Women's Suffrage: The Woman's Hour that Never Came

Updated May 6, 2020 | Infoplease Staff
by Carrie Chapman Catt and Nettie Rogers Shuler
Two Amendments and Many Women
The Invisible Enemy

The Woman's Hour that Never Came

Three years were consumed in the process of writing the word male into the Federal Constitution, two more in completing the enfranchisement of the Negro. Both were strictly Republican party measures and were achieved by the combined political force of a majority party and the military power of the nation. The demand to include women in any further extension of the suffrage, although supported at the time by men of great influence in party and nation, was effectually evaded all along the way by the proposal to “let the women wait-this is the Negro's hour,-the woman's hour will come.“

To get the word male in effect out of the constitution cost the women of the country fifty-two years of pauseless campaign thereafter. During that time they were forced to conduct fifty-six campaigns of referenda to male voters; 480 campaigns to urge Legislatures to submit suffrage amendments to voters; 47 campaigns to induce State constitutional conventions to write woman suffrage into State constitutions; 277 campaigns to persuade State party conventions to include woman suffrage planks; 30 campaigns to urge presidential party conventions to adopt woman suffrage planks in party platforms, and 19 campaigns with 19 successive Congresses. Millions of dollars were raised, mainly in small sums, and expended with economic care. Hundreds of women gave the accumulated possibilities of an entire lifetime, thousands gave years of their lives, hundreds of thousands gave constant interest and such aid as they could. It was a continuous, seemingly endless, chain of activity. Young suffragists who helped forge the last links of that chain were not born when it began. Old suffragists who forged the first links were dead when it ended.

During this long stretch of time, the dominant political parties, pitted against each other since 1860, used their enormous organized power to block every move on behalf of woman suffrage. The seeming exceptions were rare and invariably caused by breaks or threatened breaks in party ranks. Strong men in both parties and in all States championed the woman's cause in Legislatures and in political conventions, and eventually the number of these became too large to be ignored. But it was not until public opinion, far in advance of party leaders, indicated that a choice between woman suffrage and party disruption must be made that organized party help was given, and even then it was neither united nor whole-hearted.

Between the adoption of the Fifteenth Amendment (March 30, 1870), which completed the enfranchisement of the Negro, and 1910, lie forty years during which women watched, prayed and worked without ceasing for the woman's hour that never came. The party whips had cracked to drive the nation to enfranchise the Negro. They cracked, and cracked again, to prevent the enfranchisement of women. Whenever there was an exception and the parties stood by woman suffrage in a referendum, success came to the woman's cause. Most victories were won, however, in spite of party opposition.

It was with amazing courage that the 480 campaigns to secure the submission of State constitutional amendments from Legislatures were conducted. In these campaigns millions of names were presented to the several Legislatures in the form of petitions, party endorsement was sought in political conventions, candidates were interviewed-hundreds of whom gladly gave their pledges of support-press aid was solicited, and, in most States, a majority of the newspapers were won over to support the submission and adoption of the question. These campaigns were conducted in all the thirty-three States and territories lying outside the original pro-slave district, in some continuously through the half century, in some intermittently. Yet in forty years, as a result of the 480 campaigns, only seventeen referenda[1]* were secured. As Oregon submitted the question four times in those years, and Washington, South Dakota, and Colorado twice respectively, the number of States wherein the voters expressed their opinion upon State amendments was eleven only. Since no Legislature or constitutional convention possesses the authority to extend or withhold suffrage from women, and has only the right to pass the question on to the voters or to refuse to do so, the autocracy of this record makes impressive legislative history.

The strongest suffrage organizations were in the East where the movement began and where the ablest of the early leaders lived. It was these States which had furnished the initiative and the insistence which enfranchised the Negro by bayonet. Yet in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Iowa, where the woman suffrage appeal was continual during those forty years, no suffrage referendum was secured. Of the seventeen referenda in those years, all were in States west of the Mississippi except three. Four referenda, Michigan 1874, Colorado 1877, Nebraska 1882 and Oregon 1884, were normal by-products of the Negro suffrage agitation; ten were the direct result of the defection within the dominant parties, chiefly Republican, which was produced by the Populist uprising which reached its crest between 1890 and 1900,[2]* and the three remaining (Washington 1889, Rhode Island 1887 and New Hampshire 1902) were due to local causes. Two States only were won in these seventeen referenda, Colorado and Idaho; in both cases the party organizations were broken wide asunder and each faction endorsed the amendment. In the fifteen other States where amendments were submitted there were disturbed political conditions in nine, but in no case did the opposing factions endorse the amendment, and the regular party organization used its power to defeat it.

