National Constitution CenterCenturies of Citizenship: A Constitutional Timeline Exhibit
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1866-1885: We rebuild the Union and amend the Constitution

1874
Should women have the right to vote?

Point-Counterpoint

When the 15th Amendment, which guaranteed black men the right to vote, was added to Constitution in 1874, women activists campaigned to secure the vote for women as well.

Transcript

JOHN: Of course women should have the opportunity to receive higher education, and they should receive all the protections and blessings of this great nation. But give women the right to vote? Why? Women are the glue to the social fabric of America. Why drag women into the political arena?

LINDA: Well that's very gentlemanly of you but it is a question of constitutional rights. Are women not citizens of the United States? Is the right to vote not inherent in citizenship?

JOHN: Citizenship and the right to vote are two entirely different issues. Children are citizens – do we give them the right to vote?

LINDA: Are you comparing women to children?

JOHN: Don't misunderstand me but society is based on certain things-

LINDA: America is based on certain things like a government derived from the will of the people. How is the will of the female people expressed when she is denied the vote, the most basic right to representation in her own government.

JOHN: It is her husband's duty to represent her with his vote. The citizens that were truly denied representation are the newly-freed slaves. Thank goodness the Constitution was amended to give them the right to vote. Are you saying that blacks shouldn't have been first in line?

LINDA: No one supported the 14th and 15th Amendments more than us. But to say that a freed slave with little education that happens to be male should have a say in government, while a well-educated woman should have none? Your logic makes a mockery of democracy!

JOHN: And your radicalism would make a mockery of the social order! Giving women the vote right to vote after giving it to the freed slaves would turn the country upside down. It would be chaos.

LINDA No! It would be democracy.

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