The Fight is On Again
February 24, 1919 — Mass rally for the “Prison Special,” San Antonio TX
Women picketing the White House with banners; women burning the President’s words on liberty abroad; the watchfires flaming continually; the bell tolling every time the President makes a speech on democracy. An amazed and dazed country wonder what it all means and why we do it. Let me try to answer clearly. The National Woman’s Party carries out these demonstrations for three reasons:
To secure action in congress on the suffrage amendment when action has ceased. To center the attention of the country on the situation of the amendment. To show plainly that President Wilson and the Democratic party are responsible for the failure to pass it.
Have the demonstrations achieve these ends? Combined with simultaneous political action in many States, they certainly have. The record of results for one year — and a year when the country was absorbed in the great war — is as follows:
The President came out for the amendment, the House of Representatives passed it, both political parties endorsed it, and we gained all but one of the sixty-four votes necessary to win in the Senate. Through all this time the demonstrations went on. Could political action alone achieve these results? No, we might get one vote or two votes and still the party leaders would not have allowed suffrage to come up for action. The demonstration created on the President a situation absolutely untenable. Three times a reluctant Senate was forced to deal with the matter. The first time we lacked three votes, the second time, two, and the third time, one vote. The demonstrations made suffrage a matter which could not be ignored.
We expect the amendment to be reintroduced again. There is till time for it to be passed before March 4. The responsibility is upon every man and woman who believes int eh right of self-government to make the demand for this great measure of justice so insistent it cannot be longer denied. . .
While there is one day left of the present session, American women demand that the Untied States Senate reconsider and pass the Federal amendment, giving them the right of self-government.
They demand that our President gather his political forces for a determined fight to put the suffrage amendment through Congress before March 4.
The amendment lacked three votes June 2, when it was brought before the Senate for discussion. It lacked two votes on October 1, when it was acted upon by the Senate. This week it lacked only one vote.
It is inconceivable that this great democratic measure, which has successfully passed the House, should be allowed to fail by one vote in the upper chamber.
It is an affront to American women, who, in their millions, gave their devoted service to the Nation in its war “for democracy,” and it is a disgrace to our country in the eyes of the world, which has been invited to look to American [sic] for liberal leadership, that our Government should defeat a bill to put an end to the existing political servitude of millions of its citizens.
Every American owes it to the country to make a desperate fight to save the suffrage amendment, and bring this Nation up to the level of all the other great English-speaking democracies of the world.
We can do it, we have only to demand it. There is not a man in the Senate who will not yield to a determined onslaught from his constituents.
President Wilson and the Democratic party are in a very unhappy position, and they know it. They have come very close to handing over this vast issue to the victorious Republican party to make use of it in any way that best suits its own interests.
But they can recover it. They have only to call all their Senate members together, use their majority to make this Democratic amendment a Democratic measure, force into political outlawry the men who oppose justice, and deny them party support at the polls, as they have done many times before when they were in earnest about the Nation’s business. Does any one doubt that women could make them do it , if every woman in the United States who believed in political equality would express her belief by as much as one cable to our absent President, now preaching freedom to the benighted Europeans? We demand that it be in this Congress.
[She pointed out that] a great opportunity to gain the vote of the coming enfranchised women will be won by the Republicans unless the Democrats pass the woman’s suffrage bill at this session of Congress.
It was not woman’s suffrage alone that lost on February 10 when the amendment was defeated by one vote. The Democratic party lost an opportunity. By their failure to make this issue their own — an issue worth tens of thousands of votes now that more than ten millions of women in the United States have franchise — they handed it over to the Republican party to use when and how it pleased for its own advantage. It was due to the Western and southern States voting together that the Democrats were returned to power in 1916. As long as this alliance continues Democrats will continue to be sent to Washington — no matter how the heathen rage — meaning the Republicans.
President Wilson realizes the importance of this issue. Unfortunately, however, he thinks that shadow will take the place of substance, that a reputation for being for the amendment will be as satisfactory to women as effective support.
He has never shown greater ability in winning the ardent support of reformers and at the same time playing politics with their legislature and defeating its accomplishment than in his dealings with the Federal suffrage amendment. He voted for suffrage in New Jersey in the referendum campaign after the campaign was known to be lost. The vote did not help suffrage but it was worth many votes to President Wilson for the Presidential campaign.
He spoke for Federal suffrage in the Senate just before the defeat of the amendment on October 1, but he did not change a single vote and later he went into the State campaigns and worked for anti-suffragists against suffragists.
The Federal suffrage amendment does not complicate the race problem. There are south of [the] Mason and Dixon line more than six million more white women than negro women and more than two million more white women than negro men and women combined. After the passage of the suffrage amendment the States will have the same right to impose upon voters any qualifications whatever just as they now have with the exception that when women have measured up to the standard the State has set for women, [they] shall not be excluded from voting simply because they are women.
The suffrage amendment has been reintroduced. The fight is on again. Every man and woman who believes that governments derive their just power from the consent of the governed ought to help now by letter, telegram, petition and resolution to the President and the Senate to put this long-delayed measure of justice through Congress before it dissolves on March 3. There is time if only everyone will help.
Source: San Antonio Evening News, February 24, 1919, p. 8.