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Oklahoma was among first states to allow women's right to vote

Today marks the 90th anniversary of women's suffrage, a decades-long struggle won by women who peaceably convinced male voters to share their power.
BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL Modified: August 26, 2010 at 9:10 am •  Published: August 26, 2010
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Today marks the 90th anniversary of women's suffrage, a decades-long struggle won by women who peaceably convinced male voters to share their power.

The 19th Amendment, which gives women the right to vote, was signed and ratified Aug. 26, 1920. But Oklahoma women had been voting for more than a year by that time.

Nationwide, the debate was heated and many people were arrested, but the movement was nonviolent, said Molly Murphy MacGregor, executive director and co-founder of the National Women's History Project.

"In order to secure the vote," she said, "women had to convince men it was in their best interest. Women did everything they could, from having parades to lobbying to expressing (their views) husband to wife."

Western states were more open to the idea of women voting, MacGregor said. Rural communities were key because women often worked alongside their husbands, farming and building a homestead.

The same was true in Oklahoma.

A new society was created on the frontier, said Dr. Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society. Social norms weren't weighted down by aristocracy and wealth. Most people were new, and many were poor.

"It allowed for probably more cracks in the glass ceiling," he said. "Oklahoma has allowed for more creativity at the individual level. ... We're a state that celebrates the individual."

The debate about women's suffrage in Oklahoma came to a head before the 19th Amendment passed, said Cortney Stone, a historical re-enactor from Oklahoma City with a master's degree in women's history.

Two previous bills promising women the vote had failed in the state Legislature, but the issue was eventually OK'd to go before a vote of the people Nov. 5, 1918.

Anti-suffragists listed many reasons women shouldn't vote, Stone said.

If women could vote, they'd divorce their husbands. They'd leave their children and maybe turn criminal. They'd hide ballots up their sleeves and commit voter fraud.

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gender divide remains

American women's share of high-level political power still lags behind other nations. Women hold 17 percent of the seats in Congress — well below Europe's 22 percent and far behind the Nordic countries' 42 percent — and the major parties have yet to nominate a woman for president.

Associated press

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