Women's Suffrage: The Invisible Enemy

Updated May 6, 2020 | Infoplease Staff
by Carrie Chapman Catt and Nettie Rogers Shuler
The Woman's Hour that Never Came
Special Handicaps and Hazards

The Invisible Enemy

Those invisible influences that were controlling elections; that invisible and invincible power that for forty years kept suffragists waiting for the woman's hour; for forty years circumvented the coming of suffrage; that power that made Republican leaders hesitate to fulfil their promises to early suffragists; restrained both dominant parties from endorsing woman suffrage; kept Legislatures from submitting suffrage amendments; and organized droves of ignorant men to vote against suffrage amendments at the polls when its agents had failed to prevent the submission of the question, was, manifestly, the power that inhered in the combined liquor interests.

The vested interest in human slavery exerted a controlling influence over American politics for more than half a century, but the public was never deceived concerning that fact, for its battles were fought in the open and its political compromises were frankly acknowledged. But when the vested interest in liquor arose to dictate terms to parties and politicians it executed its strategical moves in secret. The political wires, laid with purposeful care to trip the feet of men, were unseen by the public. The action of men, Legislatures and parties had the appearance of being the reflection of public opinion.

Victorious movements record their history; vanquished ones rarely do. The men who buy or sell votes do not confess. Political leaders do not acquaint their own party following with the deals they make. Full knowledge, therefore, of the extent to which the liquor trade exercised a dominating influence over the politics of the United States for a generation will probably never be revealed. But enough indisputable evidence has been accumulated to establish the fact that it did wield that influence and to reveal also much of the general plan by which results were achieved.

In 1862, while the nation was absorbed in the life and death struggle of the Civil War, the United States Brewers' Association was quietly organized. Although other reasons for organizing were afterwards given by the Brewers, the weight of evidence indicates that the main object of the Association was the political protection of the trade. It is a fact that this organization continued to be the chief directing power in the political defense of the liquor interests until the end of the struggle.

At its convention in 1867 the Association boldly warned political parties to take due notice that it would declare war upon all candidates of whatever party who were favorably disposed toward the total abstinence cause.[1]* Although no more resolutions of this character were passed, and no public pronouncements of this nature were made by the leading brewers in the years that followed, there was no break in carrying out that policy. When the first decision was made to include woman suffrage as an indirect menace to the liquor cause is unknown, but in 1867, during the Kansas suffrage campaign, suffragists noted that in all parts of the State local liquor men were conspicuous workers against the suffrage amendment.

It was in 1869 that the Legislature of Wyoming extended the vote to women. It was in that same year that the Prohibition Party was organized. These unrelated but outstanding events may have called the attention of the trade to a possible connection between the two reforms, but far more definite causes for fear of women on the part of the liquor interests soon appeared. In 1873-4 an uprising of Christian women against the saloons of Ohio startled the church, the saloon and the nation. Groups of women, well known for their virtue and piety, appeared before the doors of saloons, or at times entered, read passages of Scripture, sang hymns and, kneeling, prayed fervently for the abolition of all “rum shops.“ Out of this “crusade“ the Woman's Christian Temperance Union emerged in 1874. It grew in size and influence with astonishing rapidity, spreading to all States of the Union and carrying with it much of the crusade spirit that had created it.

Women thus became an unmistakable factor in the movement which was rapidly pressing forward the demand for “total abstinence for the individual and prohibition for the State.“ Their meetings filled churches, bridged denominational differences, enlisted the clergy and influential churchmen. More than all else, the organization aroused women and trained them for public work as no movement had yet done. Soon the Woman's Christian Temperance Union became the largest organization women had yet formed in any country. Its leader for many years, Frances Willard, was one of the world's greatest women, beloved by her followers and honored by all. She captivated audiences, disarmed their prejudices and enrolled them in her cause. Under her inspiration a great army of women, recruited chiefly from orthodox Protestant churches, rapidly mobilized.

It was doubtless because of these things that the press reports of the Brewers' Convention of 1881 included the account of the adoption of an anti-suffrage resolution to the effect that the Brewers would welcome prohibition as far less dangerous to the trade than woman suffrage, because prohibition could be repealed at any time but woman suffrage would insure the permanency of prohibition. Thirty-two years afterward, President Ruppert of the United States Brewers' Association denied that the brewers had ever taken such action, but suffrage scrapbooks preserved the resolution and the brewers confessed to the Judiciary Committee of the Senate, in 1918, that they had kept no minutes.

Meanwhile evidence had accumulated to prove conclusively that whether the brewers had stated their hostility to woman suffrage in resolutions or not, they had ceaselessly demonstrated it in practice. Three official investigations into the political activities of the brewers have been made and four large volumes of the evidence have been published. On January 9, 1915, the Attorney-General of the State of Texas filed suit against seven breweries in the State charging “the use of their corporate means and assets in politics and elections“ contrary to the laws of the State. In March, 1916, indictments were brought against one hundred Pennsylvania brewing companies and the United States Brewers' Association by a Federal Grand Jury. The indictments charged the brewing companies with the unlawful expenditure of money in the election of federal officials. Rather than have the investigation proceed, the brewers chose to plead guilty and pay a fine of a million dollars.

