At The Turn of the 20th Century, Women (and others) Struggled for Suffrage and Education.

Mrs. Burk, by Ptera Hunter, includes a section set during the turmoil of the early 20th century’s tumultuous suffrage movement. Her experience does not typify the women of her era. Their experiences were too diverse to be represented by one person. Instead, it gives a possible experience for a single person. The issue of differential political power is also an issue in Silent Consent by Circa24, which is set in a society where differential enfranchisement oppresses large sectors of the population

The women’s suffrage movement of the early 20th century spread rapidly in the UK, Canada, and the United States. The expansion of women’s voting rights and the often violent backlash against it are often discussed in isolation. However, women’s right to vote is intimately tied with other power issues, including the right to an education, to control their own finances, obtain housing, and practice in professions such as law and medicine. The state denied fundamental freedoms, such as the right to travel or make many personal decisions. African American women, such as Ida B. Wells and Sojourner Truth, fought dual battles for the vote, a dual activism often overlooked.

Neither were these issues limited to women.  In theory, African American men already had suffrage.  However, race-based and race-biased laws often prevented the free exercise of that right.  Even laws that, on the surface, presented as race-neutral were often designed specifically for differential enforcement and to enforce the lower-caste status of African Americans.  Vagrancy and peonage laws, for example, ensured that anyone could be arrested for not working or having a debt.  In practice, these laws were seldom enforced against Whites but were frequent weapons of terror used against Blacks. 

These laws did not just limit African American suffrage; they effectively re-enslaved people into the last decades of the 20th century. Legalized discrimination, including housing and the enforcement of predatory loans (by modern standards), strengthened the American caste system. Although Canada has affirmed the rights of prisoners to vote, imprisonment remains an effective tool of disenfranchisement in the United States.

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