Claiming the Legacy of Women’s Suffrage

“The message my mother gave me was that work would be my priority and everything else would be squeezed in around it,” she said. “We are freer than any generation of women in human history largely because of the women’s right movement. Now the big issue for women, especially young women, is finding happiness.”

“Women today expect to work but the things their grandmothers took for granted, such as meeting a decent guy and having children, seem very elusive to them. This generation is trapped in their office as past generations may have felt trapped in their homes. The challenge is finding that balance. It’s finding a way to enjoy the satisfaction of being a mother and raising children and doing it in a way that doesn’t hurt your kids.”

Hijacking the Suffrage Legacy

Crittenden says feminists have focused on petty issues over the years, often ostracized men, demanded women be “just like men” instead of enjoying being women. A lot of women, she argues, would like to stay home and should be able to without feeling they are letting down the rest of their gender.

One prominent conservative takes Crittendon’s arguments even further and suggests the 19th Amendment should be repealed because women focus too much on local issues and are not well-informed on national issues.

Kate O’Bierne, Washington editor of the National Review, says the greatest tragedy of the 19th Amendment is political feminists, who claim to carry the flag of Stanton and Anthony, hijacking the legacy of the women behind the suffrage movement.

Yet Karen Johnson, vice president of membership at the National Organization for Women, or NOW, in Washington D.C., denies hijacking anything.

Miles to Go

Most of Stanton and Anthony’s goals have been achieved, but “we still have a long way to go,” Johnson said. “They had a vision of a world in which women and men would have equal opportunities in everything. We are not there yet.”

In the 1960s the “second wave” of women’s rights gripped the United States and the new feminists revived the women’s rights movement, taking Stanton, Anthony and the many other women who worked for women’s rights a century ago as their role models.

“I have no doubt in my mind that Anthony and Stanton would still be fighting today. There were divisions in the women’s rights movement back then and some women were involved in the anti-suffrage movement of the time. Women have made a lot of progress but that doesn’t mean we should sit on our laurels,” she said.

NOW is still fighting for equal opportunities for women. Their agenda includes adequate and affordable universal health care, divorce laws that prevent women from being left with children and no support from their estranged husbands, protecting social security, affordable and reliable day care for children, affordable birth control and protecting the right to a legal abortion.

“Feminism is not about telling women what to do. It has always been about creating as many opportunities for women as possible,” Johnson said.

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