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The Passage of the 19th Amendment, 1919-1920
Articles from The New York Times


The following document comprises a series of articles from the New York Times detailing the passage of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution in Congress and the battle to get the Amendment ratified by the states. The Amendment was passed by Congress on June 4, 1919, and ratified on August 19, 1920.


Thursday, June 5, 1919

Suffrage Wins in Senate; Now Goes to States

Constitutional Amendment Is Passed, 56 to 25, or Two More Than Two-thirds

Women May Vote In 1920

Leaders Start Fight to Get Ratification by Three-fourths of States in Time

Debate Precedes Vote

Wadsworth Explains His Attitude In Opposition - Resolution Signed with Ceremony

[See here for a picture of the New York Times Front Page, June 5, 1919]

WASHINGTON, June 4 - After a long and persistent fight advocates of woman suffrage won a victory in the Senate today when that body, by a vote of 56 to 25, adopted the Susan Anthony amendment to the Constitution. The suffrage supporters had two more than the necessary two-thirds vote of Senators present. Had all the Senators known to be in favor of suffrage been present the amendment would have had 66 votes, or two more than a two-thirds vote of the entire Senate.

The amendment, having already been passed by the House, where the vote was 304 to 89, now goes to the States for ratification, where it will be passed upon in the form in which it has been adopted by Congress, as follows:

"Article-, Section 1. - The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
"Section 2. - Congress shall have power, by appropriate legislation, to enforce the provisions of this article."

Leaders of the National Woman's Party announced tonight that they would at once embark upon a campaign to obtain ratification of the amendment by the necessary three-fourths of the States so that women might have the vote in the next Presidential election. To achieve this ratification it will be necessary to hold special sessions of some Legislatures which otherwise would not convene until after the Presidential election in 1920. Miss Alice Paul, Chairman of the Woman's Party, predicted that the campaign for ratification would succeed and that women would vote for the next President.

Suffragists thronged the Senate galleries in anticipation of the final vote, and when the outcome was announced by President Pro Tem. Cummins they broke into deafening applause. For two minutes the demonstration went on, Senator Cummins making no effort to check it.

The Vote in Detail.

The roll call on the amendment follows:

FOR ADOPTION - 36.

Republicans - 36.

Capper, Cummins, Curtis, Edge, Elkins, Fall, Fernald, France, Frelinghuysen, Gronna, Hale, Harding, Johnson, (Cal.,) Jones, (Wash.,) Kellogg, Kenyon, Kayes, La Follette, Lenroot, McCormick, McCumber, McNaty, Nelson, New, Newberry, Norris, Page, Phipps, Poindexter, Sherman, Smoot, Spencer, Sterling, Sutherland, Warren, Watson.

Democrats - 20.

Ashurst, Chamberlain, Culberson, Harris, Henderson, Jones, (N. M.,) Kenrick, Kirby, McKellar, Myers, Nugent, Phelan, Pittman, Ransdell, Shepard, Smith, (Ariz.,) Stanley, Thomas, Walsh, (Mass.,) Walsh, (Mon.)

AGAINST ADOPTION - 25.

Republicans - 8.

Borah, Brandegee, Dillingham, Knox, Lodge, McLean, Moses, Wadsworth.

Democrats - 17.

Bankhead, Beckham, Dial, Fletcher, Gay, Harrison, Hitchcock, Overman, Reed, Simmons, Smith, (Md.,) Smith, (S. C.,) Swanson, Trammell, Underwood, Williams, Wolcott.

Paired.

Ball and King, for, with Shields, against: Calder and Townsend, for, with Penrose, against; Gerry and Johnson of South Dakota, for, with Martin, against; Gore and Colt, for, with Pomerone, against.

Absent and Not Paired.

Owen, Robinson, and Smith of Georgia. The vote came after four hours of debate, during which Democratic Senators opposed to the amendment filibustered to prevent a roll call until their absent Senators could be protected by pairs. They gave up the effort finally as futile.

Changes Defeated.

Before the final vote was taken Senator Underwood of Alabama, called for a vote on his amendment to submit the suffrage amendment to Constitutional conventions of the various States, instead of to the Legislatures, for ratification. This was defeated by a vote of 45 against to 28 in favor.