A cursory review of these referenda campaigns, State by State, makes clearer and clearer the character of the opposition that piled higher and higher in the path of suffrage workers.

Michigan-In 1874 a special session of the Michigan Legislature submitted a woman suffrage constitutional amendment. The debate indicated that the action was an attempt to do justice to the women who had been made political inferiors of the recent slaves. Forty thousand men voted in favor but the amendment was lost and little record of the campaign has been preserved.

Nebraska-In 1869 the Legislature failed to submit the question of woman suffrage by a single vote in one house. In 1871 the Legislature memorialized the constitutional convention sitting that year, urging it to submit woman suffrage, and it did so, but the entire constitution was defeated. It was never charged that the woman suffrage provision caused the defeat of the constitution. In 1882 the Legislature, by the required three fifths vote, submitted a woman suffrage amendment. The State constitution stipulates that an amendment shall receive a majority of all the votes cast in the election at which it is voted upon, a handicap so serious that most amendments submitted under this condition, however popular, have gone down to defeat. Liberal promises of help had been received from many men of prominence. For that day the organization was good, the campaign carefully planned, and more efficient than any yet conducted, but as election day approached the women were mystified because so many men failed to fulfill their promises and developed a sudden aloofness.

The reason for this defection was soon apparent. “The organ of the Brewers Association sent out its orders to defeat the amendment to every saloon, bills posted in conspicuous places by friends of the amendment mysteriously disappeared or were covered by others of an opposite character, and the greatest pains were taken to excite the antagonism of foreigners by representing to them that woman suffrage meant prohibition.“[3]* “Judge O. P. Mason, who had agreed to give ten lectures for the amendment and whose advocacy would have had immense weight, was engaged to speak for the Republican Party and at every place but one the managers stipulated that he should be silent on the amendment.“ There was a large German vote, thoroughly aroused over the “menace of prohibition,“ and prejudiced against and afraid of the woman vote. Nebraska was a State where men voted on first papers, and with the appearance of evidence of possible organized opposition threatening candidates and parties, politicians flew to safety like a frightened covey of ducks. The Republican party machinery, set in action against the amendment, defeated it 2 to 1. Fraudulent ballots with no mention of the amendment on them were found in large numbers. Ballots with wording differing from that prescribed by the Legislature were also numerous. All these were counted in the total number of votes at the election, of which the amendment must secure a majority, and were therefore virtually counted as against the amendment. The correct returns were never known and many suffragists had justification for the belief that had the election been an honest one, the amendment would have been won. The vote for woman suffrage was 25,756; against, 50,693. The suffragists learned in this campaign that they had an insidious enemy which was not public opinion.

Nebraska announced that this was the German's hour!

Rhode Island-The Legislature of Rhode Island in 1887 submitted an amendment, leaving just twenty-nine days for a campaign. In that time the women held 92 public meetings, but the two political parties passed the word along the line that the amendment was to be defeated. No secret was made of the bi-partisan order which, combined with normal conservatism and prejudice, brought the heaviest defeat yet recorded, or more than 3 to 1; 6,889 against, and 2,195 in favor.

Washington-In 1883 the territorial Legislature of Washington had followed the example set by the Legislatures of Wyoming and Utah, and extended full suffrage to women. The women voted in large numbers at every election. In 1887, a man named Harlan Young, convicted by a jury composed in part of women, contested the verdict upon the ground that women were not legal voters. Grover Cleveland had come into the presidency in 1884 and, adhering to the spoils system common to both parties, had filled the Supreme Court of Washington with Southern Democrats whose prejudices against woman suffrage were impregnable. The Court declared the suffrage law invalid because its object had not been properly described in its title. The next Legislature, 1889, promptly re-enacted the law, free from the defects of the former one, and women continued to vote. Washington Territory was agitating for statehood and the enemies of prohibition were determined that women should not vote on the constitution soon to be drafted. They arranged that the judges of the spring municipal election in a district of Spokane should refuse to accept the vote of Mrs. Nevada Bloomer, the wife of a saloon-keeper. She then brought action against them, the case was speedily rushed through, and on August 14 the Supreme Court decided that the Act of January 18 was invalid, as a Territorial Legislature had no authority to enfranchise women. Mrs. Bloomer refused to appeal and no one else could. The women were therefore debarred from participating in the next election.

