No Girls Allowed
Memo Salazar

The issue of women’s suffrage always seems to be written in terms of discrimination against women by misogynist men. This is an example of the flaw of judging history by modern standards, not the standards of the time.

The Founders left the power over elections and voting with the states. And for that matter, over citizenship and immigration as well (remember that as Obama changes immigration law by Executive Order). The prevailing thought of the day was that voting was of such importance that some level of education, as well as a direct stake in the outcome of government, was desired in the voter. In those early days, voting was mostly limited to male landowners or others of some status that displayed education and achievement.

Remember, the prevailing wisdom, even among the Founders, was that a democracy was doomed to fail if the country was too subject to the passions and whims of the uneducated and non-industrious. And history provided them with examples. This kind of well-founded fear pervaded the governments of Europe as well. The events of the French Revolution induced real fears of the consequences of the rabble taking over the government. (And no, I’m not calling women “rabble”. Geez, people, try to understand the context of the times.)

It also was thought that allowing the votes of wives would just provide two of the same votes as the husband, expecting that the two would hardly disagree.

Once this system was in place and seemed to be working, it was resistant to change. Why fix what isn’t broken? This was not considered in modern terms of gender discrimination; it was viewed in practical terms of what’s best for the good of the country.

As women became more independent minded and educated, and wanted the vote, one source of opposition is that this was long viewed, since the founding, as the right of the several states. But the Suffragettes wanted the federal government to assume that power, and the Constitution to be amended. That was resisted on its own grounds, apart from the merits of women voting.

When the Constitution was finally amended and women voted for the first time, the nation held it’s breath to see if the fears of wild change would come true, but nothing very noticeable did happen. It all calmed down, and soon was normal. The same sequences occurred in Great Britain, as the vote was extended to the lower classes — great fear, a sigh of relief, normalcy.

The fashion of today is to describe all of that struggle only in terms of female oppression, emphasizing the (very real) repressions, even violence, the Suffragettes had to endure, but ignoring the full context of the controversy. The very idea that women would be denied the vote from the very beginning is taken today as irrefutable evidence of the misogynist nature of men, pigs that they are. It’s quite easy to find historical quotes that read today as sexist. But that does a disservice to the people of the early USA. They were products of their time, and did the best they could for the welfare of the nation.

Given the fragmentation, even disintegration, of our society today, the Founder’s fear for the demise of our Republic seems prescient, and their opinion that it would occur by suicide seems prophetic.