Select Page

The Rights and Interests of Women

July 8, 1896 — Committee on Resolutions of the Democratic National Convention, Chicago Coliseum, Chicago IL


Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen of the Committee on Resolutions:

I scarcely expected when I heard the cause of Woman Suffrage presented at St. Louis to the Republican Convention, that I should be forced to protest against it before your honorable body; for it was distinctly stated at that time that the suffragists either were, or were willing to be, Republicans; and that women suffragists everywhere, had worked to save the country from what they then termed “Democratic and Populistic misrule.” This fact is substantiated by the plank that they succeeded in getting into the Republican platform; which was written by a prominent suffragist, was approved by all of the suffragists present, and which runs:

“The Republican party is mindful of the rights and interests of women. Protection of American industries includes equal opportunities, equal pay for equal work, and protection to the hoe. We favor the admission of women to wider spheres of usefulness, and welcome their co-operation in rescuing the country from Democratic and Populistic mismanagement and misrule.”

And now they ask you, who they claim have mismanaged and misruled the country, to give them the franchise that they may still further work against you. If they were honest in their wording of the Republican plank, then they would have no right to appear before you; if they were not honest, then they certainly have no right to appear, because one of the reasons fro which they ask the franchise, is that they intend through it to purify politics; and if this be the manner of purification, it must be based on the homeopathic principle of Similia Simiibus Curantur.

You know enough about politics, gentlemen, to take at its true value the assertion that women, by voting, could change the existing condition of things. But if they could, would you want your wives or your daughters, your mothers or your sisters, to take active part in the primaries and caucuses, at the polls, and even in the conventions, for the purpose of making them what it is claimed that would be social centers/” and after politics were purified by women, who would purify the women? Is it not true that womanhood would suffer more than political morality would gain? And while the purification is going on who is going to do the home work, and the charitable work, that now so fills the lives of good women that they are often overburdened, and break down beneath the strain? It is to build up homes, not to break down their walls, and quench the light under the hearth stone, that women’s best energies should be directed.

Mrs. Stanton-Blatch, daughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, said in a published article, that it was better to let home suffer in order that women should gain economic freedom. “Let the women” she said, “who have not the taste for domestic work turn their children over to other women’s care.” We have too many servant mothers to-day; and the true duty of woman to woman, as well as to man, is to encourage and upbraid the home life from which we are so sadly drifting; and it is only as women yield themselves to the elevating and purifying influence of Christian teaching concerning marriage and home, that they rise to a higher moral level, and bring men up to that plane with them.

I appear before you unwillingly; but as the representative of the many millions of women who have hitherto proved the “silent majority.” I come from New York State where there are only 1600 enrolled suffragists out of nearly 7,000,000 people, or 29 organized suffragists to every 100,00 of her population. I have also been asked to represent the home-loving women of Massachusetts where there are but 51 organized suffragists to every 100,000 of her people; of Pennsylvania where there are only 14 organized suffragists to every 100,000 of her population; of New Hampshire where there are but 5 suffragists to every 100,000 of her inhabitants; of Connecticut where there are only 23 suffragists to every 100,000 of her inhabitants; of South Carolina where there are but three suffragists for every 100,000 of her people; of Arkansas where there are only three suffragists to every 100,000 of her people; besides being asked to speak by women of prominence in California, where there are but 33 suffragists to every 100,000 of her people; in Illinois where there are but 13 suffragists to every 100,000 of her people; in Michigan where there are only six suffragists to every 100,00 of her people; in Kentucky where there are but 32 suffragists to every 100,000 of her people; in Iowa where there are only six suffragists to every 100,000 of her people; in Virginia where there is but one suffragists to every 100,000 of her people; in Maryland where there are only six suffragists to every 100,000 of her people; in Maine where there are but 12 suffragists to ever 100,000 of her people; in Ohio where there are only 11 suffragists to every 100,000 of her people, and in New Jersey where there are but eight suffragists to every 100,000 of her people. All these requests coming to me unsolicited.