The decision of the Court was certainly an illegal one, for the following reasons: (1) The Act of Congress authorizing the organization of the Territory had stated clearly that “all persons should be allowed to vote upon whom the Territorial Legislature might confer the elective franchise.“ (2) The women of Wyoming had voted under such a law since 1869 and in Utah since 1870. (3) When Congress, in 1887, disfranchised the women of Utah in order to strike a blow at polygamy, that act admitted the right of the Territorial Legislature to enfranchise women. Yet Congress, which had enfranchised the Negro by bayonet and defended his vote with military force, admitted Washington to statehood on a constitution framed by a convention whose members had been elected by voters of whom a considerable number had been illegally restrained from voting. Moreover, the constitution had been adopted by the same illegal electorate!

The liquor forces, having thus illegally disposed of the woman vote, conducted a successful campaign to elect a convention that would represent their wishes. The convention submitted a separate suffrage amendment to male voters only, and both parties, under direction of the liquor interests, used the power of their organizations to prevent its passage.

There was no doubt in any mind that 1889 was the saloon's hour in Washington.

These four referenda in the twenty years from 1869 to 1889 represented the sole results of efforts to secure full suffrage for women.

In the year 1890 a farmer's party, later called the Populist party, emerged from earlier farmers' organizations,-the Farmers' Alliance, the Grange, and others,- in Western agricultural States, and as it held the “balance of power“ it exercised an enormous influence upon American politics for the next decade. As all these States were controlled by large Republican majorities, the new party drew its chief support from that party. The minority Democratic party, fusing with the Populists, produced a combination which either wrested power from the Republicans or shared it with them.

Simultaneously a movement arose in Western mining States, caused by the low price of silver and aiming to correct it by giving silver a place with gold, at the “ratio of 16 to 1,“ as the basic standard of money values. The silver movement split the Republican Party in most of the mining States, and the Populists, fusing with Democrats and silver Republicans, became an even more important political factor in those States. As the result of these political changes, Grover Cleveland was elected in 1892. The free silver coinage movement reached its climax in 1896 and the Fifty-fifth Congress (1897-1899) contained six Populist Senators and twenty-seven members in the House, while in all the Western States many Populist or Fusion members were elected to the Legislatures, and in some instances were in control.

In Washington the Fusionists were so successful that the 1897 Legislature was made up of reform elements. That Legislature submitted a woman suffrage amendment to the voters of 1898. It was defeated but the adverse majority was only half as great as in the election of 1889.

South Dakota-The splitting and fusing of political groups had direct bearing upon the suffrage referendum in South Dakota in 1890. The Territory of Dakota, created in 1861, was later divided, and North and South Dakota were admitted into the Union in 1889. The Dakota Territorial Legislature of 1872 came within one vote of extending full suffrage to women, and in 1885 it did so, following the example of Wyoming, Utah and Washington, women at the time voting in all three. The Republican Governor, Gilbert A. Pierce, vetoed the bill of 1885, upon the ground that Congress might not welcome Dakota into statehood with woman suffrage in operation, since Congress had taken no steps to enfranchise women, which it had a right to do.

The constitution accepted by Congress when South Dakota was admitted to statehood provided that the first Legislature at its first session should submit a constitutional woman suffrage amendment to the voters. But the Constitutional Convention submitted a prohibition amendment which went to vote in 1889, at the same election which adopted the constitution. After a bitterly fought battle, prohibition was carried and an immediate campaign was undertaken by the liquor forces for its repeal. They regarded, as the first outpost to be taken, the defeat of the suffrage amendment which, according to plan, was to come to vote the following year-1890.

Before the campaign began suffragists anticipated victory in South Dakota. The Farmer's Alliance was a large and powerful body and its officers had not only agreed to exert the full influence of their organization for the amendment, but had urged Miss Anthony to come to South Dakota to conduct the campaign in person in order that it might the more certainly be won. The Knights of Labor had agreed by resolution to support the amendment “with all our strength.“ These two organizations later decided to form an Independent or People's party, and at the convention called for the purpose of adopting a platform and nominating a ticket, the leaders repudiated their pledges, having decided that the new party would be overloaded should it endorse woman suffrage. When this group of professed friends refused endorsement, nothing could be expected of the regular parties, weakened by the defection of those who composed the new party.

The Republican party, recognizing that 300 Sioux Indians would vote in the State by the act of the federal government, invited three blanketed representatives to sit on the floor of the convention with the delegates, but refused to allow any women so honored a position. The suffrage amendment was ignored in the platform.

It was the Indian's hour.

