Men Gave Women the Right to Vote: Another GOP Myth Debunked

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If we listen to such folks as former chair of Texas School Board member Don McLeroy, we are told that majorities have given minorities power and that men have given women the right to vote

Today is the 90th anniversary of Tennessee ratifying the amendment which would give women the right to vote.

But to ever say that those in power allowed or gave any rights is disingenuous and inaccurate . This was a movement waged by women suffragists that fought long and hard for this right, not what McLeroy and others seem to imply is a privilege.  

If women's news receives the coverage it deserves during the next week or so, then there will be stories about women and the vote. Headlines may read something like: “Ninety Years Since Women Were Given the Vote!”

The problem is “were given” is dead-on inaccurate; even the wording, “got the vote” does not begin to explain the battle that women suffragists waged in order for women to vote.

Like Martin Luther King and others in the civil rights movement, leaders of the suffrage movement such as Susan B. Anthony were also arrested. There were protests and there were planned demonstrations. Certainly there were also allies and strong supporters of the movement that were men as a commenter rightfully suggests we remember. Without allies movements can be doomed.

On April 6, 1917 the United States entered World War I, and the atmosphere of the country changed. Suffragists outside the White House began taunting Wilson about sending men to die for democracy when women didn't have the right to vote at home.

The White House administration was perplexed, not wanting Wilson to face a fuss at home in the midst of a global war; and they let the police know they were ready for the picketers to go away. When spectators assaulted the picketing suffragists, the police did nothing to stop them, and finally, police finally determined they could arrest the suffragists on charges of obstructing traffic.

This did little to stop the White House protesters, so the police arrested one of the leaders, Alice Paul. She and several other women were sentenced to jail, with Paul receiving a particular harsh sentence of seven months. Paul then led the others in a hunger strike, saying it was the only protest left to them. After a couple of weeks of this, the prison doctors ordered force-feeding of the women.

Newspapers carried sympathetic stories about the women's jail terms and the forced feedings, and support for the cause actually grew.

So let's take this back to Texas where those like McLeroy on the State School Board have begun to re-write history forcing ridiculous changes in textbooks and within the overall curriculum. While, McElroy lost his bid for reelection there are others competing for spots on the board this fall that would continue this push.

For about the last 15 years , right-wing Texans have been trying to systematically change the curriculum in public schools. These changes especially in textbooks have been drastic and represent the philosophical madness of the right Wing and the assault on public education. For example in 1995, a lady pictured carrying a briefcase was removed and replaced with a lady carying a cake because it was deemed to be a “more appropriate” depiction of a role model. Surely the next logical step would be to incorporate into the curriculum the chauvinistic idea that men gave women the right to vote . That it was not an inalienable right.

When we celebrate freedoms earned through years of trudging and plodding through a movement we must remember that the fights still continue. The Texas School Board elections this fall matter to all of us.

So why should the Texas School Board and their curriculum decisions matter to us in Alabama, Georgia, California or New York?

A number of reasons. Texas supplies 1/10th of the Textbooks in the Country. Texas and California are the biggest purchasers of textbooks in the Country. What is adopted in Texas is ultimately what other states will get. So if Texas textbooks take out references to Thomas Jefferson and the Age of Enlightenment or substitute Democracy with the phrase Constitutional Republic that's what is going to be the trend nationwide.  Furthermore, California with their budget crisis has cut textbook funding. So what you will see is a lack of balance in the textbooks to choose from for the rest of the country.

It's clear that the right wingers have their own misguided agenda. They want to use textbooks to influence their values and ideals. Politicians not educators are trying to re-write history and science. They want to put Sean Hannity and James Dobson in the forefront of what is being taught to our children. That alone should scare us all. Enough is enough. Every movement will be minimized. Our children will essentially be told that rights were given by white men to women and minorities. However, we have a chance to ensure that this school board will be held in check by those who understand how education should work and will work to take the demagoguery and politics out of the school board.

Judy Jennings and Rebecca Bell Metereau are brave enough to run in such a tough political climate. They knew that what they were doing was important

for the Texas Education system, but they also realize the effect that leaving the board in the hands of the extremists could have on the entire nation.

Texas School Board districts are the size of roughly two Congressional Districts. The candidates have a lot of ground to cover over the next 100 days. They also need our help. Please make a $5, $10 or $50 donation to Rebecca and Judy so that we can stand up against the right wing extremists everywhere. You can post this diary or other info about this race on your facebook page. Use the hashtag #savehistory and tweet about this issue and the election.

Goal Thermometer

Honor those who fought hard for earning rights that were absolutely never given. Honor those who are still fighting against those who would prefer to take those rights away.  


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