How Far the Vote Has Come in America Since the Victorian Age

Voting. It is both a sacred right and profound responsibility. It is the symbol of a free and democratic society. It is the ultimate exercise of liberty.

And yet the history of voting in America is a long and complex one. There have been enormous changes in the American electoral process since the Victorian era, but one thing has remained the same: the ballot as the cornerstone of the American ideal.

For My Eyes Only?

One of the biggest changes in the American voting system since the Victorian age is the emergence of the idea of the private ballot. For most of early American history, voting was a much-publicized process. It evolved from vocal votes in the Revolutionary era to public, signature-based ballots.

By the late Victorian era, though, an aura of sacred privacy had come to surround the vote. A man’s ballot — and in this era, it was still only a man’s ballot — was his business alone. His right to his ballot was as inviolate as his right to the other core Constitutional freedoms: life, liberty, property.

Indeed, his vote was his way of guaranteeing these fundamental freedoms. It was his ticket to the pursuit of happiness. And it was shrouded in the same reverential secrecy of the personal home or the marital bed.

Super Suffragettes

This idea of the ballot as both the guarantee and the exercise of a man’s Constitutionally-protected rights, of course, didn’t exactly sit well with all those who were denied the same privilege. For modern women, the idea of a woman having the right to vote is a no-brainer. It’s so obvious it seems unnecessary to even have to state it outright.

But for the Victorians, things weren’t nearly so easy or so obvious. The Victorian girl’s ultimate goal in life, the one toward which she would be working from the moment she drew her first breath, was to marry well and start a home and family of her own.

Once that was done, well, she was pretty much set — at least as far as any kind of public or civic life was concerned. For the typical Victorian household, shaped by traditional ideals, the man’s political voice was the voice of his household, of which he was the head. And that meant that when a man voted, he voted for his wife and his children.

To enfranchise his wife, daughter, sister, mother, or aunt was to invite potential discord within the Victorian home. It was to sow division in what should be a cohesive, harmonious unit, the men operating in their given sphere (public life) and women operating in theirs (private life).

But while the separate spheres doctrine might sound all idyllic in theory, the reality was far darker. Women’s political disenfranchisement had often devastating consequences, essentially making them “non-persons” in the eyes of the law. That meant that they faced severe restrictions in everything from accessing education to owning property and even to retaining custody of their children in the event of a divorce.    

This was the political environment in which American women of the Victorian era began to fight for their right to vote. The struggle for women’s suffrage was a long and hard one, beginning in 1848 with the Seneca Fall Convention and ending in 1920, with the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

Not So Fast

As revolutionary as the granting of women’s suffrage might have been in American political history, we still had a long way to go in 1920. Racial minorities and the poor were routinely denied their right to vote, and states came up with myriad dirty tricks to make that happen.

In the Jim Crow south, for example, tactics such as literacy tests, “poll taxes” and property tests, and grandfather clauses were used to restrict the vote largely to middle and upper-class whites. It wasn’t until the Voting Rights Act was ratified in 1965 that these exclusionary practices were formally outlawed.

But agitation for the extension of voting rights to all adult American citizens did not end there. Until 1971 and the enactment of the 26th Amendment, the national voting age had been 21. That was problematic, given that for decades, men as young as 18 were being sent to fight and die in America’s wars, with tens of thousands still being drafted to serve in Vietnam at that time.

The national enfranchisement of 18-year-olds allowed America’s young soldiers and veterans to have a voice in the government they were putting their lives on the line for. And this helped them shape the policies that would shape their lives both during and after service, such as policies related to GI housing, education, employment, and healthcare

The Takeaway

The vote is perhaps the most iconic symbol of a free society. But even in a nation founded on liberty, this fundamental human right has not been easily or quickly won. Women, minorities, the poor, and the young have had to fight for their place in our political system, for the right to have a voice and to exercise the liberty that, today, too many of us take for granted.

 

6 ‘Secret’ Google Search Tricks for Genealogy That’ll Help You Find Your Ancestors

Most of us use Google search to look for our ancestors on a regular basis. After all, once we’re done searching our favorite family history sites directly,

Check out this link for good search tips: 6 ‘Secret’ Google Search Tricks for Genealogy That’ll Help You Find Your Ancestors | Family History Daily

History Of The Christmas Wreath

2338441Wreaths are more than just decorations. If you’re driving through town during the Holiday Season, you may see a Christmas wreath on almost every front door. Most people don’t think of the rich history attached to these beautiful Christmas decorations.

