Division among progressives


in History, Politics

Truth’s warning that if American women did not get the vote now [in 1866] along with black men, it would be hard to raise the issue of the vote for women later, proved to be prescient, for it was not until 1920 that women finally got the vote nationwide.

Meanwhile it was becoming painfully apparent to Stanton and Anthony that many leaders who had supported suffrage for both blacks and women had decided, as a matter of strategy, to push at present only for suffrage for black men, as in the proposed Fifteenth Amendment. Stanton and Anthony, reacting furiously, refused to support the Fifteenth Amendment. The fiery Stanton declared that giving suffrage to the crude, uneducated, recently freed black slaves without giving it also to educated females would increase prejudice against blacks. In 1869 at a meeting of the American Equal Rights Association, which had supported both blacks’ and women’s right to vote, Stanton, Anthony, and their friends helped to break up the association over this issue, forming the new National Women’s Suffrage Association that was dedicated to working for women’s suffrage only.

In response, late in 1869 Lucy Stone led in forming another new women’s group, called the American Woman Suffrage Association, of a more moderate nature, which favored giving the vote not only to black men, through the Fifteenth Amendment, but also to women, through another amendment. Despite efforts to reunite the two groups, their leaders bitterly attacked each other. They were divided also by other issues that underlined the greater radicalism of Stanton’s group (which was more suspicious of Republicans) and the greater conservatism of Stone’s (which was more willing to work with Republicans). The two groups remained split for twenty years.

Mabee, Carleton. Sojourner Truth: Slave, Prophet, Legend. New York University Press, 1993. p. 179

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