Blue Ridge announces 19th Amendment Research Contest winners

This year’s Crouch Foundation Research Paper Contest winners are Tristan Biddix and Kaitlyn Stewart, both graduating seniors at Blue Ridge Early College. Both winners will receive a $3,000 scholarship for the college of their choice.

Students were challenged with writing a paper on “History and Influence of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” as a way to involve students in the path toward the 1920 ratification of the 19th Amendment securing voting rights for women.

Tristan Biddix along with Savannah Cohea at BREC’s 2020 Homecoming.

Biddix said it was “pretty awesome” his paper was chosen as a winner.

“I want the readers to take away that with any sort of change, the most important part is dedication and passion,” said Biddix. “Women could have never been granted the freedoms they have now if activists had not truly cared, or wanted change. This translates to anything in life.”

From left are Charlotte Sherill and Kaitlyn Stweart at BREC’s Winter/Spring Athletic Banquet in May 2019.

Stewart said she is honored and proud of herself for winning.

“I just think the topic is really cool and interesting to learn about how women struggled in those times and what they had to do in order to stand up for themselves and other oppressed groups/people at that time as well, I just hope that others would feel the same,” she said.

Marsha Lee Baker, a former director of WCU’s writing and rhetoric program, chaired the Judging Committee. Other Committee members included Albert-Carlton Community Library Head Librarian Serenity Richards, historian and current Cashiers Rotary President Dr. John Barrow, and Cashiers historian and genealogist Jane Nardy.

“Although many of the planned 19th Amendment Celebration events have been cancelled or rescheduled, we are pleased that we were able to complete this contest and recognize the fine work the students at Blue Ridge are doing” said Linda Benge, 19th Amendment Centennial Celebration Co-chair and Educational Coordinator.

Stewart focused her essay on the Seneca Falls Convention, a women’s convention in the United States in 1848 aimed at reforming women’s rights.

“Learning about Seneca Falls was important to me, they stood up for themselves,” she said.

Stewart credited the small environment at Blue Ridge with her success.

“I have a close relationship with the teachers, even my teachers from Pre-K,” she said. “Blue Ridge is more like family than friends.”

Biddix said that the highlight for him while writing his essay was learning about the persistence it took to get things done for the 19th Amendment and also praised the small-supportive environment at Blue Ridge.

“I could be me and do my best work, teachers are always available to help and will give you the freedom to work ahead,” he said.

Stewart will be attending Southern Wesleyan University this fall and Biddix plans on pursuing higher education at a later time.

The George E. Crouch Foundation is a private foundation headed by G. Edward Crouch V, son of George E. Crouch, an avid environmentalist who spent many years summering in Cashiers. At one time he owned a good bit of Whiteside Mountain, which was later protected in perpetuity through a favorable sale to the U.S. Forest Service.

“My father had a deep connection with the Cashiers community, and our Foundation is very pleased to support the students of Blue Ridge School through this educational opportunity,” said Edward.

The Cashiers 19th Centennial Celebration is a project of the Cultural Enrichment Task Force of Vision Cashiers, Inc., a nonprofit organization whose mission is “Improving Cashiers…today”

Pictured at the top of the article is a dinner last week at the Cedar Creek Club honoring XIX Amendment Contest winner Kaitlyn Stewart. Biddix was unable to attend. From left are Ann Austin, XIX Amendment Commemoration Committee Member; Dr. John Barrow, Contest Judge; Kaitlyn Stewart, XIX Amendment Essay Contest Winner;  Kristy McCall, Blue Ridge School Early College English Teacher and Contest Faculty Adviser; Linda Benge, XIX Amendment Commemoration Committee Co-Chair.

Article and photos by Brian O’Shea
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Tristan Biddix essay:

The ratification of the 19th amendment is crucial for America; the option for women to vote allowed for a multitude of opportunities that may not have been present before the amendment. Leaders of the women’s suffrage movement worked to gain the rights that should have been granted during the formation of America. It was an enormous step in helping to make men and women equal, but there needed to be more laws and amendments enacted to help women become equal, and future laws would grant women a voice in their country. Through protests, marches, and conventions, women such as Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and other determined women, the road towards an America where all people are represented was being paved.