Senator Gay of Louisiana offered an amendment proposing enforcement of the suffrage amendment by the States, instead of by the Federal Government. Senator Gay said that from a survey of the States he could predict that thirteen States would not ratify the amendment, enough to block it. His amendment was defeated, 62 to 19.

During debate, Senator Wadsworth of New York, who has been an uncompromising opponent of woman suffrage, explained his attitude as being actuated by the motive of preserving to the States the right to determine the question, each State for itself.

"No vote of mine cast upon this amendment would deprive any of the electors of my State of any privilege they now enjoy," said the Senator. "I feel so strongly that the people of the several States should be permitted to decide for themselves, that am frank to say that, if this amendment, instead of being drafted to extend woman suffrage all over the country, were drafted to forbid the extension of the franchise to women in the States, I would vote against it. Even though one might be opposed on general principles to the extension of the franchise to women, one cannot logically object to the people of a State settling that question for themselves.

"It seems to me that it is incumbent upon a Senator in considering his attitude on this matter to regard the nation as a whole and to give consideration to the wishes of the people of the various States which have expressed themselves from time to time."

Overriding State Votes

Senator Wadsworth spoke of the results in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Louisiana, Texas, Wisconsin, and other States where woman suffrage was defeated at the polls.

"Now the question is," he resumed, "whether the people of these States are competent to settle the question for themselves. There is no tremendous emergency facing the country, no revolution or rebellion threatened, which would seem to make it necessary to impose on the people of these States a thing they have said as free citizens they do not require or desire. Is it contrary to the spirit of American institutions that they shall be left free to decide these things for themselves?

"My contention has been, with respect to an amendment to the Constitution, that, if it be placed there, it should command the reverence and devotion of all the people of the country. The discussion here yesterday makes it perfectly apparent that, in part at least, in a certain section of this country, this proposed amendment will be a dead letter. No pretense is made that it will be lived up to in spirit as well as in letter. That same attitude has been manifest in the discussion of the last amendment to the Constitution, ratified last Winter. Today there are thousands of people all over the United States who are attempting to contrive ways by which the prohibition amendment can be evaded. This attitude shows an utter lack of appreciation of the Constitution as a sacred instrument, a lack of realization of the spirit of self-government."

Senator Smith of South Carolina opposed giving women the right to vote, he said, because to allow it would induce "sectional anarchy."

Signing of the Resolution

Immediately after its passage by the Senate the Suffrage Amendment was signed. In appreciation of the fifty-year campaign of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, the guests were limited to representatives of that association and members of Congress, and the gold pen used was presented to the national association. The women chosen to represent the national association were Mrs. Wood Park of Massachusetts, who for two years has been in charge of the association's Congressional work: Mrs. Helen Gardener of Washington, D. C.; Mrs. Ida Husted Harper of New York, Mrs. Harriet Taylor Upton of Ohio, Miss Mary G. Hay, and Miss Marjorie Shuler of New York.

Besides Speaker Gillett, who signed the bill, the members of the House present were Frank W. Mondell, majority leader; Champ Clark, minority leader and ex-Speaker, under whom the amendment first passed the House, and John E. Raker, Chairman of the committee which won the suffrage victory in the House last year.

The Senators present at the signing of the bill for the Senate were Albert B. Cummins, President Pro Tempore, who signed the measure; James E. Watson, Chairman of the Suffrage Committee; Charles Curtis, Republican whip; A. A. Jones, Chairman of the Suffrage Committee in the last Congress; Thomas J. Walsh of Montana, Morris Sheppard, Joseph E. Ransdell, and Reed Smoot.

To celebrate the passage of the amendment the national association will give a reception next Tuesday evening at its Washington headquarters to the members of the House and Senate who voted for the resolution and to their wives. These will be the only guests.

Miss Paul, Chairman of the National Woman's Party, issued a statement, in which she said: "There is no doubt of ratification by the States. We enter upon the campaign for special sessions of Legislatures to accomplish this ratification before 1920 in the full assurance that we shall win."

"The last stage of the fight is to obtain ratification of the amendment so women may vote in the Presidential election in 1920," said Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt, President of the association. "This we are confident will be achieved. The friends of woman suffrage in both parties have carried out their word. In the result we can turn our backs upon the end of a long and arduous struggle, needlessly darkened and embittered by the stubbornness of a few at the expense of the many. 'Eyes front', is the watchword as we turn upon the struggle for ratification by the States."

