News Column

Celebrating Women's Right to Vote

Aug 27, 2012

Ellie Bogue

Aug. 26, 1920 is the day the Nineteenth Amendment gave women the right to vote in all U.S. elections.

To celebrate the historic date, the Association of American University Women, League of Women Voters, Women's Bureau and the YWCA Northeast Indiana sponsored a free panel discussion at the Allen County Public Library. Speakers shared their experiences as women voters and encouraged others to vote. Speaking on the panel were IPFW's Susan Hannah, Ball State's Ruby Cain and Harriet Miller, who helped found the Fort Wayne Women's Bureau.

Hannah retired from her administrative appointment as vice chancellor for academic affairs in 2008, but continues to teach political science at IPFW. Before the panel discussion, she answered some questions about where the vote has taken women in the United States and women voter patterns and trends.

After women received the vote in 1920, a lot of women didn't flock to the polls Hannah said.

"Big surprise -- women didn't necessarily turn out to vote because that was at a time when they began to restrict the vote through voter registration, that's when participation went down, and now there are more efforts to restrict the vote," Hannah said.

Hannah said currently with the changes in voter ID laws, changes in registration rules and changing residency rules, it is making it harder and harder for people to vote.

"It's very strategic. You have to make an effort to go vote. Any other obstacle makes it more difficult," Hannah said.

Hannah believes certain groups look for these restrictions to control who is voting. She said they paint it as trying to control voter fraud, but she said efforts to prove there is significant fraud show it is just not the case.

"If you have to get an ID, it's just one more thing you have to do to vote," Hannah said.

According to Hannah, women have never been in agreement on how they vote. Starting with the women's suffrage movement in the 1890s, the groups were divided into factions, and it wasn't until they united that they were able to get the amendment passed and ratified that allows women to vote.

Like men, women vote based on personal choice. Statistics prove their choices are based on their level of education and religious beliefs. Although all women don't vote the same way, there are trends, said Hannah. Since 1964, women have out-participated men in presidential elections.

"Since 1964 no man has won the presidential election without the majority of women voting for him, with the exception of George Bush in 2000, but that was a weird election," Hannah said.

According to Hannah, woman don't always agree on the issues, but there are patterns -- more women vote Democratic, more women vote on educational issues and more women tend to vote against war.

"This is why presidential candidates tend to care about the women's vote," Hannah said.

"That's not to say there aren't any men who don't vote a women's agenda," Hannah said, pointing to former Indiana Sen. Birch Bayh in the 1970s, who was known for his strong support of women's issues.

Women have never been unified in their opinions, Hannah said, pointing to Phyllis Schlafly and her associates, who Hannah said killed the Equal Rights Amendment.

"The only time women have worked together has been to get the vote," Hannah said.

In an economic report card for Indiana that Hannah put together in 2005, women's median income was $30,000 and the ratio of women's to men's earning was 72.6 percent.

According to the U.S. Census, "In 2010, nationally the earnings of women who worked full-time year-round was 77 percent of that for men working full time. The poverty rate for women female-householder-with-no-husband-present families was 31.6 percent and 4.7 million in 2010 compared to both married-couple families at 6.2 percent and 3.6 million in 2010."

"It is changing, yes; are we there yet? No." Hannah said, adding women getting the vote are a big part of the change.

Statistics show women in Indiana are near the bottom nationally in political representation, said Hannah, and Indiana lags far behind other states in political representation.

"We don't have representation in the legislature or the Senate, there are very few women mayors, no women in the governor's office and nobody in the (state) Supreme Court," Hannah said.

Hannah said statistics show that the more women you have in office, the more women's issues will be on the agenda.

Source: (c)2012 The News-Sentinel (Fort Wayne, Ind.). Distributed by MCT Information Services

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