In September, 1918, the United States Senate called for an investigation by the Judiciary Committee into the charges of German propaganda by German brewers in association with the United States Brewers' Association. The charges included the following:

“The United States Brewers' Association, brewing companies and allied interests have in recent years made contributions to political campaigns on a scale without precedent . . . and in order to control legislation in State and nation have exacted pledges from candidates to office . . . have subsidized the press and stipulated when contracting for advertising space with the newspapers that a certain amount be editorial space, the material to be furnished by the brewers' central office . . . they have set in operation an extensive system of boycotting of American manufacturers, merchants and railroads, etc. . . . have on file political surveys of States, tabulating men and forces for and against them, and that they have paid large sums of money to citizens of the United States to advocate their cause, including some in government employ.“

The press reported that some tons of documents were taken on subpoena from various offices and bureaus. Although the evidence was fragmentary, it made clear that a national political agency, set up by the combined interests, had long existed and that it supervised or was active in both prohibition and suffrage campaigns throughout the United States.

This evidence, combined with the circumstantial and direct evidence supported by affidavits carefully preserved by the National American Woman Suffrage Association during a period of fifty years, shows the liquor interests in active opposition to woman suffrage on the following counts:

  1. 1. The same man or men who conducted the anti-prohibition campaign directed the anti-suffrage contests in Legislatures, constitutional conventions and referenda campaigns.

  2. 2. Money to oppose woman suffrage was taken from the funds placed in the hands of the political committees organized by the liquor interests to fight prohibition.

  3. 3. A given quota of votes to be secured against woman suffrage was customarily assigned each saloon in referenda campaigns.

  4. 4. By definite agreement, in secret conferences, the liquor forces determined to conceal their opposition to woman suffrage so far as possible.

  5. 5. The liquor interests applied the boycott to men favoring woman suffrage as they did to those favoring prohibition.[2]*

6. By the same coercive means they sought contributions for anti-suffrage campaigns from firms with which they dealt.

7. In States reputed strong for both suffrage and prohibition, the attitude of Congressmen and State legislators on both questions was reported to the national political committees of the liquor interests with equal care.

8. The allied organizations that were set up to oppose prohibition opposed woman suffrage by the same methods.

To carry on these numerous campaigns required great sums of money. An attempt was made by the attorneys for the Senate Judiciary Committee to ascertain how much money had been raised annually by the liquor forces, from what sources it had been derived, and how it had been expended. These efforts brought forth little that was new. The Brewers' officers, called on subpoena by the Government, admitted as little as possible and remembered nothing of importance, yet the evidence confirmed many suspicions and beliefs that had been based previously upon hearsay. It confirmed, for example:

1. That the United States Brewers' Association and the Pennsylvania Brewers' Association kept no minutes of their official proceedings.[3]*

2. That the practice of the United States Brewers' Association to destroy check stubs and cancelled checks with each bank balance was customary with State brewers' associations.[4]†

3. That a working agreement had existed for many years whereby the brewers furnished two-thirds and the distillers one-third of the campaign funds.[5]‡

4. That the United States Brewers' Association and the State Brewers' Associations each levied an annual tax of one-half cent to one cent per barrel on the output of member brewers, the amounts thus derived being dues, chiefly expended in administration of the national and State associations.[6]*

5. That a custom existed whereby contributions made to State political campaigns by the national liquor organization were based upon the stipulation that the State interests would raise an equal fund, although exceptions were doubtless made in the States with comparatively few liquor resources.[7]†

6. That funds for political campaigns were secured by making additional assessments as needed. In 1913 a contract was made whereby the brewers agreed to assess themselves three cents per barrel annually for a term of five years, the agreement to become operative when brewers representing twenty-five millions of barrels had subscribed. As more than that number entered into the agreement, the plan was carried out until the federal prohibition amendment was submitted.[8]‡ This plan supported a national fund only. The State associations also assessed their member breweries according to State agreements in order to secure State campaign funds. The treasurer of the brewers' political committee in Nebraska in 1913 reported that the breweries of that State for eight years had never paid less than 65 cents per barrel and from that up to $1.10.[9]§ It was admitted that an assessment of 20 cents per barrel for State campaign funds was not unusual and that 60 cents per barrel had been assessed in several States. The Texas brewers assessed themselves 65 cents per barrel.[10]||

7. That the largest known deposit of the United States Brewers' Association in any one year was $1,400,000 in the year 1914, and its known deposits from 1913 to 1918 were $4,457,941, although the records for a portion of this time were lost, so that the total was more.[11]¶

It is probable that few persons, if any, knew how much money was actually raised and spent by the liquor forces in any given year. The money did not pass through one treasury, and the trustees of the different funds made no acknowledged reports to each other. Each State conducted an independent campaign, raised its own money and spent that contributed by all the national liquor organizations. As State laws became more and more drastic in their demand for public reports of campaign receipts and expenditures it became increasingly necessary, from the liquor viewpoint, to conceal as far as possible both the source and amount of receipts and the nature of expenditures. This was easily done by dividing the funds among the different committees or bureaus, many being totally unknown to the public and therefore never called upon for reports.