Prospects of Ratification

Suffrage leaders say quick ratification is assured in twenty-eight States in which women now have full or Presidential suffrage. These States are Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Washington, California, Kansas, Arizona, Oregon, Montant, New York, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Michigan, Illinois, Nebraska, Rhode Island, North Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas, Nevada, and Texas.

Legislatures now in session are: Illinois, will adjourn late in June; Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, adjourn end of June or first of July; Wisconsin, Florida, in session until June 1, cannot ratify, because an election must intervene between submission of amendment and ratification.

Legislatures to meet comparatively soon, or with prospects of meeting soon, are: Michigan and Texas, extra sessions called in June; Georgia, to meet this month; Alabama, to meet in July; Louisiana, possibility of extra session before September; New Jersey, movement for extra session soon; Maine, special session in October; Iowa, special session in January; Kentucky, South Carolina, and Mississippi, meet in January; Virginia, meets in February; Maryland, meets during 1920; Ohio, meets in June.

Today's victory for suffrage ends a fight that really dates from the American Revolution. Women voted under several of the Colonial Governments. During the Revolution women demanded to be included in the Government. Abigail Adams wrote her husband, John Adams, "If women are not represented in this new republic there will be another revolution." From the time of the Revolution women agitated for suffrage by means of meetings and petitions. In 1848 a woman's rights convention was held at Seneca Falls, N. Y., arranged by Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton as the first big suffrage demonstration. From 1848 to the civil war efforts were made to have State laws altered to include women, and Susan B. Anthony became leader of the movement.

For five years after the civil war suffragists tried to secure interpretation of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments which would permit them to vote. In 1872 Miss Anthony made a test vote at the polls, was arrested, and refused to pay her fine, but was never jailed. In 1875 Miss Anthony drafted the proposed Federal amendment, the same one that was voted on today. In 1878 the amendment was introduced in the Senate by Senator Sargent of California. It has been voted on in the Senate five times, including today. In 1878 the vote was 16 yeas to 34 nays; in 1914 it failed by 11 votes, in 1918 it failed by two votes, and on Feb. 10, 1919, it failed by one vote. It has been voted on three times in the House. It failed there in 1915 by 78 votes. In 1918 it passed the House with one vote to spare. On May 21, 1919, it passed the House with 14 votes more than the necessary two-thirds.

Foreign countries or divisions of countries in which women have suffrage are: Isle of Man, granted 1881; New Zealand, 1893; Australia, 1902; Finland, 1906; Norway, 1907; Iceland, 1913; Denmark, 1915; Russia, 1917; Canada, Austria, England, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Poland, Scotland, and Wales, 1918; Holland and Sweden, 1919.

Copyright 1919 The New York Times

Sunday, February 15, 1920

Booms Mrs. Catt for Presidency

Minnesota Delegate's Suggestion Rouses Furor in Suffrage Convention

Praise Hays and Cummings

League Takes the Place of Old Association That Won the Fight

CHICAGO, Feb. 14 - The National American Woman's Suffrage Association today came to the defense of Will Hays, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, who has been attacked by anti-suffragists for aid rendered to the suffrage cause, and congratulated the Republican Party "for having a Chairman who is astute enough to recognize the certain trend of public affairs and to lead his party in step with the inevitable march of human progress."

The resolution was adopted by a vote of 190 to 22, which was later made unanimous.

Democratic women then introduced a resolution thanking Homer Cummings, Democratic National Chairman, for help he rendered their cause, and it, too, was adopted by unanimous vote.

Delegates at the ratification banquet tonight were brought to their feet with a cheer when Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt was proposed for President by Mrs. Peter Olsen of Minnesota. Mrs. Catt waved the suggestion aside with a smile.

Commenting on the fact that the convention program contained the advertisements of two candidates for President, Mrs. Olsen said:

"Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt for President. That is what I would put on the program Others are starting booms. Why can't we? I say this in all seriousness. It is time we did honor to our living leaders."

Mrs. Olsen also was applauded when she predicted: "The League of Women Voters will see to it that the saloon is out to stay out."

