Suffrage in the 20th Century: Major Figures and Organizations

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SOURCE: Fowler, Robert Booth. "The Case for Suffrage: Catt's Ideal for Women." In Carrie Catt: Feminist Politician, pp. 61-76. Boston, Mass.: Northeastern University Press, 1986.

In the following essay, Fowler identifies and analyzes the personal and social values that informed Catt's political position regarding suffrage.

Carrie Catt was not a great political philosopher or even an important contributor to political theory within the modest tradition of American political thought. She neither claimed to be nor wanted to be. Yet, outside her ideas, Catt cannot really be understood as a feminist politician. While they may not have soared much beyond her time and place, her ideas were integral to her definition of what she was doing and to how she was doing it.

Aileen Kraditor argues that the "woman suffrage movement had no official ideology," and Kraditor is undoubtedly correct.1 This was true not only because there were many different strands in the arguments made for suffrage, but also because it was a Progressive Era movement, not inclined to think in abstract or philosophical terms. Nor did leaders such as Catt attempt to impose a single ideological unity on their movement. They took any allies they could find and did not ask for the reasons behind their support. Moreover, Catt herself was disposed to be eclectic in arguing for woman suffrage. She was not sure how to approach suffrage for women: as a right, as a duty, or as a privilege. What mattered to her was its achievement.

Yet Catt's arguments over time do have a unity that consists of much more than the eclectic grab bag that she sometimes suggested they were. She articulated certain approaches and themes faithfully that provide insight into her basic political values and goals beyond suffrage.

Aileen Kraditor and Janet Zollinger Giele pioneered in the study of the thought of the suffragists.2 Kraditor's analysis stresses that suffragists supported the enfranchisement of women on two pillars, one drawing from natural-right arguments, the other emphasizing the social benefits that suffragists contended voting women would produce for society. Kraditor terms the latter arguments "expediency" claims, suggesting they were proposed in good part as a means for building support by whatever means worked. Giele notes in particular that the social-benefit approach made suffrage more attractive to men—and to women—because it appeared more "feminine."3

Undoubtedly this strategic consideration was important in the partial shift of suffragist arguments during the Progressive Era toward an "expediency" or public-welfare emphasis. But accenting expediency over social benefit can be misleading. Most suffragists were deeply convinced that wide-ranging public benefits would come from the Anthony amendment and sincerely sought most of these gains as public goods. In the Progressive Era most suffragist leaders naturally justified reforms in terms of their larger good.

Kraditor's general analysis does apply to Catt. She consistently invoked both general-benefit and natural-rights arguments for woman suffrage. At the same time, however, Catt employed another argument. Over and over she argued for suffrage as a means to end the humiliation of women, to restore their dignity as human beings equal to men. Though this view did not conflict with the standard arguments, it was not the same. And it mattered more to Catt than any other.

Public Benefit

The language of social benefit did routinely suffuse Catt's argument for woman suffrage. Even though women opponents insisted that where suffrage for women existed there were no discernible social gains, Catt thought differently. And she took for granted that woman suffrage could be and should be justified in this fashion, and that it represented an effective argument to do so. For her the vote was "a tool with which to build a better nation," and suffrage therefore could pass the supreme test for public policy—"to provide for the common welfare"—and the one test for Catt's personal morality—"To help humanity upward."4 Her arguments here are familiar ones to those who know anything about the popular pro-suffrage case of her day. In particular, suffrage would aid society, Catt thought, because it would assist the weak, curtail vice, improve the home, and, especially, improve the chances tor peace abroad and for democratic government at home.

She was never very clear why votes for women would help the weak, though she seems to have thought women, or "the best women," would want to and could do so if they had the vote. Mostly she was content to affirm in vague terms that woman suffrage would benefit "all the weak and erring … all the homeless and unloved."5 Or she would make a denunciation of "men who draw vast dividends from very underpaid labor" or proclaim that "posterity assuredly will pronounce child labor in our generation a disgrace."6 But she never really made clear why woman suffrage could or would do much about these things.

Catt was specifically concerned with the possibility that women's enfranchisement would help socially vulnerable women—divorced and single women and those who had to work for a living—and their children. Catt expected that voting women would make a difference because women were sensitive to the plight of the vulnerable, children especially. She believed that developments in the 1920s, after women's enfranchisement, showed her to be right. The passage of the Sheppard-Towner Act and the success of the Child Labor Amendment in Congress suggested to her that voting women could make politicians assist the vulnerable, though much more needed to be done. The result, she was sure, would be a better nation.7

Ironically, her antisuffragist critics both disagreed and agreed with her. Before the adoption of the Anthony amendment they insisted that all it would produce was a formal equality which would not help the weak at all in the real world. Amendments and laws would change little and instead they would open the door to a covert exploitation that would be worse.8 After 1920 and the appearance of the first protective legislation, especially for children, they turned around and charged that women's enfranchisement was producing dangerous social experiments that threatened the basic economic and social order of the United States.9

Fighting "vice" appealed to Catt at least as a reason for woman suffrage. She had in mind particularly the vice of alcohol, but the exploitation of women through prostitution was another topic she frequently addressed. For her to attack "vice" was really to strike back at the opponents of a proper democracy (and woman suffrage—since to her they were intimately linked) rather than to satisfy her personal puritanical urges. For example, she felt alcohol's political effects every day she campaigned for women's enfranchisement. Alcohol and those in the liquor business constantly corrupted American democracy by "buying" voters and politicians in an effort to defeat woman suffrage, which they feared would lead to Prohibition. So did all the forces of vice. "Have you ever known of a white slaver, a professional gambler, a political briber … who was not an anti-suffragist? I never have."10

When the public benefit that suffrage could bring was to promote a better home, Catt had somewhat less to say. Her perspective was different from Jane Addams's, who believed that every woman's heart was in the home. For Addams this meant that public action by women was a natural extension of the home into society, the addressing of family problems in public life.11 Catt did at times affirm that "home means more to a woman than it ever can to a man," but she was not exactly family-oriented. She was only rarely a homemaker and she had no children. Nor did Catt think about women primarily as guardians of home and family. According to her analysis, things were rapidly changing. By then, many women worked and technological developments no longer required women to be in the home all the time even if they did not have to work. If Catt had any favorite unifying image of women it was as citizens rather than homemakers. Addams was very much a Progressive in her similar devotion to public citizenship, but she fused the role of homemaker and citizen for women in a way that Catt did not.12

There was, however, one dimension of the gain that Catt thought could come to the home after women voted that she deeply believed in and advocated. This was her belief that it could end ("destroy" was her word) "obedience of women in the home."13 Indeed, she held the radical view that this was what the women's movement was all about "at home." She did not doubt that this change would enhance the life of the country as a whole, but that was not the context in which she presented it. It was, rather, part (an explosive part) of her argument for enfranchisement to abolish women's humiliation—regardless of its social costs.

