Women's Suffrage: The Decisive Battle

Updated May 6, 2020 | Infoplease Staff
by Carrie Chapman Catt and Nettie Rogers Shuler
The Fighting Forces
More Victories and More Defeats

The Decisive Battle

To even a casual observer at the close of 1916 it must have been clear that the long-continued strategy of the National American Woman Suffrage Association in the forwarding of the suffrage cause was nearing its crucial test. Eleven States had been won to full suffrage and the argument that was bearing down with most force upon the passage of the Federal Suffrage Amendment was the number of western women who were voting for the President of the United States and for members of the Congress. Even those suffragists who belittled the State method of securing suffrage were proudly advertising the 4,000,000 voting women of the West-whose suffrage had been won by State referenda-as the main reliance of their argument at Washington.

For its own part, from year to year and steadily, the National Suffrage Association had used the political dynamite in the victories gained in the States as a means of blasting through to success at Washington. How many more States must be added to the full suffrage column before the Congress of the United States would hear and be persuaded by that on-march of destiny?

When the day comes that we have enough States we shall know it, Miss Anthony had said. With the year 1917 the day drew close and its recognition flushed the Washington prospect rosily for suffrage workers. On one State hung all their hopes for winding up referenda campaigns and compelling federal action by the Congress. That State was New York. A suffrage referendum was scheduled there for November, 1917, the second to be held in two years. Certain factors made the situation thrilling. For one thing the campaign was in the Far East instead of the Far West. For another, in point of suffrage, New York had become the most intensively organized State in the Union. Then, too, New York is-New York, with more intricate problems of population and persuasions than any other State in the Union.

A tremendous amount of suffrage history had been packed into the State. From 1848 to 1876 it had been the recognized storm centre of the woman's rights movement. Even after it became clear that no ordinary demand would persuade the New York Legislature to submit a suffrage amendment, the suffrage organization kept its flag flying and sought such suffrage rights as the Legislature could grant while asking continually for an amendment.

Meanwhile, the suffrage scene was shifted to the West and Eastern suffragists began staking work and money and hopes upon that region. Time demonstrated that there was something wrong with the West. It was not public opinion; that continued to be liberal toward woman suffrage. But suffrage victories came all too slowly. Western men suffragists gave their women political advice based upon their own experience in party contests. This advice was to the effect that the majority of voters were favorable, there being no known opposition, and that a small campaign with a watch over the election and the count was sufficient. No one seemed to know then that the sharpest political wits money could buy were surveying the field from secret watch-towers and reporting to their national chiefs that the Federation of Women's Clubs was not interested, that the Woman's Christian Temperance Union was absorbed in its own work, that the suffrage organization was small, and that the party managers “had been seen with gratifying results.“-“Don't arouse the ignorant and vicious classes,“ advised the suffrage men, apparently quite unaware that these classes were always aroused and mobilized when men, unscrupulously intelligent and with sordid motives, needed their aid. Under this advice one Western campaign after another was defeated. By and by Eastern women lost faith in the investment of suffrage money and energy in the West. At the same time many Western women were persuaded that their failures might be due to resentment that in Western campaigns Eastern workers were on hand, telling Western people what to do. In no Western State where women were striving to gain submission of State suffrage amendments, but failing to understand the nature of the inevitable contest to follow, could they be persuaded to set themselves to the task of building up a suffrage organization big enough and strong enough to arouse public opinion to the point where it would overcome both blind traditional prejudice and wide-awake, if secretly directed, opposition.

It was at this point that certain New York City women determined to produce an example of efficient suffrage organization and to prove its value if possible. It was no easy stint. The City was the home of the foreign born, containing as many “Irish as the city of Dublin, as many Germans as the city of Munich, as many Italians as the city of Florence, as many Russians as Riga, as many Austro-Hungarians as Prague, as many Norwegians as Christiania,“ and the sum total constituted a larger population than that of all the thirteen colonies when they arose in revolution against their mother country. Many City suffragists questioned the merits of the experiment to be tried. “Up state“ suffragists looked upon it with frank skepticism, for was it not a well established fact that reforms might sweep the State from Buffalo to Harlem Bridge and inevitably be vanquished by the reactionaries and the vicious of the great city? Nevertheless from that moment New York State became again the storm centre of the movement and proved in the end the political lever with which the final moves were successfully made.