When Susan B. Anthony addressed the Democratic convention, a delegation of illiterate Russians wearing large badges “Against Woman Suffrage and Susan B. Anthony“ were carefully seated where their presence announced the party attitude. As the delegates came out of these two conventions, men at the door thrust into their hands a paper called the Remonstrance, published by ladies in Boston who were not yet courageous enough to indicate their responsibility by printing their names on the sheet. The men who distributed the papers were saloon men, and the sight of their dirty hands and degenerate faces would have made the gentle remonstrants squirm. The outstanding feature of this campaign was the employment for the first time in a large way of the foreign vote as a bloc, voted under direction and paid for the assistance it rendered. South Dakota permitted foreigners to vote on their first papers, and there were 30,000 Russians, Germans and Scandinavians in the State. Thousands had been there from six months to two years only. These men, unable to read or write in any language or to speak English, were boldly led to the ballot boxes under direction of well known saloon henchmen, and after being voted were marched away in single file, and, within plain sight of men and women poll workers, were paid for their votes. The movement to curb the practice of buying votes, which led in after years to laws in all States more or less strict, had scarcely begun and in the new State of South Dakota there was no redress. The amendment was lost-22,072 ayes; 45,682 nays; majority opposed 23,610.

It was the Russian's hour.

The Legislature again submitted the question in 1898 and again the Russians were mobilized “like dumb driven cattle“ and paid to defeat the amendment.

Suffragists drew the following conclusions from this campaign: (1) That non-English speaking, illiterate men who were voted by the thousands did not go to the polls voluntarily, nor had they offered their own services. Some power had enlisted them, voted them, paid them. What was it?

(2) Whatever that power was, it had either commanded the political parties to do its bidding, or the political parties had called it to their aid.

Colorado-In 1893 Colorado had inaugurated a Populist Governor, and the Legislature, with Republicans in control in the House and Populists in the Senate, submitted the question of woman suffrage to the voters, most Populists voting for the measure and the majority of Republicans against.[4]* This was not the first experience with suffrage referenda in Colorado. The constitutional convention of 1876, preparing for statehood, had submitted a separate amendment which had come to vote in 1877. The debate had indicated that the details of Negro enfranchisement were fresh in the minds of the delegates and that some amends were due the women. A hurried organization had been effected and a creditable campaign conducted. The amendment was lost, but the effects of the campaign persisted and the organization had never entirely lapsed.

Old friends and new now united in preparing for the contest of 1893. There was no State election that year. The State political machines were not in operation, and the rank and file of the voters received no orders. County nominating conventions were held, and in most counties one or more party conventions endorsed the amendment, all Populist conventions and many Republican conventions taking this stand. Very many individual Republicans and Democrats frankly espoused the amendment, and assisted in the campaign. A factor everywhere manifest was the influence of Wyoming. No imaginative prediction of baneful results to arise from woman suffrage was allowed to travel far, for a man from Wyoming was certain to come forward with a scornful denial.

Although there were many women who labored long hours, hard and earnestly, and although the consecrated central committee was wise and alert, the campaign, as compared with those that came after, was neither elaborate nor thorough.

No organized opposition appeared until the eve of election day. The Denver Brewers' Association then gave hurried orders to the saloons, assessing them for funds. Dodgers were issued, bearing the imprint of the Brewers' Association on the first few issued, which found their way into circulation. The imprint was soon removed, however, and the thousands later distributed from door to door carried no evidence of their origin. Fortunately a newspaper came into possession of some of the first dodgers issued and revealed the character of this eleventh-hour attempt to defeat the amendment.

Tricks with which suffragists afterwards became sickeningly familiar were also used. A lawyer was employed to discover ways of throwing ballots out of the count on “technicalities.“ Influence with election officials, wielded by some of the opponents, secured ballots bearing the words “For the Amendment,“ “Against the Amendment.“ The question to be voted upon was not an amendment. By the provision of the constitution of 1876 woman suffrage could be granted by the Legislature if confirmed by referendum. The women of the State had been enfranchised by the Legislature, and the voters were now being asked to confirm or deny. The Attorney General gave a prompt opinion which was published by the State authorities to set the voters right. At the polls the measure was carried by a majority of 6,347.[5]* The counties that had gone Republican and Democratic in the previous election gave a majority of 471 against the measure. The counties that had gone Populist gave the favorable majority.

Startled by their own victory, the women wanted to do something in celebration which would remain forever after in their memories. A crowd gathered in the suffrage headquarters and they talked it over, but being unable to devise any unique plan, some one started “Praise God from whom all blessings flow,“ and people passing by outside heard a great chorus of song. After which the tired workers went home quietly with praise God singing in their hearts.