Catt recognized that her views on family relations were too radical to advance as a popular argument—with men or women. She addressed the issue when critics pushed her to, but mostly she did not discuss family life.

Again and again antisuffragists asserted that women belonged in the home, where they served so well. They feared for home and motherhood itself. They worried that the "sanctity of … womanhood and her home" would disappear in a suffrage-stimulated social revolution that would involve "easy" divorce and "free love" and the death of monogomy and of love itself.14

There is no question that this charge was the core of the antisuffragist anxiety over women's enfranchisement. For them suffrage challenged "the link of woman to the home that underlay the entire ideology" of opposition to votes for women. To put it another way, what was at issue was different images of women, and the idea that women in particular were the defenders of a family-oriented society.15

Catt did not take lightly the charge that the enfranchisement of women would undermine the home and through it all society. Its potential to hurt her cause, especially with traditional women, was much too great for her to ignore the charge. Her responses were revealing. She deftly sidestepped her own goals and chose instead to insist that votes for women would not promote "free love" or "easy divorce." She did not see how they could and she hoped, in fact, that they would not. She also denied that such notions were attractive to most of her fellow workers: "Free love is not and never has been a tenet of suffragists."16 There were a few public opponents of "family" and marriage within the women's movement, but Catt knew and insisted they were a tiny minority. And in a famous clash with the head of the Man Suffrage Association in 1915, she identified "red light district(s)" as places where defenseless and voteless women were exploited, and as more significant strongholds of those in favor of divorce and permissive sexual behavior than was the suffragist movement.17

Such statements can naturally lead one to the mistaken belief that Catt fits in nicely with Ellen DuBois's perceptive suggestion that suffragists of Catt's generation were not at all radical in their conceptions of women in the home.18 As we know, this was hardly the case for Catt, who thought "destroying obedience" was a real goal of the feminism she endorsed, and whose own marriages were far from traditional. But the public Catt did not go out of her way to let her larger audience know that her sexual conservatism was not a good guide to how much, in fact, she hoped that antisuffragist fears for the fate of patriarchal family would come true.

She was inclined simply to laugh at a related argument of the antisuffragists that suggested that women could not handle any life except the secure life of patriarchal domesticity. Opponents' contentions that a larger life for women would create too much stress, exhaust their limited psychological resources, and even promote the spread of "insanity" among women were not uncommon.19 But Catt thought it was obvious that this was a myth propagated by rich Eastern women who knew little about most women in American life, and even less of history. "The objection that the 'nervous system' of women is not sufficiently stable to endure the strain of political responsibility, an objection heard disgustingly often in the East, is naturally not heard [in the West]. A 'Nervous System' which has sufficient caliber to face rattlesnakes … cyclones, and to 'Prove us' a claim, will hardly be charged here with too much delicacy."20

Perhaps it was her own experience as a woman married to two men who were from all accounts emotionally healthy and independent that explains why Catt did not rise to antisuffragist suggestions that proper, homebody women would lose contact with "real" men as the result of the revolution suffrage would instigate. Men would become effeminate, it was said, and there were public calls for "men" to stand up and be men and repulse the suffragists' attempt to destroy them.21

But another, greater reason was that Catt did not think primarily in family or gender terms. Always she searched for equal citizens united to serve the public good. It was in this spirit that she argued most strongly for the potential social gains of women's enfranchisement in terms of advancing democracy and world peace. Indeed, it was with these specific social benefits in mind that she spoke and wrote for woman suffrage with heart and soul.

I will discuss Catt's conceptions of democracy in some detail later. Here it is sufficient to note that Catt thought American democracy needed to be cleaned up and directed toward social rather than selfish ends. She was sure women could make a difference by eliminating corrupt officials, promoting honest elections, and negating selfish interest groups. Women could apply the only remedy available: "The remedy … lies in the integrity and courage of American citizens to rise … and declare that the time must speedily come when we shall have purity in government."22

But, the antisuffragists' question was, Why would voting women make such a difference? Why were they so special? They thought Catt and her legion of reformers were blinded by their enthusiasm. No one could alter the dirty and enduring realm of politics. Moreover, they thought women were innocent of politics, on the whole, and therefore particularly ill equipped to accomplish this unlikely mission.23

But Catt thought—or hoped—that women could improve American democracy. She never claimed that women were purer or nobler than men and thus would naturally defeat evil; Catt never celebrated women over men. Nor did she contend that women were more politically astute than men. Her view, rather, was that women could do the job if they entered politics and brought to bear their potential as human beings because they, unlike men, were free of the history, culture, and current practice of modern politics. The nature of women provided no guarantee, but their very innocence from the ways of politics and their relatively "pure" values because of this innocence provided the opportunity—if they were properly trained and led.24

Catt also took it for granted that democracy improved as more citizens gained incorporation into the political system. It became more alive and more authentic, and elite rule suffered. "With the enfranchisement of women the ruling class will disappear forever. Popular government, with no privileged class based on religion, wealth, race or sex … will become an established fact."25 It was in light of this faith that she unhesitatingly affirmed that "The enfranchisement of women will be the crowning glory of democratic government."26

Such uplifting sentiments did not sit well, however with Catt's opponents. While Catt celebrated women's enfranchisement and democracy together, they insisted Catt and the N.A.W.S.A. were hypocrites. How, they demanded, could the leader of the suffragists and the "small but noisy" minority of women aligned with her claim to be serious democrats? Antisuffragists charged that suffragists were actually trying to "impose upon the majority of women … what they do not want and have never asked for": woman suffrage. Suffragists were flagrantly undertaking "to override the fundamental principle of democracy—the rule of the majority."27

For antisuffragists the proof of this hypocrisy lay in suffrage crusaders' affinity for pressing their cause through state legislatures and Congress rather than by using referenda or even initiatives in the many states when they were available. Antisuffragists urged that women be allowed to vote on women's enfranchisement (a proposal that had its own irony, of course). Short of that, even letting all men vote would have demonstrated some commitment to democracy by suffragists who, these critics often suspected, rejected the idea because they liked operating in the dark corridors with political machines and hidden elites whom they so ostentatiously denounced in public. They were not democrats but machine politicians par excellance.28

There was a good deal of truth to these charges where Catt is concerned. She was akin to a machine politician, at least insofar as she was prepared to match her opponents with all the skills of organization and wiles of strategy that she felt were so necessary to thread one's way through the American political process. And along the way Catt did not, in fact, show any enthusiasm for pursuing means that her critics believed to be more democratic, such as referenda by men—or women. Catt simply knew the facts, that suffrage referenda often lost as a majority of male voters voted "no," while referenda by women in nonsuffrage states simply were not going to happen. To be sure, Catt and her allies sometimes used existent referenda procedures and, in time, often won. But her decision by 1916 to push for a constitutional amendment rather than fighting only state-by-state and often referenda-by-referenda did represent a choice to reach for a victory in national legislative halls. Of course, even a constitutional amendment required three-quarters of the states to approve it. But Catt realized that the issue would be decided in state legislatures, not by public referenda. More to the point, perhaps, Catt's strategic choice to work for passage of the Nineteenth Amendment did not seem to her a denial of her commitment to democracy. It was only a practical calculation to advance her cause, not a significant statement of her philosophy of ideal government. Ideal government would be an inclusive, politically egalitarian, and uncorrupted democracy, which Catt was convinced woman suffrage would facilitate as nothing else could. This ideal was proof of Catt's commitment to democracy, she believed, and she was more than content to let the matter rest there.

