March is Women’s History Month, and the history of the world is full of women who made significant contributions to education, literature, politics, fashion, and countless other fields. You’d be surprised at what we women can accomplish when we put our minds to it!
The Jazz Age was a decade of real empowerment for the woman. In that decade, we cut our hair, took off that damned corset, raised our hemlines, and got out of the kitchen to compete with men and shake up the status quo.
There are so many women from that decade who made the headlines, and are still well-known today for doing great things. But there are more than a few who made waves and are all but forgotten today.
Carrie Chapman Catt. Image via Wikipedia
One of the names people might not recognize today is Carrie Chapman Catt, a colleague of Susan B. Anthony and the founder of the League of Women Voters.
Women’s Suffrage was a long, tough battle. People today can’t imagine the hardships and discrimination women suffered in a male dominated world. We were treated like children and slaves.
Keep your mouth shut and do what you’re good for: making babies and cooking dinner.
This isn’t an exaggeration, ladies and gentlemen. That is exactly how we treated women in this country less than 100 years ago.
Women had very few rights. One example of this is at the turn of the 20th century, if a girl worked outside the home (which was rare), she had to hand her pay packet over to the male head of household. Women didn’t have a right to personal property, see, including any money they made outside the home. The man would be benevolent (sometimes) and give her a small allowance from all the money she earned, which probably wasn’t that much to begin with.
Did you know that it was also against the law for women to smoke cigarettes in public, including on their front porch? If a woman was caught smoking, even on her husband or father’s property, she could be arrested or fined for exhibiting such behavior. This was one of many small, “unladylike” things that were frowned upon or downright criminal in Victorian America.
And in the 1920s, things began to change. At the beginning of the decade, on August 26, 1920, Women’s Suffrage won a long and tough battle: the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which gave women the right to vote, became law.
This was huge! After suffering in silence for decades, women were finally able to voice their opinion on politics and social issues.
CARRIE CHAPMAN CATT AND THE LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS
Carrie Chapman Catt was intelligent and remarkable. She was valedictorian of Iowa State College (now Iowa State University) at a time when it was rare for a woman to finish high school. In fact, she was the only woman in her graduating class. She went on to (I hate to say it) a typical female profession, teaching, for many years and was eventually hired as superintendent of schools in Mason City, Iowa in 1885.
It was around that time that Catt became involved with Women’s Suffrage and the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement (one of the organizations behind the 18th Amendment prohibition of alcohol). She was elected as President of the National American Women Suffrage Association (NAWSA) twice. Susan B. Anthony chose her as her replacement and Catt served her first term as President was from 1900 to 1904. Her second term was between 1915-1920.
During a convention for NAWSA in Chicago on Valentines Day in 1920, six months before the 19th Amendment passed, Catt founded the League of Women Voters, an organization that is still going strong today, nearly 100 years later.
What is the League of Women Voters? It’s a non-partisan organization that strives to educate voters on the important issues we face in this society. There are many chapters all over the United States that send out newsletters and hold monthly meetings.
They work to empower women and keep them informed so we don’t lose focus on why it is important to vote, and why people like Carrie Chapman Catt, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton worked so hard to fight for one of the freedoms we take for granted far too often.
Their motto is “Making Democracy Work” and they have done a good job of it for 92 years!
If you would like more information about the League of Women Voters, you can contact the league on their website or find them on any of the major social networking sites. The ladies would love to hear from you!