WOMEN’S SUFFRAGE AND GENDER WAGE GAP IN THE UNITED STATES

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Introduction

When women started the suffrage movement during World War I, they had an intention of making their voice about voting heard. This Suffrage movement was a struggle that fought for the women’s right to vote, and run for office. The suffrage movement was carried out in different countries with the most notable being the United States and Britain. Almost a century after the movement ended, women in America today are still struggling and fighting for the closure of the gender wage gap. On average, women earn 77 cents for every single dollar earned by men. In the modern-day employment world, women still earn 83 percent of men’s earnings. It would literally take an extra 44 working days in the years for women to earn what men earned in 2015.  Despite the end of the 19th century Women Suffrage movement with a triumph, women in America today have a similar struggle but this time on sex-based pay discrimination. 

Women Suffrage and Sex-based Pay Discrimination

The Suffrage movement spanned over a period of seventy-two years since it started in 1848 and ended in 1920 with the 19th amendment. Section 1 of the amendment stated that the voting right of American citizens should not be denied on account of sex in the country.   The Suffrage movement largely granted women equal rights with men. Alice Paul the leader of National Woman’s Party (NWP) applied radical approaches such as picketing the White House to prove to Congress and Wilson to pass Woman Suffrage Movement legislation. Alice Paul efforts did not go to waste as they led to 19th Amendment which was aimed at empowering women. This Amendment was ratified in 1920 marking a substantial achievement for women enfranchising in the progressive period. Eventually, it was the local and national efforts of Women Suffrage Associations such as NAWSA and NWP that lead to the ratification of the 19th amendment. This amendment gave women the right to vote just like men. 

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In the contemporary employment world, American women get less pay than men especially in the junior levels. After a long struggle by the working class of women, President John F. Kennedy signed into law the Equal Pay Act in 1963. This act made it illegal for employers to discriminate wages based on sex. However, the discrimination is practiced 54 years after the enactment. Whatever the issues behind this discrimination, they must be addressed to bridge this gap. In a bid to fight sex-based wage discrimination, Barrack Obama, the then president on April 2014, signed an executive order prohibiting state contractors from retaliating against workers discussing personal wage information with colleagues. On the same Equal Pay Day, Obama singed another executive order requiring Labor Department to implement a regulation that every state contractor to submit remuneration data with gender and race breakdowns. These two executive orders were as a result of struggles by women to get equal rights in matters of employment. Just like in Women Suffrage, the fight for equal pay in the modern-day has several women activists in the frontline. One such lady is Lilly Ledbetter who in 2007 sponsored an Act on Fair Pay by her name. Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act gave employees a platform to sue employers who have been discriminating on wages based on race and gender. Another woman in the pay gap struggle in the contemporary world is Kangela Moore. This city safety agent won a $38 million settlement from a lawsuit she filed after realizing she was earning less than men in the same job type by $7,000 annually. Other notable women in this struggle include Betty Dukes, Rev. Addie Wyatt, and Rep. Rosa DeLauro among others. These women have set the pace for the struggle against pay discrimination based on sex which have taken many years. 

Similarly, the suffrage had frontline women who strongly supported women Suffrage. They included Carrie Chapman and Alice Paul. Carrie Chapman thought that if women proved their patriotism to society then they would push the suffrage movement further on, but Alice Paul had a little different outlook. Alice Paul was not as much of a conservative like Carrie Chapman was. Paul was a Quaker who held a PhD in political science, and a lobbyist for the National American Women Suffrage Association (NAWSA). She took her ideas to Congress, and they were shut down. This did not stop her though because she went on to take her party to the White House and begin picketing it in July 1917. Paul and her party were eventually arrested for obstruction to traffic and were put in jail for seven months. While Paul was in jail she went on a hunger strike, but prison guards eventually forced fed her. Paul did all of these things to grab the attention of someone of higher power and importance; President Woodrow Wilson. Wilson was an anti-suffrage man, but after Paul’s acts he changed his mind and began supporting the women’s suffrage movement.

In conclusion, both the 19th Amendment and the Equal Pay Act were enacted to give women equal right as men in America. In the similar way women struggled for the right to vote through the Suffrage movement, the modern day American women have been faced with a struggle for equal pay that does not discriminate based on sex. Women Suffrage remains a significant and historical political movements in America which empowered women both nationally and internationally by helping them fight for equality which granted American woman the right to vote and other federal level rights. Today’s American women just like the 19th century women are struggling to see an equality of wages across genders at the workplace. 

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  1. Agness, Karin. “Sex-Based Pay Discrimination Has Been Illegal For 53 Years.” Forbes. Last modified June 10, 2016. https://www.forbes.com/sites/karinagness/2016/06/10/sex-based-pay-discrimination-has-been-illegal/.
  2. Brown, Anna, and Eileen Patten. “The narrowing, but persistent, gender gap in pay.” Pew Research Center. Last modified April 03, 2017.  http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/03/gender-pay-gap-facts/.
  3. Crawford, Elizabeth. The women’s suffrage movement: A reference guide 1866-1928. Routledge, 2003.
  4. DuBois, Ellen Carol. Woman suffrage and women’s rights. NYU Press, 1998.
  5. Fuentes, Sonia Pressman. “Top 18 Issues Challenging Women Today.” The Shriver Report. Last modified May 21, 2014. http://shriverreport.org/top-18-issues-challenging-women-today/.
  6. Graham, Sally Hunter. “Woodrow Wilson, Alice Paul, and the Woman Suffrage Movement.” Political Science Quarterly 98, no. 4 (1983): 665-679.
  7. Holton, Sandra Stanley. Feminism and Democracy: Women’s Suffrage and Reform Politics in Britain, 1900-1918. Cambridge University Press, 2003.
  8. Kanowitz, Leo. “Sex-Based Discrimination in American Law III: Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Equal Pay Act of 1963.” Hastings LJ 20 (1968): 305.
  9. Keremidchieva, Zornitsa. “The Congressional Debates on the 19th Amendment: Jurisdictional Rhetoric and the Assemblage of the US Body Politic.” Quarterly Journal of Speech 99, no. 1 (2013): 51-73.
  10. Marty, Robin. “10 Incredible Women Who Have Fought for Equal Pay.” Cosmopolitan. Last modified 2015. http://www.cosmopolitan.com/career/news/a39008/women-who-have-fought-for-equal-pay/
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