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This New Attitude

March 3, 1917 — Opening speech, Convention dinner, Joint Convention, Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage and the Woman’s Party, Washington DC


We are here to celebrate the National Woman’s Party! We celebrate no less the mother organization which may seem to die in giving birth to her child. But the Congressional Union can never die. It will live on as long as women are capable of gratitude to women; which will be, I hope, always.

The Congressional Union has experienced a brief but brilliant career. Four years ago a great idea lay buried in a committee. The average suffragist had never heard of the federal suffrage amendment. To the general public it was totally unknown. Four years ago a group of women, or shall I say two women — I judge by the applause that I had better say two women — brought    that great idea out into the light. They made it at matter of vital discussion Time went on. They made it a matter of violent discussion. They made it  political issue. They pushed it out from Washington  into New  York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, across into Ohio and Illinois, across the Mississippi into the middle west, across to the far west and the Pacific Coast, to California and Washington State. From Washington Washington, from a committee to a political issue — one would say it could not be done; the Congressional Union did it!

The Congressional Union did more than this. It created a new spirit.

Before Alice Paul had graduated from college, — we had a suffrage spirit in those days too — we used to be so anxious to please, so pleasant and ineffective, so frightened and smiling. O, the good old days when Alice Paul was still in college! Where is the anxious fear we used to see at every legislative hearing? Has it disappeared from off the face of the earth? Not at all. You see it still at every legislative hearing, only now that fear is on the faces of the legislators.

If you could gather up Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, Anne Martin, Mrs. Belmont, and send them all to Siberia, the Congressional Union would live on in all of us who are here tonight, in thousands of women who are not here. This new attitude of the woman who respects herself and her cause is unquenchable.

The Congressional Union did this. It did more than this. It created a new methos. The remarkable thing about this method is the way it retards suffrage. When the pickets stood before the White House the first thing I heard, — even before I read about them in the newspapers — I heard, “the Congressional Union has put bac suffrage twenty years.” And when the women let down their banner in Congress, in that quiet lady-like way to which no reasonable person could really object, again I heard the same comment, “the Congressional Union has put back suffrage twenty years.” And when we introduced the partisan method into our politics it was prophesied that we had put back suffrage fifty years.

Fifty, plus twenty, plus twenty equals ninety. If we believe our critics the suffrage movement by these three methods has been pushed back to the days before Miss Anthony. Now I ask you frankly, are we back in the days before Miss Anthony? Shall we believe our critics or our own eyes? For we plainly see that in the life-time of the Congressional Union suffrage has gone forward by leaps and bounds; every dramatic act has accelerated its progress.

The things that are said against us should not be interpreted with too great literalness. People use words so differently, it does not do to take the literal words. Try to get the meaning behind the words. When people say we are putting the movement backward perhaps it is the only way of expressing how much they hate to see it go forward. Their pessimistic prophecies sound to us like Hymns of praise that prove the Congressional Union method a success.

Do not be influenced by our critics. They stand with their backs to the future looking to the past for a precedent, and standing so, they cannot read the signs of the times. Turn them right about face. Convert them, every one of them. It can be done. The National Woman’s Party is doing it.



Source: The Suffragist, March 17, 1917, p. 5.