The year was 1909. New York City, as the suffragists that year came painfully to know, is divided for government purposes, into sixty-three Assembly Districts, and these in turn into 2,127 Election Districts. City maps in hand, the few with the new idea laboriously classified the membership of all suffrage clubs, and also the names upon the Federal Suffrage Amendment petition that was then being circulated, into Assembly Districts with a temporary suffrage Leader in charge of each district. In districts where no suffragists were known women envoys were sent to interview all kinds of people and in this way find suffragists. Through many private meetings the membership of the old order of clubs was merged at last into the proposed organization.

Following the usual custom of established parties, fifty-two assembly districts held conventions and organized and elected delegates to a city convention. From the remaining eleven districts delegates were appointed. On October 29, 1909, the “Woman Suffrage Party“ was launched by a city convention at Carnegie Hall. The floor was completely filled by the 804 delegates and 200 alternates, representing all the assembly districts of the city. It was the largest delegated suffrage convention yet held. The galleries were occupied by the general public, the boxes and platform by prominent women and men well known in politics and world affairs. The plan was there presented that the new organization should be modeled on that of the political parties, first adopted by Tammany Hall, and afterwards copied by all parties. The organization proposed to go farther than the parties and unite the five counties which constituted the big city under an elected Board of Officers, including a chairman for each county or borough, and announced its intention to have not only a Leader for each Assembly District but a captain for each of the Election Districts.

The Press found the undertaking unique and united in declaring it a genuinely political move. The New York World' said:

“The Woman Suffrage Party is now to be reckoned with as a political force. It has a 'machine.' Given that the machine operates harmoniously, the Woman Suffrage Party will be in a position to make deals with the older parties and to exercise political influence. The suffragists are to be congratulated on their new tactics.“

The new organization at once began search for 2,127 captains, holding Election District, Assembly District, Borough, and City meetings, and drawing upon a long list of city men and women speakers to make its plea to the uninformed. It established a City Headquarters with press, literature, organization and political departments. Every day bulletins were issued, “press parties“ were received weekly or oftener, tons of literature were printed and distributed. While the perfecting of the organization moved forward, a systematic campaign to convert and interest political men formed the first main activity.

The next step was an attempt to convince the State Suffrage Association that the time had come to secure a referendum campaign. While the submission of an amendment had been a pending question for two generations, New York suffragists, convinced in later years that such an amendment could not be carried, had emphasized municipal suffrage and tax-paying suffrage for towns and cities which could be secured by act of the Legislature. They had won the school vote in 1880, tax suffrage in third class cities in 1901 and in 1910 they won township suffrage on bond issues. These were merely entering wedges. Still skeptical, upstate suffragists reluctantly yielded to the entreaties of the City suffragists. No sooner was the November election of 1910 over, than Assembly District suffrage leaders, accompanied by deputations from the elected Assemblyman's own District, waited upon him to plead for submission of a state suffrage amendment. The Leaders of the three Assembly Districts that composed each Senatorial District, heading deputations from all three, called upon the Senators. The deputations followed each other in succession and were often accompanied by reporters, the press being actively interested in the result,-often to the annoyance of the member.

Special cars carried the New York Woman Suffrage Party representatives to Albany, and a wealthy, intelligent society woman whose interest had been greatly stirred, took upon herself the self-appointed task of securing the co-operation of the Speaker of the Assembly who was a relative of hers. She came from the interview much chagrined and surprised. “Something holds him; it is not prejudice and I do not know what it is,“ she reported.

The Legislature of 1910 did not act but its failure to do so was not received, as in the earlier days, with silent resignation. Instead, in New York a procession and open-air protest meeting were held on May 21st. Ten thousand people in Union Square listened to the speeches the suffragists made and furnished the largest suffrage demonstration ever held to that date in the United States. It was also the beginning of the long line of huge American processions for woman suffrage.[1]* Ninety automobiles were in line, each decorated in yellow, and behind them came marching on foot the College Equal Suffrage League in cap and gown, the Women's Political Union and the women of many trades. Many suffragists gathered upon the streets with the crowds, too timid as yet to join in the procession, but among them were some who became the boldest leaders of the spectacular campaign that was to follow.

