Bill Haltom: Why Can't Mother Vote?
Joseph Hanover and the Unfinished Business of Democracy
This is the story of Joseph Hanover, an unsung hero of the fight for women’s suffrage, 100 years ago. Hanover, an Orthodox Jew, had fled Poland in 1895 to escape the Czar of Russia and the pogroms. This immigrant and his family found a new life in Memphis, Tennessee. As a young new citizen of the United States, he read the Constitution and became deeply patriotic about his new homeland. But he could not understand why the rights set forth in the Constitution were not extended to all Americans. He asked his parents, “Why can’t mother vote?” He went to night law school, became a lawyer and was elected to the Tennessee Legislature. There, in August 1920, he led the successful fight for the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution, giving women the right to vote. It passed the Tennessee Legislature by one vote, making Tennessee the 36th and deciding state to ratify the Amendment, making it the law of the land.
Bill Haltom is an award-winning newspaper and magazine columnist, a past editor of the American Bar Association’s ABA Journal and author of eight books.