Elected permanent convention Chairman of the Congress of the League of Woman Voters, Mrs. Catt today outlined the policies of the new organization and declared women should affiliate with the political parties.

Mrs. Catt's keynote address came at the conclusion of the first session of the new league, at which the work of organization was begun.

Today's meetings were concluded with a ratification celebration banquet tonight at which prominent suffrage workers addressed the delegates.

Deplores League Criticism

"There seems to be some misunderstanding regarding the League of Women Voters," Mrs. Catt declared, in addressing the new body. "There is evident opposition, largely political.

"Persons interested in enrolling members in their political parties are making rather cutting criticisms. They think the league will keep women out of politics. That must not be. For sixty years we have waited for political parties to give us the vote. No State has given it until the political parties had consented.

"The only way to get things in this country, is from the inside of the political parties. More and more the parties have become the agencies through which powerful things have been accomplished. It is not a question of whether it is right for us but rather a realization of the fact. They are powerful.

"Why have the Governors in the West acted so independently of the women voters? We expected that they would c all special sessions immediately after the amendment had passed. The reason is this: That the women voters have been a sort of ladies' auxiliary. There has been no common body to exert an influence.

"Women must get into the parties. Without, we should continue to be auxiliaries. We've been sixty years urging men to confide in the abilities of women. Prove your capacity from within the parties.

"You have a struggle ahead. There are inner circles in the parties where you will not be wanted, but it is just there that you must go. There is a danger, too, that you will be too timid, too conservative. If you are going to trail along five years behind the parties, it would be better that you never take up politics. Be five years ahead."

To Direct League

Affairs of the league, it was decided today, would be in charge of ten National Directors elected for one year. Seven of the Directors would represent divisions of the country and three would be elected at large. The Board of Directors would elect a Chairman, Vice Chairman, Secretary, and Treasurer, and would meet annually in each of the seven districts.

A national manager also will be chosen by the board, "at a sufficient salary to get the best available talent in the country." An Executive Council also was provided for, to be composed of the Presidents of state auxiliaries and chairmen of standing committees.

The association decided to establish a foundation for the study of politics at Bryn Mawr and to establish a chair in the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania, both as a memorial to the late Anna Howard Shaw. Mrs. George O. Miller of Pennsylvania, was appointed chairman of the memorial fund. Mrs. Grace Howard Lewis of Buffalo, a close friend of the late suffrage President, announced a gift of $1,000 to the memorial fund.

Evidence of partisan activity was given repeatedly today. Four women, although declared out of order by the chair, rose to insist that the word "nonpartisan" be kept in sight, and another delegate asked that "unpartisan" be used in the permanent name of the Voters' League, which is yet to be chosen.

Following the morning session Democratic adherents, especially delegates from the Southern States, complained openly that the convention had been packed with Republicans.

Copyright 1920 The New York Times

Saturday, February 14, 1920

Suffragists Press Governors to Have Amendment Passed

Demand Prompt Ratification by States Which Have Not Adopted It

2,000 Rejoice at Chicago

Delegates Join in 30-Minute Demonstration Over Their Coming Victory

Associations to Dissolve

League of Women Voters Also Will Be Organized as an Independent Body

CHICAGO, Feb. 13 - Governors of the various States that have not ratified the Federal suffrage amendment will receive telegrams demanding immediate consideration and prompt action by the Legislatures as a result of action decided upon today at the opening of the fifty-first annual convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association.

Delegates to the convention numbering more than 2,000 wish ratification to be completed so that all women of the country can participate in the Presidential election.

Demand on the various State executives for a changed attitude toward woman voters followed the receipt of a telegram indicating that a special session of the Oklahoma Legislature would be called Feb. 23 to consider ratification of the amendment.

Particular attention was directed by the convention against Governor Hart of Washington, the only equal suffrage State where no move has been made to call a special session. Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt, President of the association, was directed to send to the Governor the following telegram:

"Washgton is now the only enfranchised State which has not taken action toward ratification of the Federal Suffrage amendment. Thirty-five ratifications are assured in the immediate future. The nation has been informal for many years that Washington approved woman suffrage. It therefore looks to yu to call an immediate session of your Legislature, and once more announce Washington's endorsement of woman suffrage by ratification of the Federal amendment."