The City Party method did not immediately convert up-state suffragists nor attain its aim of securing a captain in each Election District, but the city membership grew from 20,000 in 1910 to over 500,000 in 1917 and its work had grown more intensive each year.

Each Leader was instructed to gather her Captains for frequent meetings and to teach them how to make a survey of their districts. On their maps every church, settlement, school, factory, saloon, house of prostitution, store or shop was indicated, and every moral agency was enlisted in the Election District campaign. Mothers', school, and church meetings were held, at which the suffragists talked with the women. Thirteen thousand public school teachers became members and workers. Street meetings were held in every Assembly District for both men and women, Captains uniting to take charge of them. “Rainbow fliers,“ printed in ten colors and seven languages, carrying the suffrage evangel in big type and simple terms, were distributed at these meetings. More formal meetings were held in such churches, halls and hotels as were available, an especial effort being made to place such meetings in the District Headquarters of the Democratic and Republican parties. Every club, church and organization was asked to grant space on its regular program for suffrage speakers and an occasional great City meeting was held in Carnegie Hall or Cooper Union, always crowded to the doors.

To secure money for these campaigns, bazaars, rummage sales, teas, theatre parties, plays, picnics, card parties and dances were constantly in progress. A suffrage school was held to teach workers how to work by the new methods, and so unquestioned became the results of the system that students attended from twenty-eight States. This school was followed by many others.

By this agitation the suffrage question was soon lifted within the State to the acknowledged status of a political issue. Although the Legislature of 1910-1911 took no action, that of 1912-1913 passed a suffrage amendment by a vote of 40 to 2 in the Senate and 125 to 5 in the House. This overwhelmingly favorable vote followed logically upon the suffragists' systematized campaign to show legislators the strength of women's demand for the vote. One member publicly announced that the women of his district did not want to vote, whereupon the suffrage leader of that District asked him if he would meet the women who did. A large American basement house was selected as the place and the lone Assemblyman was not a little abashed at the sight of an overflowing first floor, second floor, stairs filled and crowds below, striving to come up. The next day he announced to the Legislature that however the men of his District might feel, he was convinced that the women did want to vote. Still another announced to the public through the press that he had caused a canvass of his own block to be made and his man canvasser had reported five women only who wanted to vote. The Leader of his district read the statement in her morning paper, called up her helpers and the following morning the names of 189 women who wanted to vote in that block were printed in the daily press. The organization was proving practical!

What could the Legislature do? “After all a submission is only passing the responsibility to the voters,“ said the members. The 1913-1914 Legislature voted for submission the required second time without a dissenting vote and the election was fixed for November, 1915.

The State Suffrage Association transformed itself into a Woman Suffrage Party in 1915. What was called the Empire State Campaign Committee, combining all suffrage associations in the State and working through the chiefs of twelve campaign districts, was organized and took charge of the campaign. Plans for simultaneous action for the workers in all parts of the State were formulated and executed with such precision that every woman engaged in suffrage stint or stunt, knew that she was companioned by hundreds of other women who on that day were doing the same thing. There were “canvassing squads,“ processions with banners and music, meetings of every kind, peripatetic headquarters, gaily decorated and supplied with speakers and workers who went the rounds of each county visiting every town and post office. On Mother's Day, hundreds of churches had ceremonies and appeals for the new order, and on the Fourth of July, the Woman's Declaration of Independence was read from the steps of fifty court houses, New York City conducting its ceremonies of the day at the foot of the Statue of Liberty on Bedloe's Island. For the first time in suffrage history there was a strongly organized press department with an auxiliary body, the famous “Publicity Council,“ the two together devising and spreading broadcast suffrage publicity in the 26 languages in which newspapers were published in New York State.

