By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — 2019 marks the 100 year anniversary of women in Michigan having the right to vote for the first time in an election, which took place in 1919 during an election for statewide offices.
Michigan Women Forward Lead Guest Assistant Riley Hubbard explained how the Michigan male voters approved a state constitutional amendment granting suffrage to Michigan women in 1918, during a presentation April 17 at Henry Ford Centennial Library, 16301 Michigan Ave.
The lecture that centered on the history and journey to women’s voting rights was presented by the Dearborn Historical Museum.
Hubbard provided context on the time in Michigan during the 1800s, saying it was a largely rural and agrarian society, a relatively new state, railroads were still spreading across the state, telegraph was a popular mode of communications and women did not have public positions outside their home.
According to the Michigan Women Forward website, Ernestine Rose helped start the first call for women’s suffrage when she spoke before the Michigan Legislature on the science of government, which led to a second speech on the antagonistic principles of society.
In 1866, Michigan’s first bill on women’s suffrage attempting to give women the right to vote was defeated by one vote. The following year, the Michigan Legislature granted women taxpayers the right to vote for school trustees only.
Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Stanton formed the National Woman Suffrage Association while Lucy Stone led the formation of the American Woman Suffrage Association in 1869.
Shortly after in 1870, the Michigan State Woman Suffrage Association was formed in Battle Creek and the women’s suffrage amendment was passed by the Michigan Legislature, but was vetoed by the Gov. Henry Baldwin, according to the Michigan Women Forward website.
Again in 1874, the state legislature put a women’s suffrage amendment on the ballot, but was rejected by a vote of 135,957 to 40,077. The Michigan State Woman Suffrage Association then disbanded following the ballot vote.
The Michigan Women Forward website states that in 1895, a proposed constructional amendment to grant women suffrage was defeated in the House and then in 1907 or 1908 at the State Constitutional Convention women who paid taxes could vote on local bonding and tax issues.
It wasn’t until 1912 when Gov. Charles Osborn successfully urged the Legislature to put the women’s suffrage question before the all-male electorate in November. This let to Clara Arthur of Detroit to lead the campaign over six months in which 138,000 petition signatures were collected.
Initially the voters seemed to pass women’s suffrage, but a recount and missing ballots switched that victory into a loss by 700 votes. In 1913, the women’s suffrage proposal was back on the ballot and again defeated.
Just a few years later in 1917, Gov. Albert Sleeper signed a bill on May 8 to grant Michigan women the right to vote in presidential elections. The next year, Michigan voters approved a state constitutional amendment by 55 percent extending suffrage to Michigan women, according to the Michigan House Democrats’ website.
Michigan women then voted for the first time for statewide offices and the National Suffrage Amendment, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed by Congress on June 5, 1919.
Michigan became the second state to ratify the amendment on June 10. Also in 1919, the National American Woman Suffrage Association ended and was replaced but he League of Women Voters, with the Michigan league led by Florence Brotherton of Detroit.
“Now that women had the opportunity to vote on all matters and for all offices, they wanted to be informed and educate other women about the issues so they were prepared to vote,” Hubbard said.
The following year in 1920, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women the right to vote became law on Aug. 26 officially allowing women to vote in a presidential election for the first time on Nov. 2.
Michigan Women Forward, 105 W. Allegan St. in Lansing, has a mission to accelerate Michigan’s progress by advancing equality and opportunity for women and girls.
For more information on the history of women’s voting in Michigan go to michiganwomen.org.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected].)