In the years leading up to the ratification of the 19th amendment, many women began questioning the fairness of the American system, where white males were granted freedom and opportunity, while women were forced to be maids, housewives, and expected to not have their own opinions. In 1840, two women by the names of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott were stopped from going to an anti-slavery convention in London because of their sex, so they instead held their own Women’s Convention in the United States.

Women had already began attempting to reform women’s rights laws in the 1830’s but nothing major had sparked. This convention would eventually lead to the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848, drafting a document named, The Declaration of Sentiments, which stated the goals and aspirations for the movement. Three hundred people showed up to take part in the convention, but the first day was exclusively for women, and men were allowed on the second day.

This convention is one of the most important moments of women’s suffrage history, and there would be regular convening in the future. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony founded the National Women’s Suffrage Association in 1869, and was heavily focused on earning women the right to vote as well as a variety of reforms that would make women more equal to men. The NWSA was based in New York, where the Seneca Falls convention also took place, and they began their own newspaper which covered a plethora of topics such as marriage and divorce, sex rights, etc. So, the NWSA was considered extremely radical when compared to the American Women’s Suffrage Association, which only focused on gaining the right to vote for women.

While the formation of the NWSA was going on, Wyoming passed a law granting women over 21 years old can vote. The law passed on December 10, 1869 by a republican governor. Susan B. Anthony even stated “Wyoming is the first place on God’s green Earth which could consistently claim to be the land of the free!” Utah followed suit in 1870, and Washington and Montana enacted similar laws in the 1880’s.

Marches and protests are a crucial part of change in America, and there is no doubt that women used them to help their cause. Women all over the world had begun to start fighting for their rights with some success and some failure. Getting women to come together in large numbers and march for their rights was symbolic and showed how determined and dedicated they were. The 1913 women’s suffrage parade in Washington D.C. was the first civil rights demonstration in the capital, and it attracted more than 5,000 protesting women.

The protest was one day before the inauguration of President Woodrow Wilson and it drew national attention, the protest was the first of its kind in America. It would only be seven more years until the nation passes the 19th amendment in 1920. After the 19th amendment, women still faced heavy discrimination in the workplace, and were still expected to be housewives and other stereotypical gender roles. But the leap forward by women’s suffrage movements started the changes necessary for women to be independent in America. In fact, it helped nearly 26 million women to begin to help shape America and have their rights protected.

The political power that women gained helped lead to changes such as the legalization of abortion, contraception, better education, and small steps to help discrimination against African Americans. The representation of the American women population means that many issues in America could be dealt with by the population as a whole, instead of just the men. Many things stayed the same though, African American women were heavily discriminated against and often barred from voting.

The changes for women were slow and would take years for the effects to be enforced properly and effectively. Job opportunities were not on par with the men of the country, and women were not paid equally for the same job a man is doing. Women could still get jobs but a man would still be chosen over a woman. It would be another fifty to sixty years until women would receive legislation to prevent women from being discriminated against, along with the necessary civil rights laws to allow women of color to vote and not be stopped by voting blocks such as literacy tests, fear tactics, and a copious amount of other methods used to block people of color from voting.

The representation of women in America meant many things: it meant that women were one step closer to equality with men, it meant that the country moved closer to a true representative republic, it meant that woman gained power, and it meant that women had new opportunities.

Changes also included the recognition of women as citizens, which should have been included as part of the 14th amendment. Women became a crucial part of the work force, especially in World War Two when men were drafted to fight overseas. Symbols of strong women such as Rosie the Riveter became a widespread call to arms for women to join the work force. Women began earning economic freedom and power and ultimately their independence.

Reproductive freedom would take another 50 years after the ratification of the 19th amendment with Roe v. Wade in 1973, earning women the right to choose what happens with their baby. The road of equality has had many setbacks, legendary moments, and everything in-between, but America has improved immaculately. From Susan B. Anthony to Lucretia Mott, women’s suffrage has been led by some of the most determined women in history. They fought for the future generations of America and will forever be honored for their hard work in securing the rights of women.

