The St. Joseph Bay Chapter of the DAR recently awarded its honors for the top submissions in its annual essay contest.
Here is the Grade 7 winner from Ashton Lakey, who is home-schooled and wrote about women’s suffrage.
The Women’s Suffrage Campaign
By Ashton Lakey
Hi, my name is John White. Let me tell you my story. My father owned a small store, and I sold newspapers to help make ends meet. We were a regular family for the most part. That is until my mother became interested in women’s rights. Not that it was bad, but it was something my father never approved of.
My father’s store was a meeting place of sorts for men to gather and discuss politics. I often overheard the men talking about the women’s suffrage movement and how they shouldn’t be given the right to vote. Many men believed that women should stay home and do the traditional female duties. After all, who would raise the children, cook their meals and clean their homes? My father was worried that my mother’s involvement would hurt his business. Although he tried many times to discourage her, it never changed her point of view.
My mother never stopped following the groups that led the way in the suffrage movement. She often spoke of the Seneca Falls Convention held in 1848, which was the inspiration for the woman’s suffrage movement. This convention was founded by two ladies: Lucretia Mott, and Elizabeth Stanton and fought for women’s rights including the suffrage. Efforts halted during the Civil War and women focused on abolishing slavery. Once the war ended, the two amendments that were added only benefitted black males, granting them citizenship and the right to vote. Stanton responded angrily to Congress. As a result, a more moderate woman’s group, American Woman Suffrage Association was formed. Stanton and Susan B Anthony also formed a group called National Woman Suffrage Association but fighting between these two groups hurt the efforts of obtaining suffrage rights. In 1890 the two groups joined together to form the National American Woman’s suffrage association. Before the two groups had merged, the NWSA had presented a bill, for women’s suffrage but it was always turned down. Even after they combined, they continued to do this. Many men were scared because by 1914 they had convinced 11 states to allow women to vote. When World War 1 came, the women offered to help as much as they could. They raised money for the troops, they offered to be nurses for the injured, grew victory crops, and they even worked at factories and other jobs in place of the soldiers. My mother talked about this all the time. I found all of it very interesting.
I will still never forget that summer day in 1917. I was selling newspapers when the wind blew them from my hands. As I chased them, one rested on the ground and was opened to the second page. Suddenly, I saw my mother's picture. I read the article telling about protesters picketing. It said that they were arrested and sent to a local jail. I was devastated. I couldn’t even imagine my mother standing in front of buildings protesting with other suffragists. I ran to find my father, only to learn that she had been arrested for picketing before but let off with a warning. Unfortunately, this time she would have to remain in jail. Every day, I started reading the news. Months went by, and in October they arrested a woman named Alice Paul, who was the leader of the National Woman’s Party, a newer, more aggressive group. The police thought that by taking away their leader, the protests would stop. However, this only caused more outrage and increased the protests. Alice Paul started a jail wide hunger strike. It was about a week later that I started hearing people spreading rumors that they were torturing the inmates because they wouldn’t eat. The women were forcefully tube fed and beaten with clubs at the instruction of the prison warden. I even heard that they were forced to eat grains infested with bugs. When I heard that, I was sick, I couldn’t think about what they were doing to my mother. Prison officials also refused to allow the families and attorneys to visit. Newspapers began reporting the story and citizens started to support the suffragists, including my father. A few months later my mother was finally released, and I got to see her again. Although physically she had changed, she was still strong in her beliefs.
Today is June 4, 1919, and it has been two years since my mother was arrested. Today was such an exciting day because they passed the amendment, giving women the right of suffrage. My mother and other suffragists, worked so hard and now they will soon be able to vote. There are still many that do not support this though. I read in the newspaper that this amendment could have a negative effect on the country. They fear women would continue with movements to obtain even more rights, causing more strife between families and the country. They say that it might also have a negative effect on politics because the candidates have their set vote from men, will now have to persuade the women to vote for them. These issues may cause riots among the men who are not supportive.
Although there are problems, my mother is still optimistic and believes that this amendment will bring great things to the country. She says that fighting for this right to vote will allow the country to pick better leaders that represent all members of society. She also feels it introduces equality which could eventually abolish discrimination. She hopes this will be just the beginning in woman’s fight to achieve full rights.
I learned an important lesson from all of this. If you work hard and fight for your beliefs, they can become a reality. Every person can make a difference but can achieve great things working together. No matter what you support, it is still important to know that women will continue to change the future of America.