♫ Bring the dear old banner, boys
And fling it to the wind;
Mother, wife and daughter,
Let it shelter and defend.
“Equal Rights” our motto is,
We’re loyal to the end.
Giving the ballot to the mothers. ♫
— “Give the Ballot to the Mothers,” Lyrics by Rebecca N. Harris to the tune of “Marching Through Georgia” by Henry Clay Work, Songs of the Suffragettes
Your slightly behind the curve Weekend Politics Thread host learned from his local Aug. 24, 2018, newspaper1 that Aug. 18, 2018, marked the 98th anniversary of the adoption of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The article that, wonders unceasing, appeared on the front page above the fold more properly concerned an annual effort in Richmond, Va., to shame a supermajority of the General Assembly into making themselves the 38th state legislature to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. Let’s all recite that one from memory:
Section 1: Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
Section 2: The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Section 3: This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.
Virginia’s Senate has passed six bills since 1920 to move what would now become the 28th Amendment. Each time, the legislation died in the House of Delegates. Hope runs high that, come 2019, the 49-51 split in the House will give members of the Republican majority who retain a shred of human decency enough cover to send the ERA back to the U.S. Congress for final disposition2 and addition to the America’s supreme compendium of laws.
♬ He must have been have been thinking ’bout me
When He planted that very first dogwood tree
And when that breeze starts blowing through the trees
You know everything will be all right
You’re living in the sweet Virginia breeze ♬
— “Sweet Virginia Breeze,” Robin Thompson Band
That Virginia would dawdle for nearly a century on affirming women’s rights to human rights does not surprise. For all of its glory and vital role in producing the man you know and have come to grudgingly tolerate as your WPT host, the Old Dominion has unfailingly seated lawmakers who stand athwart history yelling “Stop.”
Burghers who inherit the mantle of 1619’s House of Burgesses always appear to consider that one burst of Jaobin progressivism sufficient. For instance, soon after finally ratifying the 19th Amendment in 1952, Virginia’s legislature launched Massive Resistance to public school desegregation in 1956. One county’s school remained closed until 1971 rather than allow little black children to sit in the same classrooms as little white children.
It gets worse. Virginia’s self-invented registrar of vital statistics, Walter Plecker, invented the One Drop Rule in 1912 and engineered the encoding of that evil concept in law as the Racial Purity Act of 1924. Briefly,3 any evidence of non-European ancestry (Spanish, Italian, Greek and Portuguese negotiable) ensured a baby would have his or her racial identity recorded at birth as black. This, of course, made those babies subject to Jim Crow. And since blacks and Native Americans had intermarried for centuries, all but two indigenous tribes got defined out of existence.4
♪ We’re coming, we’re coming, our brave little band
On the right side of temp’rance we do take our stand.
We don’t use tobacco, because we do think
That the people who use it are likely to drink ♪
— “The Song of the Temperance Union,” Trad.
Fun Fact: Eight of the 11 Confederate States of America waited until the 1950s or later to sign off on women’s suffrage. The 14th and 15th Amendments ensured even women living in Mississippi could vote in national elections before 1984,5 but points for persisting in discriminating on the basis of sex, Johnny Reb.
Which does not exactly give full credit to lawmakers in the states that pioneered women’s suffrage. Wyoming Territory gave its female residents the vote in the late 1860s so it would have enough citizens to cast a binding statehood referendum. Utah granted suffrage in 1898 with the stated assumptions that no wife would ever cancel her husband’s vote and that every women 21 or older would have a husband.
Even the 19th Amendment itself constituted a devil’s bargain between evangelicals who wished to deny via the 18th Amendment demon rum to the hordes of recently arrived Catholic immigrants, the Southern Democrats who succeeded in making the choice “white women decide elections or black men do,” and some, one assumes, good people.
But, oh, for a day when legislatures accomplished good ends for debatable purposes. Commenting below will not return us to those halcyon days, but it will provide a temporary refuge from a world gone all Devil instead of Daniel Webster.