However, she did rely on her limited faith in democracy when she thought it would serve her immediate goal of suffrage for women, during World War I in particular. It was then that she pounded home her conviction that a commitment to democracy in principle required the granting of suffrage to women. After all, was not America involved in the war to defend and promote democracy? If so, then how could Congress avoid making democracy real at home, especially in light of the fact that women could vote in Germany? Congress had no choice. It had to vote a constitutional amendment for woman suffrage to avoid rendering America's participation in the war a fraud.29

Catt's strategic purpose here was, obviously, not subtle. In part she was merely mobilizing proclaimed American war objectives to her advantage. Yet there was another, quite authentic side to her appeal. War could make sense to her only if it was fought for a cause, even a cause such as democracy. Granting women suffrage could make the war truly legitimate; U.S. war aims would be less hollow and no American woman would need be skeptical about the war.

As important in the long run for Catt was the potential enfranchising women had for her almost sacred goal: world peace. "For thousands of years," Catt argued, "men have begun all the wars," and their attempts to clean up the mess left behind merely led on to the next war.30 While in later, postsuffrage years, Catt appreciated that in light of this sad record it would "take a long time to get the fighting habit out of them,"31 her hopes were higher before 1920. To be sure, she granted that both sexes had great capacity for what she called hysterical, nonrational behavior. The difference was that men expressed theirs by fighting. Women did so in other ways and therefore voting women would inevitably check men's affinity for war. Catt was less clear as to why men expressed their "hysteria" in war and women did not. The explanation she usually favored was cultural. Catt also thought women's role in society placed them in a position to favor life and reject war, which was too often over matters such as "oil or coal or trade." She always claimed that, had women been able to be active citizens before World War I, there would have been no war.32

While her confidence here was in those days real, its plausibility was tissue-thin. Opponents ridiculed the idea that women could end war. They did not see women as quite the peace lovers Catt thought them to be. And the pacifists tended to encourage the warlike, as pacifists always did, even if unintentionally. While Catt thought differently both before and after the Great War, she implicitly agreed with her critics during the war. After all, her claim then was that enfranchised women would be strongly committed to the war and to the fighting patriotism of that day. Then votes for women, were in Catt's phrase, "an imperative war measure." This was not merely Catt the strategist at work; she was perfectly sincere. And it never seems to have occurred to her that she could not have it both ways; if woman suffrage was socially beneficial because it would advance peace, how could it also be good because it would help win wars?33

Natural Rights

The first language of the women's movement in the United States was the language of rights. The Declaration of Rights and Sentiments spoke in these terms. So did the pioneers of the movement, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton.34 So did Catt, even though her arguments were complicated by her simultaneous claims for the social benefits of suffrage.

Her often repeated view was straightforward: Women had a right to vote as human beings who could not be governed without their consent and their participation. Catt often called on this tenet of Western liberalism with a special American twist, stressing the issue of taxation without representation. But mostly she—with others—invoked the familiar right of consent of the governed to press her suffrage claims and left it at that. For she knew that the language of rights, especially the right of consent, was so pervasive in American experience and culture that her appeal could not be ignored.35

Catt was unlike most others who invoked such a rights claim for women in that she did have at least some sense of what she meant when she made this kind of claim. While the ordinary "arguments" on this score consisted of little more than assertions that women had a vague thing known as equal right and thus should be allowed to vote, Catt spoke from her Spencerian naturalism, grounding her notion of rights in a view of human nature in which all people had an equal right to liberty and consent. However, Catt normally followed the popular path of announcing this right rather than developing its ontological, analytical, and epistemological meanings and implications.36

It is no surprise that most of Catt's attention went to stressing equality regarding the right to vote. She agreed with John Stuart Mill that the right was universal and, unlike Mill, she really meant it. That led her to an angry set of comparisons, time and again, with women's status as citizens vis-à-vis the males who had the right to vote in the United States and in some cases had no trouble obtaining it, despite the absence of any demonstrated record of merit. To her this was obviously absurd. Her message was that women and everyone else should have the equal right.

This was the kind of argument of which she was a master because it allowed her to bring rights down from an abstract philosophical realm in which she was neither comfortable nor particularly competent to show what was at stake in practical life. And by exposing in concrete terms what she took to be laughable inconsistencies in the application of human rights, she assumed people would be left with no choice. They would have to agree with her that women should receive the vote.37

The serious problem with Catt's rights argument was that she never explored how it fit or didn't fit with her social-benefit argument. She had no interest in examining questions such as how compatible the individualism of a rights approach was with the implicit social utilitarianism of her social-benefit claims or, in more practical terms, how likely a woman focused on her rights would be to care intensely about social evils and vice versa. The two arguments were lumped together, and that was that.

Only in one instance, carefully brought up after the Anthony suffrage amendment was law, did Catt suggest there might be a difficulty, specifically regarding mothers and their children. In the 1920s she thought she saw signs that some "liberated" women were pursuing lifestyles opened up by acknowledgment of their rights as persons that occasionally damaged the social good. She worried that some women were ignoring their children (as men also could and did), which no society could tolerate. It is significant, though, that Catt tried to have it both ways. Her complaint spoke in unmistakable terms of concern with social benefit, but she phrased it in the language of rights. What was at dispute, she thought, was a clash between the rights of children and those of their parents.38

Her inability to address the inevitable tension between social-benefit arguments and rights claims brings us to the interesting fact that Catt's (and others') natural-rights case for votes for women drew relatively little blood. It created only modest controversy among opponents of woman suffrage. Instead, antisuffragists engaged her taxation without representation theme, suggesting that the point was irrelevant. Taxation and representation were not linked in the United States in the first place. Moreover, for a democratic country suffrage should not be tied to taxation.39

On the whole, however, Catt received little response when she called for equal rights. The reason was that the antisuffragists did not propose to enter this realm. Catt spoke of the rights of women, while they spoke of the duty of women. Catt tried to balance rights and social-benefit arguments, or at least spoke in terms of both, while the antisuffragists consistently argued exclusively in terms of social benefit (disagreeing with Catt, of course, on what its nature was).

