Part of the American History & Genealogy Project

Woman Suffrage

 

Introduction by Mrs. John A. Logan

In preparing sketches of the heroic women who have fought the battles and won the victories of the woman suffragists of the United States one is deeply impressed by the similarity in heroism, steadfastness of purpose, indefatigable industry, conscientious convictions and determination of these noble women and the women of the Revolution of 1776. The women of those trying days were sustained by their convictions on the subject of human rights, and with the suffragists the movement was started as a revolt against what they considered cruel injustice toward the supposed weaker sex, and because women had not equal rights under the laws of which men were the authors and administrators. From the early days of the Republic and the persecution and cruel decisions of judges and jurors, American women have kept alive a righteous resentment over the dis-crimination against them in a Republic that pretended to be founded upon principles of equal justice for all mankind before the law. The smoldering fires of indignation were fanned into a flame by such courageous women as Lucy Stone, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Caroline M. Seymour Severance and a host of remarkable women who have enlisted in the cause of equal rights for women. It would take volumes to list their achievements by causing the enactment of laws in every state in the Union, lightening the burdens of women and in securing protection for them against all forms of injustice. Mrs. C E. Lucky, president of the Knoxville, Ky., Equal Suffrage League, has recently summed up some of the work of the woman suffragists in so graphic a form that it is herewith submitted:

"Woman suffrage is a very live issue in the world at present, and though voted down in many places it refuses to remain quiescent. In five states in our country, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Colorado and Washington, the entire franchise is granted to women. School suffrage for women prevails in twenty-nine states and territories. In Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Finland and the Isle of Man, women have been granted equal political rights. All suffrage except the right of vote for members of Parliament has been granted in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Denmark and Sweden. Norway has granted equal political rights to women, with the exception of a slight property qualification. In Canada the same privileges have been bestowed on unmarried women and widows, while nearly all the Canadian provinces grant municipal suffrage to women. Now, what are the resulting benefits of equal suffrage? In America the states having full or partial school suffrage for women have less than one per cent, of illiteracy. (Tennessee, by the way, has 14.2 per cent.) In Colorado and some other equal suffrage states, since women have been voting, there have been established: A state industrial school for girls, parents' and truant schools, compulsory education, compulsory examination of eyes, ears, teeth and breathing capacity of children, a law giving teachers equal pay for equal work, and a law pensioning teachers after a certain number of years. All these good results have come because mothers and teachers have had the ballot. Equal suffrage has helped the home life, since there is not a department of the home that is not touched by politics. It has widened all forms of charity and philanthropy, increasing their efficiency a hundred-fold. Colorado and the other suffrage states have established a splendid pure food law, a law raising the age of consent to eighteen, the indeterminate sentence for persons convicted of crime, compulsory factory inspection, the making of fathers and mothers joint heirs of deceased children, a reform in the registration laws and passing of the referendum, initiative and recall, state traveling libraries and the local option laws, thus enabling many towns and counties to go dry. Instead of thinking less of their homes and children, women who vote consider them more, and work harder for them.

Let us turn again to the question of education. The per capita for school expenditure in Massachusetts is $4.96; Pennsylvania, $3.52; Virginia, $1.07; North Carolina, sixty-six cents; Georgia, ninety-seven- cents; Colorado, $5.08. Equal suffrage wherever tried has given the best laws for the protection and rescuing of young girls, boys and children. It has improved the legal condition of women, giving them just control over their property, and mothers equal rights over their children (in many states the mother is not regarded as the parent of the child, which can be willed away from her even before it is born.) The ballot has benefited the working women, cutting down their hours of hard, brutal labor and providing more sanitary surroundings in their places of employment. Women have wonderfully improved political life, which has become higher and cleaner because they vote. Women support reforms and candidates, and public officers are looking more carefully to their record and moral standing. The fate of the mayor and chief of police of Seattle is a fine instance of the way women will vote against moral and official corruption. We need not expect the millennium to come because of equal suffrage, but through it already changes for the better have been made in legislation and in public ideals, and the same subtle feminine influence that is felt in the home makes the home exert itself in the political life, rendering moral considerations superior to mere partisanship. 'The women of Denver have elected me, and made possible the juvenile court, said Judge Lindsay, and we know that Democrats and Republicans united in his cause, the cause of children.

But there is another and, what we might term, the indirect benefit resulting from equal suffrage. This is the influence of public life and its great responsibilities upon women themselves. In exercising the rights and duties of citizenship they read and discuss questions of real importance. Their lives widen out, they have enlarged sympathies and higher standards of life for themselves and their country. They acquire an intense wish to be of real use in the world, and they now know how to work, and are at last given the power to work with individual freedom and independence. The testimony of the most distinguished men and women is that the results of equal suffrage are good. Norway says: 'Nothing but good, nothing but purity has come from suffrage.' New Zealand says: 'If again brought to the question, not two men would be found to oppose.' The same witness comes from all the lands beyond the seas, while in our country the distinguished Judge Ben Lindsay says: 'We have in Colorado the most advanced laws of any state in the Union for the care and protection of the home and the children. I believe I voice the general impression when I say we owe this condition more to woman suffrage than to any other cause.

The results of woman suffrage have been so altogether satisfactory that it is hard to understand how it encounters opposition in other states. I never heard a criticism directed against woman suffrage that ever worked out in practice, or, if it did, was not equally applicable to male suffrage.' As briefly as maybe I would like to base on these facts an appeal for votes for women. I say nothing of the right to vote. That is a self-evident truth. One writer says: 'All powers of government are either delegated or assumed, and all assumed powers are usurpations.' Since women never gave men such powers they are usurpations; they are tyranny. Taxation without representation is another form of oppression. Why is it tyranny for men and not for women? Why should women, the mothers who bear and care for and train the children, teachers who give education and noble purpose in life, business women who work hard to support themselves and others dependent on them, why should these find themselves legal nonentities? Women are under the laws, governed and punished by them, let them have a voice in the legislation. The ballot will take them out of the company of idiots and convicts, and make them the equals of husbands and sons. It will bring equal pay for equal work, give the women the power to work for the conservation of children, the best asset of the state. These are vital questions, with which women are peculiarly fitted to deal. Men lose, the world loses, if opposition to equal suffrage prevents the intelligent co-operation of the sexes.

Lincoln says: "No man is good enough to govern another without the other's consent.' Certainly no man or body of men is good enough to arbitrarily make laws that, without their consent, control the other class of human beings known as women. Roosevelt says: 'Our nation is that one among all the nations of the earth, which holds in its hand the fate of the coming years.' Oh, men, for sixty-two years we have sought from you our right to stand by your side in helping to make our country the greatest, the best governed in the world. We have asked for bread, and you have given us a stone. We have asked for justice, and you prate of chivalry and generosity. Cease to praise us like angels and disfranchise us like idiots. Oh, women! let us combine our forces and join the great movement that alone will give us real power, that will bind all women into one solid phalanx, and make it one of the most impressive and irresistible forces of the present day."

History of Woman's Suffrage | Prominent Suffragists

Women of America

Source: The Part Taken by Women in American History, By Mrs. John A. Logan, Published by The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912.

 

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