The history of the United States includes numerous reformations. These transformations came in various areas - such as social, economic, political, and cultural - and demonstrate the greatness of the American way of life. Many of the changes came after the Civil War and brought much turmoil as they worked their way through society. This essay will discuss revolutions in voting rights, education, and technology as well as the cause and effect of each and how they impact this author.
The first reformation is the right to vote. This right seems to be taken for granted by many Americans today because the number of voters going to the polls is not what it once was or what it should be. This is a sad situation because the majority of citizens in past years had to exercise great patience and make many sacrifices in order to acquire this right, a right that seems to be no longer appreciated by many Americans. In the 1790s only the elites or land-owning white males over the age of 21 years were allowed to vote, but by the 1830s this right was extended to the common man or any white male over the age of 21 years of age regardless of his wealth. However, the right was still denied to males of other races and to all females.
Even though Abigail Adams asked her husband John Adams in 1776 to “Remember the Ladies” while he was writing laws for the new nation, the suffrage movement did not actually get started until 1848. Women fought for suffrage for more than 70 years before they reached success. The first amendment for women’s suffrage was introduced in Congress in 1868 with a second effort made in 1878, but both attempts were unsuccessful. When the protesters could not obtain the right to vote on their own, they lobbied to be included in Amendment 15 giving this right to all males in 1870. This idea did not work, and women continued to fight for suffrage until after the end of World War I. Congress finally agreed that giving women the right to vote would be good for the country and passed Amendment 19. It was ratified in 1920 giving all Americans the right to vote regardless of sex.
Even though Native Americans were considered to be citizens of their various sovereign tribes and not as US citizens, thousands of them fought for the United States during World War I. After the war citizenship in the United States and the right to vote was given to them by the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924. Even though African American males were given the right to vote in 1870, Blacks continued to experience difficulties in voting in southern states. The restrictions on all African Americans were eliminated by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
When the Vietnam War was raging and thousands of young men were dying for America, protesting young adults insisted that they were old enough to vote if they were old enough to die for their country. As a result, Amendment 26, ratified in 1971, gave the right to vote to all Americans who are 18 years old or older. Finally, in the 1980s the states eliminated long waits required by some states before new residents could exercise their right to vote. The common denominator in all the above cases seems to be the lack of willingness to trust the important business of voting to classes of people who were considered less trustworthy or incapable of using good judgment. Through great reforms the United States now has the widest base of voters that it has ever had. This base could become wider because there are demands for sixteen-year-olds and even non-citizens living within the United States to be given the right to vote.
This writer was unaware that women fought for so many years to receive the right to vote. She is grateful for the efforts of the many suffragettes who battled so long and for the opportunity that she now has to be included in the process of selecting local, state, and federal leaders. She remembers the first time that she voted in a presidential election. She had been 21 years old for a few years by the time that she voted in 1968, the year that Richard Nixon became President of the United States. She actually remembers going to the poll and marking her ballot. She takes her responsibility as a citizen seriously and has voted in every Primary Election and every General Election since 1968. She is adamant about encouraging family members and friends to exercise their right to vote and teaches the rising generation to appreciate their many rights and liberties.
The right to education followed on much the same path as the right to vote, but it did not take as long to trickle down to the masses. Education was once reserved for wealthy families who could afford to hire tutors to teach their children. However, this practice began reforming once common men were given the right to vote, and civics was the reason behind the change. Leaders in the nation wanted to “ensure that all Americans had the skills, knowledge, and values to be effective citizens,” to allow every child to reach their potential, and to “equalize access” to education. This first applied to men and boys, but it later changed to include women and girls.
In 1846 Horace Mann was in the forefront of advocating for free public education because he believed that every human being had “an absolute right to an education.” He was a great believer that education “is the great equalizer of the conditions of men” and that it could eliminate poverty and bring general prosperity to the nation. It was not long before free public education became compulsory education that expanded throughout the nation. Primary education prepared the way for more education, and women’s colleges opened after the Civil War to offer the benefits of higher education to women. The opportunity to gain further education enlightened women suffragettes and spurred them to greater action in their fight for the right to vote.
Free public education brought great outcomes for this writer who was born approximately 100 years after Horace Mann advocated for free public schools. School districts were organized, and schools were well established by the time that she started first grade. Without the opportunity to attend kindergarten, she was excited to start her educational adventure and shared the news with everyone she saw. The free public schools launched her into a lifetime love for learning, and she became a diligent learner. She continues to this day to love learning new material and gaining new ideas. She is truly grateful for the right to education and the efforts of all those who make it available to her. She knows for herself that education is the way out of poverty and into a better life.
Technology is the third reformation to discuss in this essay. The reformation in technology began in the industrial age and slowly increased. “In 1850, the US had less than 10,000 miles of railroads; by 1910, this had risen to 250,000. Steam replaced sail. Transportation costs nosedived.” The electrical and electronic advances in technology in later years have literally changed the world in many areas and particularly in media and communication. Radio and film gave advertisers the ability to reach masses of people, and television increased this capability. Changes in technology continue to come on an ongoing basis with one example being a new iPhone being developed every year or so.
Merrill J. Bateman gave an address entitled “Nothing Shall Be Withheld” at BYU-Idaho in May 2007 about promises made to Joseph Smith while he was in the Liberty Jail. In one of his darkest hours Smith asked the Lord to remember him and his fellow saints, and his prayer resulted in a remarkable revelation. This revelation includes a promise that great knowledge would come to the inhabitants of the earth through the power of the Holy Ghost and that “nothing shall be withheld” from mankind. Bateman says that this promise includes secular knowledge as well as spiritual, and he supports his statement by quoting from two authors who studied historical events – Stephen E. Ambrose and William J. Bernstein.
Ambrose explains in his book Undaunted Courage that in 1801 everything moved at the speed of a horse, but by 1850 locomotives moved much faster by steam engine. Bernstein says in his book The Birth of Plenty that “not long after 1820, prosperity began flowing in an ever-increasing torrent.” Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints know that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ opened the heavens to mankind when They appeared to Joseph Smith in 1820 to usher in the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Bateman says that saints today “are living the miracle” and seeing the promise of the Lord being fulfilled. “It is interesting that the world is just beginning to understand what has happened, but still does not perceive the Source. The technological inventions and discoveries of the last 170 years are a clear witness that our Father in heaven and His Son deliver on Their promises.” The blessing of having the heavens open once again brought an explosion of both spiritual and secular knowledge, the likes of which was not known previous to 1820.
This author is affected by the many advances in technology and in various ways. The cell phone helps her to communicate with loved ones and friends quickly, often, and with little expense. It enables her to access the scriptures and other sources of spiritual light immediately whenever desired. The internet and computer make further education possible for her by accessing online classes and communicating with instructors and other students. Other technological advances make rapid travel possible and home comfortable for her.
The reformations in voting rights, education, and technology are just three of the many changes that came to the United States since the Civil War. The multitude of transformations in various areas enabled the nation to become the leading economy in the world in both production and prosperity. The social, economic, political, and cultural revolutions did not come without problems, but they brought many advances to improve the American way of life.
Note: Many of the ideas in this post came from printed materials from my class on American history and from the following sites that may or may not be accessible to the general public.
Gale. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. “Public Education Is Central to Democracy.” Accessed December 8, 2018.
Gale. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. “The New Economy Is No Different than the Old Economy.” Accessed December 8, 2018.
Gale. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. “The Nineteenth Amendment.” Accessed December 8, 2018.
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