The 19th Amendment was crucial for women having a voice in government and politics, along with exercising the rights outlined in the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Kaitlyn Stewart essay:

The leading causes of ratification of the 19th Amendment and the early women’s rights movement

Although there were many events that led to the early women’s rights movement and the passage of the 19th Amendment, three specific turning points acted as the tipping point for the acquisition of women’s voting rights. These turning points included the Seneca Falls Convention, Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire, and signing of the 15th Amendment.

These events took center stage in national politics and allowed women to use them as leverage in their demand for civil equality. Beginning with the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848, influential women began advocating for religious, social, and civil aspects for themselves and other women alike. The leading ladies involved in the Seneca Falls Convention included, but were not limited to, Elizabeth Caddy Stanton, a women’s rights powerhouse who was the locomotion and powerhouse behind the Seneca Falls Convention; Lucretia Mott, an antislavery and women’s rights activist; and her sister Martha Wright, who was an advocate and ran an Underground Railroad station in Auburn, Alabama for runaway slaves. Prior to the Convention, Stanton became tired of the mundane routine of being a “stay at home mother” and decided to mobilize a group of other long provoked women and begin planning the Seneca Falls Convention.

It was at this point when Stanton wrote the manifesto for the convention, stating that the purpose of the Convention was to “discuss the social, civic, and religious conditions and the rights of Women.”

This purpose statement soon became the Declaration of Sentiments that described and stated the demands and grievances of women. This Declaration encouraged women to fight for, as constitutionally guaranteed, their equality and rights as women regardless of their personal goals or status in society.

For example, the Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self- evident; that all men and women are created equal.”

This statement was written almost 75 years before the Seneca Convention began and its presence in the Declaration of Sentiments helped to assert a sense of equality in politics. In addition, this Declaration exposed the issues that women were facing within their careers, education, religious practices, and even within their family life. Based on the rights stated in the Declaration of Independence, the women of Seneca Falls formed their own Declaration of Sentiments beginning with a list of the nineteen “abuses and usurpations” that were destined to deteriorate a woman’s confidence.

Women were kept from obtaining multiple roles in society. Women were given inferior roles in the church, being denied the ability to purchase and own their own property, subjected to confiscation of the wages they earned, denied education and even denied the right to vote, which was even given to “the most ignorant and degraded men.”

Next came the 11 proposed resolutions (which demanded that women be treated as equals, regarding a lessening of force and authority), all of which were passed with the exception of one: women’s right to vote. At Seneca Falls, Stanton and the well-known African American abolitionist Frederick Douglass gave passionate speeches in defense of the proposed resolution mentioned in the Declaration of Sentiments.

In order to obtain the right to vote, women understood that they would first have to fight for voting rights for African American men in order to pave the way for free suffrage for all. In 1870, the 15th Amendment was finally ratified allowing for every citizen of the United States to have an equal opportunity to vote without any exceptions on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

Though this was a huge step forward for African American men, women of every age and race were still left to keep fighting for their constitutional rights. It would take another 50 years before the 19th Amendment would finally be ratified and women would be given the right to vote in 1920. Leading up to the ratification of the 19th Amendment, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire emerged as a contributing event that simultaneously led to outrage and political influence towards women receiving the right to vote.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory could have easily been considered a sweatshop with its nearly 500 people, densely packed into the factory building, working up to, and sometimes over, 12 hours a day.

On March 25, 1911, the factory went up in flames on Saturday afternoon a fire broke out in a bin of cotton scraps. With no sprinklers or working hose on the floor, the fire quickly spread throughout the building. With only one very small fire escape, it was almost impossible for more than one person to get down at a time.

In addition, the four elevators in the building only held a maximum of 12 people at a time. Out of those four elevators, only 1 of them worked and was only able to make 4 trips between floors before completely breaking down. With more than 400 people still left in the building, there was little to no hope for the remaining workers. Firefighting technology at the time had not caught up to the height of the new advanced buildings and most of the ladders and hoses on fire trucks could only efficiently reach up to seven stories, which was one floor below of where the fire started.

