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Congressional Testimony
on the Woman’s Vote

January 24, 1880 — Committee on the Judiciary, US House of Representatives, Washington DC


Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the Judiciary Committee:

The women in the State of Indiana who want to vote doubtless number many more than you imagine upon hearing the name of the Hoosier  State. In Indiana the cause of woman has made marked advancement, and there some have advantages over their sex in other States. At the same time we realize — and as mothers especially we realize it — that we need the right to vote, in order that we may have protection. We need that right as one indispensably necessary to our security in the enjoyment of other rights. We need the ballot because through the medium of its power alone we can hope to wield that influence, in the making of laws affecting our own and our children’s interests, to which we claim to be entitled. Therefore, I have come from the State of Indiana to give utterance to the voice of the mothers among the women of that State, in behalf of their petition for the right to vote. 

Some recent occurrences in Indiana, one in particular in the section of the State from which I come, have impressed us more sensibly than we were ever before impressed with the necessity to us of the exercise of this right. We want to vote that we may be permitted to earn our bread. The particular incident to which I refer was in the town of Muncie, Indiana, from which I come, a young girl, of some twenty-one years, who for the past five years had been employed as a clerk in the post-office, and upon whom a widowed mother was dependent for support, was told, on the first of January, that she was no longer needed in the office. She had filled her placed we; no complaint had been made against her, and it was not intimated that her place was a super numeracy one. She very modestly asked the post master as to the cause of her discharge, and he replied “We have a man who has done work for the party, and we must give that man a place; I haven’t room for both of you. I must take your place away from you and give it to that man.” Now, there you have a once the reason why we want the ballot; we want to be able to do something for the party in a substantial way, so that men may not have this to tell us, that they have no room for us because we do nothing “for the party.” I want this young girl, and all the young girls, and all the mothers in Indiana, to be able to do something for “the party” in Indiana, by means of which they can show they have the power to protect themselves in earning livelihoods. When they have the ballot, women will work for “the party,” as a means of enabling them to hold places in which they may get bread for their mothers and for their children, if necessity requires this of them.



Source: Index to the Miscellaneous Documents of the House of Representatives for the Second Session of the Forty-Sixth Congress, 1879-’80. In 6 Volumes (Washington DC: Government Printing Office) 1880.