These statistics are taken from an address delivered by Mr. Catt, husband of the National Suffrage organizer, before the National Society, at their inaugural meeting last January; and published in the Woman’s Journal, the suffrage organ edited by Henry B. Blackwell, — better known as the husband of Lucy Stone, — and his daughter, Alice Stone Blackwell. I make this statement so that it may not be subject to contradiction by anyone present.

What are the reasons given for asking you to help the cause of Woman Suffrage?

First; That women who pay taxes should have a ballot. In answer we assert that the women who pay taxes do not want the ballot. That taxes are not conditioned upon the right to vote. That there is no discrimination against women in taxation. That taxation is the price the citizens pay for the protection of their property, their life, their liberty. That may men are taxed who have no vote, — the wealthy minor, and the man who living in one town owns property in another. That the woman who pays taxes will receive no benefit from the ballot which will not be an hundred times counteracted by the ballot of the women who do not pay taxes. That what is needed for the benefit of the tax-paying woman is not an increased but a restricted ballot. That while there are in New York State 144,000 women who pay taxes, there are at least 1,500,000 women who do not pay taxes; and the granting of suffrage to these women would more than duplicate the evils from which the tax-payer now suffers.

Second: That when women have the ballot, they will be employed constantly and at higher wages. The answer is shown in the fact that men vote and are not unemployed. That no employer is going to pay an increased wage because the employee has the franchise. That while there are, as in the factories everywhere, long lists of girls waiting to be employed at nominal figures, no employer is going to raise the pay of his employees because they ask an hour off to vote on election day.

Third: That the cause of temperance will be helped when women vote. I admire the women who are working for temperance, and wish them God speed, but feel perfectly sure that they are mistaken if they expect to be helped by the granting of suffrage to all women North, South, East and West. Statistics tell us that while the population of the United States has increased but 20 percent in the last two decades, the dram drinking and drug taking women have increased 500 per cent. The Christian Advocate is my authority for the statement that before the high license law in Philadelphia, Penn., out of 8,034 saloon license 3,696 were granted to women. In Boston, Mass. Last Spring, out of 1,100 liquor license 491 were applied for by women. The same condition of things prevails nearly all over our country. Would these women work for prohibition?

Les us look carefully at what is asked for: “Equal pay for equal work.” That sounds equitable and consequently reasonable. But if the question of wagers were to become a matter of legislation, would you be willing to say to the already overburdened and unemployed workman that you believe that his wages should be cut down to those received by women? For it is a fact beyond dispute that the wages paid is always a question of demand and supply; and women have entered nearly every field of labor once a man’s sole province; and, by being willing and able to work for lower wages than men, who have families to support, have crowded them out. Now if equal wages for equal work means anything at all, it means that no man shall be paid more for his work than the women are begging to receive. For instance, if that law could be passed and enforced, the merchant could say to his male employee that he could fill his shop with girls at half the price he was paying him, and while he preferred keeping the man at the higher rate, he must either discharge him or lower his wagers to that which women were asking to receive. But the whole thing is a farce. You do not ask, in fact, I doubt if any of you care, how much the workman is paid who makes your clothes. I know that women do not; otherwise they would not haggle over prices, and gloat over bargains. This is hard common-sense. It isn’t poetic or imaginative. It is more, it is truth, and you are here to deal with truths and not with fallacies.

The number of votes cast at the general election in 1892 was 12,034,858. To grant suffrage to women would be to more than double that number. Do you believe that at this time, if at any time, when industries languish, and our farmers are being pushed to the wall, while our bankers and merchants go into bankruptcy, that it would be wise to add this immense increase to the voting population?