The City campaign was more intensive than in any other part of the State, as its political unit organization had been established longer and therefore worked more smoothly. There were barbers' days, days for firemen, street cleaners, bankers, brokers, business men, clergymen, street car men, factory workers, students, restaurant and railroad workers, ticket sellers and choppers, lawyers, ditch diggers and longshoremen. No voter escaped. Each one of these days had its own literature and attractions and called forth columns of comment in the newspapers. Evening demonstrations took place daily and brought interested and thoughtful crowds. There was a bonfire on the highest hill in each Borough, with balloons flying, music, speeches, and tableaux illustrating women's progress from the primitive campfire to the council of State. Torchlight processions were formed upon twenty-eight evenings with Chinese lanterns, balloons, banners and decorations in yellow and ending in a street rally at some important point in the City. There were street dances on the lower East Side, in honor of political leaders; there were Irish, Syrian, Italian, Polish rallies; there were outdoor concerts, a series of small ones culminating in a big one given in Madison Square Park where a full orchestra played, opera singers sang and many distinguished orators spoke on a platform erected for the purpose. There were open air religious services on Sunday evenings, with the moral and religious aspect of suffrage discussed; there was a fěte in beautiful Dyckman Glen; there were flying squadrons of speakers from the Battery to the Bronx; there was an Interstate Rally where the suffragists of Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York met publicly in picturesque formation; there was the New York to San Francisco trip of the dancer Joan Sawyer to whom a letter was given at Times Square from Eastern suffragists for Western suffragists. Bottles containing suffrage messages were consigned to the waves from boats and wharves with appropriate speeches. Sandwich girls advertised meetings and sold papers. Sixty playhouses had theatre nights, many with speeches between the acts. There were innumerable movie nights with speeches and suffrage slides; “flying canvass wedges,“ “hikes“ and automobile tours. The entire State was stirred by the activities. Many things easy to do won widest publicity, as when college women in cap and gown visited naturalization courts where hordes of ignorant men, anxious to escape conscription in Europe where the great war was now raging, were being speedily manufactured into American citizens and voters. There were other things that helped the agitation which had no publicity value, such as traveling libraries and the correspondence classes of the Equal Franchise Society. There were German and French Committees, and Committees to work with the Protestant and Catholic Churches.

“What rot!“ said some. “What ingenuity!“ said others. “Surely the women have gone stark mad,“ said others.

A woman physician who had been chief of a hospital in India for thirty years returned home to Great Britain to find English women in the turmoil of campaign for the vote. She joined one of the great London processions and as she marched past the sidewalks lined with curious thousands, she cried, “What fools men are!“- “What do you mean?“ asked her fellow marcher. “Why, to make us do all these ridiculous things to get that which rightfully belongs to us.“

Just so New York women were deliberately doing the ridiculous thing in order to challenge men's attention and so make men think. The campaign of 1915 thus kept itself before the public on the plane of the public every hour of every day.

Suffragists themselves were passing through an unforgettable experience. To this day they close their eyes and hear again the thrill of martial bugles, the tread of marching thousands, and see the air once more ablaze with the banners of those spectacular years. Just before election day a great procession possessed Fifth Avenue, the entire suffrage forces of the State uniting in it. Every Assembly District in the State sent its women. Twenty-five bands made music for 30,000 marching men and women. The streets and windows of the buildings on both sides were filled with lookers-on and there were more tears than jeers in that contemplation. In the Union League Club a group of the great men in City affairs somewhat cynically watched the procession. A break caused a lull in the interest, then another band marched forward and behind it came 5,000 of the public school teachers of the city. They were soberly garbed in dark gowns with white hats and gloves. Their banners were blackboards and on them their mottoes and messages were penciled in chalk. They knew American history and they were telling it to the public. As the endless line moved on, one of the great men jumped to his feet and exclaimed, “My God, men, I never understood the menace of this woman suffrage campaign as I do now. Here is a hundred dollars to defeat it. Who will join me?“[2]* And the dollars came plentifully, for the politically great find democracy troublesome.

The procession was to close with street meetings, but the end did not come until long past the time set. Henry Allen, afterwards Governor of Kansas, had come to New York to make a few suffrage speeches for the campaign. He had made one, but it had not satisfied him nor his audience. He sat on a hotel balcony through the hours of the passing of the procession, waiting to join in the street meetings which were scheduled to follow. The next morning he came into the suffrage headquarters and with big, honest tears in his eyes, exclaimed: “I came to help in a campaign, but this is not a campaign, it is a crusade. I understand now.“ That day in a “Marathon speech“ beginning at 10 A.M. and closing at 10 P.M., he spoke continuously all day with only intervals enough to rest his voice. And they were speeches which gripped the heart and compelled understanding.

