It’s Women’s History Month – Hurrah for The Men Who Were Allies

Discovering the history of forgotten Americans and their contributions to the Women’s Rights movement is one of my passions. Over the last 50 years, a virtual avalanche of books about women and their overlooked contributions to the nation’s history has come to light. Male allies to the movement are not so visible, and yet they were, and are, vital to creating a society with gender equality.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, two men stand out as allies by virtue of their action at a single, dramatic moment. Frederick Douglass spoke up at the first organized women’s rights convention in 1848 to give an impassioned plea for the attendees to approve a measure demanding women’s right to vote. Jump forward to the 20th century, when the final state considering ratification of the 19th amendment, Tennessee, was considering the issue in the sweltering heat of Nashville in late summer. On August 18, 1920, the youngest member of the legislature, Harry Burn, 24, from an anti-women’s suffrage district in Eastern Tennessee, changed his mind at the last vote and became the deciding factor in giving 20 million American women, nationwide, the right to vote. He held a letter in his pocket from his mother encouraging him to ratify.

But a new male ally from the 19th century is now getting his moment of recognition. Francis Minor was a steadfast advocate of women’s right to vote and own property. His wife, Virginia Minor, attempted to register to vote in 1872, based on an interpretation of verbiage in the 14th amendment that refers to voting rights for “persons” and “citizens” without reference to gender. Virginia was denied a ballot, and Francis brought a lawsuit on her behalf that went to the Supreme Court. Only men could file a lawsuit and appear in court at the time. Although they lost their case, and the women’s movement had to change tactics,Francis and Virginia remain a 19th century power couple that brought women’s suffrage rights to national awareness.

A new book has just been published, America’s Forgotten Suffragists: Virginia and Francis Minor. Author Nicole Evelina, a prolific writer of historical fiction, non-fiction, and now her first biography, brings forward these two groundbreaking activists. Francis worked diligently for years arguing for women’s suffrage and provides a stirring example of allyship.

Women’s Rights allies willing to stand with women have always been important to the movement toward securing gender equality. I applaud the men who are stepping forward today. I have seen many of them at local women’s rights events in St. Louis. And from our history, let’s appreciate and celebrate Frederick Douglass, Harry Burn and Francis Minor. May the men of today continue to borrow courage from the examples set by these historic allies.

To purchase Nicole Evelina’s book America’s Forgotten Suffragists: Virginia and Francis Minor, go here:
go here.

America’s Forgotten Suffragists: Virginia and Francis Minor

3 thoughts on “It’s Women’s History Month – Hurrah for The Men Who Were Allies”

  1. Cora L Fickinger

    Thank you, Rebecca! So much herstory I hadn’t heard or read before. Grateful I saw your Facebook invite to read your blog on Women’s History Month.

  2. So important to recognize and remember all the supporters in the movement. I knew very little about the role of these men and happily applaud them and you, Rebecca for opening eyes !

  3. This is an interesting article. So good to know of these 3 men who stood up for women’s right to vote when it was a very unpopular idea with most males. Thank you to them all. It is really hard to imagine when women were no more than the property of their husbands. Pretty scary thought to me. Thank goodness that has changed. However, we are sliding back into the dark ages with Roe being overturned. This should concern those who value a woman’s right not only to vote but to have bodily autonomy. I thank all men and women who stand up for women’s rights.

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