Today is International Womens Day and March is Women’s History Month in Michigan. While we aren’t down with the idea that half the population’s heritage can be relegated to a single month, it seems like a good day to look at the long road that women took to secure the right to vote.
Michiganders can feel good that Michigan was one of the first 3 states to ratify the nineteenth amendment in 1919, the fact that it this struggle spanned at least seven decades remains a shame.
In 1846, a woman named Ernestine Rose spoke to the Michigan legislature about the need for women’s suffrage. This was a full two years before the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York. In 1849, a Michigan state Senate committee proposed a “universal suffrage” amendment to the Michigan constitution which would have granted voting rights to both women and African Americans, but no action was taken on the proposal. The H-Net Chronology of Michigan Women’s History:
1849 A Senate committee, led by Senator Rix Robinson of Ada, proposes a universal suffrage amendment but it is not acted upon because of the “unusualness” and “needlessness” of the franchise for women.
1866 The state’s first bill on woman suffrage is defeated by one vote.
1867 The Michigan Legislature grants women taxpayers the right to vote for school trustees but rejects total woman suffrage.1912 Governor Charles S. Osborn successfully urges the Michigan State Legislature to put the suffrage question before the all-male electorate in November. Clara B. Arthur of Detroit leads the campaign and the proposal appears to win. However, the opposition steals the election under suspicious circumstances.
1917 Governor Albert E. Sleeper signs a bill on May 8, granting Michigan women the right to vote in presidential elections.
1918 Michigan male voters approve a state constitutional amendment granting suffrage to Michigan women.
1919 Michigan women vote for statewide offices for the first time.
1920 The 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting the vote to women, becomes law on August 26. Women vote for the first time in the presidential election on November 2.
The H-Net Chronology has a ton of cool non-suffrage facts too from Marie-Therese Guyon Cadillac and Anne Picote de Belestre de Tonti joining their husbands at Fort Pontchartrain in Detroit and becoming the first two European women settlers in Michigan in 1702 and Madeline LaFramboise founding the first permanent trading post in Michigan near present-day Ada with her husband Joseph in 1804 to Ruth Thompson of Muskegon becoming the first Michigan woman elected to Congress in 1950.