Kraditor suggests that we may conclude that Catt and her friends had a very different idea of women from that of the antisuffragists. Catt's image was of a free, independent, rights-bearing person. Theirs was of a duty-oriented, family-oriented, serving person.40 This is a crucial point. But it is an incomplete one unless one also notes Catt's optimistic assumption that women could simultaneously be rights-oriented individuals concerned with their self-development and devoted to the service of the larger community.

Catt's characteristically American faith that enhanced individualism and expanded liberty would work for the betterment of all depended on her unspoken assumption that people could also be good Progressives. Her opponents thought this was naive and proposed simply to escape the danger of the triumph of selfishness among women (at least) by denying them any individual rights whatsoever. They refused to honor women as individuals, just as Catt refused to recognize that encouraging both individualism and community at the same time could not be accomplished merely by invoking Progressive optimism.41


Much more than traditional accounts of Catt's arguments for woman suffrage suggest, anger motivated her. She was angry at the way women were treated and her anger went beyond arguments that held such treatment was wrong because it denied their rights or did not contribute to the communal good. Catt was furious because she thought women were daily humiliated and thus denied human dignity. She was insistent that they should rise up and refuse ever again to be "slave, or servant, or dependent, or plaything."42 This would, she appreciated, require an enormous change in society and in many women. But it was what she wanted. And it was why, above all, she wanted suffrage. It was to be a means of leverage to force men to give ground, whether as a right or as a means to improve society overall. Here is what we may call the unknown Catt.

Catt tended to discuss the suffrage issue in a cool, rational fashion, a style we know she greatly admired in others and consciously strove to follow herself. Yet Catt could abandon that practice on occasion and her talk could turn fiery. This almost always happened when she reviewed the condition of women. More than any other topic and more than any other aspect of the suffrage question, the condition of women angered her and drove her to express her anger. Then she stopped being moderate and started attacking her country's record on women, deploring its "ghastly and inexcusable failures." Then she bitterly deplored the "hideous wrongs" women had experienced over time and the reality of their practical "martyrdom" in the United States.43 Her anger was even greater when she looked at the experiences of women in other parts of the world. South America was a particular subject for her rage. There, as far as she was concerned, women had "a role little better than that of sexual slaves."44

We know that this anger was something that developed in Catt in her youth and her young adulthood. But her adult experiences in the American and international suffrage campaigns continued to fire and expand her feelings. In this she followed the pattern of the pioneers of the women's rights effort. For her as for them it was something intensely personal, developed not just from intellectual sentiments but from very real personal experience.45

When Catt did express her anger, she followed it up with ominous warnings that sex wars would develop if something were not done, usually if women did not get their opportunity through the vote. Of course, she always added that she was not threatening anybody, just stating a basic fact of psychology: keeping women down was bound to have disastrous consequences for the relations among the sexes. And one senses that Carrie Catt thought this was only reasonable. For from her perspective anger was entirely appropriate given the way women were treated in the United States (and in the world). She did not feel she could be expected to be "moderate" about the situation any longer.

Her frustration was that so many people just did not understand. "The humiliation which proud spirited American women feel … is deeper than I believe any man living can understand."46 Catt meant that and she also meant her outrage at those who dared to say that most women liked the old, patriarchal order. "We are told these subjected earlier women were content. No doubt, content like the imprisoned bird which sings in its cage in forgetfulness of the freedom which is its birthright. But how quickly these imprisoned ones learn to lift their wings and to fly when the bars are no longer there!"47

Nothing made the appalling humiliation clearer to Catt than men's resistance to woman suffrage, their resistance denying women their legitimate dignity as equal citizens. "The truth is," she said, during the suffrage campaign and afterwards, "there never was but one objection to women suffrage on the part of men, and that was the 'superiority complex of the male.' There never was but one objection to their own enfranchisement on the part of women, and that was the 'inferiority complex of the female.'" At its heart Catt's suffrage work was an attempt to challenge such patriarchal ideas among men and, she thought sadly, among some women too. The "struggle for the vote was not what it appeared on the surface. Rather, it was an effort to bring men to feel less superior and women to feel less inferior."48

Thus while some suffragists may be criticized for not really challenging the image of women in their time as passive, weak, and unable to be independent, Catt may not. Her goal was to destroy not only the image, but the far too prevalent reality from which the image was formed.49 Her opponents understood Catt's purposes very well. Again and again they attacked Catt and the suffrage movement on just these grounds, fearful of what the consequences would be in terms of women. They said that true womanhood would be destroyed and women would become like men and in the process acquire all the bad traits and habits of men. They would be "besmirched" by political activity; they would become competitive and antagonistic (especially towards men); they would no longer trust men—their fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons. They would lose their special "spiritual" side, as the obviously "nerve sick" suffragist women proved.50

Catt did not share these anxieties. Women would not lose all their positive traits, she thought, above all their concern for others. But they might well lose traits that Catt believed were unfortunate. They might become less naively trusting of men, or anyone, and this was all to the good. Trusting to others to decide one's fate was foolish, not admirable. Shrinking from competition was often a handicap in life, and women needed no additional handicaps. And a "spiritual" side of women, when it meant a fluttery dependence on men, would hardly be a loss.

Nor did Catt think exercising power was beyond women: they could and should exercise it. Indeed, she was bent on creating organizations that would allow them to do just that. As for the possible dangers to women in the dimension of politics involving force, Catt did not deny the dangers, whoever employed it. But if the antisuffragists feared the effects of force they should look first at men's behavior and condemn male use of force at home, in society, and among nations. To reduce its sway women should work to train women to discard this sad male record and adopt the political tools, such as suffrage, that would speed the end of this pernicious reality. Women would have to do it themselves, but they could. The outcome could not be guaranteed, but Catt was typically optimistic: "If these women have the power to put their hopes into the ballot they are going to mold a better future."51

To obtain a fitting, self-governing dignity, of course, women would have to be free. No one without extensive choice in life had dignity. The road to freedom involved rebelling at "the idea that obedience is necessary to women" so that they would obtain "such self-respect that they would not grant obedience."52 Suffrage was, once again, crucial in the process. It would provide objective freedom in politics and could give them the means to expand liberty in other realms. Women who had the vote, in short, had the chance to become free individuals. As she said when the last state had ratified the suffrage amendment: "Let us remember we are no longer petitioners. We are not wards of the nation, but free and equal citizens. Let us practice the dignity of sovereigns." Or, as she put it on another occasion, "The woman with a vote can stand straight and look Godward. She is no longer a part of life's furniture established in this place or in that at the will of another."53