Some facts are known, however, and from them a fair estimate of the amount of money raised annually for campaigns may be made. It is a known fact, for instance, that $1,400,000 was deposited by the United States Brewers' Association in 1914.[12]* Let us start with that and trace it back to its likely sources. It is true that the total number of barrels from which campaign funds, as well as the assessment levies, were collected is a secret buried with destroyed bankbooks, but the usual half-cent per barrel for dues, plus the three cents per barrel assessment for campaign purposes agreed to in 1913, would bring in that $1,400,000 if the assessment had been levied on only forty millions of barrels. Forty million barrels formed not more than two-thirds of the total barrelage of the country for that year. Allowing $100,000 for national administration expenses, the amount available from the brewers for campaigns was $1,300,000. At that time the agreement in operation was that the brewers should furnish two-thirds and the distillers one-third of the campaign fund, so the brewers' quota of $1,400,000 was augmented by a distillers' quota of over $700,000, making a total of $2,100,000 plus, raised by the national liquor organizations.

It was the rule that the manager of each State campaign must raise within the State a sum equal to the sum given to that State's campaign fund from the national fund. If each State, therefore, merely duplicated its quota from the national fund, the total funds, national and State, available for campaign purposes reached the vast sum of four million dollars. As a matter of fact, though some States may not have raised more than the necessary amounts to secure the national contribution, other States raised funds far in excess of those amounts. We know this because assessments of five cents upwards to $2.00 per barrel were admitted, and twenty cents was not unusual.

In Ohio, where the hardest fought battle between the prohibition and liquor forces was waged and where woman suffrage was caught in the embroglio and held fast for a dozen years, the annual output was about five millions of barrels, and it was admitted that that State paid twenty cents per barrel regularly during the years of its main struggle. Such a State assessment alone would have netted an annual fund of a million dollars. If State assessments of twenty cents per barrel applied on the total 40,000,000 barrelage from which was raised the $1,400,000 known to have been deposited as the tribute from the two national liquor organizations, the result would have been eight millions of dollars, instead of the mere two millions plus, necessary to match the national contributions. That the State funds approached this amount is supported by considerable evidence. For example, the manager of the anti-prohibition campaign in Texas wrote Adolph Busch, in 1913, that plans to raise five and a half millions of dollars for their campaign had been completed and that it ought to be enough.[13]* Mr. Beis of Ohio in a secret conference said[14]* that the State Brewers' Association had spent half a million dollars in 1913 and would spend another in 1914.

From all of which it seems fairly clear that the liquor funds spent in the political campaigns of the country ranged from four to ten millions of dollars a year.

It was against such a Croesus foe as this that suffrage, with its pitiful but consecrated dimes and dollars, dared raise its head.-“I will pledge my car fare,“ said a shabby little woman at an upstate suffrage meeting in the New York campaign of 1915, when pledges of money to the suffrage campaign were being made. “I will pledge my car fare. I can walk to and from my work.“

There were other sources of money-raising than the assessments upon the output of the liquor manufacturers. In a fervid speech made at a closed session of the United States Brewers' Association in 1913 by Percy Andreae [15]† it was said that the allied interests of Ohio had paid out a million dollars in five years to perfect an organization which he declared performed campaign work with “unerring accuracy.“

A National Retail Liquor Dealers' Association, organized in 1893 with auxiliaries in each State, was also a political and financial ally. A system of assessment upon the sales of local dealers in order to secure campaign funds was the rule in this organization. The liquor retailers invented a new method, which was later adopted by the manufacturers and wholesalers. When paying bills for any and all supplies, such as plumbing, furniture, crockery, glassware, groceries, it became their custom to withhold a small per cent, with the explanation that should prohibition obtain they would no longer be able to buy, and as their creditor would lose trade to that extent he surely ought to be willing to assist in the campaign to continue his own business.

Although the liquor management of anti-suffrage campaigns was subrosa so far as possible, the same method of raising funds for the direct purpose of opposing woman suffrage was used in several States (several of the covering letters were turned over to suffrage workers). In Montana, such a letter was sent out while the suffrage measure was pending in the Legislature, and again after it had been submitted to the voters. That letter openly connected the liquor interests and anti-suffrage in these words, “The local wholesalers and retailers are working unanimously to maintain for Montana the proud position of being the wettest State in the Union. This takes money. We are preparing a State-wide campaign against woman suffrage in this State. Our local retailers are doing all they can but the burden is too heavy for them to carry alone and it is only right that those who are enjoying and making a profit from the sale of their goods should help us in conserving for them their accounts and goods.“

A National Hotel Men's Association became an active and open opponent of prohibition and an active but secret opponent of woman suffrage. Druggists and other dealers in various kinds of liquors, and tobacco manufacturers and dealers were also organized opponents of both movements. The money raised by these organizations was probably expended in their own activities and no estimate of the amounts so used can be made, though they swelled the unknown total of the anti-prohibition and anti-suffrage campaign funds.

