So, as befits a work in progress, there were two competing ceremonies today to mark America’s Centennial. Men stood on one side of Independence Hall praising the nation’s accomplishments and looking back to 1776, while on the other side, Susan B. Anthony was reminding us of how much still needs to be done if we are to be a true democracy at the next such celebration in 1976.
In keeping with the spirit of liberty and equality to be celebrated tomorrow on Independence Day, the pace of State ratifications of the Susan B. Anthony (woman suffrage) Amendment has once again returned to a high level.
A wagon, built in 1776 by Ebenezer Conklin—and appropriately named the “Spirit of 1776″—left the Manhattan headquarters of the New York State Woman Suffrage Association this afternoon amid great applause, loaded with suffrage literature and bound for an initial month-long tour of Long Island. It is driven by Edna Kearns and Irene Davidson, with eight-year-old Serena Kearns, Edna’s daughter, along as well. Today, Serena is dressed as “Little Liberty” to symbolize the “little liberty” women have 137 years after “taxation without representation” was denounced as tyranny during the American Revolution.
The latest evidence that victory is swiftly approaching is Governor Roberts’ announcement today of a specific date – August 9th – when he will call the Tennessee Legislature into special session to vote on ratification. Should the vote be favorable, a permanent, explicit, nationwide ban on sex discrimination at the polls could be just six weeks away from becoming the law of the land.
Regardless of how many more unjustified arrests are made, or how long any future sentences may be, picketing will continue until President Wilson endorses the Anthony Amendment and works to bring democracy to the women of America with the same zeal that he has shown for bringing it to the citizens of other nations.
The finish line in this marathon may finally be in sight, but since nothing has ever come to the suffrage movement easily or with certainty in all these years, it’s unlikely that the rest of our road to victory will be without suspense, or as short and direct as might be desired.
Apparently there is no law against embarrassing the President by pointing out the hypocrisy of his vigorously promoting democracy around the world while doing nothing to enfranchise millions of women in his own country, so “blocking traffic” had to do for an offense.
Abby Scott Baker said if the amendment isn’t ratified soon, the N.W.P. would at the very least advise women in suffrage States to avoid voting for either of the two major parties. It might even affiliate itself with what she called a “proposed new third party,” presumably the Farmer-Labor Party, as a way of draining votes away from both Republicans and Democrats in November.
As with every amendment except the 18th, there has been no deadline placed on when ratification of the 19th Amendment must occur. But the longer the ratification process takes, the more registration deadlines will be missed, and with the passage of each one, the number of women who will be able to participate in November’s Presidential election decreases. So a quick victory in Tennessee is now a top priority—and a distinct possibility!
This week’s courtroom drama clearly shows that the future of the struggle for women’s equality will be at least as energetic as its past, and there can be no doubt that the day of victory is now considerably closer than it appeared to be just a year—or even a few days—ago.