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Montana women had worked to obtain the right to vote since the 1890s without success, but in the second decade of the 20th century the leadership of Missoula suffragist, Jeannette Rankin, turned the tide, with the help of the Montana Federation of Women’s Clubs and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.  In 1912, Montana suffragists organized the Montana Equal Suffrage Association. The Suffrage Daily News, published in Helena, Montana between September and November 1914, played a major part in the success of the movement.

On September 24, 1914, the third issue of the Suffrage Daily News appeared, coinciding with the first day of the Montana State Fair. The four-page, five-column newspaper, published by the Montana Equal Suffrage State Central Committee, printed a sermon by a Baptist pastor from Lewistown, Montana, named Rev. George Cross in an early edition.  Rev. Cross castigated men for shutting women out of efforts to build the young state of Montana, and for “regarding women as a thing for pleasure, for childbearing, and for labor.”  The publishers of the Daily News included Mrs. Lora O. Edmunds of Absarokee, Mary O’Neill of Butte, and Belle Fligelman of Helena.  In 1916 Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to sit in the U.S. Congress, hired Fligelman as her secretary.

One of the special State Fair Editions of the newspaper reported on a special suffrage parade led by Jeannette Rankin down the main street of Helena in September 1914.  The newspaper also featured ads for Jeannette’s brother, Wellington Rankin, a candidate for the U.S. Congress from the Montana Men’s Equal Suffrage League.  The election issue of the newspaper published on November 2, 1914, told the story of Montana’s historical efforts for equal suffrage and featured endorsements by out-of-state dignitaries.  Through the pages of the Suffrage Daily News, the Montana Equal Suffrage Association directly appealed to organized labor and educators for the cause of women’s suffrage.   The group convinced legislators to place a suffrage amendment on the ballot, and Montana voters narrowly passed the amendment on November 3, 1914, making Montana the twelfth state to grant women the vote.

Provided by: Montana Historical Society; Helena, MT