The facts for the suffragists to prove are that suffrage is necessary for the protection of women, and that it would be beneficial to the State. They have not and cannot prove either. To-day in New York State, and in many of the other States, a woman is protected better by the laws that men have made, than by any she could make herself. A husband cannot sell his real estate unless the wife joins in the deed. He cannot deprive her by will of rights of dower. The wife can by deed or will dispose of her entire estate, real or personal, whether the husband consents or not. A father cannot now apprentice his child or make a valid appointment of a testamentary guardian without the consent of the mother, if she be living. The wife can carry on business on her own account, and is entitled to all the profits and earnings in that business, and may contract as if she were unmarried. Every profession is open to women, and every occupation also. Then what do they want, what will they gain by having the ballot? If men are not capable of managing their affairs of the State and the Nation according to the highest and best ideas of the race, that is of both men and women, will you permit me to respectfully inquire what proper and adequate share of this world’s work you can perform? What is your natural place in the order of society? Are you mere hewers of wood and drawers of water? You cannot bear citizens; you cannot care for them in infancy and rear them to manhood. If you cannot govern them with wisdom and justice when they are given into your hands, what is your reason for being? It strikes me that these women who want to retain all the privileges of their sex, and secure besides those, all that they think a man has; who want to be men and yet remain women; have much hardihood in coming to you and saying: “You do not know how to make laws; how to govern the people; you are corrupt and misrule the nation. Give us the suffrage that we may supplant you.” And they say this not for themselves alone, but for all the women in this great nation, North South, East and West, without regard to education or morality! They are to purify politics!

Gentlemen, a large number of the leaders of the suffrage party became a revising committee to give to the world what is known as the Woman’s Bible. At the present time they have only dealt with the Pentateuch. I need only to quote from its columns to show you its character. It is said: “The utter contempt for all the decencies of life, and all the natural personal rights of women, as set forth in these pages: — the Bible — “should destroy in the minds of women, at least, all authority to superhuman origin, and stamp the Pentateuch at least as emanating rom the most obscene minds of a barbarous age.” The story of the creation is said to “have been manipulated by some Jew in order to give heavenly authority for requiring the woman to obey the man she married.” When it was found that the Christian women all over the land raised their voices in protest, at the National meeting of the suffragists, it was voted to repudiate the Woman’s Bible as a suffrage wok, but only by a majority of twelve. They then cast the onus of revision upon Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who is more to be honored for her truthfulness, than are the many women whose names are found among the revising committee, and who betray their leader. Nearly as many of the articles are written by Little Devereux Blake as by Mrs. Stanton; and the character of
them will be seen when I tell you that she covers much space to prove that “the chief point of interest in the parable of Balaam and his ass, is that the ass belonged to the female sex.”

These are the women who are going to give us better laws than those founded on the Mosaic code, and who are gong to purify politics! Do you wonder, gentlemen, that the mothers appeal to you; the mothers who have builded their homes upon the truths laid down in the Bible; and who have taught you to reverence it? There is little enough of reverence left in the world to-day. Take away from men and women that belief in the Bible that causes them to strive to do right for righteousness sake, and what have you? History tells you.

The suffragists speak of what has been accomplished by woman suffrage in a hazy sort of way. Let us have facts:

Cheyenne, the capital of Wyoming, where women have voted for a quarter of a century, has a population of less than 12,000. I am told that in Cheyenne there are 25 licensed gambling houses, and that saloons are as numerous as any other kind of stores; and it has been officially stated that not a single act of legislation aimed at the betterment of the human race, has been passed in Wyoming through woman’s influence. Gen. Thompson, who managed the Democratic campaign in Wyoming, in 1892, said: — “The women’s vote is the easiest thing in the world to get, and the easiest thing to keep, and the easiest thing to manipulate of any element in politics.” After six months residence in Wyoming, divorce may be obtained for any one of eleven reasons!

The history of woman’s influence in the legislative halls of the other States where woman suffrage obtains, is not a glowing tribute to their intelligence or probity, and has been in existence too short a time to be given as precedent for the States East and South. The partial suffrage referred to is also a thing not to be boasted of by the women who desire the suffrage. The record of the Massachusetts vote is that in Boston in 1888, 20,252 women registered in the interest of school suffrage, and most of them voted, for it was a warfare of religious sects; a Protestant and a Roman Catholic fight, such as would appeal to most women. The next year the number of women registering was reduced nearly one-half. In 1891, 6,008 women registered and 5,428 voted. The same thing was tried in Connecticut and not two and one-half percent of the women entitled to vote exercised that right. Do you imagine for a moment that they would do better if a full franchise were given them? Who are the women who would go to the polls in stormy weather? I do not need to prove to you gentlemen that the women who would vote “early and often” are not the women to whom you would trust the ballot in case of need.

