Women’s Suffrage


The mid 1800s to the early 1900s in Michigan saw many uplifting pieces of legislation, such as the ten-hour work day, no work on Sundays, and a commission for minimum wage for women. Even a law that removed the husband’s retention of his wife’s earnings (Women’s Suffrage). Even though these reforms and legislations were huge in the progression of ourselves as a state and a country, none had more of an effect on us as a nation than Women’s Suffrage. Early stages of legislation across the country for women’s right to vote saw defeats at the hands of the government as well as the ballot. This was especially common in Michigan.

The first real fights for Women’s Suffrage occurred in the 1840s with Ernestine Rose and the Universal Suffrage Movement. Both Ernestine Rose and the Universal Suffrage movement proposed legislation to Michigan about Women’s right to vote, and both were denied. In the 1860s, another bill for Women’s suffrage was sought, but denied again. The Michigan State Suffrage Association, formed in 1870, proposed a bill in 1874, which was again, denied. The relentlessness of the people of Michigan to achieve voting rights for women was beginning to show.

Women’s Suffrage movements took Michigan by storm in the 1880s. The Michigan Equal Suffrage Association (MESA) was created in 1884 in Flint, became very active around the state, and attracted many national leaders of Women’s Suffrage, including Susan B. Anthony. Combined, they were the closest at the time to achieving the goal of Women’s Suffrage. Senator Thomas Palmer, of Detroit, gave one of the first major speeches to the Senate about Women’s Suffrage. Anthony called it, “A masterful Argument.”

The early 1900s saw opportunity like no other for suffragists. In 1908, Michigan was revising the state constitution and the bill for Women’s suffrage was included, however at the last second, the bill was pulled due to conflicts in adoption if it was included. November 5th, 1918, Women’s Suffrage became legal in Michigan. In 1920, the 19th amendment was ratified, which guaranteed the right to vote regardless of sex. This paved the way for many future decisions as a state and as a country through the process of voting (Professor French Video).

“Women’s Suffrage.” Michigan: a History of the Great Lakes State, by Bruce A. Rubenstein and Lawrence E. Ziewacz, Wiley Blackwell, 2014.

11 thoughts on “Women’s Suffrage

  1. I believe women really fought for the rights that they attain now. Back then in the 1800’s women didn’t have rights to vote or stand up for anything they believe in. I found it also crazy that once a women married a man he acquired all the property she inherited. This was called Coverture and the women’s Suffrage movement helped bring it to an end. Women really had it tough but they were relentless when it came to earning their rights and creating equality in the work place, and life in general. It took 78 years for women to finally get the bill to pass in Michigan in 1918 which took patience. In 1920 when the 19th amendment was passed when women could vote it gave them more power.

    1. How sad that it took 78 years for a basic right.. It’s infuriating to think back on how the country has treated different groups of people throughout the years. We are slowly improving, but as everyone else has said we still have a lot of work to be done.

  2. Woman’s suffrage was a major turning point everywhere. It finally gave women the opportunity to have a say in things they couldn’t before. Before 1920 women were not treated fairly, they are part of the system and have ideas and thoughts on how to help better society. It took a while for the importance of that to finally be recognized, but when It was there was a massive change.

  3. All the different times woman fought for equal rights shows just how serious they were about it. They weren’t backing down. It says a lot of the motivation and detirmination of the generation of woman fighting so that we could have the rights we do today. I can’t imagine how proud they were when they finally won the right to vote and had that right secured.

  4. Good blog and I agree that the right to vote was the biggest step toward equality. There were many small steps that had been taken to improve women’s rights but for the most part, they were inconsequential. Improvement came at a snails pace for women until that huge leap took place and women were able to vote for those who would best represent their rights. From the very first vote, women’s standing in all aspects improved much more rapidly. We are still working to create total equality but I believe that we are closer now than in any other time in history. The right to vote is where the upward trajectory in women’s rights started

  5. It’s crazy to think that the rights I am so used to having, weren’t rights that I would’ve had in the mid 1800’s to early 1900’s. I am so grateful for the powerful women of that time. Without people, like Susan B. Anthony, who were willing to risk it all for what they believed in, who knows what life would be like for women today. Who knows if people would be willing to stand up for what they believe in at all if it weren’t for the wonderful examples we have throughout history. Great blog!

  6. What a great blog! It saddens me knowing in the 1800’s business owner’s took advantage of their workers to were as there were no limit on hours or how many days to work let alone the little they made. I feel very grateful for the rights we have now and if it wasn’t for some very brave women like Susan B. Anthony,Lucy Stone and Elizabeth Stanton I’m not sure how much longer it would have took for us women to get such privileges/rights. It angers me knowing that back then when a women married a guy he got all ownership on her inherited land. It’s great to read about history and makes you realize how good we have it. Having the privilege to vote is a great “Right” and unfortunately I hear many men and women say our vote doesn’t matter maybe knowing a little of history from the 1800’s might change peoples minds.

  7. I agree that Women’s Suffrage was the most important reform movement of the Progressives. It is hard to fathom that in the 20th century, men believed they had the right to completely control their wives. There is much frustration still today regarding the equality of minorities and women. The Progressives (both women and men) who fought for a woman’s right to vote are to be admired for their courage to bring about change in our country.

    Chase Osborn, who served as Govorner of Michigan from 1911-1913, deserved his reputation as “Mr. Progressive” for his advocacy in fighting for women’s suffrage.

  8. It is so easy to forget about those that fought for our basic rights that we take for granted. We watch battles that still rage today for equality and sometimes don’t think back to the battles that have already been waged and won for us. I find it interesting some organizations that still do not allow for women to have a voice or vote to be heard, such as some religious organizations. I also appreciate that some rights like dower for real estate were enacted to protect women. In this instance in MI it was required that a women sign on certain documents to acknowledge transactions having to do with the marital home, to make sure that she was not left in the dark.

  9. Very nice and informative blog post on the topic of women suffrage. Many people, including myself, did not understand how long the women suffrage movement was ongoing thought the nation. It was a very interesting note to put in the fact about Senator Palmer and his contribution to aid in the movement. Like many have said, there has been a lot of work done, but much left to go.

  10. It’s interesting that most of the population that it was natural that women weren’t capable of handling the responsibilities of voting and handling land. While women took care of some of the hardest jobs in adulthood, they were told they were easy and incapable of doing the jobs a man would do. Not because they were but because society said so.

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