Reports on woman suffrage were held to be as vital to the liquor interests as those on prohibition, as the minutes of several secret conferences secured on subpoena revealed. At a conference between the “Interstate Conference Committee“ and the Board of Trustees of the United States Brewers' Association, held at the Hotel Kimball, Springfield, Massachusetts, October 13, 1913, Oscar Schmidt, a Milwaukee brewer, said:

“Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee: ... I have been in this game fighting prohibition for about thirty years and I want you to know that I learn something all the time.... For the State of Wisconsin I will have only a few words to say, that we are fortunate in having a good organization.... In the last campaign ... we had the usual bills, like every other state-county option, women's suffrage in about six different forms and we had everything else, which were all defeated; and I can say that can be done only by organization and by active work of the brewers being on the job all the time and not leaving it to somebody else....“

(Wisconsin's only referendum on suffrage was defeated in 1912.)

“I am also a delegate from Nebraska.... For eight years I have been treasurer of the so-called Executive Committee consisting of three brewers from Omaha and two smaller brewers from the State. These five brewers have been doing all the work.... The women's suffrage in the State we defeated two years ago at a tremendous expense and we won in the State by about 9,000 votes. If they had carried the election, of course the State would have been dry.“[16]*

(This boast is inexplicable, as the Nebraska referendum on woman suffrage was defeated in 1914.)

Mr. Doyle of the Illinois State Brewers' Association wanted “to suggest“ and “to implore“ that “female suffrage“ be defeated at all hazards.

“As the result of experience we have had with two different subjects, I want to suggest to the gentlemen who are here a very serious matter, that if you are living in liberal states which have not the initiative and referendum and have not female suffrage, I want to implore you to defeat these two things at all hazards.“[17]*

Mr. Schlighting, South Dakota brewer, said:

“We have some possibility of winning if we get plenty of assistance.... So far we have been able to cope with these things; we have defeated county option by the vote of the people at four different times. We have defeated women's suffrage at three different times, and I want to say that this association, the United States Brewers' Association, through the efforts of one gentleman, Mr. Edward Dietrich, has been able to cope with it, and he has always been fortunate in winning.“[18]†

A report on Iowa was presented to the Interstate Conference Committee of the United States Brewers' Association by Henry Thuenen, General Counsel of the Iowa Brewers' Association, on June 10, 1915, in which he said: [19]‡

“We are of the opinion that Woman's Suffrage can be defeated, although we believe that the liquor interests should not be known as the contending force against this amendment. (Italics ours.) Action of some kind should be taken to assure a real and active campaign against this measure.

To sum up, what Iowa needs at your hands, if you are disposed to interest yourselves in the State, is-

First, A contest on Woman's Suffrage at the Primary, in 1916.

Second, A contest for liberal Senators at the election, in 1916, and if this fails, then

Third, a contest at the polls on the prohibitory amendment which will be held at the general election in 1917 unless other wise provided by the Legislature.“

The brewers were disposed to interest themselves in the State. They sent the assistance, and woman suffrage was announced as defeated in Iowa in 1916-although suffragists believed it was won.[20]*

The struggle between temperance and liquor forces had reached its height in 1913. Local option authorized by the Legislatures of most States had thrown large expanses of territory into the “dry“ column. Statewide prohibition had been established in several States and the issue was a crucial one in the politics of many others. Court decisions were notably more friendly to the temperance side of legal contests, but a far more important factor in the situation was the addition of many powerful manufacturers to the prohibition forces. The labor unions had striven long for employer's liabilities in cases of death and accident of employees, and such laws had been passed by many States. Manufacturers now discovered that accidents happened more often when men were under the influence of intoxicants and sought to protect themselves from this risk by advocating the legal removal of the cause. Another cogent factor pushing them toward prohibition was the argument that working forces would not be so depleted at the beginning of each work-week if working men had no Saturday night and Sunday sprees to sleep off on Monday morning. A tremendous impulse was given prohibition through the addition of this new ally. Legislators, sensing a changed public opinion, became more independent and daring. The liquor traffic recognized the need of more money and more intensive campaigning than ever before. Onlookers saw the final battle emerging from the half century struggle.

The brewers promptly entered into the five years' agreement previously noted to provide more money, and accepted the proposal of Percy Andreae, chief of a publicity bureau for the Brewers' Association, to increase organization. It was in an executive session of the United States Brewers' Association, held in Atlantic City in October, 1913,[21]* that he urged this new policy. He announced that arrangements were already completed whereby the venture would be made operative under his direction. He did not take the brewers into his confidence as to how the plan was to be put into execution. “I must have a free hand,“ he said. “No one who realizes the character and the magnitude of the work I have undertaken will believe that it could be accomplished under any other conditions. An army-and it is an army if you please, that is to be called into existence-must have a leader.... What hope would there be for the success of an undertaking ... involving alliances which the slightest misconstruction ... of our intentions would place in jeopardy if I were obliged to herald all details ... to the world, which I would be doing if I confided them to the knowledge of several hundred men.“

The general plan, however, was made clear and involved two main features:

  1. 1. To rely no longer upon contributions and favors as the sole means of controlling parties and politicians, but to add the threat of large blocks of voters which would go for or against the party or candidate who did not do the bidding of the trade.

