The Role of Women in Healing America
W. Cleon Skousen. The Role of Women in Healing America. Published in The Constitution magazine, November 1985 – from a speech presented at the national convention of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs in Salt Lake City, Utah, on September 9, 1985.
I count it both a pleasure and an honor to address this important convention, which represents 11,000 federated women’s clubs having 500,000 members in the United States and almost 10 million members worldwide.
My topic is the role of women in the political process.
This topic is particularly appropriate for the region in which you are meeting today, because it was in the western part of the United States that the right of American women to participate in the political process first began.
How It All Started
In 1869, women in the newly created territory of Wyoming became the first women in the United States to win the right to vote. This was fifty-one years before women were given the right to vote throughout the country. Meanwhile, Colorado gave voting rights to women in 1892, and both Utah and Idaho gave women the right to vote in 1896.
Susan B. Anthony began to recognize how important it was to have women participate in the political process when she began her crusade against slavery and alcoholism. She therefore added women’s suffrage to her agenda of reforms as early as 1852. By 1878 she was able to induce a Senator from California to introduce a resolution in Congress calling for an amendment to the Constitution which would give women throughout the United States the right to vote. At the time nothing came of it, but in 1912 Theodore Roosevelt advocated such an amendment when he ran for the presidency. Charles Evans Hughes did the same when he ran for President in 1916. Finally, President Woodrow Wilson went before Congress in September 1918, and pointed out the important role of women in the war effort and recommended that an amendment be adopted giving women the right to vote. Public reaction was highly volatile on both sides. Even some women believed it was a mistake for women to vote since their husbands had traditionally voted for the entire family. They considered it dangerous to alter the established order. Nevertheless, the crusade continued and the tempo increased. Suffragettes picketed the White House, staged hunger strikes, and held massive parades and public rallies all over the country.
Finally Congress capitulated and passed the amendment for women’s suffrage on June 4, 1919, and sent it to the states for ratification. To everyone’s amazement, it was adopted by three-fourths of the states by August 26, 1920 — one of the fastest ratifications in history.
What Women’s Suffrage Was Expected to Do
One of the major planks in the suffragettes’ platform was the promise that, if women were given the vote, they would “clean up politics.” That promise did more to gain support for the Nineteenth Amendment than any other single factor.
Men thought that as soon as the Nineteenth Amendment was adopted, women’s suffrage would go through the political system like a fresh breath of clean, pure air. Unfortunately, not much has happened so far.
Maybe it isn’t really important whether the voter is male or female, but rather how much that person knows about the issues, and how well that person understands the American philosophy of freedom, prosperity, human rights, and the proper allocation of political power.
Perhaps one of the most neglected areas of education in America today is the failure to teach our children, as well as ourselves, the original American success formula. That formula allowed less than 6 percent of the earth’s population to become the richest, freest people in the world. Of course, when we stopped studying the formula, our prosperity started to decline. Neglect always leads to erosion, and erosion leads to decay. Obviously, America today is still the envy of the world, and millions of the earth’s starving or disadvantaged people would walk, crawl, or swim to cross over our borders. Nevertheless, our great country is not as great as it would have been had we adhered to the Founding Fathers’ formula. Much restructuring needs to be done, and I see the women of America in the forefront of that era of much-needed reform which must come soon.
The Founding Fathers’ Original Success Formula
I can think of no greater contribution which the federated women’s clubs could promote for the welfare of this, or any other nation, than to initiate a program of self-education in each of the clubs to do two things:
First, to make yourselves intimately acquainted with the Founders’ philosophy of freedom, prosperity, and personal security.
Second, to educate the members on the nature of the problems plaguing the nation — in fact, plaguing the world — and learn how the Founders’ success formula would help solve those problems.
At the National Center for Constitutional Studies we develop courses and textbooks which can be used by both the general public and the schools. Our high school/college text, which just came off the press, represents over fourteen years of research and writing. It is called The Making of America: The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution.
We want to share with people the exciting adventure of those forward-looking men and women who inhabited this land over two hundred years ago and who wanted to create a system of government for the first free people in modern times. When the Constitution was finally written in 1787, it represented 180 years of study and experimentation, trial and error, brainstorming and debate.
The Constitution of the United States is a precious jewel, but for most people it is an unknown quantity. It is a historical heirloom locked in a glass case in the National Archives building in Washington, D.C. It has been our earnest hope that we might help expose the content and meaning of that document to the minds and hearts of this generation so that we might tap its resources and understand how the Founders would solve the problems plaguing us.
Actually, the Founders anticipated nearly all of these problems and wrote a Constitution which was designed to prevent them from occurring. Unfortunately, beginning in the late 1880s, there emerged several powerful groups of men who thought we had outgrown the Constitution. They initiated a series of so-called reforms which the Founders had already warned us would not work.
Just as the Founders predicted, these experiments proved either counterproductive or totally disastrous. It is now time for Americans to get back to the drawing board and correct our mistakes. If we all work together, this will not be difficult. It is just simply a problem of all of us giving it a top priority in our very busy lives.
The Constitution Bicentennial
In 1987 we will celebrate the bicentennial of the signing of the United States Constitution. What an ideal time to prepare now for a series of lessons in each of the women’s federated clubs to gain an appreciation of the real meaning of this great document, and to learn how we have damaged our society by wandering away from its precepts.
Unless we understand the Founders’ remarkable formula there is a great waste of time in aimlessly grasping for solutions. It reminds me of some of the debates in Congress where they argue over whether two times two equals seven or five. Once you get the Founders’ perspective, you begin to realize the futility of debating the relative merits of two wrong answers.