Yet we should not overemphasize Catt as a proponent of freedom as an end in itself. It was important to her, and certainly she believed women's enfranchisement would be a major step forward, but she was seeking something that to her was ultimately greater. She was after self-respect and the respect of others for women—she was after dignity. And she was convinced that choice was integral to this goal: it enabled women to control their lives.54 In the voting booth and elsewhere freedom would propel women towards becoming masters of their fate. She wanted women to join men and obtain human dignity in a world without slaves—and for that end above all Catt fought for women suffrage.55

Perhaps Catt's stress on mastery was a bit unrealistic in her age of growing organization in America. But she contended it simply was not true that organization need limit human mastery. Indeed, she was confident, perhaps too confident, that efficient organization could only increase mastery. All her years and work in the N.A.W.S.A. were predicated on this assumption. Women had scant dignity and scant mastery in part because they were unorganized and faced enemies who knew and practiced the mysteries of organization. She sought to beat their enemies at their own game, and she was supremely confident that there was no other way to do so.

We can see Catt's commitment to self-mastery for women in a concrete fashion in her attitude towards the problem of "white slavery." The abuse of young women by men who forced them across state lines and into prostitution, and the male state's failure to eliminate the practice, deeply upset her. From her wide international experience, Catt knew that white slavery was a horrible reality that existed all over the world, wherever women lacked independence and the power to maintain it. White slavery was an ugly symbol of women's status, whether women were white, yellow, brown, or whatever. It existed because women were dependent, not by nature but by social condition. Unable to control their own lives, they were prey for others. They would inevitably remain so until they acquired a rebellious consciousness and the political resources to alter their condition. Suffrage for women would give them the leverage to assert their natural dignity and defeat its antithesis, in this case, white slavery.

To be sure, here as elsewhere Catt did not contend that enfranchisement of women was a magic solution. It would not eliminate white slavery, but it would provide the circumstances under which it could be gravely wounded. White slavery's ultimate extinction would require a change in the economic situation of poor women, better pay, more economic opportunity. All of which were also necessary for women if they were to obtain self-mastery. The broader point is, however, that for Catt white slavery was not unlike sexual assault for Brownmiller and other current feminists. It was the extreme example that revealed the ultimate reality of women's place in the patriarchal social order.56

The new, dignified woman that Catt sought, a person who was an independent citizen, free and equal with all other citizens, would escape such treatment. Humiliation would not be her fate. Nor should men expect that or any other negative consequences. The truth was that "every right gained has made women freer, more self-reliant, more respected by men. Every one of them has made women happier and far better comrades to men."57

Catt felt that time would work to her advantage. Again and again she invoked the inevitability of change for women, their enfranchisement in particular, and asserted it as a powerful reason for adopting votes for women. The basis for Catt's faith here was her evolutionary naturalism. Somehow the world was progressing and in her mind that ensured victory for woman suffrage. Conservatives, "the flotsam and jetsam of civilization," could not stop it: "They do not know the meaning of the word "progress," they have never heard of evolution."58 They did not see the signs that were unmistakable. Women had demonstrated they were ready for suffrage. They were increasingly educated. They eagerly voted where they had the opportunity. Society was progressing in its natural way. Women were ready to take an equal part in American politics. Who were venal politicans and the masses of men to waste time denying what was good—and inevitable?59

Exactly why Catt thought inevitability was such a powerful argument for the enfranchisement of women is not always self-evident. But she was on to something, as evidenced by her opponents' equal insistence that woman suffrage was no certainty at all and should not be treated as such. Catt used the arguments as a morale builder for the faithful, often exhorting her followers forward with promises of victories to come. Mostly, though, her objective seems to have been different. Her aim was to express what she took to be a fact—the inevitability of suffrage—and thereby disarm her opponents' will. Why bother to fight us, she seemed to say. We are going to win and so you might as well give in now and, as she put it, we can go back to being friends again.60

Reassured by the direction of natural evolution, confident of women's natural rights, hopeful of the social benefits of women's enfranchisement, Catt spent half a lifetime promoting woman suffrage. The heart of her case, though, remained her belief in the ideal of women's self-mastery, that suffrage would be a step toward their self-realization as dignified, free beings in command (as much as possible) of their own lives. This is why Catt could and did demand suffrage and encouraged other women to do the same. For in demanding it they were affirming themselves as real people and acquiring a means to continue their march forward. "Women Arise: Demand the Vote … Demand to vote. Women, Arise." In the end, that was Catt's goal and dream. It was what she was all about: "Women arise."61