  2. 2. To build up organizations, chiefly to be recruited from the foreign population, having the appearance of voluntary bodies with public-spirited aims, but in reality existing solely to defend the trade. These organizations were designed not only to join in the general propaganda, but to provide the army of voters which was expected to awe parties and politicians into a proper degree of subserviency.

Mr. Andreae was authorized to proceed upon the policy that the foreign vote should be organized in order to control elections and legislation. The experiment about to be tried was not new, and had already proved itself. It had organized the Russian vote against woman suffrage in the Dakotas, the German vote in Nebraska, Missouri and Iowa, the Negro vote in Kansas and Oklahoma, the Chinese vote in California.

The most important organizing done along this line was that which resulted in the National Association of Commerce and Labor. Mr. Andreae organized it and became its president. It appeared to be a business man's organization and exerted great influence in consequence upon national and State political parties. Its staff salaries were $46,000 per year and its workers were mainly ex-State Senators and Representatives.

With these precedents to encourage similar activities, innumerable societies sprang up. Every State with a prohibition or suffrage campaign had its inevitable accompaniment of Home Rule Societies, Personal Liberty Leagues, Traveling Men's or Merchants' Leagues, Men's Anti-Suffrage Associations, ad infinitum. With object and sponsorship concealed, the seemingly spontaneous outburst of public protest exerted an influence, often widespread and effective.

The allied organization that performed the deadliest work in woman suffrage campaigns was the German-American Alliance. It was organized in 1901 and chartered in 1907, and although the leading German brewers were influential members from the beginning, it is probable that it was not organized originally either for the purpose of defending the liquor traffic or for pro-German propaganda. Its charter was taken away by unanimous vote of Congress in 1918 upon proved charges that it was in part supported by the brewers and that some of its officers were engaged in dangerous pro-German activities, yet the rank and file of the membership, however obedient to the “systematized direction“ of their votes, were probably quite unaware of the illegal part the organization was playing in American politics.

At the national convention of this German organization in San Francisco in 1911, a membership of 2,500,000 persons and 10,000 branches were claimed. There were at the time 700 German newspapers in the country. The National Bulletin, the national organ of the Alliance, was resuscitated by the brewers, its organizing committees in Ohio, Iowa, Texas, Indiana and probably other States[22]* were assisted financially by the brewers, and when in 1914 a headquarters and a lobby were established in Washington, the brewers paid the rent.

Each State German Alliance had a political committee which received direct from the liquor campaign managers a ticket to be supported at each election. Meanwhile, an active campaign by letter and circular, as well as through meetings, was maintained in States holding elections, to persuade all Germans to register and vote. In Texas, Missouri, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Michigan, this organized German-liquor vote was hurled into woman suffrage referenda campaigns with the unerring accuracy claimed for it, the combination of the German-American Alliance with the liquor trade making a well-nigh all-controlling political power in these States.

An important feature of the plan for utilizing the foreign-born vote was the subrosa campaign to increase naturalization, the fees often being paid by the liquor forces. Under subpoena, documents and proceedings showed that this had been done in several States. In Texas, where foreign citizens were allowed to vote on first papers, the campaign took the direction of urging Germans to pay their poll-tax in order that they might vote. Joseph Keller, Chairman of the Propaganda Committee of the German-American Alliance, reported to Percy Andreae that the anti-prohibitionists had gained 70,000 votes through the payment of the poll tax.[23]†

Probably the most ambitious venture along this line was in Pennsylvania, where special headquarters were established for the purpose of giving the appearance of labor offices with names of leading labor leaders on the doors. Thither men were urged to go, and their naturalization was facilitated by liquor money for the purpose of gaining more votes under control. Upon cross-examination, Mr. Gardner, president of the Pennsylvania Brewers, admitted that the electorate had been increased there by two or three hundred thousand votes, although “Jim said he could do better than that.“[24]*

The liquor trade was non-partisan and made its combination with any or all parties. Henry Thuenen, general counsel of Republican Iowa's Brewers' Association, reported to Percy Andreae, June, 1914, that the Republican nominations for governor and lieutenant-governor were very satisfactory, as were the Democratic nominations. The Democratic nominations for United States Senator and for Congress were equally gratifying. For all the big offices, “we won in every instance.“-“This being the first time that the so-called Andreae system of organization was put into practice in Iowa, you are to be congratulated upon results.... With the continued application of the system of organization we have commenced in Iowa, it cannot be more than one or two battles until we will find ourselves in possession of the fort. I am sure that if we continue this work through another, or at least two more campaigns, we will be practically in a position to dictate legislation on the liquor question.“[25]†

It should be plain by now why it was that when suffragists turned from the closed doors of Congress to seek justice by State action, they found that legislative doors were also closed; nay more-mysteriously locked! Suffragists approached their task with the exaltation of a belief that theirs was a righteous reform demanded by the great destinies of the human race. In the beginning they regarded the opposition they met as normal inertia to be overcome, but in later years the end of many campaigns left them prostrated with amazed despair, for with the years came the clearer comprehension of the invisible and devious but monstrous force against which suffrage was contending.

