Appeal to the Women Voters of the West
October 22, 1916 — National Woman’s Party Assembly, Blanchard Hall, Los Angeles, CA
The unenfranchised women of the nation appeal to you for help in their fight for political freedom. We appeal to you to help us, for you alone have both the power and will.
The dominant political party — the Democratic party — has the power to liberate the women of the United States, but they have refused to exercise that power on our behalf, and on behalf of justice and of freedom. They have refused to put the party machinery back of the constitutional amendment. They have blocked the amendment at every turn. The Democratic leaders in the Senate forced it to defeat through a premature vote. In the House they have buried it in committee. Fourteen times the President has refused his help.
Therefore, women of the West, let no free woman — let no woman that respects herself and womankind, lend her strength to the Democratic party that turns away its face from justice to the woman of the nation.
Politically speaking, the women of America have been a weak and helpless class without the political pressure to push their demand.
Now, women of the free states, we are no longer helpless.
Now, for the first time in our history, women have power to force their demands, and the weapon with which to fight for woman’s liberation. You, women of the West — who possess that power — will you use it on behalf of women? We have waited so long and so patiently and so hopelessly for help from other political sources. May we not depend upon the co-operation and good-will of women in politics? Shall we not feel that women will respond to the appeal of women, and shall we not see their hands stretched out to us in sympathy and help?
Women of the West, stand by us now. Visit your displeasure upon that political party that has ignored and held cheaply the interests of women.
Let no party, whatsoever its name, dare to slur the demands of women, as the Democratic party has done, and come to you for your endorsement at the polls. Make them feel your indignation. Let them know that women stand by women. Show them that no party may deal lightly with the needs of women and hope to enlist your support.
Women of the western states, it is only thus that we shall win.
It is only by unity, and a common purpose, and common action, and by placing the interests of women above all other political considerations, until all women are enfranchised, that we shall deserve to win.
Liberty must be fought for. And, women of the nation, this is the time to fight. This is the time to demonstrate our sisterhood, our spirit, our blithe courage, and our will.
It is women for women now, and shall be ’til the fight is won.
Sisters of the West, may we count on You? Think well before you answer. Other considerations press upon you. But surely this great question of women’s liberty comes first.
How can our nation be free with half of its citizens politically enslaved?
How can the questions that come before a government for decision, be decided aright, while half of the people whom these decisions affect are mute?
Women of the West, stand by us in this crisis. Give us your help, and we shall win. Fight on our side and liberty is for all of us. For the first time in the world women are asked to unite with women in a common cause. Will you stand by?
Women of the West, if you can love and respect your sister women, if you hate unfairness and contempt, if you cherish self-respect, you must send the Democratic party, which has abused the interests of women, down to defeat in the suffrage states in November.
Make it plain that neglect of women’s interests and demands will not be tolerated. Show a united front, and, whatever the result in November, there never again will be a political party that will dare to ignore our claims.
You know that politicians act when it is expedient to act; when to act means votes, and not to act means loss of votes.
President Wilson made this plain when he supported the eight-hour day measure for railway workers. If he cared about principle per se he would himself have urged an eight-hour day. But this was not worth while. What is worth while is to act for those who have organization, unity, and political strength behind them.
We have but to exhibit organization, unity, and political strength, and victory is ours. More, I say only when we have done so, shall we deserve victory.
The gods of government help those who help themselves.
Therefore, women and sisters, and one day fellow voters, let us help ourselves.
Say to the rulers of this nation:
“You deal negligently with the interests of women at your peril. As you have sowed so shall ye reap. We, as women, refuse to uphold that party that has betrayed us. We refuse to uphold any party until all women are free. We are tired of being the political auxiliaries of men. It is the woman’s fight only we are making. Together we shall stand, shoulder to shoulder for the greatest principle the world has ever known — the right of self-government.”
Not until that right is won shall any other interest receive consideration. This demand of ours is more urgent than all others. It is impossible for any problem that confronts the nation today to be decided adequately or justly while half the people are excluded from its consideration. If democracy means anything it means the right to a voice in government.
Women are as deeply concerned as men in foreign policy. Whether we are to have a civil or militaristic future is of deepest moment to us. If things go wrong we pay the price — in lives, in money, in happiness.
We care about what sort of tariff we shall have. If the cost of living goes up, we, as housekeepers, are the ones to suffer.
We are deeply interested in the question of national service. We know, and must help to decide, whether our sons are to be trained to peace or war.
To decide these questions without us, questions that concern us as vitally as they concern men, is as absurd as would be an attempt to exclude the mother from influence in the home or care of her family. We say to the government:
“You shall not embark on a policy of peace or war until we are consulted.
“You shall not make appropriations for the building of ships and engines of war until we, who are taxed for such appropriations, give our consent.
“You shall not determine what sort of national defense we shall have, whether civil or military, until we co-operate with you politically.
“You shall not educate our children to citizenship or soldierdom without our wisdom and advice.
“You shall no longer make laws that burden us with taxes and high prices, or that determine how our commodities shall be prepared and by whom, or that regulate our lives, our purchasing capacities, our homes, our transportation and education of children, until we are free to act with you.
This is our demand.
This is why we place suffrage before all other national issues. This is why we will no longer tolerate government without our consent. This is why we ask women to rise in revolt against that party that has ignored the pleas of women for self-government, and every party that ignores the claims of women until we win.
Women of the West, will you make this fight? Will you take this stand? Will you battle for your fellow women who are not yet free?
We have no one but you to depend on. Men have made it plain that they will fight for us only when it is worth their while, and you must make it worth their while.
It is only for a little while. Soon the fight will be over. Victory is in sight. It depends upon how we stand in this coming election — united or divided — whether we shall win and whether we shall deserve to win.
We have no money, no elaborate organization, no one interested in our success, except anxious-hearted women across the country who cannot come to the battle lines themselves.
Here and there in farm house and factory, by the fire-side, in the hospital, and school-room, wherever women are sorrowing and working and hoping, they are praying for our success.
Only the hopes of women have we; and our own spirit, and a mighty principle.
Women of these states, unite. We have only our chains to lose, a whole nation to gain. Will you join us by voting against President Wilson and the Democratic candidates for Congress?
Source: The Suffragist, October 14, 1916, pp. 8-9.