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The commoner. [volume] (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923, August 01, 1913, Image 20

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The Commoner
VOL. 13, NO. 28
Equal Suffrage
By Alice Stone Blackwell, Editor Woman's Journal
When a change la proposed, peo
ple aak "What good will It do?" The
experience of tho enfranchised states
has alroady answorod this question
In regard to equal suffrage. In the
words of Sidney Lanier. "It is idle
to argue from prophecy when we
can argue from history."
Tho following rosults are common
to all tho suffrage states:
(1) Equal suffrage haj broad
ened womon's minds and led them
to tako a more intelligent interest
in public questions. Julia Ward
Howe sent a circular lottor to all tho
ministors of Ave leading denomina
tions in tho four oldest suffrage
states Wyoming, Colorado, Utah
and Idaho and to all tho editors.
She asked whether tho offects of
woman suffrage weio gocd or bad,
and she published tho rojilts of her
inquiry. She received 624 answers.
Of these, sixty-iwo wore unfavorable,
forty-six In doubt, and GIG i favor.
Tho replios from tho Episcopal
clergymen wore favorablo, more than
two to one; from tho Baptis' minis
ters, more than seven to one; from
the Congregatlonalists, abo"t eig" t
to one; from the Method' ts, more
than ton to one.; i:nd from the Pres
byterians, more thai, clove to one.
The editors were in favor, between
eight and nine tD one. While many
other good rosults wore mentioned,
the point upon which (here was tho
greatest unanimity was that the bal
lot had had a good effect upo the
women themselves, in broadening
their views and stimulating them to
inform themselves on questions of
public importance.
(2) It has given women added re
s.OCt and dignity. Women of all the
enfranchised states, from Mrs. Sarah
Piatt Decker down, Have testified to
this. As Mrs. K. A. Shoppard, pres
ident of tho Now Zealand council of
"women puts It: "A young New Zoa
lander in his teenB no longer regards
his mother aB belonging to a sex that
must be kept within a prescribed
sphere. That the lads and young
men of a democracy should have
their .whole conception of tho rights
of humanity broadened and meas
ured by truer standards is in itself
an incalculable benefit."
(3) Woman suffrage has made it
harder to elect candidates of flag
rantly bad character. This is con
coded even by A. Lawrence Lewia, al
moBt tho only respectab''-. man in
Colorado who has written against
equal suffrage. In his art'cle. in tho
Outlook, which the anti-suffragists
have republished as a tract, he says:
"Since the extension of the fran
chise to women, political parties
have learned the inndvisability of
nominating for public offlce drunk
ards, gamblers, notorious libertines,
retail liquor sellers and men of sim
ilar discredited occupations, because
the women almost always vote them
(4) It has boon a help to women
in securing moral, educational and
humane legislation. Tho legislative
committees of the state federations
of women's clubs in all 'the enfran
chised states have learned this by
experience. Tho testimony to it
?, comes with especial weight and em
phasis from women who had worked
for reforms before and after equal
suffrage was granted, and who .have
seen the difference. One of these,
Mrs. Alice Park of Palo Alto, Cal.,
after noting the greater responsive
ness of tho solons this year, wrote:
"One vote is worth a ton of voteless
tafluence." Such testimony could be
multiplied almost indefinitely. A
. specific list of all tho improved laws
secured in the different
states since women were enfran
chised would bo too long for the lim
its of this article. It can be ob
tained from tho National American
Woman Suffrage Association, 605
Fifth Avenue, Now York.
(5) It tends to modify a too ex
clusively commercial view of public
affairs. G. W. Russell, chairman of
tho board of governors of Canter
bury colloge, New Zealand, writes:
"Prior to women's franchise the dis
tinctive feature of our politics was
finance. Legislative proposals were
regarded almost entirely from the
point of view: (1) What would they
cost? and (2) What would be their
lessoned tho power of the saloon in
politics. In the twenty years since
women were given the ballot in Col
orado, no saloon keeper has ever
been elected to the Denver city coun
cil, though before that it was com
mon. Mrs. Deborah Knox Livings
ton, national superintendent of
franchise for tho W. C. T. U., points
out that in the state of Washington
there has been a gain of 115 dry
towns since equal suffrage was
granted, in California a gain of 475,
etc. In Colorado, within four years
after the granting of votes to women
the number of no-license towns was
more than quadrupled, and it has
increased still more largely since.
Commenting upon the defeat of
state-wide prohibition in Colorado
last year, Ellis Meredith, the head
of Denver's reform election commis
sion, and herself a strong advocate
of the dry policy, wrote in the
Woman's Joun.al of November 16,
zzr J 4?a
Copyright 1913, by John T. McCutcheon.
(Illinois la now among the Woman Suffrage States.) From tho Chicago Tribune
effect from a commercial standpoint?
