What were some challenges to women's suffrage in the early 1900s?

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mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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The women’s suffrage movement faced many challenges in the early 1900s.  One challenge was the attitudes most men had toward women.  Many men believed that women should serve in a subservient role. These men believed women should stay at home and take care of the house and the kids.  Men were supposed to be the income earner in the family. As a result, men believed women were unequal to them and should be treated this way, including with the right to vote.  This attitude had existed throughout the world for a long time, and changing attitudes is a very difficult thing to do.

Another challenge the movement had to overcome was the perception some men had that they would lose power if women got voting rights.  If women were able to vote and/or run for office, men could lose political jobs and influence. They believed if women got the right the to vote, they would want more rights.  For example, if women began working outside of the home, they might do a better job than the men might do.  Men were threatened by this potential competition, and they weren’t willing to risk losing the power and influence they had.

The women’s suffrage movement had to face competition from other reform movements.  For example, in the beginning of the 1900s, the Progressive Movement wanted to make a lot of reforms in politics, in business, and in the workplace. The question women had to face is where would their quest for voting rights fit into the overall reform movement. They had also battled this when the country was deciding to end slavery with the abolitionist movement.

Women eventually got the right to vote. However, the struggle was a long and difficult one.