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The word wreath comes from the word “writhen” that was an old English word meaning “to writhe” or “to twist.” The art of hanging Christmas wreaths originated from the Romans who hung wreaths on their doors as a sign of victory and of their status in society. Women usually wore them as headdresses as a symbol of pride, and also donned them during special occasions such as weddings. Additionally, the victors of sporting events in ancient Greece were given laurel wreaths; This tradition still being used to this day during the Olympic games in which the medals are engraved with sprigs of laurel.

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Christmas wreaths are made by twisting or bending evergreen branches into a large circle which are then decorated with pinecones and a red bow. The circle shape of the wreath is made to represent Christ’s eternal love, his strength, and the creation of new life. Evergreens are commonly used in the construction of the wreath due to their heartiness throughout harsh winters and that they denote strength as well as immortality. Christmas wreaths in the Catholic tradition had four candles – Three of purple, symbolizing penance, and expectation, and one of pink to represent the coming joy. The four Sundays preceding Christmas day are embodied by the four candles that were lit each Friday of Advent at dinner along with a prayer. Similarly to Catholic customs, traditional Pagan wreaths were also evergreen circles consisting of four candles. These candles represented the elements of Earth, wind, fire, and water. Their wreaths were typically used in rituals that would ensure the continuance of the circle of life.

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Christmas wreaths are a beautiful decoration for your home or office that can really show off your true holiday cheer. Spread that holiday spirit and buy a Christmas wreath for yourself or someone you love!

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-christmas-wreath-image11182426

– Gerry Wilson

Original Story At: http://www.wilsonevergreens.com/christmas-wreath-history/#sthash.LpdyH4E5.dpuf – Written By Gerry Wilson

Victorian Caged Grave

Although this is a bit different from what I usually post, I came upon this picture on the internet and just had to share. I have read and watched a lot on the subject of the undead and vampires, and even read about this cage over graves before. However, I have never actually seen a picture of one before and found it unique. So, I know what your asking, “so what does this have to do with this site and why is it posted?” Well, it has to do with the Victorian era and all of their superstitions and what we now know of as irrational fears.

The caged grave as seen above was used to prevent one of two things. 1: If you were to come back alive and become a walking undead then you wouldn’t be able to remove yourself from this cage and you could be dealt with. 2: If you were a vampire the same situation would apply to you.

I find death during the Victorian era to be fascinating, they seemed to have a love affair with death at least from an onlooker some 100 years in the future. Did you know that many peoples only photograph was taken AFTER they died. Yes, if you came from a poor family and you died, your family could scrape enough money together to have a memorial photo of you by yourself or your body could be “staged” to be in a family photo. This included babies and older folks and these photos were kept in a memorial album.

A memorial album was basically a scrapbook of photos of the deceased. You see, you would have photos of your loved ones, but you would also have memorial cards sent to you with the photos of the deceased person on the front announcing their death. Since everything delivered was delivered very slowly back then from one area of the country to another it might be weeks before you found out someone related to you died. This would announce their death but would give you a keepsake of their death and it would be added to your memorial photo album.

Many of these photos are sought after by collectors and can go for large sums of money. Especially sought after are entire albums, photos that are metal and those of young children and babies.

A good source of these pictures may be found at http://memorialphotosofthedead.wordpress.com/ and if you venture there please be advised as to what you will see. There are photos from the Victorian era as well as posed photos of gunned down armed robbers and pictures of famous people who have died since the Victorian era.

The Victorian era is filled with mysterious ideals and love for long forgotten traditions, still some we are using today.

Easter Egg Roll

Mark on the table, or on the floor, if preferred, with chalk, four parallel lines, eight or ten feet long, and four or five inches apart. Thus there are three narrow spaces. At the end of each space make a circle, numbering the middle one 10, and the other two, 5. The middle space is marked 3, and the other two, 1.

The object of the game is to have each child roll five eggs, one at a time, down the middle space to the circles at the ends. If the egg goes into the middle circle, it counts 10, but if it stops in the middle space, it counts only 3, and so on, counting the number of the place where it stops.

Tally is kept for each child, the one scoring the most points wins the game.