What would have happened in our country if women had been franchised at the very start of this so called republic? Hindsight is always 20/20 and of course, we can’t go back and undo the past, we can only learn the lessons from it. Unfortunately, if we don’t soon learn the lessons from our past in this country, we face a future that will continue with all consuming wars on a global level that not only deplete the resources that sustain our physical life but drain the human spirit of any desire to move forward. This is one of the themes of my book “The Peacemaker” available at http://kentuckywoman.net.
The story of “The Peacemaker” begins with a peaceful and prosperous culture that had been created by an Onondaga Chief – Ayonwentah – who had been approached by a person called only The Peacemaker in the Legends of the Iroquois. During this visit by The Peacemaker when Ayonwentah had lost everything including his wife and children due to the never ending wars fought among the various tribes inhabiting one of the richest lands in North America Ayonwentah learned the Great Law of Peace – what it took to build a culture that would guarantee peace and prosperity. Ayonwentah started visiting the warring tribes and preaching this message and soon, the great Iroquois Confederacy was started sometime in the 11th Century. This Confederacy was the most powerful and prosperous group that existed on the North American Continent when the Europeans arrived in the 15th Century. They had the means to drive the “immigrants” out but true to their culture they welcomed them in peace and taught them the principles of peace and prosperity that lead to a thriving culture of “13 fires” included in the council of tribes of the Confederacy. These principles were:
- Stewardship of the land – taking from the land the resources needed to live but always giving back so that the land would continue to produce. Property rights came from stewardship and natural resources were shared.
- Empowerment of women – all property passed through the female line because the women were the “keepers of the hearth and home.”
- Inclusion of women in the government – klan mothers – the eldest female in the extended family appointed all the members to the representative councils and could remove any of the representatives if they violated any of the laws passed by the council. Women also had absolute veto over any decision to go to war.
- Government by consensus and conflict mediation.
- Cooperation instead of competition.
- Sealing the peace with treaties known as covenant chains.
This culture became rich and powerful using these principles. In fact, the Founding Fathers were so impressed with their “democracy” that elements of their government were used as the model for our first government. Unfortunately, the government that called itself a Republic was actually an oligarchy – giving voting rights only to a small group of white males over the age of twenty-one who owned property and accumulated property and resources to build their wealth and influence in the name of “democracy.” Because of this the new country immediately began to build a national treasury controlled by these bankers and create a national military made up of the men who had no vote over whether we went to war or not. When these men got the right to vote, they continued with the policies of “might makes right.” As the Industrial Revolution reached the United States and fortunes began to be made by these men who controlled the property and government, competition for cheap labor began. At the same time, the soil in the South began to wear out, forcing southern land owners to find newer sources of good soil to grow King Cotton.
During this period women began to question the morality of this thing called slavery and became involved in the Abolition Movement. When Lucretia Mott and others attended the Anti-slavery Conference in London in 1848, they were appalled that they were not seated at the Conference nor could they vote. Thus, the Women’s Rights Movement began with the Seneca Falls Conference in 1848. At this conference a Declaration of Women’s Rights was read that was pattered after the “Declaration of Independence.” One of these rights was the right to own property. This right again from the Declaration was that to “secure these rights” (of property) it was imperative that women have the right to vote.
After the Convention another meeting was held in the home of Lucretia Mott to organize the Underground Railroad. These women seeking political power were the voices against slavery and the treatment of the new breed of laborers in northern factories – the newer immigrants put to work building the transportation systems, settling new lands and making this country powerful while fighting in the wars to expand this aggressive government into new lands west of the Mississippi needed for continued growth as the land wore out. Women’s voices went unheard and we finally ended up in a Civil War that was to cost over 700,000 American lives and totally destroy the southern economy of the United States. The women who had organized against slavery now came together to organize for peace, but in order to achieve peace; they once again knew they needed the right to vote. The origins of the Mother’s Day Celebration began with a call in a poem written by Julia Ward Howe at the end of the Civil War which is read at the link below.
At the end of the Indian Wars near the end of the 19th Century America turned its attention to lands overseas and became embroiled in political matters and wars that threatened world peace. The suffragettes continued with their demands for the right to vote in order to abate the threat of global wars. Their cause was ignored and many of the leaders were imprisoned and beaten. Susan B. Anthony spent time in jail and Jane Addams was labeled a communist after the end of World War I for her efforts to feed the millions of hungry people left in war ravaged Europe. Unfortunately, women did not get the right to vote until 1919 after World War I and all of the ramifications that set the stage for yet another global conflict. So, what would the 20th Century look like if women had the right to vote in 1776? We know what it looks like now because they didn’t. If we, as women, want to honor this legacy of the courageous women who gave “their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor” for the cause of peace, we need to stand up and say “no” in a loud voice to war or any policies that would deplete the earth’s abilities to sustain life. We, as women, are the “keepers of the hearth” first.