No political party had endorsed the amendment, but in New York women could serve as watchers at the polls, because a special law to that effect had been passed. It was estimated that 2,500 women had held official positions in the organization of the Empire State Campaign Committee, that 200,000 women had aided the campaign, and on election day 6,330 women served as watchers or workers at the polls, some serving from 5 A.M. until midnight. The total cost of the campaign was about $95,000.

Headquarters filled with anxious men and women on election night. A few of the younger workers wept as adverse returns kept coming in, but the older heads counseled, “Don't give up. Forward march,“ and when at midnight it was certain that the amendment was lost a group of young State and City women went forth to a public square, where suffrage rallies had been a familiar sight, called together the late street crowd, homeward bound from theatres, announced the result and declared that gathering the first meeting of the new campaign.

On Friday night, three days later, an overflowing meeting was held in Cooper Union where $100,000 was pledged for the new campaign. Every campaign district in the State offered its quota and no note of surrender was heard.

The New York amendment of 1915 was lost by a majority of 194,984. The yes vote was 553,348. The no vote was 748,332.

In that year of 1915 there were three other campaigns in the neighboring States of Massachusetts, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The opposition centered upon New Jersey, where the vote came on registration day, October 19th. James R. Nugent, Democratic boss and reputed the ablest political maneuverer in the State, led the opposition. The Democratic machine and the liquor interests worked openly against the amendment. President Wilson came home to vote for suffrage in Princeton, and the higher class of men of both parties espoused suffrage. Anti-suffrage “ladies“ campaigned against it, decrying government by the ignorant; and on election day, drunken rowdies and saloon henchmen marched up to the polls in solid phalanx to do what those ladies wanted done. Hundreds of men who came to register were allowed to vote at once on the amendment. In one single district over 500 names of men who attempted to register but were refused cast their votes against the amendment and those votes were not thrown out. “How could this happen?“ the political novice may ask. The answer is: it happened. The amendment was lost by a majority of 51,108, there being 133,282 yes votes, and 184,390 no votes.

When two days later, the great New York suffrage parade closed the New York suffrage campaign, a doughty section of New Jersey women was a conspicuous feature in it. With heads erect and firm step they marched forward, their banners flying such mottoes as “We're still fighting,“ “No surrender,“ “Victory merely postponed,“ “Defrauded but not defeated.“

The Pennsylvania campaign had the most effective single publicity feature of any of the campaigns. A replica of the Independence Bell was carried on a motor truck throughout the State and attracted great crowds to hear the accompanying suffrage speakers. While Independence Hall and the Independence Bell are American, Pennsylvanians hold them in particular reverence and more closely their own. The Pennsylvania vote was proportionately the largest polled in any of the four States, 385,348 for and 441,034 against.

Massachusetts had been a lively suffrage centre from the early days and had probably given more money to Western campaigns than any other State, but it was also the centre of that form of conservatism which created the woman's anti-suffrage movement. The Republican party had been in continuous power in the State and its organization had been unmoved by the suffrage appeal. The amendment received 162,615 ayes and 295,702 nays, barely 35.5 per cent of the total vote, whereas New Jersey had polled for suffrage 42 per cent, New York 42 1/2 per cent, and Pennsylvania 46 per cent of the total vote on the suffrage question.

Massachusetts suffragists considered that another campaign would be futile, and the admirable advantage and fine spirit of the New Jersey and Pennsylvania suffragists were blocked by provisions in their State constitutions which precluded the resubmission of a defeated amendment until the lapse of five years. At the national suffrage headquarters the responsible representatives of the four campaigns met a few days after the election to discuss the causes of failure and how to overcome them. Separate ballots used in New York and Massachusetts and the acceptance of votes of men whose registration was refused in New Jersey had given advantage to corrupt agencies which had unquestionably used them to the full. The fact that the Pennsylvania amendment had been printed on the main ballot, where corruptionists had no means of checking the results of mobilized voters, might easily explain its higher per cent. The New York workers, already projecting their second campaign, contended that the Pennsylvania campaign had not awakened the full force of the opposition, that the New York campaign had done this but had not continued long enough to overcome it. With that view, they proceeded towards the next campaign.