  1. Kraditor, Ideas, p. vii.
  2. Kraditor, Ideas; Janet Zollinger Giele, "Social Change in the Feminine Role: A Comparison of Woman's Suffrage and Woman's Temperance: 1870-1920" (Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, 1961) especially pp. 109-146 and 210-233; also see the controversial view in William O'Neill, Everyone Was Brave: The Rise and Fall of Feminism in America (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1969).
  3. Kraditor, Ideas, chapter 3; Giele "Social Change," pp. 178-179, 185, and 224-233.
  4. C. C. C., "The Nation Calls," Woman Citizen 3(March 29, 1919): 917-921; C. C. C., speech, Chicago School of Citizenship (1920), LC 10; C. C. C., speech, Woman's Centennial Congress (November 25, 1940), LC P80-5456; Eliza D. Armstrong, "What Are The Very Latest Suffrage Arguments?" Woman's Protest 6 (April 1915): 4; "How Has It Worked Where They Vote?" Woman's Protest 7 (May 1915): 9-10.
  5. C. C. C., "Why New York Women Want to Vote," Woman Voter 6 (January 1915): 5.
  6. C. C. C. to Everett P. Wheeler (October 26, 1915), LC 9; Camhi, "Women Against Women," chapter 3.
  7. "Mrs. Catt Believes Women Should Continue in Chosen Career, Although Married," Wichita Eagle (November 29, 1933), LC 14.
  8. Some of the innumerable critical comments here: Brooklyn Auxiliary New York State Association Opposed to the Extension of Suffrage to Women, "Copy of Preamble and Protest," in Why Women Do Not Want The Ballot (Massachusetts Association Opposed to Further Extension of Suffrage to Women, 1903); Grace D. Goodwin, Anti-Suffrage: Ten Good Reasons (New York: Duffield and Co., 1912), chapters 5, 7, and 10; "Equal Suffrage and Equal Obligation," Woman's Protest 1 (July 1912): 4; Minnie Bronson, "How Suffrage States Compare with Non-Suffrage," Woman's Protest 4 (January 1914): 7-9; Lucy J. Price, "Why Wage Earning Women Oppose Suffrage," Woman's Protest 2 (January 1913): 7; "Laws of Suffrage and Non-Suffrage States Compared," Woman's Protest 1 (June 1912): 3.
  9. For some sample critiques: "Petition Against the Child Labor Amendment," Woman Patriot 5 (May 15, 1921): 1-5; "Origin of the Children's Bureau," Woman Patriot 5 (August 15, 1921, and September 1, 1921); Woman Patriot 5 (October 15, 1921), entire issue devoted to denunciation of Sheppard-Towner Act.
  10. C. C. C., "The Further Extension," Woman Voter 4 (May 1913): 17 and 20; C. C. C. to Everett P. Wheeler (October 24, 1915), LC 9; Mary G. Peck, "The Secretary Has Signed the Proclamation," in Victory: How Women Won It, p. 149.
  11. See Jane Addams, "Women and Public Housekeeping," "Suffrage: U.S." Collection, Box 6, folder 121, SSL.
  12. For an able, recent discussion of Jane Addams, see Anne Firor Scott, Making the Invisible Woman Visible (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984), pp. 107-141; C. C. C., speech, Harrisburg, Pa. (March 7, 1916), pp. 16-17, Box 1, folder 2, SSL.
  13. C. C. C., "Annual Address," N.A.W.S.A. (1902), Catt Collection, Box 1, folder 13, SSL.
  14. For instance, Metta Folger Townsend, "Good Reasons for Opposition," Woman's Protest 3 (June 1913): 3; "Statement of the Illinois Association Opposed To The Extension Of Suffrage To Women," Brooklyn Auxiliary, "Copy of Preamble and Protest," Frances M. Scott, "Extension of the Suffrage to Women," and Priscilla Leonard, "A Help or A Hindrance?" all in Why Women Do Not Want The Ballot; Mrs. Simeon H. Guilford, "Woman's 'Emancipation'—From What?" Woman's Protest 7 (July 1915): 5; Helen Kendrick Johnson, "The End of Suffrage: A Social Revolution," Woman's Protest 7 (June 1915): 10-11; "Up-to-Date," Woman Patriot 1 (May 25, 1918): 4; "The Suffragist's Ideal of Womanhood," Woman Patriot 3 (August 23, 1919): 4-5.
  15. Kraditor, Ideas, pp. 15, 24, and 41-42.
  16. C. C. C. "Feminism and Suffrage" (1917), leaflet, Catt Collection, Box 1, folder 9, SSL.
  17. C. C. C., "By Way of a New Beginning," Woman Citizen 5 (August 28, 1920): 329; C. C. C., "The Home and the Higher Education," Woman's Journal 33 (July 26, 1902): 234-235; C. C. C., "Woman's Place," New York Herald Tribune (August 22, 1914), in LC 14; C. C. C. to Everett P. Wheeler (October 24, 1915), LC 9; Anthony and Harper, History. vol. 4, p. 371; Lillian E. Taaffe, "Man's Superiority Complex Called Bar to Equal Rights," Minneapolis Tribune (November 8, 1923), LC 14.
  18. Ellen DuBois, "The Radicalism of the Woman Suffrage Movement: Notes Toward the Reconstruction of Nineteenth-Century Feminism," Feminist Studies 3 (Fall 1975): 63-70.
  19. For example, "Feminism and Insanity," Woman Patriot 3 (October 18, 1919): 8.
  20. C. C. C., Oklahoma Report #2 (November 4, 1898), Catt Collection, RL.
  21. Mrs. John B. Heron, "Feminism a Return to Barbarism," Woman's Protest 6 (April 1915): 5-6; "Men Becoming Effeminate," Woman Patriot 3-4 (March 20, 1920): 6; "God Give Us Men," Woman Patriot 3-4 (April 10, 1920): 3.
  22. "Mrs. Catt's Address," Woman's Journal 30 (June 10, 1899): 178; "Mrs. Catt's Address," Woman's Journal 35 (February 20, 1904): 57-59, 61, and 64; C. C. C., speech (1903), LC P80-5456; C. C. C., Woman Suffrage by Federal Constitutional Amendment, pp. 89-91.
  23. Mary A. J. M'Intire, "Of What Benefit To Woman?" in Why Women Do Not Want The Ballot; "Woman Suffrage, the Enemy of Good Government," Woman Patriot 3 (May 10, 1919): 8.
  24. Catt was an environmentalist through and through; see, for example, "Annual Address," N.A.W.S.A. (1902), Catt Collection, Box 1, folder 12, SSL.
  25. C. C. C., "God and the People" (1915), p. 2, LC 12.
  26. C. C. C., "Our New Responsibilities," Woman's Journal 29 (October 1, 1898): 317.
  27. "Giving Or Forcing?" Remonstrance (January 1914): 1; "Their Fundamental Error," Woman's Protest 8 (April 1916): 8-9; Marjorie Dorman, "Suffragists Traitors To Democracy," Woman's Protest 8 (December 1915); C. C. C., "Will of the People," Forum 43 (1910): 599; Goodwin, Anti-Suffrage, chapter 2.
  28. For example, see Mrs. John B. Heron, "Why Suffragists Prefer to Face Legislatures Rather Than Voters-At-The-Polls," Woman's Protest 6 (January 1915): 8-9; "A Referendum To Women," Woman's Protest 10 (January 1917): 4, one of many calls for a vote by women.
