Women didn’t always have the right to vote.
It was not that long ago when the concept prevailed that, “the husband hath by law the power and dominion over his wife and may keep her by force within the bounds of duty.”
As late as 1860 AD, John Stewart Mills described marriage as, “the only actual bondage known to English law”, and added, “there remain no legal slaves except the mistress of every house.”
It was not until 1891 that the courts of England gave the wife the right to come and go as she pleased. “In that year, 1891, the husband’s right to use physical restraint and violence upon his wife was finally denied.”
Wives were perceived to be, “the first servants in the household. They ploughed the soil, cared for the horses, and ate after the husband who addressed them only in harsh, curt tones, even with a sort of contempt. If the horse and the wife fell ill at the same time, the horse was rushed to the blacksmith to care for the animal, while the task of healing for the wife was left to nature.”
Can you imagine that a man had, “a legal protection to chastize his wife using a rod which by law, was not to be bigger than his thumb?”
We still use the expression, “rule of thumb.”
Do you think that there are still some men left who sincerely believe that these assumed rights still exist?
Can you imagine that if wives were treated in this way, what the situation of women was like in general? We have come a long way but need to keep making progress towards equality and the exercise of mutual respect.
It was as late as 1918 when women in Britain were, by law, given the right to vote with the following stipulations: “they were over the age of thirty, were householders, the wives of householders, occupiers of property with an annual rent of five pounds, and graduates of British universities.”
There was a time when, in Barbados, in order for one to think of running for Parliament, he had to be a man, the owner of land, a priest or a university graduate.
On June 4, 1919, the US Congress passed a law (ratified on August 18, 1920) granting women the right to vote.
In Barbados, “since 1943, women have had the right to vote and are entitled to hold public office and exercise all public functions established by national law on equal terms with men.”
In 1950, by law, “persons aged 21 and over were given the right to vote without any income or property qualifications and to contest elections without any income or property qualifications.”
In 1964, the voting age was reduced to 18 in Barbados.
We have come a long way in having our God-given right to choose, whether male or female, those persons we want to govern and manage our affairs on our behalf. Imagine being 18 years old, without property or job, or even a college degree, but having the legal right to exercise your right to choose your political representative, just as those who have land, or are men who are well educated.
Don’t sit down and allow that for which our predecessors fought and sacrificed to secure go unused. Don’t ever take for granted your franchise. Get up and get out and exercise your God-given and legal right to vote. It is your legal right and privilege.
(Everette W. Howell is a retired Seventh Day Adventist Pastor)