Testimony to U.S. Congress
on the Woman’s Vote
GENTLEMEN: The National Woman Suffrage and Educational Committee desire me to express to you their heartfelt thanks for the good service you have rendered the whole woman movement by your willingness to entertain, examine, and in some instances advocate our new claim that we are already enfranchised under the original Constitution and the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments.
To you, Mr. Julian, we are especially indebted, in that while you were the first member of the House who introduced our claim to the suffrage under the form of a Sixteenth Amendment, you were in the front once more when a new issue was presented in the shape of the “Woodhull Memorial.” Your resolution asking the House “to participate in the proceedings,” by which two women citizens of the United States “might present the moral and constitutional argument in favor of the enfranchisement of the women citizens of the United States, and in support of a memorial lately reported upon by a majority and minority of the Judicary Committee,” was in keeping with every other act of your public life, a protest against injustice, a proposition looking toward perfect equality; and we thank you for it in the name of the disfranchised millions who will one day realize, as they now do not, the significance of that act.
To you, Mr. Arnell, we owe not only the passage of “A bill to do justice to the female employés of the Government,” but the first admission of women to this Capitol as citizens having common rights with the ruling class in the use of buildings devoted to the public service. In your committee-room we found not only a home, but such courtesy, such opportunity for friendly consultation with members of Congress upon subjects of deepest political importance as must forever silence the absurd charge that men and women will cease to regard the decorums of life, to interchange its happy civilities when they become equally responsible for the welfare of the State.
To other gentlemen of the House we owe thanks also for their co-operation with you in this manly service especially to General Wilson, of Ohio; to Mr. Morrell, of Pennsylvania; and General Butler, of Massachusetts, who have, as chairmen of their respective committees, offered us the use of their several rooms, in case the threats of a certain gentleman in the House should so terrify you, sir, that you should feel compelled to withdraw your most friendly offer. We have accepted the use of the Committee-room on Agriculture, leaving you, sir, with reluctance, simply because it is larger and more accessible than your room, and one so beautifully adorned by art, that our womanly tastes are daily gratified in its use.
To you, Mr. Loughridge, as the author of the minority report of the Judiciary Committee on the Woodhull Memorial, and to General Butler, your faithful colleague, we owe that most luminous statement of the historic position of women, her natural, civil and constitutio al rights, and the best method of enforcing these in the interest of the women citizens of the United States. For that report, sir, we thank you from the depth of our hearts. We claim it as our bill of rights. On that line we also will fight, not with weapons of steel, but with pen and voice and silent prayer, wrestling even till the break of day; and when at last the solemn responsibilities of citizenship shall have been laid upon us by the men of this great nation, and together we shall strive to bring justice and equality into legislation and administration, we shall not forget to whom we owe this first judicial protest in these halls against traditional misrepresentations of the Constitutional rights of women citizens of the Republic.
And, gentlemen, permit us to congratulate you all, that having secured equal rights to all men in these United States by your vote, and having welcomed the prescribed black man to a seat by your side in halls of legislation, you are now turning your attention to the women of the United States, with a firm resolution that they shall no longer be denied the rights nor excused from the responsibilities of a full citizenship.
Permit us to express the hope that in coming years you may be returned to this Capitol by the votes of grateful women citizens, enfranchised through your instrumentality; and should you be called to take upper seats here in remembrance of faithful service during this session we shall congratulate not only ourselves but our common and well-beloved country; and if, gentlemen, you should find here as colleagues some of the matrons of this Republic whose names are now being daily signed to this new declaration of fealty to human rights, we have confident assurance that you will cheerfully work hand in hand with them according to the tenor of their pledge to work with you “for the maintenance of those equal rights on which our Republic was orginally founded, to the end that it may have what is declared to be the first condition of just government — the consent of the governed.
Source: A History of the National Woman’s Rights Movement for Twenty Years: with the Proceedings of the Decade Meeting held at Apollo Hall, October 20, 1870, from 1850 to 1870, Ed. Paulina Kellogg Wright Davis, (New York: Journeymen Printers’ Co-operative Association), 1871, pp. 104-105.