Fighting for women’s rights!
There has been a lot in the news in the papers about the so-called Republican’s “War on Women.” I’d like to tell you a story about a Republican couple that supported and encouraged women.
The story starts back in December 1849 when a man from Massachusetts arrived in San Francisco bay on a clipper ship. He studied law and in 1861 was elected to Congress. After serving several terms he was subsequently elected to the U.S. Senate.
In January 1879, this Republican Senator became the first person to introduce the resolution that was to become the nineteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution — granting women the right to vote. His amendment was introduced and reintroduced in each subsequent session of Congress long after his death. At first there was little support for the Senator’s legislation, but over time the tide turned. The work first started by this Republican was carried on by many others after his death in 1887. Eventually the Senator’s resolution, having been passed by the House and Senate, was being considered by the states and was one state short of ratification.
Ninety-four years ago today, on Aug. 18, 1920, the State of Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment and it was added as the 19th Amendment to our Constitution.
While in the Senate this Republican also introduced legislation that would require equal pay for equal work by federal workers regardless of their sex — a measure that would also eventually become law.
The Senator and his wife were close friends of Susan B. Anthony and corresponded on a regular basis. His wife, Ellen — also a Republican — was an important force in the women’s suffrage movement. Her son, who was an attorney in San Francisco, used to jokingly comment, “The headquarters of the women’s suffrage movement is on Market Street, but its hindquarters is in my living room!”
At one point, the Senator’s wife paid her property taxes to the City of San Francisco and then sued, claiming she was being taxed without having representation! In 1911 she passed away and for the first time, the City of San Francisco held a public memorial service for a woman — a Republican woman no less! For the first time, flags in the city and across the state were flown at half mast to honor a woman.
The effort to give women the right to vote involved many people from different backgrounds and it took over forty years to accomplish, but it started with one Republican Senator and his wife who against all odds pursued what they knew to be right.
The Senator was my great grandfather, Aaron Augustus Sargent.
Today, sadly, we see far too many men and women not voting. Here in Texas we recently had a local runoff election in which only 315 votes were cast and the decision as to whom would serve as City Councilman was decided by just one vote! Think about this and please don’t take your right to vote lightly. People have fought too long and too hard to secure this right for you, to see it frittered away.
Register to vote; go to the polls and vote! It’s important that you do so!
Bill Sargent, who lives in Galveston, Texas, is chief Deputy County Clerk for Elections in Galveston County.
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