Why Can’t Moth­er Vote?: Joseph Hanover and the Unfin­ished Busi­ness of Democracy

  • From the Publisher
September 1, 2019
This is the sto­ry of Joseph Hanover, an unsung hero of the fight for women’s suf­frage, 100 years ago this sum­mer. 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 of 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.

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