth Amendment

Until the early part of the 20th Century, it was socially acceptable to have a double standard of morality.  There was one set of standard applicable for men and another set of standard which was applicable only to women.  Most of the time, the double standard was always in favor of men and against the women.  Under this same standard, it was socially acceptable for men to cheat on his wife while it is an abomination for women to cheat on their husband.  Legally, men who shot their wife after seeing his wife in scandalous circumstance with her paramour can be cleared from any criminal liability while the same is not applicable for women who attempt to kill their husband.    

The double standard between men and women was the topic in the movie Adam’s Rib.  In the movie, Mr. and Mrs. Bonner found themselves at the opposite sides of the courtroom.  Mr. Bonner was the District Attorney who was tasked to prosecute the woman who shot her adulterous husband.  Mrs. Bonner, on the other hand, was hired to defend the case of the woman.  Mr. Bonner’s argument is that no person has the right to shoot any person indiscriminately no matter what his or her reason is.  It was his argument that shooting another person was wrong regardless of sex.  Mrs. Bonner’s argument, on the other hand, is that the legal principles which have exculpated men from criminal liability such as self-defense and defense of others should also be made applicable to women.  She theorized that if it was the husband who caught his wife in the presence of her paramour and shot his wife he can easily get the acquittal.  The same principle should be applied to the wife.  In the end, Mrs. Bonner was able to convince the court that the wife should get an acquittal.

The same double standard existing in the American society until 1920.  Women were denied their right of suffrage while men were allowed to vote.  It was not that the women did not want to participate in voting.  But despite their insistence to vote, they were consistently denied participation in voting stating that voting was entrusted by the constitution to men.  One of the reasons for the same is that the United States Constitution did not grant women the right to vote.  The Fourteenth Amendment also did not confer the right to vote to women.  Neither did the United States Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment make all citizens voters.  This was the Supreme Court decision in the case of Minor v. Happersett, 88 U.S. 162 (1875) where the it declared that “the Constitution of the United States does not confer the right of suffrage upon any one, and that the constitutions and laws of the several States which commit that important trust to men alone are not necessarily void.”

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Despite the losses of the women’s suffrage movement in the Supreme Court and in the Congress, they did not lose hope.  They fought for the recognition and argued that they have the right to vote just as the men.  The feminist movement argued that if the United States proclaims itself to be a nation which upholds equality among all persons then there is no reason for the women to be denied the right to vote.  Since there is no substantial distinction between men and women there is no reason for the women to be denied the equal protection of the law.  Moreover, it is inconsistent with the principles of a democracy for the right to vote to be denied to certain segments of the population.  By definition, democracy is the rule of the majority.  Every person, men or women, is part of democracy and so men and women should therefore be allowed to vote.   

They decided to turn their attention to the individual states and seek for state constitutional amendments.  This strategy bore fruit as state-by-state reform started in 1867 in Kansas with a referendum.  While the referendum was defeated, victories were obtained in Wyoming and Utah which was considered as the first victories for the women suffrage movement (“Nineteenth Amendment” 1).

With the ratification, however, of the Nineteenth Amendment on August 18, 1920, things started to change for women’s suffrage movement.  The Nineteenth Amendment explicitly provides that “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.” With the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, the other   restrictions on voting were also finally abolished. 

Today, it is already inconceivable for women to be denied any right which is accorded to men.  Women have proven that they too are capable of performing just as well as men in any field.  They have proven that their contributions can also vital in other professions such as Engineering, Information Technology and other major fields.  They have also proven that they can do almost anything that men can do.  

There are also laws which protect women against other forms of discrimination.  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is an evolution of the feminist movement.  This law prohibits any kind of discrimination on the basis of sex.  This law protects women from being denied the right to equal wages, opportunity for promotion, and other employment benefits. In the coming years, this will pave the way for more reforms and towards equality for both sexes.  With these changes, there will come a time when suits against companies because of discrimination will be dramatically reduced and sexual harassment cases shall be eliminated. 

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