One of the most esteemed parts of the United States Constitution is the Nineteenth Amendment, which reads:

“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

This will sound like a good idea to the vast majority of people at the time of this writing. Most people would agree that laws which prohibit women from voting are unfairly discriminatory and that a constitutional amendment was necessary and proper to prevent such practices. But the matter is not that simple. Let us examine why extending voting rights to women was a mistake and consider a better alternative.

In the words of Frédéric Bastiat, “The worst thing that can happen to a good cause is not to be skillfully attacked, but to be ineptly defended.” There have been many arguments made against women’s suffrage which can now be clearly seen to constitute an inept defense of restrictions on voting at best and baseless misogyny at worst. The following list of such arguments is not exhaustive, but includes the most common arguments which were made.

  • The argument that women and men have ‘separate spheres’ was generally true in ages past, but is much less true today. (Whether societal changes in gender roles over the past 150 years are positive, neutral, or negative developments is outside the scope of this article. We shall concern ourselves only with the nature and effects of these changes here.)
  • The argument that women should not vote because they do not serve in police or military forces and would thus be making decisions to which they would not be directly subject is no longer valid because women do serve in police and military forces today.
  • The argument that most women have no desire for the vote is empirically false; in United States presidential elections, female voters have outnumbered male voters in every election since 1964 and voter turnout percentage has been higher for females in every election since 1980.
  • The argument that introducing a female element into an imperial electorate would weaken the central power in the eyes of people living in the colonies is invalid on two counts; the age of colonialism has ended and women’s suffrage was achieved earlier in most colonies than in the colonizing empires.
  • The argument that women are inherently inferior to men is impossible to measure objectively and therefore impossible to prove.
  • The argument that women are already represented by their husbands fails for any woman who is not married to a man.
  • The argument that women’s interests are safe when men wield political power and women do not is too absurd to take seriously.
  • The argument that women have a vast indirect influence on politics through their influence on the men in their lives is true, but this indirect influence is no match for direct wielding of political power.
  • The argument that women are emotional creatures incapable of making sound political decisions is an unwarranted generalization. Many men also make unsound political decisions.
  • The argument that women are naturally conservative and would cost left-wing parties victories in elections is empirically false; since 1980, more women than men have voted for Democrats in United States elections.
  • The argument that the role of women is in local affairs is countered by several of the above observations.

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