The legislative anti-suffrage work of the liquor interests began by simple processes. The first move was to “fix“ the committee to which a suffrage bill was referred and this they, or some other mysterious power, were able to do in nearly three-fourths of the suffrage legislative campaigns. An overworked committee, a crowded legislative calendar, were the explanations given to women workers, while the bargains which brought the result were made without witnesses behind closed doors. If the suffrage bill was likely to be reported out by the committee to which it had been referred, work was begun on the legislators.

Very often the legislative campaign was confined to the Senate, the smaller body where a single man or small group of men could be a sufficient balance of power to insure an adverse vote. The liquor lobbyist worked with economy and concentrated his efforts on a few men who held key positions in the Legislature. The member who believed that his political future depended upon getting a bill through the Legislature often traded his vote on suffrage for that of a liquor or railroad man who favored his pet measure.

Men who could not be bought were definitely influenced by the knowledge that generous contributions were made to the State and national campaign committees of their party by representatives of the trade, and that blocks of voters alienated from party support would mean party defeat. With these thoughts in their minds, they were readily persuaded that women could wait for the vote. Cajolery, promises of assistance in coming campaigns, presents to wives, attentions to relatives and friends, business, financial and political preferment, were all among the methods employed. If the legislative poll showed a majority by these means, no others were applied. If, however, a few votes were still necessary to make the majority, the “third degree“ of politics was brought to bear. Intimidation, threats “to make or break men“ and out-and-out bribery were the methods used at this stage.

The women in time learned to know the signs, but they had incomplete proof to offer. The public neither knew nor wanted to know. After every legislative term, the reports of State suffrage auxiliaries to the National Suffrage Association bore a remarkable similarity of testimony. The full force of the statements of any one became apparent only when taken in connection with all the others. Men who wanted to go straight compromised with their consciences in that shady political borderland lying between honesty and dishonesty. An illustration chosen from many on file explains the difficulties of such men. It came from a State wherein manufacturers, railroads and liquor interests had each their great political battles and where all three worked together to secure the desired aims of any one. Wrote the State suffrage officer February, 1917:

“That the Senators meant to vote for the suffrage bill when they first came to -, we believe. They said to us and to each other that they were pledged to it. The women antisuffragists who appeared at the hearing seemed to have made no impression. Various Senators told us so repeatedly. Yet gradually Senators began to weaken. One Senator, who spoke and voted for our bill, said 'You know, I suppose, that it was the liquor interests which were responsible for the death of the bill.' Many others said the same thing, but no man will come out in the open and make a charge against the wet interests and back it up, for they are too afraid of those interests.

“A Senator who had openly espoused the bill in this Legislature and pledged himself to vote for it, not only voted, but made a speech against it. This was a matter of frequent occurrence, but this Senator gave an interview to the women to whom he had pledged his support, unusual for its frankness. Said he: 'The client giving me most business is a manufacturer who is tied up with the liquor interests. The most powerful newspaper in the town gives me all its legal business but the newspaper is wet in policy and also opposed to woman suffrage. If I become too pronounced as a champion of woman suffrage, the liquor interests would put the screws on the manufacturer and he in turn would notify me that he had found it convenient to seek legal counsel elsewhere. The newspaper would let me know that my services could be dispensed with. I have a nice home, a little Ford for business and pleasure, and two sons to educate. I cannot afford to lose the patronage of my two best-paying clients.' He added that he had often regretted that he was not a man of wealth and thus could be independent.“

Nowhere does the rule, “Self-preservation is the first law of nature,“ show itself more conspicuously than in politics. The liquor trade's representatives systematically proceeded with faith in the claim that “every man has his price.“ From that base were projected the methods by which Legislatures were controlled.

The liquor trade also made allies of other special interests seeking legislative protection or privilege, and successes were frequently due to this combination. Liquor, railroad, manufacturers', cattle, sheep, and packers' lobbies were among the allied interests. None had “trouble“ in every State nor in every Legislature but all had their big political campaigns, which frequently resulted in regularly employed counsel for the liquor interests being nominated as representatives of the people by the controlling party-and being elected by unsuspecting voters to seats in the Legislature. Within the legislative forum such men fought the battles of those who paid them. When two or three were engaged upon measures in the same Legislature, each having a group of legislators at command, it was usually easy to effect a union of forces whereby the trading of votes secured more certain results for all. By no other theory is the opposition to woman suffrage by railroad lobbies, for instance, to be explained; and for many years railroad lobbies were a hostile factor that suffragists constantly encountered.

