Our current political climate is flush with talk of women's rights and what some call a "war on women." But few legislative acts have ever been as condescending to women as the amendment submitted by Illinois Rep. William E. Mason to give property-owning "widows and spinsters" the right to vote [source: U.S. House of Representatives].
To be fair, Mason may have thought he was helping. After all, it had been four decades since Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and other suffragists gathered at Seneca Falls, New York, to discuss women's rights — including their desire for the right to vote — and little progress had been made on the issue. It would be an additional three decades before the 19th Amendment gave all women the right to vote, so at least this proposal would allow some women to vote, right? [source: History.com staff]
Well, that's true, but the real problem with this amendment was the underlying logic. In the all-male minds of Congress, only "widows and spinsters" needed the right to vote because married women had their husbands to represent their interests (insert eye roll here). That reasoning didn't sit well with Stanton who half-jokingly testified before Congress that these single women were "industrious, common-sense women ... who love their country (having no husband to love) better than themselves." The amendment never gained much traction, maybe because the congressmen were afraid of what their wives would say [source: U.S. National Archives].