As by-standers stood and helplessly watched the 8th floor become engulfed in flames, workers on the 9th and 10th floor panicked as they were unable to escape due to the locked doors on each floor. Out of desperation, workers on the 9th and 10th floors jumped out of the factory windows and fell to their deaths.

In addition to the workers trapped on the 8th floor and the workers who chose to jump out of the windows, many workers also died from smoke inhalation or were crushed in attempts to get out of the building.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory incident killed 146 workers: 140 of whom were young women ranging in age from 14 to 23 years old. Most of the women were Jewish and Italian immigrant workers. Just days following the incident, more than 300,000 people gathered to protest for better labor conditions and work environments.

These protests made it possible for women activists to better their work environments and propose safer workplaces for everyone in the working industry. Not only did these protests influence better and safer working conditions in the early 1900’s, but they continued to impact women’s rights legislation throughout the years, beginning with 1920 and the ratification of the 19th Amendment. In 1913 during Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration, protestors crowded the nation’s capital for the Women’s Suffrage Parade.

The same year, the Congressional Union for Women’s Suffrage, which later became the National Woman’s Party, was founded by Alice Paul. The organization was responsible for many protests and riots fighting for equal rights in front of the white house, which eventually caused Woodrow Wilson to change his view on women’s voting rights. Wilson also tied the proposed suffrage amendment to America’s involvement in World War I, increasing the role the women had played in war efforts.

When the amendment came up for vote, Wilson addressed the Senate in favor of suffrage. As reported in The New York Times on October 1, 1918, Wilson said, “I regard the extension of suffrage to women as vitally essential to the successful prosecution of the great war of humanity in which we are engaged.” Despite Wilson’s support, the proposal for the 19th Amendment failed in the senate by two votes.

On May 21, 1919, James R Mann a U.S. republican representative from Illinois made another proposal for women’s voting rights. The measure passed through the House with 304 to 89 votes for the passing of the Amendment. Just two weeks later the U.S. Senate also passed the 19th Amendment with two votes over the required two-thirds majority.

The amendment was then sent to the states for ratification. Within six days, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin decided to ratify the amendment. Following behind on June 16, 1919 Kansas, New York and Ohio has also passed the ratification. By March of the following year, 35 states had approved the amendment.

However, this was still one state shy of the two-thirds required for ratification. Southern states were against the passing of the amendment. Regardless, seven of them— Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, South Carolina and Virginia. It was up to Tennessee to be the determining factor for woman suffrage. The state’s decision came down to 23-year-old Representative Harry T. Burn, a Republican from McMinn County, to cast the deciding vote. With Burn’s vote, the 19th Amendment was fully ratified.

On August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment was certified by U.S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby, and women finally achieved the long-sought right to vote throughout the United States. On November 2 of that same year, more than 8 million women across the U.S. voted in elections for the first time. With the right to vote, the women’s revolution carried on into the 1930’s and 40’s. During this time, women were encouraged to work while men were on the front lines fighting in World-War II.

In efforts by the U.S. Government to heavily recruit women as industry workers, Rosie the Riveter was born. Rosie quickly became one of the most successful advertising techniques for industry recruitment. Following Rosie and the patriotic desire to serve their country, women soon began to enter into the workforce and eventually became huge contributors in the war efforts.

Despite the contributions of women to the war effort, they were paid half the wages men earned.

Needless to say, women played a huge role in America’s victory in WWII. Because of the high demand for women in the workplace during WWII, more than 300,000 women were given jobs in the industry producing munitions; building ships and airplanes; working in the auxiliary services as air-raid wardens, fire officers, conductors, nurses, and evacuation officers; and driving fire engines, trains, and trams.

Even though women spent years fighting for equality in the workplace and for standards of equality both politically and economically, when men returned home from the war, women found themselves right back where they had started. One woman, who had watched it go on for years after enduring through the uniformity herself and witnessing the “American Dream” madness unfold right in front of her eyes, decided that the women in America had suffered enough and that it was time for a change.