It has been stated to you that I have no right to claim that I represent 1,500,000 women of New York. It has also been stated that 400,000 women of New York had signed the suffrage petition. The truth of the matter is, gentlemen, that two years ago when the suffragists made an effort to strike out the word “male” from the Constitution of New York, Miss Susan B. Anthony promised to offer a petition signed by 1,000,000 women of New York; and with that end in view, the suffragists canvassed New York State with that energy for which they are noted. I would not be surprised to learn that no one woman over 21 years of age had escaped having been tried to be cajoled or coerced into signing the petition. The result was a failure so great that they abandoned the idea of getting the women to sign, and so they asked men to come to their help. They paid for signatures sometimes as high as three cents. In one town there were sent in the signatures of more women than there were women in the won, over 21 years of age. They did not succeed even then; so they claimed to have the signatures of 200,000 members of the labor organization, and 50,000 grangers through their respective secretaries. Many members of both of these organizations have denied since then having known of the petition, and also denied having any sympathy with the woman suffrage movement.

They claimed also 75,000 W.C.T.U. members. I have personal friends who are members of the W.C.T.U. and who are bitterly opposed to the granting of suffrage to all classes and conditions of women.

But allowing for the sake of the argument that all these persons signed the petition, they then only claimed 426,000 names; as reported at the time. I quote from an article written by one of the leaders after their defeat before the Constitutional Convention. “We have 200,000 women’s names encircled by the great arms of labor and clasped together by the strong arms of the farm”, which is poetic at least, but which only claims 200,000 women.

There are 7,000,000 of people in New York State. It is fair to believe that one-quarter of that number are women over 21 years of age, that is 1,750,000. The truth is, that there are several thousand more women than men in New York State. But granting them those figures, I lay claim to only those women who refused to be enrolled as suffragists, when I say I represent 1,500,000 women of voting age in New York State, who do not desire to have suffrage thrust upon them. I am sorry to take up your time to prove my assertion: One more fact and I will close.

The Anti-suffragists have not tried to organize until recently; and then only because we were forced to protest against the cry of this very small minority that claimed “women to not oppose suffrage even if they do not ask for it”. In the city of Albany, N. Y., in one month’s time 8,320 women signed the anti-suffrage protest. This will give you an idea of the feeling of the women. In this number were nearly every tax-paying woman in Albany as well as women who worked for their daily bread. On my return home from St. Louis, I was delighted beyond expression when I went into one of our largest dry-good shops to have one of the women clerks thank me for the position I had taken at St. Louis, and before I left the shop every girl in the department had expressed her thanks. One of them them said: “We signed the suffrage petition; we did not understand what it meant; but when we did we signed the anti-suffrage protest. When I marry I expect to get a husband who can be trusted to make the laws that are to protect me and my children, and until that time, my father will look out for me better than I could for myself.”

It is said by the suffragists that I represent women who are slaves; and that we boast of our bondage. Well, gentlemen, if it is to be save to be a woman in this part of the 19thcentury, in the United States of America, where women are so protected by laws made for them by men, that they may enjoy every privilege a man enjoys without annoyance or effort; where men toil from morning till night to provide the women of their households with the luxuries of life as well as it necessities; where ninety-nine men stand ready to chastise the one man who may dare to insult a woman; where nothing that the womanly women ask for legally is denied them by men; then I am proud to belong to that class of women whom the suffragists dub “slaves” ; and it is in the name of these women who are living the lives God intended them to live, whose even wholesome existence in the charm of youth, in the bloom of maturity, and in the calm decline of age, proves the wisdom and beneficence of the Creator, — your mothers, your wives, your daughter, — I ask you not to embody in your platform any resolution, that even by the greatest strength of imagination, could convey a belief that you approved of and favored woman suffrage.



Source: Pamphlets Printed and Distributed by the Women’s Anti-suffrage Association of the Third Judicial District of the State of New York, Albany, NY, January 1, 1905.