What a difference a day makes ..." The lyrics to that song, though written quite a number of years ago, are perhaps more accurate today if we say, "What a difference the years make ..."
"Boomer women: Why are theirs among the most sought-after votes this election year?" That item was in the Oct. 19 Hays Daily News.
What a difference from the status of women in the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention in London. The American women delegates were made to sit in the galleries as observers rather than as participants just because they were women.
As a result, the first Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y., would be organized in 1848 to "discuss the social, civil and religious rights of women" using the Declaration of Independence as a guideline for recommendations for change. The demand for "the vote" became the centerpiece of the women's rights movement.
The American Civil War diverted energy from this suffrage activity as Elizabeth Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and slave-born Sojourner Truth lectured and petitioned the government for the emancipation of slaves. They thought that once the war was over, women and slaves would be granted the same rights as white men. But after the war the government saw women's suffrage and the rights of the Negro (the term in use at that time) as two separate issues with different political gains, especially in the South.
Amendment 13 to the Constitution was ratified on Dec. 18, 1865: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."
The Civil Rights Act of 1866 granted citizenship and the same rights enjoyed by white citizens to all male persons in the United States "without distinction of race or color, or previous condition of slavery or involuntary servitude."
Women's suffrage had been set aside as Abraham Lincoln declared, "This hour belongs to the Negro." Stanton and her colleagues were outraged that the women's issue was dismissed. They established the American Equal Rights Association in 1866, but it would be 54 years later before women would receive the same rights due a citizen of the United States.
On July 28, 1868, the 14th Amendment was ratified: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
It defined "citizens" and extended the protections of the Constitution against unjust state laws to all citizens but ignored the question as to whether women were considered citizens of the United States.
The Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution passed on March 30, 1870: "The right of the citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state, on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."
But it did not specifically say anything about women, who were still denied the rights as citizens to vote. In a disagreement over these amendments, the women's movement split into two factions that would later merge in 1890 under the leadership of Stanton.
In 1872, a tall Quaker woman went to see President Ulysses S. Grant when he was running for re-election. This woman, who spent much of her life trying to get the vote for women, was Anthony.
She asked him, "Might not women vote for you if they had the opportunity?" Grant responded, "Maybe, but I don't want to chance it." The renowned politician and journalist Horace Greeley said, "The best women I know do not want to vote."
In the early 19th century, the primary role of women was caring for the home and children. Married women had no right to own property, retain wages or sign a contract. They were expected to have no thoughts or opinions that were different from their husbands. It was not proper for them to travel alone or to speak in public and they certainly did not have the knowledge to vote, as they were not given any serious education.
It was argued that "... no one knew what would happen if women could vote. Some said that women's suffrage would be the end of the family."
Anthony believed that there should be "no taxation without representation." Wasn't this the same belief of the early colonists and founding fathers that led to the American Revolution? Women could be taxed, so they should be able to vote. Didn't the 15th Amendment say that all citizens could vote?
On Nov. 1, 1872, Anthony and 15 other women were allowed by the male registrars to register to vote at Rochester, N.Y.'s Eighth Ward. On voting day, Nov. 5, 1872, they were at the polls at 7 a.m. Twenty-three days later, she was arrested for attempting to vote in the 1872 presidential election.
Six years later, in 1878, a Woman's Suffrage Amendment was introduced to the U.S. Congress. It would not be until after years of petitioning, picketing and protest parades that the 19th Amendment would be passed by both houses of Congress.
Finally, in 1919, Congress passed the 19th Amendment, sending it to the states. On Aug. 26, 1920, after Tennessee ratified the amendment by one vote, the 19th Amendment was adopted: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex."
What a difference time makes. Today the vote of women is sought after. In looking back through those years, let us never forget the struggle for women to be able to vote -- the many years and hard work by those women who believed that women have rights and abilities, and can make a difference.
For all Americans, it is a privilege to be able to vote. No way should we ever say, "Why should I vote; it won't make any difference." To vote is not just a privilege of citizenship -- it is our responsibility.
Ruth Moriarity, Hays, is a member of the Generations Advisory Group.