Coming out of World War II as a Jewish woman, Betty Friedan’s fight for anti-Semitism quickly sparked her interest in the issues of women’s rights and gender equality. Her works and contributions towards equality helped catalyze the Early Women’s Rights Movement and became the turning point for U.S. women’s history.

From the time she was born in Peoria, Illinois in 1921, until her death in 2006, Friedan was an activist, journalist, co-founder and 1st president of the National Organization for Women, and, more importantly, she was also a student, sister and mother. A psychology graduate from the 1942 class of Smith College, Friedan spent one year of graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley. However, she did not finish graduate school and instead decided to move to New York to become a reporter. As she began getting more involved in political issues, she ultimately unveiled the evolution of her career: she moved onto writing for multiple corporations and media sources.

Concerned with labor and union issues, Friedan’s views of women’s rights slowly emerged as she began getting involved with the rights for women in the workplace. At the age of 26, Friedan was married and moved into suburbia where she became a housewife; her career became restricted to an occasional article for a women’s magazine8 . Eventually, she began doing research for what would soon become The Feminine Mystique.

After the publication of her book, Friedan instantly hit a nerve in women (and men) throughout America. The book goes into detail on the exploration of women in and out of traditional roles in society. Throughout The Feminine Mystique Friedan touches women at their core and encourages them to seek new opportunities, regardless of the extremely confining social and economic stereotypes previously placed upon women in this time period9 . After the idealism of women had been addressed, it was clear that the book had clearly and accurately shed light on the life of the average American woman in the 1950’s and 60’s. Needless to say, The Feminine Mystique took the world by storm opening the eyes of many women throughout America and made its way into the “greatest generation in America” and helped efforts in feminism across the country.

The sudden realization and actions taken against previously discriminate and societal stereotypes led to small outbursts in the streets of America ranging anywhere from protest to industrial actions. The book also caused reactions that lead to lawsuits and demands for equality (in and out of homes and corporations).

This caused equality legislation to dominate the legal scene in the 1970’s. It was now apparent that women wanted one thing: to be treated equally. And they were willing to do whatever it took to get them there. Women had fully become aware of their lack of power as these smaller movements, along with the abolitionists, slowly started progress.

This was the first organized movement concerning women’s rights and would go down in history as the first wave of feminism in the U.S. The Women’s Rights Movement, which not only paved the way for equal opportunities and personal freedom, was also (argumentatively) the locomotive engine that pulled multiple other movements behind it.

The Women’s movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s ran concurrent to the American Civil Rights Movement in which African Americans fought for equality. African Americans also fought for their equality in the hopes of ending racial discrimination; certainly, these 2 movements shared stakeholders and helped one another generate energy and change.

Following behind was the anti-Vietnam War movement which included multiple organized protests in favor of ending the Vietnam War. Next came the environmental movement that addressed multiple environmental issue in which protestors were in hopes of the protection and overall improvement of natural environments. Lastly came the Gay Rights Movement in an effort to decriminalize homosexuality and end anti-sodomy laws.

In the end U.S. citizens were left with a new population of counter-culturists and multiple protests throughout the 1960’s and 70’s. Most of these protest overlapped each other. The movements as a whole wanted the (relative) same goal: a better life for the oppressed and those around them with equal rights protected by law. It took over 60 years for the remaining 12 states to ratify the 19th Amendment.

Mississippi was the last to do so, on March 22, 1984. In total, there were so many factors that led up to the early Women’s Rights Movement and the ratification of the 19th Amendment from the Seneca Falls Convention with Elizabeth Caddy Stanton, Lucretia Mott and Martha Wright, to the Triangle Shirtwaist factory and many other occurrences.

After Friedan’s book was published, not only did she co-found and head the largest and most effective feminist group in America, but she also helped to set the first wave of feminism into motion. Henceforth, the early Women’s Rights Movement is underway.

The movement helped push other crucial social movements into the making and took 1960’s America by storm. The mark that the Early Women’s Rights Movement had on the American Social movements and female culture of the 1960’s into modern day can never be overstated.

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