  29. C. C. C., "Two Systems," Woman Citizen 3 (June 29, 1918): 85; "Two Letters and Sunday Senators," Woman Citizen 2 (May 4, 1918): 445-446; C. C. C., "Forward March!" Woman Citizen 1 (September 22, 1917): 305-306; C. C. C., speech (1918), LC P80-5455; C. C. C., speech, "Woman Suffrage As A War Measure" (1918), LC 10; C. C. C., War Aims, pp. 1-16.
  30. C. C. C. to Margery Corbett Ashby (April 9, 1945), Catt Collection, Box 4, folder 29, SSL.
  31. C. C. C. to Katharine Blake (June 1, 1937), Catt Collection, Box 1, folder 29, SSL.
  32. For example, C. C. C. "Surplus Women," Woman Citizen 6 (October 22, 1921): 12; "Mrs. Catt Tells View on War," Woman's Journal 45 (August 15, 1914): 234.
  33. Mrs. J. T. Waterman, "Women and War," Woman's Protest 5 (September 1914): 5-6; C. C. C., speech, "Woman Suffrage Now Will Stimulate Patriotism," LC 10; C. C. C., speech, "Woman Suffrage As A War Measure" (1918); C. C. C., Home Defense, pp. 1-16.
  34. For example, Elizabeth Cady Stanton to E. B. H., Dillon Collection, Box 2, folder 27, RL.
  35. On Catt and rights, for example, see C. C. C., speech, "An Appeal for Liberty" (1915), LC 10; Harper, History, vol. 5, pp. 144-145; Clevenger, "Invention and Arrangement," p. 86; C. C. C., "Why Women Want to Vote," Woman's Journal 46 (January 9, 1915): 11; C. C. C., "Why New York Women Want to Vote," Woman Voter 6 (January 1915): 5.
  36. Walker, "Speeches," pp. 282-286.
  37. Harper, History, vol. 5, pp. 745-746; Anthony and Harper, History, vol. 4, p. 213; Clevenger, "Invention and Arrangement," p. 95.
  38. C. C. C., "Too Many Rights," pp. 31 and 168.
  39. C. H. Kent, "Arguments For Suffrage Weighed and Found Wanting in Logic and Justice," Woman's Protest 2 (February 1913): 3, 5, and 6; "No 'Natural Right' to Vote," Woman Patriot 1-2 (October 26, 1918): 7-8; Mrs. George P. White, "Taxation Without Representation—Misapplied," Woman's Protest 6 (February 1915): 8-9; Mrs. H. A. Foster, "Taxation and Representation," in Why Women Do Not Want The Ballot.
  40. Kraditor, Ideas, chapter 2.
  41. See Carl Degler, At Odds: Women and the Family in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), pp. 352-361, for an interesting, alternative view on this issue; for a discussion in present day terms, see Jean Elshtain, "The New Porn Wars," New Republic 190 (June 25, 1984): 15-20.
  42. C. C. C., "Feminism and Suffrage," leaflet (1917), Catt Collection, Box 1, folder 9, SSL.
  43. For example, C. C. C., "Why New York Women Want to Vote," Woman Voter 6 (January 1915): 5, and "Mrs. Catt's Address," Woman's Journal 42 (July 15, 1911): 217, 219, and 239; C. C. C., An Address to the Legislature of the United States (New York: National American Woman Suffrage Publishing, 1919), pp. 1-23.
  44. C. C. C., "Anti-Feminism in South America," Current History Magazine 18 (September 1923): 1034.
  45. For example, regarding Lucy Stone, see Gurko, Ladies of Seneca Falls, p. 128.
  46. C. C. C. to Hon. Gilbert Hitchcock (January 24, 1919), Catt Collection, Box 4, folder 37, SSL.
  47. C. C. C., "Annual Address," N.A.W.S.A. (1902), Catt Collection, Box 1, folder 13, p. 9, SSL.
  48. C. C. C., "The Cave Man Complex vs. Woman Suffrage," Woman Citizen 8 (April 5, 1924): 16-17.
  49. Jill Conway, "Women Reformers and American Culture: 1870-1930," Journal of Social History 5 (Winter 1971-1972): 166-167.
  50. Leonard, "A Help or A Hindrance?" in Why Women Do Not Want The Ballot; Goodwin, Anti-Suffrage, pp. 23 and 91-92; "Another Danger Demonstrated," Women's Protest 10 (November 1916): 8-9; Paul Morris, "The Feminine Viewpoint," Woman Patriot 3 (April 26, 1919): 8; "Women Competing With Men," Woman Patriot 3 (May 31, 1919): 4; Mary A. J. M'Intire, "Of What Benefit to Woman?," Frances M. Scott, "Extension of the Suffrage to Women," and Frances J. Dyer, "A Remonstrance," all in Why Women Do Not Want The Ballot; Mrs. George P. White, "Taxation Without Representation—Misapplied," Woman's Protest 6 (February 1915): 8; also see Camhi, "Women Against Women," pp. 25-47.
  51. C. C. C., speech at National Executive Council, National American Woman Suffrage Association (December 19, 1915), LCB 36.
  52. C. C. C., "Annual Address" (1902), p. 11.
  53. C. C. C., "Bringing the Victors Home," Woman Citizen 5 (September 4, 1920): 362-363; C. C. C., speech, "What the Vote Will Do For the Woman" (1917), LC 13.
  54. For example, C. C. C., "What the N.A.W.S.A. Has Done," Woman Citizen 3 (November 9, 1918): 487; "Mrs. Catt's Norwegian Maid," Woman's Journal 38 (June 22, 1907): 98; Anthony and Harper, History, vol. 4, p. 369.
  55. "Mrs. Catt vs. Mrs. Meyer," Woman's Journal 39 (March 21, 1908): 48; Clevenger, "Invention and Arrangement," p. 224.
  56. C. C. C., "A True Story," Woman's Journal 44 (January 25, 1913): 26; "Mrs. Catt Tells of Slave Traffic," Woman's Journal 44 (January 11, 1913): 16; "Mrs. Catt on Woman Traffic," Woman's Journal 44 (January 25, 1913): 32; "Mrs. Catt Tells of White Slaves," Woman's Journal 44 (February 1, 1913): 40; C. C. C., speech, "The Traffic in Women" (1899), LC 10; C. C. C., "The Traffic in Women," Women Voter 4 (March 1913): 14-15; "Mrs. Catt and Mrs. Barry," Woman's Journal 41 (November 12, 1910): 204.
  57. C. C. C., "Too Many Rights," p. 31; C. C. C., "Will of the People," p. 601.
  58. C. C. C., speech, Harrisburg, Pa. (March 7, 1916), p. 10, Catt Collection, Box 1, folder 2, SSL.
  59. C. C. C., An Address to the Legislature of the United States (1919), pp. 1-5 and 20; C. C. C., An Address to the Congress of the United States (New York: National American Woman Suffrage Publishing, 1917), pp. 1-7 and 19-21.
  60. C. C. C., "An Address to the Congress of the United States" (December 13, 1917), in Walker, "Speeches," pp. 331-347; C. C. C., Home Defense, p. 14; "Mrs. Catt Scents State Victory," Woman's Journal 47 (September 9, 1916): 289; C. C. C., An Address to the Legislature of the United States, pp. 1-23; C. C. C., "Will of the People," pp. 595-599; "By No Means 'Sure To Come,'" Remonstrance (April 1914): 1; C. C. C. to Margaret Roberts (August 16, 1915), Margaret Roberts Collection, Box 4, folder 4, RL.
  61. C. C. C., "The Crisis," Woman's Journal 47 (September 16, 1916): 299 and 301-303.