Informed suffragists derived two convictions from the Colorado campaign which stayed with them to the end: (1) That which was achieved in the State would not have been possible had there been no break in party control. (2) That which had been done in Colorado could be done in any Western State were voters free to vote their own convictions.

Kansas-The Populist contest in Kansas was particularly aggressive and bitter. In 1892, the Populists swept the State and the following election was regarded as the test of strength. As both Populists and Republicans carried planks favoring the submission of a woman suffrage amendment in their platforms, the Legislature of 1893 submitted the question. The Kansas Equal Suffrage Association was one of the most alert in the United States, its president, Mrs. Laura M. Johns, one of the ablest of presidents. A series of county conventions by way of preparation had been held in all the more thickly populated sections. Kansas was a State where women were trained in politics. In 1861, school suffrage had been extended to women. There had been a woman suffrage referendum in 1867 that had aroused public opinion and its effects were still manifest. In 1887, the Legislature had granted municipal suffrage to women. Kansas was a prohibition State and municipal politics had centered largely upon the enforcement of this law. The women, because they were voters, had been drawn into the party campaigns and yet by the exercise of rare good sense had kept their organization non-partisan. Mrs. Johns was a Republican, but Mrs. Annie E. Diggs, a Populist, was made vice-chairman of the Kansas Auxiliary to the National American Woman Suffrage Association.

Work without ceasing was now the order of every day. More able, well-trained women were engaged in the campaign than in all the preceding ones put together. All agreed that should the Republican and Populist parties endorse the amendment, as they had the question of submission, there was no possibility of defeat. The Republican convention met on June 6. The leaders had already decided to throw woman suffrage overboard “to save the party.“ There were no saloons in Kansas but there were “wets.“ There was also a conservative Southern element which had come in before the war to make Kansas a slave State. Ex-Governor C. V. Eskridge, an active opponent of woman suffrage since 1867, was chairman of the Committee on Resolutions, Mrs. J. Ellen Foster, a national Republican lecturer, and Mrs. Johns addressed the Committee. It was reminded that by common admission women municipal voters had kept the State of Kansas Republican. Yet Committee and Convention ignored the amendment.

The women now awaited the Populist convention with dread. The Populist candidate for Governor, Mr. Llewellyn, declared that he would not stand for re-election on a platform that contained woman suffrage. Genuine disapproval of woman suffrage there was, but it was rendered powerful by the accession of those who feared for the party's safety.

This convention proved to be one of the most thrilling experiences in the long suffrage struggle. The Resolutions Committee sat most of the night, and, worn and haggard, its members brought in next day a report which omitted the expected suffrage plank. There was one woman member, Mrs. Eliza Hudson, who brought in a minority report signed by herself and seven men members. Then began a parliamentary tilt to keep the minority report from being heard. It was however brought to debate, and four hours were consumed in as tense and earnest a combat of words as had ever been heard in Kansas. A Negro delegate with halting language declared that woman suffrage would mean party defeat and that in any event women did not know enough to vote. This called forth wild and scornful laughter, and the floor was dotted with delegates who sprang to the defense of the women voters of the State. The minority report was adopted by a vote of 337 ayes to 269 nays, but only after it had been amended by the addition “but we do not regard this as a test of party fealty!“

Suffragists sitting on the platform, glad to get even this much of an endorsement, applauded the vote, whereupon the editor of the chief Republican newspaper, the Topeka Capital, with eyes flashing, hastily left the plat-form and, in the heat of temper, indited an editorial which called upon all Republicans to understand that the amendment was now a Populist measure and no Republican need support it.

A campaign followed which acquainted women with new phases of American politics. Jealousy and suspicion were aroused between the parties. Jealousy and suspicion guided the campaign. The Populists believed that women in the cities, being more numerous than those in the country, would make the State Republican. The Republicans held that, there being more women in the country than in the cities, women voters would make the State Populist! Both were unchangeable. No one expected victory to emerge from a situation so utterly unreasonable. The amendment was lost by 34,837 votes, -95,302 ayes and 130,139 nays. An effort was made to keep a record of the vote by parties and much careful work and tabulation of returns was done. The estimated result showed that 38 1/2% of the Republicans, 54% of the Populists, 14% of the Democrats and 88% of the Prohibitionists voted for the amendment.

This was the most heart-breaking defeat of the suffrage struggle. The majority of the people of Kansas were earnest advocates of suffrage, as was apparent to anyone making a canvass of the State, yet the moral conviction of Kansas men had been utterly surrendered to imagined party advantage.