The woman's view is not pounds nor
pence, but Jier home, her familv. Tn
order to win ho- vote, tho politicians
had to look at public matters from
her point of view. Her ideal was
not merely money, but happy homes,
and a fair chance in life for her
husband, her intended husband, and
her present or prospective family."
Louis D. Brandeis, at tho legislative
hearing on woman suffrage in Mas
saclusetts last spring, said that he
had formerly been opposed, but was
now convinced that women's votes
were needed, especially to help in
the solution of our economic prob
lems. (6) It makes elections and politi
cal meetings more orderly. The Hon.
John W. Kingman of the Wyoming
supreme court has said: "In caucus
discussions, tho presence of a few
ladies is worth a whole squad of
(7) It promotes temperance.
Equal suffrage has nowhere brought
about state-wide prohibition, but it
has everywhere led to an extension
of dry territory, and has markedly
1912: "It is because u: der our local
option law conditions are so good
and dry territory increasing so fast
that many people feel we shall come
nearer regulating the traffic in this
way than by so-called total prohibi
tion, with the police power i. all
the big towns opposed to it."
(8) It has increased the moral and
law-abiding vote very largely, while
Increasing the vicious and criminal
vTot very little. Women in tho
united States constitute more than
two-thirds of the church members
and less than six per cent of the pris
on population.
(9) It has increased tin propor
tion of voters who have had more
rwK. -moroly elementary education.
Owing to the growing tendency to
take boys out of school early in or-
2?Jh J)Uti thm Int0 businss, the
high schools of every state in the
.U',JUU, Ul sraauaung more girls
than boyssometimes two or three
times as many. reo
(10) It leads to bettor enf orna
ment of the laws for the protection
of women and children lxutecilon
(11) It he?ps to get adequate ap
propriations for education. Several
years ago I addressed a circular to
the state superintendent of public
instruction or the state commission
er of education in every state whero
women had the school vote, asking
about the results. The large major
ity replied favorably. The Wiscon
sin superintendent gave a striking
instance. In Madison, the proposal
to build a much, needed new high
school building was carried by the
women's votes. The old building was
rickety arid a firetrap. The Nebras
ka superintendent wrote: It Las had
many good results. For example, in
the voting of school bonds whero
better School buildings were an ab
solute necessity, the bonds could not
have been carried without the votes
of the good and intelligent women.
The instances are too numerous to
How the Movement Has Grown
The first suffragist in America was
Mistress Margaret Brent of Mary
land, who in 1647 demanded "place
and., voyce in the assembly," as the
executor and representative of Lord
Baltimore. In 1774, during the sit
ting of the first continental congress,
Abigail Adams of Massachusetts, de
stined to be the wife of one presi
dent of the United States and the
mother of another, wrote to her hus
band that she longed to hear that
the colonies had declared their in
dependence, and that she hoped the
new code of laws would be more
just to women than the old one. If
not, she added playfully, "We are
determined to foment a rebellion,
and will not hold ourselves bound
by any laws in -which we have no
voice or representation." The first
prominent man in America to come
out for woman suffrage was Abra
ham Lincoln. In 1836 he published
in the Sangamon County Journal a
letter to his constituents, stating
that he was in favor of granting the
ballot to all citizens who possessed
certain qualifications, "by no means
excluding Jiemales."
In this country the specific wom
an's rights movement grew out of
the anti-slavery movement. The
anti-slavery society was rent in twain
over the question whether women
might speak against slavery and
serve on committees. The brunt of
the fight for the right to speak was
borne by Abby Kelley Foster of Mas
sachusetts and Sarah and Angelina
Griinke of South Carolina. Frances
Wright, Ernestine L. Rose, Margaret
Fuller and other earnest women
wrote und spoke in behalf of equal
rights for women; and for eight
years, beginning with 1847, Lucy
Stone, a farmer's daughter, lectured
through the -United States to great
audiences and with singular elo
quence. She was the first person by
whom the heart of the public at
large was deeply stirred on tho
woman question.
The first local woman's rights con
vention was held in Seneca Falls, N.
Y in 1848. It was called by Lu
cretia Mott, Martha E. Wright, Eliza
beth Cady Stanton and Mary Ann
The first national woman's rights
convention was held in Worcester,
Mass., in 1850, and attended by suf
fragists from eleven states. The
call was headed by Lucy Stone, ana
signed by eighty-nine persons, in
cluding Ralph Waldo 'Emerson, wen
dell Phillips, William Lloyd Garri
son, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cad'
Stanton, Paulina Wright Davis and
many other men and women of note.
The first local woman's -ights so
ciety was organized at South Bristol,
N. Y., by Mrs. Emily P. Collins, in
The first national organization
aiming at woman suffrage was tne
American Equal Rights association,
formed in New York in 1866. Lu
cretia Mott was the president, ana

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