Vesting women with the vote: The timing of the federal amendment for woman suffrage
The purpose of this research was to determine the catalyst for the enactment of the Nineteenth Amendment. A ‘top-down’ approach to women’s political history – an unconventional interpretation of woman suffrage from the vantage point of the government within the context of American political culture – illumined women’s enfranchisement. In order to ascertain the premise of American political culture, this research incorporated a vast temporal scope: investigating the political ideology that informed American constitutionalism was integral to discovering the reason why, ultimately, the federal government bestowed unto women the franchise. The decisions of the executive and legislative branches reflected the ideology inherent in the U.S. Constitution. The framers not only incorporated many of the rights found in the British common law and in Magna Carta, but also the vested rights premise found in feudalism. Reciprocity of rights and obligations between the government and the citizenry enabled government protection: a citizen had to prove his civic worth in order to earn the privilege of the franchise. This value system resonated throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In sum, because of the simultaneous historical occurrences of a diplomatic suffrage leader, Carrie Chapman Catt, president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, her active membership in the Committee on Women’s Defense Work of the Council of National Defense during the Great War, and a president, Woodrow Wilson, who was amenable to Catt’s methodology, women were enfranchised because of their invaluable contributions to the war effort. In this way, women’s war service proved their civic capacity to government officials which enhanced their standing for the franchise. Primary source materials from Wilson, government officials, and top military brass attest to this finding.
Thesis [M.A]: Wichita State University, College of Liberal Arts and Science, Dept. of History