To illustrate: An investigation into railroad political activities by the New Hampshire Public Service Commission in April, 1916, was summed up in a public report. It revealed that men employed for the purpose of defending the interests of the Boston and Maine Railroad had also the secret purpose of opposing woman suffrage, and one of these men, while drawing a salary from the railroad, drew another from the State as delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1913, where he served as floor leader against woman suffrage. While the Investigating Commission was unable to present a complete account of the political activities of the railroad, since no minutes, contracts or financial reports could be found, and the railroad representatives refused to remember, yet enough was revealed to establish the fact that the Boston and Maine expended considerable money in the effort to prevent the submission of woman suffrage by the New Hampshire Constitutional Convention of 1912. The suffrage workers of the State reported at the time that three agencies opposed their measure, a railroad lobby, a liquor lobby and a manufacturers' lobby. The resolution to submit a woman suffrage amendment was defeated, 208 to 149. But not until the revelations of 1916, four years later, was the part taken in the campaigns by the railroad lobby made manifest.

After the State of Washington, in 1910, and California, in 1911, had slipped into the suffrage column, an apparent challenging of the national brewers' admonition to keep to an underground policy on woman suffrage appeared in many States and the liquor forces more boldly displayed their hostility to woman suffrage. In the following year, 1912, when six States[26]* had referenda campaigns on suffrage amendments, the trade so far abandoned its previous policy of “the still hunt“ as to become the most conspicuous opponent in each State. Consternation was aroused in the liquor camps when the press headlines, the morning after the first election in which women had participated in Illinois, announced that woman suffrage had closed one thousand saloons. Public expressions of liquor resentment became instantly bolder.

At the annual meeting of the National Retail Dealers' Association that year, Neil Bonner, the president, said in his address:

“We need not fear the churches, the men are voting the old tickets; we need not fear the ministers, for the most part they follow the men of the churches; we need not fear the Y. M. C. A., for it does not do aggressive work, but, gentlemen, we need to fear the Woman's Christian Temperance Union and the ballot in the hands of women; therefore, gentlemen, fight woman suffrage.“

In 1914 there were seven [27]† State amendment campaigns, five of which were lost. It is noteworthy that all trade papers within those States openly opposed the amendments. The general character of their pronouncements may be set forth in a few examples. Progress, the official organ of the Wisconsin State Retail Dealers' Protective Association, published at Watertown, Wisconsin, and describing itself on its editorial page as “An educational Journal covering every phase of the retail, wholesale liquor and brewing industries,“ devoted much space and energy in 1912 to the suffrage campaigns then in progress in Wisconsin and Michigan and was a fair example of many liquor trade papers. One editorial caption was: “Give ballots to women and industry goes to smash.“ The article continued:

“If women get the ballot it means prohibition. It means that the farmer must stop growing corn, must stop growing rye and must stop growing barley. It means that the breweries must suspend business, it means that the saloons must close.... The condition is serious. Woman suffrage means prohibition.

“It is the duty of all men of this State who love their home, their family, their liberty, their rights and their citizenship, to go to the polls on November 5 and vote against this constitutional amendment.“

The Champion of Fair Play, chief liquor organ of Illinois, kept a standing article urging every member of the Liquor Dealers' Association of that State to bring all possible pressure from every quarter to defeat the woman suffrage bill which passed in 1913. The National Forum of Butte, Montana, was particularly aggressive that year. In the April number an article, “A Little Plain Talk,“ urged more activity against woman suffrage:

“Right now the question of woman suffrage is before the people of this State. If it carries, the saloons and breweries are doomed. If suffrage carries, the advocates of the movement will not be to blame. The blame will be at the door of the saloon man and brewer. It will not be a case of homicide, but it will be a clear case of suicide. Together we assist, and by united effort woman suffrage can be defeated, but divided, the saloons and breweries of Montana will be matters of history within a few years.“

Meantime the old policy of cloaked activity was not entirely abandoned. On January 14, 1914, H. T. Fox, Secretary of the United States Brewers' Association, wrote the Fred Miller Brewing Company of Milwaukee, in answer to an inquiry as to what was being done “in regard to woman suffrage and the spring elections of Illinois“:

“In regard to the matter of woman suffrage, we are trying to keep from having any connection with it whatever. We are, however, in a position to establish channels of communication with the leaders of the Anti-Suffrage Movement for our friends in any State where suffrage is an issue. I consider it most dangerous to have the retailers identified or active in any way in this fight, as it will be used against us everywhere. The Illinois brewers had a meeting last week, and while I have no definite particulars, I understand that they have made plans for a very active campaign in connection with the Spring elections!“[28]*

As the suffrage and prohibition campaigns whirled faster and faster, a change of position on suffrage was advocated for the liquor interests. In 1914, M. Michelson proposed to Hugh T. Fox, Secretary of United States Brewers' Association, plans for placing “the brewers squarely on the side of progress . . . the ally of the social reformer,“ and proceeded, under the head, “woman suffrage,“ as follows:

“Nothing, it seems to me, can be more short-sighted than the policy of the brewers in some States in actively opposing, and, therefore, arousing the hostility of what is undoubtedly the most fanatical of all groups in American politics today. . . .

“By leaving out of consideration its indirect power, there can be no question that suffrage will be extended to many more States within the next year. This means that the voting population of those States will be doubled. In some of the suffrage States prohibition will come and there will be the question of compensation to the brewer. Why arouse the antagonism of one-half the voters? Why not educate them-and before they have the vote? . . .