Condemn Washington Governor

The message was dispatched following receipt of a telegram from the Washington League of Woman Voters saying:

"We were a pioneer suffrage State, the fifteenth State to be enfranchised. Therefore we resent the disgraceful humiliation put upon us by the stubborn refusal of our Governor to listen to our united demand for a special session to ratify the suffrage amendment."

With the reading, amid enthusiastic cheering of a telegram of congratulation from President Wilson, the convention became a victory jubilee patriotic celebration and political rally rolled into one. For thirty minutes the delegates assembled in the Gold Room at the Congress Hotel and each supplied with a horn, indulged in a wild demonstration of joy.

A din of horns resounded. The delegates lined up by States and marched up and down the aisles waving banners. Women stood on chairs and led State cheers and songs, and the whole assemblage united in singing "America" and "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Mrs. Catt Reads Message

During a lull in the cheering Mrs. Catt read this telegram from President Wilson:

"Permit me to congratulate your association upon the fact that its great work is so near its triumphant end, that you can now merge it into a league of women voters to carry on the development of good citizenship and real democracy, and to wish for the new organization the same success and wise leadership."

Mrs. Stanley McCormick of Massachusetts, First Vice President, moved that a reply be sent conveying the association's gratitude for President Wilson's "constant co-operation and help, with deep regret for his recent illness."

Mrs. Grace Wilbur Trout, Chairman of the Committee on Local Arrangements, in her address of welcome expressed the hope that the ratification campaign would "make future conventions unnecessary."

Mrs. Catt then asked Mrs. Stanley McCormick to take the chair and began her address.

"We have no official proclamation announcing that our amendment has been ratified by the necessary thirty-six States," she said, "but the ratifications already completed and the special legislative sessions already called for ratification bring us within a very few of the required number. There is no earthly power that can do more than delay by a trifle the final enfranchisement of women.

Nevada Sends Official Word

"Thirty-one States have ratified. Our able assistant, Mrs. Helen S. Gardener, has been camping on the doorstep of the Legislature to see that the certificates are rushed to Washington as soon as they are issued. I had a telegram from Robert Lansing, Secretary of State, today announcing that he had received the certificate of ratification from Nevada, which ratified the amendment on Feb. 7.

"I have just received a message from the Governor of Arizona announcing the ratification by that Senate. You read it in the newspapers this morning, but we do not take the newspapers for our authority.

"Here is something that hasn't been printed in the newspapers. I have just received word from the Governor of New Mexico saying he is going to call a special session of the Legislature on Monday. The Governor of Oklahoma calls his session on the 23d. Five other State Legislatures have asnnounced their readiness to ratify. That will make thirty-eight States altogether, but only three of the five Governors have promised to call their sessions in the near future, and that makes the necessary thirty-six."

Mrs. Catt laid the failure of the suffrage amendment to pass the Sixty-fifth Congress at the doors of Senators Pomerene and Hitchcock, Democrats, and Senators Borah and Wadsworth, Republicans, and blamed them for the necessity of calling special sessions of the Legislatures.

The Executive Council at the night session recommended that the association dissolve as the object of many years' endeavor, the obraining of the vote for women, was about to be attained.

Another recommendation, which was approved, was that the League of Women Voters, now a section of the Suffrage Association, be organized as a new and independent body. It also was recommended that the auxiliaries of the association retain their relationship to the Board of Directors to be elected by this convention, but that they change their names, objects, and constitutions to conform to those of the National League of Women Voters.

Copyright 1920 The New York Times

Friday, February 13, 1920

Suffragists Split By Party Politics

Mrs. Bass Attacks Republican Women Who Spread Propaganda at Convention

May Break Out On Floor

Mrs. Catt Predicts Speedy Success of Amendment on Eve of Chicago Session

CHICAGO, Feb. 12 - Party politics overshadowed all other issues on the eve of the fifty-first convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Party lines were being so tightly drawn tonight that the most skillful leadership will be necessary to hold the gathering to a strictly non-partisan course.

The powder was touched off by the Democratic women, who promise to liven several issues that will come up on the floor. Mrs. George Bass, member of the Democratic Executive Committee, and referred to as the "spokeswoman for the Administration," issued a statement sharply criticizing the Illinois Republican Women's Executive Committee for placing a full-page paid advertisement in the program of the convention.