The four amendments of 1915 had, altogether, polled 1,234,593 votes for suffrage. That million and a quarter of favorable votes insured from the nation a vastly increased consideration of the cause. The New York Legislature of 1916 voted to resubmit the amendment, the Assembly by a majority of 79, the Senate by a majority of 23. The opposition to resubmission had so far disappeared before the Legislature of 1917 met that the Assembly passed it the second time by a vote of 117 ayes, 10 nays; the Senate, 39 ayes, 7 nays. The last vote was taken in March, 1917.

In April, the nation entered the great World War. The New York State Woman Suffrage Party, following the National Suffrage Association, offered its organization for war service, the State organization to the Governor of the State and the City to the Mayor. War Service Committees were promptly organized. These committees served as registrars in the Governor's Military Census, enrolled volunteered women for all sorts of war work, sold bonds in each Liberty Loan and Thrift Stamp Campaign, and raised money in all the numerous drives for funds for foreign or home relief or helps to the soldiers. “Knitting teams“ supplied thousands of woolen garments for the Red Cross. There were war gardens to produce food, canning demonstrations to preserve food, and the distribution of food pledge cards designed to economize food. A recreation hut at Plattsburg for white soldiers and one at Yaphank for colored troops was maintained and money was raised for the Oversea hospitals that had been organized and were being maintained by the National Suffrage Association.

But the suffragists of 1917 had read history; they knew how prone men were to accept the help of suffragists in the hour of need and forget women's case for suffrage in the hour of calm. So while working loyally and energetically as special war organizations in support of the needs of the nation in its time of crisis, the New Yorkers did not lay aside their campaign. In the 1915 campaign one of the stock insistences of the indifferent and opposed had been “New York women do not want to vote.“ To meet it the Empire State Campaign Committee had dared claim “A million New York women want to vote.“ The claim had been laughed at and poohpoohed but it had had enough vitality to pass into campaign history in the form of a slogan. But, unsupported, the claim was not conclusive. Even in 1915 the need of supplying incontrovertible evidence had been encountered on every hand, and the close of the campaign had found a plan of proof well-matured. This plan, covering no less an undertaking than the assembling of the personal signatures of the million women of the State who wanted to vote, was the heavy heritage of the workers of the 1917 campaign. With dogged endurance, they canvassed door to door in an effort to secure the signatures of women to a petition to voters to vote for suffrage on election day. They climbed stairs, descended into cellars, found their way into the homes of the rich and the incredibly poor, walked country lanes, left no section untouched. In the result they piled up the largest individually signed petition ever collected, 1,030,000 names, all of New York State women appealing to men for the vote.

Next in order was the problem of how to make the public realize the enormous force of that petition. In the City a ceremony was arranged and the Mayor and other prominent officials came to the City Headquarters to verify the numbers. Then all the petitions went to Albany to allow the Governor and State officials to verify them. “Press parties“ in New York and Albany gave opportunity to newspaper correspondents and the Associated Press to verify them. At the State Headquarters the petitions were pasted upon huge pasteboards and the general public allowed to inspect them. In the great procession that closed the suffrage campaign the chief feature was the display of these petitions. Each of the placards was borne by two women, marching four abreast in a special section, with banners giving the totals in all the “up state“ districts. The City section displayed its petitions in 63 ballot boxes, one for each Assembly District, resting upon a decorated platform, and each borne by four women. The “Procession of the Petitions“ alone covered more than half a mile and was the most conspicuous feature of those thousands who went marching by to the music of 40 bands.

Meanwhile 10,000,000 leaflets were distributed, schools for training women watchers were conducted and 10,000 watchers and poll workers were enrolled. Hundreds of newspapers were served with daily news, including 24 foreign language papers. The voters were circularized. Friendly windows were filled with posters, silent speeches and printed appeals; and, as a climax, advertisements announcing the number of women petitioners for the vote and carrying various appeals to the voters were placed in the leading newspapers of the State. Huge billboards advertising suffrage lined the railroads, and street cars and electric signs in the cities emphasized the women's appeal.