“I think the answer is to be found in the New Republic of August 21. The New Republic does not believe in the methods employed by the Texas brewers who, masquerading under the name of Farmers' Union et al, attack woman suffrage. 'The methods of the Texas Business Men's Association furnish an excellent example of how public opinion is poisoned against woman suffrage.' . . .

“The New Republic is . . . quoted in newspapers throughout the country, is opposed to prohibition, yet publishes editorials that can be used by the prohibitionist, and refuses to get material from the brewers because of the position taken by the brewers towards woman suffrage. . . . It is true that in some States the Brewers may be able to successfully fight woman's suffrage for years, but those few should not be allowed to sacrifice the industry in other States where suffrage is strong. . . .“

M. Michklson.

The New Republic's reference to the Texas Business Men's Association, quoted above, bore on a line of antisuffrage activity that developed in 1915 and was especially directed to the four eastern States, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New Jersey, where suffrage campaigns were in progress. Investigation revealed that in Texas a Farmers' Union had gained a large membership and then extended itself into a National Farmers' Union. Peter Radford and W. D. Lewis were successive presidents, and apparently engaged in a private enterprise by establishing a publicity bureau paid for by those who desired to distribute propaganda. A “Texas Business Men's Association“ was operated by these same men and the publicity activities of the two organizations were interchangeable. The evidence made clear that contributions from railroads, brewers, retail liquor-dealers, telephone, telegraph, electric, oil, gas and packing companies supported the publicity. Free plate was issued to rural papers. It carried propaganda favorable to all its supporters and against woman suffrage. The investigation led to the repudiation of the men by the Farmers' Union. In a short time the same service was again instituted under the name of the Agricultural and Commercial Press Service. Under different direction a National Council of the Farmers' Co-operative Association, with Headquarters in Nebraska, and a Grain Dealers' Association, with Headquarters in North Dakota, were instituted and issued similar press services.

The open campaign of self-defense conducted by the liquor forces can be respected as the unquestioned privilege and right of all who seek to convince public opinion. The point at issue is that the liquor interests did not rely upon open propaganda but upon secret maneuvers for results, and in this field no moral law, no democratic principle, no right of majorities was recognized. While its activities were suspected by all observers of political events, proof was lacking, and its power was so intricately bound up with partisan politics that none but the Prohibitionists, and not all of them, dared proclaim the truth.

The party machine was an instrument perfectly suited to the uses of the liquor trade and the “boss“ was a powerful ally. The boss and the machine made the trade secure for many years and the trade lengthened and strengthened the rule of the boss and the machine. Together they disciplined parties and dictated platforms and tickets. No party dared inaugurate war on this power; to do so meant its own certain defeat, since the trade would make an inevitable alliance with its rival. Neither dominant party has ever endorsed either prohibition or its enforcement in a national platform.

The power of this gigantic political machine, allying itself with the Republican organization in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, with the Democratic organization in Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska, making connections with both in Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, New York, and choosing candidates from both tickets when no alliances could be made with party managers, recognizing loyalty to none and serving no cause but its own,



* Anti-Saloon League Year Book chronology.


* “Brewing and Liquor Interests and German Propagandas,“ Senate Investigation, pages 116-300.


* “Brewing and Liquor Investigation,“ page 308.


† Ibid., pages 85 and 342.


‡ Ibid., page 79.


* “Brewing and Liquor Investigation,“ pages 78 and 320.


† Ibid., page 333.


‡ Ibid., page 77.


§ Ibid., Volume 1, Exhibit 1031.


|| Ibid., page 417.


Ibid., page 400.


* In 1914 seven States had suffrage referenda and suffrage campaigns were in progress in four others in which the vote was taken the following year. There were also seven prohibition referenda campaigns.


* Texas Brewers' Investigation.


* “Brewing and Liquor Interests,“ Volume I, page 1195.


† Chief of a Brewers' Bureau and President of the Association of Commerce and Labor, an organization set up by the brewers to give the appearance of voluntary outside protest against prohibition. Percy Andreae was under contract to receive $40,000 per year from the brewers. ( Ibid., page 1032, Exhibit No. 780.)


* “Brewing and Liquor Interests“; Senate Investigation, Volume I, page 1170.


* “Brewing and Liquor Interests,“ Volume I, page 1173.


† Ibid., page 1179.


‡ Page 1015, Exhibit No. 760, from Andreae's files by subpoen [ILLEGIBLE].


* See story of Iowa.


* “Brewing and Liquor Interests,“ Senate Investigation, Volume I, page 353.


* “Brewing and Liquor Interests,“ Volume I, page 862.


† Ibid., page 848.


* “Brewing and Liquor Interests,“ Volume I, page 344.


† Ibid., page 924.


* Arizona, Oregon, Wisconsin, Kansas, Michigan and Ohio. See stories of States for part liquor interests played in their campaigns.


† North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Nevada, Montana, Missouri, Ohio. See State stories for liquor activities in their campaigns.


* “Exhibit No. 780;“ from Andreae's files by subpoena, page 1032.

Sources +