Mrs. Bass's remarks were chiefly directed against the first sentence printed in heavy type at the head of the advertisement, which read:

"To the Republican Party you owe the passage of the Federal suffrage amendment, and it will be responsible for the ratification soon to come."

"In regard to this advertisement I will say I was greatly shocked." said Mrs. Bass. "The Democratic Party in Congress and in the States has done more to give the women in the United States suffrage than any other party, and President Wilson is the only President who has lifted his voice and his influence in the cause of suffrage."

Earlier in the day Mrs. Bass had issued a reply to the statement made on Wednesday by Will H. Hays, Republican National Chairman, in which she declared the "mere act of giving women suffrage does not automatically give them all the privileges of party management."

"Some changes in party rules and election and primary laws are necessary to give women equal representation with men," she said.

Republican Women Stand Firm

Mrs. Fletcher Dobyns, Chairman of the Illinois committee which inserted the advertisement, declared that the Republican women refused to be drawn into a controversy concerning it.

Miss Mary Garrett Hay of New York, speaking for the Republican Women's National Committee, said:

"The advertisement was not inserted by the national organization. It was paid for by the State organization. It seems to me it rather shows the alertness of the Illinois women and their progressiveness. I would call it something of a business coup."

That the matter probably will find its way to the convention floor was intimated by one of the Republican delegates, who said such a matter "could best be handled by the convention itself by resolution."

Another question in which party lines may crop out is that of the merger of the suffrage association with the National League of Women Voters, the first congress of which will be held on Saturday. The Democrats look upon it as a superfluous organization. The Republican women speak of it tolerantly as a sort of innocuous organization, probably helpful, if anything, to the Republican Party. The "neutrals," those who are waiting final ratification of the suffrage amendment before declaring party allegiance, declare that the league will serve both as a school of citizenship for women and as a nonpartisan lobbying organization to support the enactment of laws in which both Democratic and Republican women are interested.

But while politics hummed up and down the corridors of the Congress Hotel, it was strictly barred from the six preliminary conferences which were in session all day and ended tonight at half a dozen dinners, following which the most prominent speaker delivered addresses. Mrs. Catt, Miss Hay, and other prominent suffragists spent the entire day hurrying from one conference to another and back to the meeting of the Board of Directors of the association, which was in session all day behind closed doors.

Copyright 1920 The New York Times

June 4, 1920

Western Women Active

Begin Work for Early Ratification of Suffrage Amendment

CHICAGO, June 4 - Illinois women tonight were jubilant as a result of passage of the equal suffrage amendment by the United States Senate. Some of the leaders were roubtful that ratification by thirty-six states could be obtained in time for the women to vote in the next Presidential election. Mrs. Catherine Waugh McCulloch, Evanston lawyer, said there was no doubt about Illinois, and that an effort would be made to have the Legislature the first in the country to ratify.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind., June 4 - No sooner was the word flashed here that the Senate had passed the Woman Suffrage Amendment than the Indiana Woman's Franchise League had its President on the way to the State Capitol to urge Governor Goodrich to call a special session of the Legislature to ratify the Federal amendment. Although not fully satisfied with the answer of the Governor, the women have not given up hope of a special session.

Governor Goodrich said that he was heartily in sympathy with the cause, and if it became necessary to call a special session to hasten woman suffrage he would do so.

Copyright 1919 The New York Times

Wednesday, June 9, 1920

Suffrage Pickets Get Little Notice

March Up and Down Before Convention Hall with Banner, but Are Lost in Hurrying Crowds

CHICAGO, June 8 - The tamest feature of the convention's opening was the picketing by the National Woman's Party in protest against the refusal of the Governors of Connecticut and Vermont to call special sessions to ratify the suffrage amendment, already ratified by thirty-five of the requisite thirty-six States.

The women were there. They carried their purple, white and gold banner, which sought, in a variety of slogans, to place responsibility for failure to ratify the amendment squarely upon the Republican Party, and to set forth all the bad things 17,000,000 women could and would do to that party next November if it did not get busy right away and make national enfranchisement an accomplished fact.

