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Belva Ann Lockwood - A Full Life

women amendment vote peace

Lockwood bought a twenty-room house in Washington and set up law offices on the first floor for herself and two other women attorneys. Lockwood took every type of case but specialized in back-pay claims and pension (retirement pay) A group of women marching in favor of passing an amendment to give women the right to vote. Lockwood was a devoted supporter of attaining equal rights for women. (The Library of Congress)
cases. She was never without work. She was also a popular lecturer and her articles were frequently published in newspapers and journals. Lockwood continued her life work of arguing the cause of equal rights for women, especially the right to vote (see sidebar).

Although women could not vote in national elections in nineteenth-century America, no law prohibited women from running for public office. In 1884, and again in 1888, Lockwood was nominated for president of the United States by the National Equal Rights Party. She ran on a platform of equal opportunity, uniform marriage and divorce laws among the states, temperance (opposition to alcoholic beverages), and peace. Her campaigns were unsuccessful but her nominations led to an increase in speaking engagements, which allowed her to promote her causes.

Lockwood continued working for women and equal rights as well as temperance and world peace. An early member of the Universal Peace Union (UPU), Lockwood served on the editorial board of its paper, the Peacemaker. She was also a lobbyist for the organization. In 1889 Lockwood was the UPU delegate to the first International Peace Congress in Paris where she delivered her address in French. She served as delegate at future International Peace Congresses in London, Milan, Antwerp, Berne, Budapest, and The Hague. Lockwood received many honors in addition to serving as a member on the nominating committee for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Lockwood continued to live and work in her Washington home where she maintained a thriving practice. Her most notable case came in 1906 when she represented the Eastern Cherokee Indians in a claim against the U.S. government. A treaty signed in 1835 resulted in the relocation of the tribe after the government purchased their land. The money, however, had never been paid. At seventy-five years of age Lockwood appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and won an amount several times more than the original price.

Amendment XIX

The Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution states, "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation." The amendment guaranteeing all American women the right to vote was the result of decades of effort by many people. Women and men alike worked tirelessly from 1878, when the amendment was first introduced in Congress, until its passage in the summer of 1920.

Those who championed a woman's right to vote used a variety of strategies. Besides joining others in lecturing, writing, and petitioning Congress, Belva Lockwood also challenged male-only voting in courts of law. Others used more militant tactics such as marches, civil disobedience, and hunger strikes to draw attention to their cause. All were met with intense opposition and sometimes hostility. The political balance began to change when President Woodrow Wilson supported an amendment to the Constitution in 1918. The House of Representatives passed the amendment in May 1919 and two weeks later the Senate followed. The U.S. Constitution was radically changed forever when the U.S. Secretary of State confirmed the official endorsement on August 26, 1920, and women were permitted to vote.

Lockwood continued practicing law until she was seventy-six, when ill health forced her to retire. In 1916 Lockwood's final public speech was in support of President Woodrow Wilson's (1856–1924; served 1913–21) reelection. Belva Ann Lockwood died form complications of old age on May 19, 1917. Her funeral services were held at the Wesleyan Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., and she was buried in the Congressional Cemetery. Three years after Lockwood's death, Wilson signed the Equal Suffrage Amendment into law. On August 26, 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified and women across the nation were certified to vote.

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