white feminism is rooted in white supremacy
by Irene Sanchez
The Southwest Political Report
1848. Seneca Falls. Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. At the same time the borders crossed Mexicans in the U.S. Southwest, white women issued a “Declaration of Sentiments”. These efforts to ensure the white women vote were led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucrecia Mott at the convention that began on July 19, 1848 at Seneca Falls, white women declared, “Now, in view of this entire disfranchisement of one-half the people of this country, their social and religious degradation—in view of the unjust laws above mentioned, and because women do feel themselves aggrieved, oppressed, and fraudulently deprived of their most sacred rights, we insist that they have immediate admission to all the rights and privileges which belong to them as citizens of these United States”.
1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. All Mexicans within these territories were declared to be U.S. Citizens, yet denied the right to vote through a series of measures including racism, literacy tests, property requirements, violence and intimidation. Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which is officially titled the Treaty of Peace, Friendship, Limits, and Settlement between the United States and the Republic of Mexico was signed on February 2, 1848. Article VI of the treaty states, “The Mexicans who, in the territories aforesaid, shall not preserve the character of citizens of the Mexican Republic, conformably with what is stipulated in the preceding article, shall be incorporated into the Union of the United States. and be admitted at the proper time (to be judged of by the Congress of the United States) to the enjoyment of all the rights of citizens of the United States, according to the principles of the Constitution; and in the mean time, shall be maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty and property, and secured in the free exercise of their religion without; restriction”.
February 2, 1848. Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
July 19, 1848. Convention at Seneca Falls.
Perhaps the timing was a coincidence, but the facts say otherwise. Leading up to this moment in time like all else in history did not happen in isolation. These events were grounded in Manifest Destiny as the ideology perpetuating that it white people’s God given right to be supreme and spread this ideology from sea to shining sea.
When it came time for the suffrage movement to gain national support, they faced challenges that needed reassurance by white men. President Taft told the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) that he couldn’t support suffrage because “undesirable classes” may then become constituents. What did the NAWSA do then? They fought for themselves and in doing so upheld white supremacy. In 1889, at the NAWSA Cady Stanton was quoted as saying “That danger lies in the votes possessed by the males in the slums of the cities, and the ignorance of the foreign vote which was sought to be bought by each part, to make political success. There is but one way to avert the danger—cut off the vote of the slums and give it to the women”. (Quoted from Womens Jorunal 1894 by Kraditor, 1968;261, by Cotera 1980 in Chicana Feminist Thought by Garcia 1997).
Later Cady Stanton gave testimony to the House Committee on the Judiciary in 1896 and presented the view of drunken, illiterate, newly arrived immigrants trading votes for bribes while the respectable white woman remained deprived of her right to vote and so this led Cady Stanton to develop educational qualification and literacy tests for voting. At the NAWSA Convention in 1893 a resolution was passed that stated, “Resolved, that without expressing any opinion on the proper qualifications for voting, we call attention to the significant facts that in every State there are more women who can read and write then the whole number of illiterate male voters; more white women who can read than foreign voters; so that the enfranchisement of such women would settle the vexed question of rule by illiteracy, whether by home-grown or foreign-born production” (Kraditor1968;200, as quoted by Cotera 1980 in Chicana Feminist Thought by Garcia 1997).
These were many in the suffrage movement who upheld white supremacy including the first woman senator, Rebecca Felton who said “When there is not enough religion in the pulpit to organize a crusade against sin; nor justice in the court house to promptly punish crime; nor manhood enough in the nation to put a sheltering arm about innocence and virtue—-if it needs lynching to protect woman’s dearest possession from the ravening human beasts—-then I say lynch, a thousand times a week if necessary.” August 11, 1897
Carrie Chapman Catt, a suffragist who was also the founder of the League of Women Voters said, “ White supremacy will be strengthened, not weakened, by women’s suffrage.”
Many white feminists of this time could not stand the idea of voting alongside Blacks, Catholics, or non-English speaking foreigners. There were also some white women who were outside the suffragist movement who did advocate for the rights of immigrants and workingwomen like Jane Addams, Florence Kelley and Emma Goldman, but their work had little impact on the suffragist movement. The suffragist movement was not just racist; it was anti-immigrant, anti-poor, and anti-labor.
The 1920s were a time when white women had the right to vote at the same time that Mexicans were continued to be disenfranchised as the previous promises of the Treaty of Guadalupe were never fulfilled and Mexicans had become landless while fighting for survival. In entered the era of mass deportations with the Mexican repatriation where the U.S. government forcibly deported about 2 million Mexicans (including those with U.S. citizenship and legal residency). This happened between 1929 and 1936 due to panic and propaganda claiming Mexicans taking jobs. Operation Wetback in 1954 deported more than 1 million people.
2016.. Donald Trump the new president elect is calling to deport up to 3 million people immediately upon taking office. That is the amount of people deported under the Mexican Repatriation AND Operation Wetback combined. During the campaign he called Mexicans “drug dealers and rapists”. He said Mexicans were “bad hombres” and he was going to build a wall, secure the borders, and created panic that Mexicans and immigrants overall are taking jobs and destroying the country. He overwhelming won the white vote despite yes a white woman running for president. There was confusion about that, but if you know history there is no confusion. Trump not only won the vote of white men, but white women as well. Make America Great Again is upholding what they have always upheld before all else-Make America Great Again is white supremacy and so are the roots of white feminism and the suffrage movement and this country. In these times that is critical to understand that there is no surprise the outcome of the election is what it is now, and that we who collectively stand for justice must continue to fight racism and fascism under this new administration now more than ever before.
Image: American Progress by John Gast
white women leading the way for manifest destiny