Meanwhile the women antis were busy and working hard. In the subway stations they put up advertising billboards carrying false and misleading statements. The suffragists wishing to answer them, asked for space of the advertising company in control of the advertising privileges of the stations. No space could be begged or bought. The company was advocating the other side. The election was coming in a few days and every available woman was already engaged in campaign work, yet from a hasty conference emerged a plan and the necessary pledges of service. The answers to the offending billboards were printed upon small posters, together with the statement that advertising space had been denied the suffragists. Women, turning themselves into living billboards, and calling themselves the lapboard brigade, paid their fares and rode up and down the subway lines all day long, carrying the posters. Every day millions of passengers looked upon the fashionably gowned society women who performed the mission, and read the lapboard messages with astonished enlightenment.

A few days before election, the Executive Committee of Tammany Hall met. There were members there whose wives were now suffrage Captains and Assembly District Leaders, for the Woman Suffrage Party had carried its organization from palace to tenement, from schoolhouse to church. These men pleaded with the directors of the great political machine to give the amendment a chance, and it was finally voted to keep “hands off“ in the election. Orders to this effect were passed to Tammany Leaders and Captains, and the good news found its way by the “grape vine“ route to the City Chairman of the Woman Suffrage Party.

The Up-State Republicans were divided. Governor Whitman, seeking re-election, was opposed by the “regular“ organization and had been forced to form an organization of his own. This he urged to use its best offices for the suffrage amendment, and this word, too, passed down the lines, but in the camp of the “regulars“ the same old instructions were given.

Outside the City the amendment was lost by 1,510 votes, but in the City it carried by 103,863 majority, so that the Tammany “hands off“ injunction won the State by a majority of 102,353. Up-State Republican regulars peevishly chid the Tammany leaders for this traitorous act with a, “Why didn't you tell us you were going to let it through?“

The women antis and their allies immediately published the charge that the State had been won by German, pro-German, pacifist and Socialist votes, each class being at that time anathema. The charges set the suffragists and the press upon the task of analyzing the vote. It was found that the strongly Republican and Democratic districts had polled a larger suffrage vote proportionately than the German and Socialist Districts, and that the uptown residence sections of the city had exceeded the radical downtown districts in approving the amendment.

In truth all parties, races, nationalities and religions supported the amendment. The intensive campaign which had carried the appeal direct to every man and woman, black and white, educated and ignorant, and to each in the language of his nationality, with the supplementary campaign of reminder through the press and in hundreds of spectacular ways, had won the day. Every suffragist who had worked throughout the campaign was convinced that the intensive plan of organization which covered and took cognizance of every block and emphasized in every procession and banner, press interview or advertisement, the political character of the organization was the great factor which had won the victory.

In the City, the cradle of the Party, suffrage work had never paused from October, 1909, to November, 1917. Thousands of women had come into the campaign and gone out again, too tired to continue, but there were hundreds who worked every day for the eight years as hard as men work in a campaign for a few weeks to find themselves exhausted at the end. Ten thousand women, all trained in watcher's schools, worked at the polls. This ceaseless insistence had been supplemented by the liberal spirit of a war period and the daily account of the crucial service women were rendering overseas. Then, too, the backbone of the liquor opposition had been broken by the winning of the federal prohibition campaign.

Political leaders pronounced the suffrage victory in the Empire State a political miracle. The bosses from ocean to ocean “listened in,“ and recognized that the coming of woman suffrage could no longer be postponed. Supplementing the great New York victory had come other victories. The delegates to the Atlantic City suffrage convention who went home to put through that program of getting presidential suffrage in every available State had been indeed putting it through. During the year 1917 the Legislatures of five States,-Ohio, Indiana, Rhode Island, Nebraska and Michigan-had given women the right to vote for the President of the United States, and Arkansas had given them the right to vote in the primaries-which in Arkansas, a one-party State, had all the force of voting at the elections. The number of presidential electors for whom women were entitled to vote had been increased over 150% by legislative grant in the twelve months. Instead of 91 it was now 232. The mandate from the country to Congress, which earlier suffragists had sought from the States, had been given and the way was opened, after forty years of “wandering in the wilderness“ as Miss Anthony had called it, for the submission of the Federal Suffrage Amendment.


* In 1909 the College Equal Suffrage League organized the first of all suffrage parades. It was small but it carried tremendous consequences.


* This man, a Democrat, was completely converted when the women of California were alleged to have tipped the scale in the presidential election of 1916 and returned Mr. Wilson to the White House.

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