Idaho-As both Populists and Republicans had declared for suffrage in their State platforms, the submission of a woman suffrage amendment was passed by the Idaho Legislature of 1895, unanimously in the Senate and by 33 to 2 in the House. The National Suffrage Association made itself responsible for the traveling forces that covered the State during the campaign. In August, 1896, four State political party conventions met in Boise; the Republicans splitting into Regulars and Silver Republicans, the Populists and Democrats fusing. All four endorsed the suffrage amendment and many of the campaigners of all parties spoke for it. The campaign was simple and normal, costing only $1,800. The amendment carried without organized opposition by a majority of 5,844-12,126 for and 6,282 against.

California-The Republican Legislature of California, carrying out the declaration in its platform, submitted a woman suffrage amendment, which was voted upon in 1896. Participants have always remembered the campaign as the best conducted, liveliest and most enthusiastic of their experience. All meetings were crowded, jubilant and heartily in sympathy. The press was friendly. No opposition appeared. The hospitable Western spirit of freedom for all seemed to control the situation.

Four days before election day, the chief Republican newspaper, the Chronicle, burst forth in a vituperative frenzy of hostility and used its utmost powers to arouse opposition. Election day brought the unique sight of Chinese voters, in “pigtails“ and sandals, at the polling booths. Chinese are denied naturalization by the United States but those born in this country are citizens by the provisions of the 14th Amendment and some 5,000 were thus qualified voters. Faithful watchers reported that these men were rarely informed enough to mark more than one item on the ballot, in which case their vote was invariably marked against the amendment. When the voter was intelligent enough to mark two items he, voted for McKinley electors and against the amendment. The Pacific Coast, and especially California, had made a vigorous protest against the 14th and 15th Amendments because of the fear that the Chinese under unscrupulous direction would dominate politics, and for these reasons the State had rejected the 15th Amendment. By a curious cynicism Chinese voters now, with the possible knowledge of those who had once protested against them and certainly with the aid of their fellow partisans, directed their votes to deny self-government to American women.

It was the hour of the Chinese!

The entire State was carried for the amendment with the exception of San Francisco and Alameda counties. Ayes 110,355, nays 137,099. Majority against 26,744. The majority against in San Francisco County was 23,772, in Alameda 3,627. Both counties returned the Republican ticket.

Oregon-In 1882 the Oregon Legislature submitted an amendment which was voted on in 1884. A notable list of prominent men and women were scheduled to speak and work for the amendment. Abigail Scott Dunniway, the leader, reported that “suddenly, in the midst of the enthusiastic and promising campaign, politicians were seized with alarming reticence. They ceased to attend meetings, made excuses for breaking speaking engagements and dodged their suffrage friends.“ On election day, “railroad gangs were driven to the polls like sheep and voted against us.“ Although 11,223 votes were cast for the amendment it was lost by more than 2 to 1. The women were astounded that anyone should care enough about holding them in disfranchisement to pay men to vote against the amendment as had been done. They were bewildered, too, by the discovery that an enemy supplied with money and strong enough to intimidate a political party had been working against their amendment.

Oregon Legislatures thereafter submitted woman suffrage amendments in 1900, 1906, 1908, 1910 and 1912. In each election the women found public sentiment strong and effective, but on election day they discovered the presence of the same mysterious foe that had scattered their forces in 1884.

In 1906 evidence appeared to indicate its character. A secret circular, sent out by the Brewers' and Wholesale Liquor Dealers' Association of the State to every retail liquor seller, fell into the hands of the press and was reproduced in several newspapers. It read in part:

“It will take 50,000 votes to defeat woman suffrage.

“There are 2,000 retailers in Oregon.

“That means that every retailer must himself bring in twenty-five votes on election day.

“Every retailer can get twenty-five votes. Besides his employees, he has his grocer, his butcher, his landlord, his laundryman and every person he does business with. If every man in the business will do this, we will win.

“We enclose twenty-five ballot tickets showing how to vote.

“We also enclose a postal card addressed to this Association. If you will personally take twenty-five friendly voters to the polls on election day and give each one a ticket showing how to vote, please mail the postal card back to us at once. You need not sign the card. Every card has a number, and we will know who sent it in.

“Let us all pull together and let us all work. Let us each get twenty-five votes.


The postcard enclosed for reply was addressed: “Brewers' and Wholesale Liquor Dealers' Association, 413-414 McKay Building, Portland, Oregon.“

The reverse side of the card bore this reply:

“Dear Sirs:

I will attend to it.

“ - 25 times.


Instead of a signature, a number was appended.