Think of the phenomenal consequences in building a stronger America if all the service clubs launched a series of courses on the Constitution in preparation for its 200th anniversary on September 17, 1987.
Where Women Could Take the Lead
Let me suggest a number of areas where the future welfare of our nation requires that we educate ourselves and develop some kind of consensus before our problems become more aggravated than they already are.
First, monetary reform. The American people have completely lost control of their money system. The framers of the Constitution intended that we should have an honest money system, not one that could be manipulated by private financial interests into a continuous series of boom-and-bust cycles every seven to ten years.
Second, Social Security. This system was defective from its inception and is not only bankrupt, but has now become so politically explosive that politicians are afraid to even suggest possible options. The National Center for Constitutional Studies published a report demonstrating that a privatized system would not only provide much-greater benefits to the retired, unemployed, and disabled, but that within a dozen years the government could be virtually out of the security business, thereby eliminating one of the most costly tax assessments in American history.
Third, public welfare. The people of the United States are among the most compassionate people in the world, but they have one of the worst delivery systems for charity that has ever been contrived. The fact that the nations of Europe and the Communist bloc use the same system is no excuse for us to copy their mistakes. It is said that we pay enough taxes for social welfare to give every legitimately poor family in the United States about $37,000 per year. The only problem is that the majority of that money is eaten up by the delivery system. The poor get only a trickle while layer upon layer of bureaucrats eat up the rest. The Founders warned that we should provide a ladder to get the poor out of their predicament, not adopt a system of perpetual dependency which institutionalizes the poor as clients of a defective welfare system. Some people complain that it is hard-hearted to speak of welfare reform, but to consign people to a perpetual poverty status is cruel and unusual punishment. Benjamin Franklin called it counterproductive compassion. The Founders described a better way.
Fourth, our defective bankruptcy law. The voluntary bankruptcy law as it presently exists is an escape hatch for those who often commit legalized fraud. This law is abused so often by the same people that Congress had to pass a law restricting the number of times an individual can declare bankruptcy to once in every six years. In the midst of the 1981-82 recession thousands of perfectly sound, well-managed companies were forced to the wall because of the domino effect of those who rushed into bankruptcy and robbed these companies of their accounts receivable, which were assets and constituted their principal base of credit at the bank. When these bankruptcy assets were wiped out by orders of the bankruptcy courts, many well-managed companies were forced to take out bankruptcy themselves. This action resulted in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs.
Fifth, our foreign affairs. We have an ambivalent policy when it comes to foreign affairs. The Founding Fathers had a concept of foreign policy which minimized compromising alliances and emphasized separatism (which is not to be confused with isolationism). This concept has been grossly misrepresented by those who have preached for forty years that the United States ought to be the policeman of the world. They have wanted to involve the American people in every foreign quarrel and international crisis. Because of this misguided perspective, most nations in the free world have become so dependent on us that they will neither pay their fair share of the expenses, nor cooperate to any great extent in deploying defensive missiles already paid for by the American taxpayer to protect them. The problem is further complicated by the contradictory U.S. policy of joining with our allies in extending loans and releasing all kinds of modern, state-of-the-art technology to the Soviet Union, and then turning around and spending hundreds of billions of dollars trying to defend ourselves against both the nuclear and the conventional weaponry which the Soviets have openly boasted they will eventually use to conquer us.
The Critical Need for Tax Reform
Finally, let me conclude by saying just a few words about the Founders’ philosophy on taxes. They never expected that the American people would be saddled with the expense of being the policeman of the world. Nor did they contemplate that the federal government would ever get involved in so many multibillion dollar projects which lie completely outside of the twenty powers delegated to the national government by the Constitution. For these reasons they were expecting that except in time of war, federal expenses would be so low that most of them would be paid out of duties on foreign imports.
In connection with the taxing power, the Founders set up the Constitution so that there would never be any direct taxes against the incomes of the people, as we now have. They said direct taxes are impossible to assess fairly and impossible to collect equitably without abusing the unalienable rights of the people which are guaranteed in the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. Our experience with the enforcement of the Sixteenth Amendment has demonstrated the accuracy of their prophecy.
Furthermore, we learned that once the rulers of the people acquired this unlimited power to tax, they not only abused this power but they developed such a voracious appetite to “tax and tax, spend and spend, elect and elect” that, after they had spent everything they could extract from us, they began plundering and squandering the next generation’s inheritance.
Thomas Jefferson said it is immoral for one generation to build up an enormous national debt and then pass it on to the next generation. Today, the American people have a greater national debt than all the rest of the countries of the world combined. It is obvious that the big spenders in Congress have no intention of paying off this gigantic debt during this generation. They intend to pass it on to our children.
And why are we running up these tremendous deficits every year? It is because we are spending money we don’t have to do things the federal government was never authorized to do.
Of course, the answer to all these problems is political rather than economic. That is why there is such great hope for the future if we can just mobilize ourselves effectively. The task is first, getting Americans to become informed, then getting them involved.
At the present time the National Center for Constitutional Studies is not only providing texts and instructional courses on the Founding Fathers’ success formula, but we are also preparing a series of classes called “The Healing of America.” There are solutions to every one of the problems I have mentioned. Our task is to do just what Susan B. Anthony did — get the women to understand the issues and then mobilize them in each of the states so that they can generate the necessary political action to bring about the change. I have every confidence that the women of today can make the Nineteenth Amendment mean something. Every time you women have made up your minds to move unitedly on an issue, the course of events has been changed. I know that if the General Federation of Womens Clubs decides to give these needed reforms a high priority in each of the states, something very exciting could happen. And if the Founding Fathers were here, I think they would say from the bottom of their hearts, “Thank you!”