Historically, It’s Conservative Women Who’ve Held Back The Rights Of Other Women

Activist Phyllis Schlafly wearing a "Stop ERA" badge, demonstrating with other women against the Equal Rights Amendment in front of the White House, Washington, D.C., February 4, 1977.Warren K. Leffler / Public Domain

Throughout history, women have been some of the biggest opponents of the women's movement.

Last week, Alabama’s governor, Republican Kay Ivey, approved the most restrictive abortion law in the United States, classifying an abortion as a felony punishable with up to 99 years behind bars for doctors and providing no exceptions for rape or incest.

“This legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God,” the female governor said of the Alabama ban.

And while Ivey’s decision to restrict the reproductive rights of women may seem like an exceptional betrayal to the wellbeing of other women, American history shows that women have been some of the most outspoken defenders of the patriarchy time and time again, and in large, mobilized movements, too, Quartz reports.

In the late 19th century and early 20th century, it was women who “funded, staffed, and led” initiatives against women’s suffrage. Many women argued that, without suffrage, they would be “better citizens.”

In 1916, Josephine Dodge, the president of the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage, said, “We believe that women according to their leisure, opportunities, and experience should take part increasingly in civic and municipal affairs as they always have done in charitable, philanthropic and educational activities and we believe that this can best be done without the ballot by women, as a non-partisan body of disinterested workers.”

And, rich white women didn’t want to give poor and non-white women the ability to hold similar influence as themselves: “To give women the suffrage would only increase the ignorant vote and bring refined women into contact with an element that should not be brought into their lives,” the New York Times wrote in 1894.

And even in organizations that did advocate for women’s suffrage, leaders often barred black and immigrant women from joining out of fear that their presence would deter white women in the South.

Read the full story here.

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