Despite the publicity given the plan of the brewers, the campaign of 1906 followed its predecessors to defeat, Mrs. Abigail Scott Dunniway finding the cause in the “slum vote.“

Another referendum was secured in 1908, but again the brewers assigned to saloons the number of voters necessary to defeat the Amendment and again the foreign-born were organized to defeat the native woman's plea for the suffrage.

It was the hour of the foreigner in Oregon.

New Hampshire-One campaign took place in the East during this period. In 1902, New Hampshire held a constitutional convention and the suffragists, following their custom of appeal to all constitutional conventions, conducted a preliminary campaign of preparation which was to culminate in a hearing before the convention. The Grange of the State was a popular and thoroughly established organization. One hundred and forty local Granges and all Pomona or District Granges were addressed before the convention met, and 145 delegates pledged their support. The amendment was submitted by a vote of 145 to 92. This was in December and the vote took place on March 10, leaving little more than two months for a campaign in a bitterly cold winter. Yet 200 meetings were held. The total previous vote in the State had not exceeded 80,000 and these voters were circularized, material was furnished weekly to the press, and 75 ministers preached sermons in favor of the amendment.

So alarmed did the opponents become that an antisuffrage meeting was arranged on March 4, with Rev. Lyman Abbott as chief speaker; it was followed by a suffrage meeting the next evening, the largest and most enthusiastic of the campaign. The amendment received 14,162 votes for and 21,788 against. The State suffragists considered the result excellent for so conservative a State, but outside workers had come in contact with a new factor in campaigns. The electorate of New Hampshire was utterly demoralized by corruption, and this sad fact was generally admitted. The chairman of the Republican and Democratic Committees both frankly acknowledged that a group of voters called “floaters“ had to be paid even when they voted their own party ticket.

This completes the roster of the seventeen referenda in eleven different States and brings the suffrage story forward to 1910. That year found full woman suffrage established in four States, Wyoming and Utah, won in their territorial days, and two, Colorado and Idaho, won on referendum. These four States, composing a great territory in the heart of the West, stood for fourteen years (from 1896 to 1910) like a democratic oasis in a desert of pretension, without another acquisition.

There had been hours for the Indian, the Russian, the German, the Chinese, the foreigner, the saloon, hours when each had decided the limits of woman's sphere, but no woman's hour had come.

Meantime the possibilities of gains for woman suffrage in the Territories had not been overlooked by suffragists. Territories had the right to grant full suffrage to women by act of their Legislatures without a referendum to the voters, and many suffrage lecture and organizing tours had been made in the early days into each and all of them.

Wyoming had led the way to victory in 1869; Utah followed promptly in 1870. The Mormons practiced polygamy and defended it as a tenet of the church. In 1869 George W. Julian of Indiana had introduced a bill to enfranchise the women of Utah with the expectation that they would in some undefined manner make an end of polygamy. Possibly this initiative prompted the Utah Legislature to enact a woman suffrage measure in 1870, under which the women of Utah territory voted for seventeen years. Observers agreed that they availed themselves very generally of the privilege and voted in the interest of good government; but they did not eliminate polygamy, which was a church and not a state institution. In 1887 Senator Edmunds of Vermont caused the introduction and passage of a congressional bill to disfranchise the women of Utah in order to strike a blow at polygamy. The Territory, and especially its women, made heroic protests, in vain. Utah regarded this act of Congress as a discriminatory one and that fact tended to keep alive and to strengthen the suffrage sentiment in the territory. After many efforts to secure statehood, an enabling act was signed by Grover Cleveland in 1894. Both parties dominant in the State placed woman suffrage planks in their platforms, and the women presented a memorial to the Utah Constitutional Convention asking that they should be recognized in the constitution. Their plea was granted. The constitution, like that of Wyoming, declares that the right to vote shall not be denied on account of sex. The vote of the convention on this clause was ayes 75, nays 6, absent 12. Every member signed. Cleveland affixed the presidential signature January 4, 1896, and Utah was admitted to statehood with woman suffrage in its constitution, the women having been deprived of their vote by act of Congress for nine years.

Arizona and Oklahoma were the two remaining territories, and after the successful Utah denouement in 1896 the Organization Committee of the National American Woman Suffrage Association promptly marked both for suffrage campaigns. In both there proved to be as frank revelations of the nature of the opposition and its methods as were encountered anywhere along the line of suffrage march. In the nineties suffragists were not as familiar with this power and its methods as they came to be later, and they were left gasping by developments on both battlefields.

