Answer to Question #204045 in History for Alessandro Capodac

Question #204045

1. Women did not earn the right to vote in the U.S. less than one century ago. Why did U.S. lawmakers initially only allow white landowning American men to vote?

2. Why did American men (and some women) oppose allowing women to exercise their right to vote in local, state, and federal elections?

3. Watch the dramatic reenactment of the force feeding of Alice Paul in the feature film, Iron Jawed Angels. Why do you think the force feeding of Paul, and the treatment of the imprisoned suffragists in general, generated support for the suffragists? Support your opinion with observations from the film.

Expert's answer


Leaders in the previous system were wary about parties' ability to corrupt and destabilize the fledgling country. The substantial increase of voting rights for white men was at the heart of the new legitimacy of parties and their straightforward embrace of democracy. Most states preserved some property requirements after the Revolution, preventing poor people from voting. Citizens, according to republican logic, require a financial stake in society in order to be trusted to vote properly. If a voter lacked economic independence, those who controlled his livelihood appeared to be able to easily affect his vote. The democratization of American politics, which included nearly universal suffrage for white men, exacerbated discrimination based on race and gender. The concept of total democracy was still too radical to be fully implemented.


Anti-suffrage sentiments reigned among men and women during the early twentieth century, which may seem unexpected today. Anti-suffragists did not form their own organization until 1911, although suffragists had one since 1869. Suffrage opponents banded together before forming an organized organization. Political cartoons mocking suffragists were created by artists. From the pulpit, religious leaders condemned women's political engagement. Women who participated in public life were vilified in articles. Even in the absence of a coordinating body, anti-suffrage sentiment remained strong. Opponents of women's suffrage began to organize locally in the 1860s. Leading suffrage proponents called Massachusetts home, yet it was also one of the first states to have an organized anti-suffrage movement. Most women, anti-suffragists claimed, did not want to vote. They claimed that because they had to care for their homes and children, women did not have time to vote or keep up with politics. Some felt that women lacked the knowledge or mental capability to provide meaningful political advice. Others claimed that adding women's votes would just double the electorate, and that voting would become more expensive without providing any new value.


Force feeding is considered a torturous approach because it is uncomfortable and risky. The jail doctor, for example, inserted a rubber tube into Paul's nostrils and pumped liquid food into his stomach with the help of two female attendants. From the video, more attention was attracted to woman suffrage as a result of Alice Paul's leadership in organizing rallies and undertaking hunger strikes, and support for it expanded. As more people learned about the dreadful conditions these inmates were forced to face, more people began to sympathize with her and her supporters. She was discharged as a result of this. Alice Paul's leadership was so efficient that every political party in the country had an equal suffrage plank in its program within a seven-year period.

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