Silently the women moved along the curb on Wabash Avenue or backed up against the Coliseum walls. But they made no demonstration of any sort - were, in fact, forbidden to speak to any one - and a vast majority of the hurrying thousands did not even notice them. There was no attempt to enter the building or to molest the delegates.

Copyright 1920 The New York Times

Sunday, August 29, 1920

EDITORIAL: The Woman of Thirty

It is almost cruel to recall the nineteenth century wit who offered to solve the suffrage question. It would suffice, he said, to permit all women to vote after thirty - the sly inference being that none would qualify. If the author of this merry jest is still alive, even he must find his taunt somewhat faded. Women in fighting for the vote have shown a passion of earnestness, a persistence, and above all a command of both tactics and strategy, which have amazed our master politicians. A new force has invaded public life and it is wielded by leaders who, whatever their foibles, perforce admit their three decades. A world that has hitherto recognized only the power of feminine youth and beauty is on its knees - no less - before the woman of thirty. What is to be the upshot?

It is doubtless true that women will divide much as men have done among the several parties. There will be no solid "woman vote." Having individual opinions and preferences, they will be individually swayed by them in respect to any given political issue or personality. But this is only half of the story. Even the democratic franchise cannot quite unsex either men or women. Hitherto the distinctively feminine instincts and aspirations have centered in winning the right of suffrage; but now that it is won, a vast, united force has been let loose. That political issues and leaders should continue to be merely man-made is inconceivable.

It is a fair guess, and indeed a fact already exemplified, that one distinctive interest of the woman politician will be in what is called welfare legislation - the regulation of the conditions of life and of industry with reference to the health and vigor of the nation, for the present and especially for future generations. Such issues should rouse all the powers of sisterly and motherly instinct; but as yet they have not developed an intensity, and especially a skill in leadership, at all comparable to that displayed in the suffrage campaigns. Perhaps it is because the feminine strength was divided between Albany and Washington; all may be well, now the great victory is won. Yet there is another possibility.

Unlike suffrage, questions of human welfare can seldom be answered by a categorical yes or no. If we legislate an eight-hour day for women, we are subject to unexpected repercussions. Seasonal industries like canning and millinery are crippled and their employees deprived of much valued overtime pay. If we legislate against night work, we hear from elevator girls and ticket choppers, who suffer a serious loss of employment. So the women welfare workers are confronted by others of their sex who demand in the name of freedom that they be permitted to work as they choose. It is not a question of black or white, but of delicately shaded values and the interplay of a thousand nicely adjusted forces, economic and social. The talents required are openness to evidence, accurate foresight and wise tolerance.

Women are beginning to have a sense of this, and they are developing a flexibility of mind and a capacity for compromise that make political discussion a thing very different from what it has been. Again, in the current campaign both parties are appealing to the feminine abhorrence of bloodshed, and especially to the desire to protect brothers and sons; but, while one party declares that the League of Nations will end all wars, the other, with equal assurance, declares that it will ceaselessly embroil us. Once more there is need of openness of mind and accurate foresight - the exercise of which is adding a new talent to the woman of thirty. By degrees the bickerings of politics as practiced by men are developing a really vital view of the situation. Women who are fit to be mothers of the nation know that there is no sovereign remedy against death in any form, and that the one sure way to make life honorably safe is to face its responsibilities with a clear mind and a high heart. True citizenship means service and sacrifice, the giving as well as the taking.

Truly, we live in a new day and are blessed with new manners. Time was when it seemed a baffling fact that the decade of the feminine struggle for freedom was the decade when hobbles became tightest and heels most toppling. Now we know: it was necessary to convince men that even in politics women can still be feminine. With victory assured, the woman of thirty is already dressing more sedately. Once, at the most intellectual dinner tables, the departure of the ladies was a signal for the men to duck beneath the mahogany for things which, like Desdemona's handkerchief, were not lost but only mislaid. That also was the prerogative of the unenfranchised, and is also a vanishing ceremony. Some men still linger over their cigars, but only at debutante dinners, where the lure is callow youth. In circles dominated by the woman of thirty, cigars are laid aside half smoked and the men clamor at the drawing-room door to know how soon they may be admitted.

Copyright 1920 The New York Times


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(c)Paul Halsall September 1997
halsall@murray.fordham.edu