In Arizona they saw a complete volte face on the part of the Council (or Senate) from a strong favorable majority to an insidious opposition that filibustered the suffrage bill of 1899 into innocuous desuetude; they heard the popping of corks and the clinking of glasses that accompanied the barter and sale of senatorial votes to the proprietors of the prosperous saloons of the State; and they were the legatees of the confession of the young president of the Council who told them, with tears in his eyes, that the saloons of Prescott had elected him and had made him their attorney, that now their representatives not only threatened to repudiate him politically and take from him their legal work but to “break him“ completely if he dared to vote for woman suffrage. He was under promise to his mother not only to vote but to work for suffrage; he had told his masters of the promise; and they had assured him that the blame should be neatly laid upon the committee which would never report the bill. And which never did report the bill.

Working in this same devious way, the saloons of Arizona for eleven years successfully checkmated every effort to secure woman suffrage by territorial legislative act.

In Oklahoma the story was the same-almost down to chapter number and line on page. There, too, in the year 1899, advocacy of suffrage by legislators changed overnight to opposition. There, too, the saloons worked hard and furiously against suffrage, having organized themselves into a “Saloonkeepers' League“ with the purpose of “protecting our interests from unjust legislation.“ There, too, corks popped and glasses clinked while the vote for the political freedom of women was bartered away; and there, too, in the face of marked evidence that the people wanted woman suffrage the legislative filibuster checkmated all efforts to secure it for Oklahoma women.

The women of two territories lost the vote through the veto of Republican Governors, one through the decision of a Democratic Supreme Court, two through the direct intervention of an organized saloon power and one through an act of Congress. Wyoming alone stood the test of years unchallenged.

It is clear that the attempts to win the territories were little more effective than the campaigns with State Legislatures to get them to submit the woman suffrage question to the voters of the States. Territory or State, it was work of a heart-breaking slowness, this pitting of suffrage against politics in State and territorial Legislatures. Had there been encouragement from Washington, Republican or Democratic, the entire West in its territorial days would assuredly have extended the vote to women and would have defended it as gallantly as did Wyoming, but politics was not yet willing to allow this act of inevitable justice to prevail.

Reviewing this forty years of effort between 1870 and 1910 and comparing the carefully filed reports of all the States year after year, the suffragists of 1910 arrived at some more conclusions: (1) The more favorable public opinion was and the more numerous the pledges of State Senators and Assemblymen, the more certain were suffrage amendments not to pass Legislatures. (2) The better the campaign, the more certain that suffrage would be defeated at the polls. (3) The majorities which defeated amendments were clearly composed of ignorant Americans and foreigners, controlled, that is organized, persuaded or bought, by some master mind. (4) The rank and file of men in the dominant parties accepted platforms and tickets as framed by party leaders without question and voted as advised. (5) The average party leader played “the game of politics,“ using these voters as pawns, and the big stakes were power, patronage and graft. (6) The real influence which dictated platforms and tickets were monied interests which made gigantic contributions to party treasuries or their candidates' campaign funds. (7) Here and there a statesman, “fair as a star when only one is shining in the sky,“ kept faith with the people.

The outlook in 1910 was dark. To win without party support seemed impossible, and behind the lack of party support there was now uncomprehending public opinion which had largely lost its earlier zeal for governments by majorities.

The crucial deduction drawn from all the facts at hand was that public opinion must be made to understand, to arise and to exert its power, not only to secure justice for women but to save the nation from the threatened peril of elections controlled by invisible influences.


* In the year 1867 there was a suffrage referendum in Kansas, see p. 120, The Suffrage Referenda of 40 years, 1869-1909, inclusive; Michigan, 1874; Nebraska, 1882; Colorado, 1877-1893; Rhode Island, 1887; Washington, 1889-1898; Kansas, 1894; Idaho, 1896; California, 1896; South Dakota, 1890-1898; Oregon, 1884-1900-1906-1908; New Hampshire, 1902; the question, included in statehood constitutions, was referred to the voters in Wyoming in 1890 and in Utah in 1895.


* South Dakota, 1890 and 1898; Colorado, 1893; Kansas, 1894; California, 1896; Idaho, 1896; Oregon, 1900, 1906, 1908, and Washington, 1898.


* “History of Woman Suffrage,“ Volume 3, page 691.


* House vote-34 ayes, 27 nays; divided ayes, 22 Populists, 11 Republicans, 1 Democrat; nays, 3 Populists, 21 Republicans, 3 Democrats. Senate vote-20 ayes, 10 nays; ayes, 12 Populists, 8 Republicans, no Democrat; nays, 1 Populist, 4 Republicans, 5 Democrats.


* For, 35,798; against, 29,451.

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