This morning I’m still thinking about family – and wondering about the women in particular – in conjunction with the 19th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. I’ve been trying to imagine how becoming politically enfranchised might have impacted their lives.
For a woman of today, the opportunity to voice an opinion with a vote is something that is very often taken for granted, but enfranchisement just wasn’t always so. It was such a short time ago that we American women gained that right.
On June 4, 1919 the 19th Amendment was passed; it was then ratified by Congress August 18, 1920. Ninety-two years ago this month. In a nutshell, the amendment prohibited any U.S. citizen being denied the right to vote based on sex.
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My grandmother on the paternal side of the family would have been 34 years old at that time, and if a contemporary were to describe her you would probably hear something along the line of: Ida, wife of James, mother of four, homemaker. All you would need to encapsulate her life for a headstone would be to insert “faithful” and/or “beloved” somewhere.
Now really, looking at the woman in this photo (pictured with her husband James who always looks to me like the proverbial cat that ate the canary), do you think she’d willingly let herself be limited by that definition? I’d like to think she wouldn’t.
ring around the collar! RING AROUND THE COLLAR!!
If we switch over to the distaff side of the family, you might be interested to hear about Dr. Ella Green Ware, my first cousin twice removed. Ella was 50 years old at the time we’re talking about and had already been practicing medicine as a country doctor for twenty-one years.
Ella was the first woman in the state of Texas to practice medicine after graduation from the University of Texas Medical School at Galveston in 1899. It was said that she had been offered a prestigious professorship, something more suited to a lady doctor, but the position was gratefully declined. (Note: other sources disagree with the graduation date of 1899. Karen Mac Smith in her book On The Watershed Of The Ecleto And The Clear Fork Sandies cites the date as 1898.)
Encouraged by her father, Ella stepped outside of the traditional boundaries set for a women of the day. During the fifty years she practiced, she not only delivered 6,000 babies, but treated injuries and illnesses as any male doctor would.
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Would the ratification of the 19th Amendment have changed anything in a woman’s day-to-day life? Probably not. But it would certainly have influenced, I think at least subconsciously, how they raised and educated their children, more specifically their daughters, to believe that exercising their hard-won right to vote could help to make a difference.