Michigan ratified the 19th Amendment a century ago

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published June 25, 2019

 Oakland County Commissioner Shelley Goodman Taub, left, joins Bloomfield Township Clerk Janet Roncelli and others to hoist the suffrage flag last week.

Oakland County Commissioner Shelley Goodman Taub, left, joins Bloomfield Township Clerk Janet Roncelli and others to hoist the suffrage flag last week.

Photo provided by Greg Kowalski, communications director of Bloomfield Township

METRO DETROIT — If Oakland County Commissioner Shelley Goodman Taub wants to have a nice belly laugh, she thinks back to some of the reasons suffrage opponents gave for why women shouldn’t be allowed to vote.

“Some of the men objecting were just hilarious. One of their reasons was that women wouldn’t be able to nurse their babies because if they took time to vote, their milk would go sour,” Taub said with a laugh.

Another reason she particularly enjoys is that, 100 years ago, women were told they shouldn’t have to worry their “pretty minds” about voting and should just leave that political mess to their fathers, brothers and husbands.

“They said, ‘If women vote, I bet they’ll start to wear pants too,’” Taub said. “Well, guess what? We’re just as beautiful today as we were 100 years ago, and yes, we wear pants.”

The road to women’s suffrage was long, trying and sometimes absurd, as history points out. But victory was won, and this year Michigan women celebrate the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing every woman the right to vote from that point forward.

Taub and municipal and county leaders across metro Detroit have been marking that achievement all year with educational events, ceremonies and general voting advocacy. After all, the best way to honor the trials of the women who came before is to not waste their efforts.

“The League of Women Voters was formed to educate this new group of voters about issues being voted on, how government works, how to vote,” said Tera Moon, a member of the LWV Oakland Area. “One hundred years later, we’re still doing that same work for everyone. We believe in the power of women to create a more perfect democracy.”

Now, that’s not to say the LWV — a nonpartisan advocacy nonprofit founded in 1920 — isn’t interested in having men on the team. But there’s something to be said for a woman’s place in the voting queue.

“Women are great problem solvers and great mediators. I think sometimes women have a little bit less ego than male politicians,” Taub said. “That’s not to say every time. I’ve certainly met female politicians with ego. But women can get a lot done.”

Michigan was the third state in the union to ratify the 19th Amendment, more than a year before the amendment was added to the U.S. Constitution.

The League of Women Voters Grosse Pointe will wait until next year to celebrate the 100th anniversary of suffrage’s national recognition. Vicki Granger, of the LWV Grosse Pointe, said the organization plans to host a few events in partnership with the Grosse Pointe Historical Society and the American Association of University Women chapters of Grosse Pointe and Michigan.

While the historical society and the AAUW organizations don’t necessarily focus on voter rights specifically, their work is in a way reliant on each other.

“Both LWV and AAUW began as women’s organizations with a narrow focus: LWV was focused on suffrage, and AAUW was looking to provide continued education for college graduates by having small meetings and study groups. Women who had a degree were able to sit and talk with other like women, yet they met in homes, likely served tea by servants who had little or no education. That’s changed dramatically,” Granger said in an email. “People often think of LWV as a bunch of old ladies sitting around sipping tea, whereas the reality is this all-volunteer organization is extremely active in addressing voter suppression.”

It’s changed so much, in fact, that Taub said she can’t imagine a time when women weren’t able to vote or contribute to public service. And despite the deep party divide that’s split the U.S. today, there is still a bond between the women — civilians and politicians alike — who know they have a duty to show up at the polls to cast their vote.

“It was pouring rain at 9 a.m. when we raised the flag,” Taub said of a ceremony on the Bloomfield Township municipal campus to fly the suffrage flag June 10. “But everyone was there together to honor that. I owe (my time in politics) to the suffragettes; you bet I do. They had a lot of guts.”