The Burning Question
June 1910 — Pomeroy Christian Church, Pomeroy WA
At our next general election, which occurs in November of this year, 1910, an amendment to the State constitution will be submitted to the voters of Washington, the substance of which is:
“The right of the citizen to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State, on account of sex.”
This question was practically settled at the close of the Revolutionary War, so far as human beings in male form were concerned. Prior to this war, only tax-paying men voted in the colonies. The slogan at the time of the Revolutionary War was “Government without consent is unjust” and “Taxation without representation is tyranny.” The logic of these two principles were then, as now, unanswerable. The reason that women did not vote at that time was because they were not tax-payers. When a woman married, all of her property passed into the possession of her husband. Then he became the tax-payer and voted. But conditions have changed. The law now permits woman to own property, hence she is a tax payer. What is taxation? It is the confiscation of private property for public purposes. Now can any one give a plausible excuse for men tax-payers to confiscate the private property of women tax-payers for any purpose whatever, and without her consent?
In the recent revolution in Finland, women shared with men the burdens of war, and when victor was won, their reward was political freedom equal with men. Not so with the loyal women of the American revolution. Our foremothers stood shoulder to shoulder with our forefathers, sharing with them all the burdens and privations of war, but when victory was won , they were denied political rights. They didn’t agree with Lincoln, who said, “I go for all sharing the benefits and privileges of government, who assist in bearing its burdens, by no means excluding women.”
Many persons, not realizing the hardships of the woman wage-earner, say, “Why do they not change their condition?” How like a certain foreign ruler, who during the food riots, when the people were crying for bread, asked, “Why do they not eat cake?”
But since no question s ever settled until it is settled right, we have this question ever before us. It may take on a new form, but it will not down.
We have, in America, an economic struggle, and it is the women who are in the throes of this warfare, because they form an important Brigade in the industrial army. Millions and millions of women are fellow workers and fellow suffers with men. They are obliged to work, if they live, for less than a decent wage.
It has been conceded by all students of labor and expressed by the Hon. Carroll D. Wright, U.S. Commissioner of Labor, “that man’s wages have not been raised for the reason that a woman’s wage can be forced down.”
Think of the thousands and thousands of poor, overworked women we have in our homes today, who receive no wage. They do not come to our back doors, asking for bread, neither do they drink nor gamble their money away, but they work late and early to keep their children together. Do you ever think of what an unusual think it is to see a woman tramp? But someone will say ,”All women do not wish to vote.” Honorable John D. Long, ex-Secretary of the Navy, said, “If one man or woman wants to exercise the right to vote, what earthly reason is there for denying it, because other men and women do not wish to exercise it?”
The women of Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Idaho vote, and the Governors of these States have accepted positions on the Advisory Board of our Campaign Committee. Governor Brady of Idaho says, “I know that if you can only get the information before the people, as to what the real benefits of equal suffrage are, that the intelligent citizens of Washington will not hesitate for a moment to grant the womanhood of your state that which is their by every natural right — the ballot.”
Governor Brooks of Wyoming says, “Women vote as freely as men, and seem to possess an inborn intuition in political matters, which aids them materially in arriving at correct conclusions. Politics in Wyoming are discussed around the fireside, as they should be in every State.
Governor Spry of Utah says to the women of Washington: “if the men of your State will not let you vote, come to Utah. We will let you vote, and be glad to have you. With the experience Utah has had, we should not think for a moment of returning to the male suffrage system.”
Governor Shafroth of Colorado says: “Do women want equal suffrage? Ask the women of Colorado. More than eighty percent of them voted at our last election. Submit the question to those who have tried it, and scarce a corporal’s guard will be found to vote against it.”
Judge Lindsey who was reelected last year as judge of the Juvenile Court of Denver on an independent ticket is a careful student on all such matters and his conclusions after fifteen years of experience are exceedingly valuable. He affirms that it has accomplished more good in Colorado than the fondest adherent ever predicted.
We ask that if you have a prejudice against it to free your mind of it at once, for the women in those four free states are no better and deserve no more than your wife or mother.
You know the employer cannot make suitable laws for the employed; neither can man make and execute just laws for women, because the rights of every human being are the same, because in each case the one in power fails to apply the unchanging principle of justice to any but those of his own class; because government without consent is unjust!
The burning question is can we win in Washington? The answer to that question largely depends upon what the laboring man will do for the cause. If he will make this cause his very own we know we will win.
Please do begin to discuss this question in your unions. Be sure that he understands the relation between woman suffrage and his needs.
If you are willing to assist please let us hear from you!
Source: Winning the Women of the West: The Life of Suffragist Emma Smith DeVoe, by Jennifer M. Ross-Nazzal (Seattle: University of Washington Press) 2011, pp. 185-187.