SOURCE: Lunardini, Christine A. "The Founding of the National Woman's Party and the Campaign of 1916." In From Equal Suffrage to Equal Rights: Alice Paul and the National Women's Party, 1910-1928, pp. 85-103. New York: New York University Press, 1986.

In the following essay, Lunardini describes the role of Alice Paul and the National Woman's party in the electoral campaign of 1916.

With a successful year of organizing ended, and buoyed by the prospects for the ensuing year, Alice Paul revealed her plans for the months ahead. The Executive Committee called a meeting of the Advisory Council and the state and national officers on April 8 and 9, 1916. The meeting was held at Cameron House, the [Congressional] Union's new headquarters. Cameron House, commonly referred to as the Little White House, and located across Pennsylvania Avenue from the real White House, had become the headquarters for the Congressional Union in January 1916. By April, it was well-settled into by the organization. While not as grand or imposing as Marble House, where Paul had announced the anti-Democratic campaign of 1914, Cameron House nevertheless served a similar purpose, as the members of the Advisory Council gathered to hear about the next step in Paul's plans.

Paul proposed to organize a woman's political party which, she believed, would serve as the balance of power in the national election which promised to be closely contended. "The state of Nevada was won by only forty votes in the last Senatorial election," Paul pointed out.1 "In Utah, it was a week before the campaign was decided. In Colorado, the same. Going back over a period of twenty years, it would have been necessary to have changed only nine per cent of the total vote in the Presidential elections in order to have thrown the election to the other Party. This gives a position of wonderful power, a position that we have never held before and that we cannot hold again for at least four years, and which we may not hold then."2 The delegates at the conference in April 1916 needed little convincing to give their blessing to the new program.

The Congressional Union lobby in Washington, directed by Nevada's Anne Martin and assisted by Maud Younger, the "Millionaire Waitress" from San Francisco, had labored furiously for three months in an attempt to persuade the House Judiciary Committee to report out the suffrage amendment. Alice Paul could not have asked for two more dedicated workers. Martin's experience as a NAWSA coordinator in Nevada during the referendum there was invaluable for her new task. Maud Younger earned her nickname when she single-handedly organized the Waitress's Union in San Francisco. Like many progressives of her time, Younger did not let her family wealth and status blind her to the plight of the poor and disadvantaged. She gradually focused her concern on working women and, in 1911, was influential in getting California's eight-hour workday law for women passed. Although she was always a suffrage advocate, Maud did not get involved in the movement until 1914. Thereafter she devoted almost all of her time to suffrage and worked with the Congressional Union and then the National Woman's Party. By 1915, Maud Younger was Alice Paul's key Washington lobbyist, and she had amassed a card index file which provided an instant reference on every congressman and senator in Congress, as well as prominent administration figures. Maud Younger's card index became legendary in Congressional Union—and congressional—circles.3

Despite the efforts of Martin and Younger, the Democrats remained adamant about refusing to consider an amendment until the following December—after the national elections. The committee chairman did promise Martin and Younger that his committee would meet to consider the suffrage issue if the lobbyists could assemble a majority of the committee. With such an incentive, and after much cajoling, corraling, and steam-rolling, the lobbyists succeeded in persuading a majority of the committee to meet at an agreed upon day and time. All of Martin and Younger's hard work came to naught when the committee met. In a closed meeting, pro-amendment congressmen were stymied when a motion was immediately made to shelve all constitutional amendment proposals for an indefinite period of time. This master stroke at once created chaos within the committee, as members were forced to either accept or reject a whole range of pending amendments on such issues as marriage, divorce, and prohibition. This, as the authors of the scheme well knew, was impossible. The committee adjourned, after an angry two hours, with no action taken on anything. Once again, the Democrats, who controlled the committee, had delayed dealing with the suffrage amendment and, in the process, had convinced the Congressional Union members that the Democratic party was contemptuous of the issue.4 When, therefore, Alice Paul called for a convention of women voters to meet at the Blackstone Theatre in Chicago on June 5, 6 and 7, 1916, for the purpose of organizing the National Woman's Party (NWP), the delegates gave their unstinting support.

Membership in the NWP was to be limited to enfranchised women, and its sole purpose would be to promote the federal amendment.5 In preparation for the Chicago convention, Paul sent a delegation of twenty-three organizers to tour the western states on a train dubbed the Suffrage Special.The timing of the western swing and the convention were important, as Lucy Burns explained, because the Union was in its "strongest position before a national election & ought to put on the pressure now—no wait till Congress has adjourned."6

Plans for the western trip had been under way for several weeks prior to the April 9 departure, with the groundwork for the emissaries' visits laid down by the state chapter members. By now, the Union expected some efforts to undermine their activities by NAWSA, regardless of circumstance, and they were not disappointed in this instance. "With two representatives of 'the National' in Laramie County throwing all the cold water they possibly can, we are keeping the newspapers in the quiet little town of Cheyenne busy," Wyoming organizer Margery Ross reported back to Washington. The conflict served Alice Paul's purposes well, however, for as Ross noted, "Incidentally, we are awakening these Cheyenne women who have, to be frank with you, gone to sleep."7

The Suffrage Special left Washington amidst a flurry of pageantry and publicity. For more than a month, the emissaries from the East lived and worked in the train, in cramped quarters, but with sustained good humor. "If you Washington ladies could peep into the Suffrage Special at any hour of any day when nine typewriters are pounding away and Press reports and resolutions are being written and literature being folded and counted and membership cards listed and the Business Manager receiving money … you would realize that this is no place for the graceful letter writer!" Ella Reigel wrote in response to pleas for the news from California.8 Several days later, in Sacramento, Reigel noted, "My charges are busy and happy—not too much coddled—and so far no broken heads!"9 The four-week tour met with enthusiastic response from women voters and a great deal of attendant publicity as well.10

As a consequence of the successful western tour, more than 1,500 women delegates from the suffrage states arrived at the Blackstone Theatre on June 6, eager to participate in the historic event. They believed success was within their grasp in the 1916 election since, they reasoned, less than nine per cent of the total vote in the suffrage states would be enough to deflect the election away from the Democrats.11 The delegates quickly established a set of rules to govern the NWP. First, the party nucleus would be composed of Congressional Union members. Second, the party would remain independent and would not align itself, officially or unofficially, with any existing political party. Third, the only plank in the party's platform would be a resolution calling for immediate passage of the Anthony amendment. Fourth, the party would be organized along the same lines as the Congressional Union, with a chairwoman, two vice-chairwomen, and an Executive Committee composed of the officers, state chairwomen, and the chairwoman of the Congressional Union. Fifth, all state chairwomen would automatically become members of the Executive Committee of the Congressional Union.12 It was as simply organized and—theoretically—as much as a single-issue political party as its founders could conceive. The convention delegates, therefore, quickly disposed of the major business at hand, voted to accept the proposal to establish the National Woman's Party, and elected Anne Martin chairwoman, and Alice Paul one of the two vice-chairwomen.13

The three-day convention received maximum press coverage, in part because Chicago was already flooded with reporters who were assigned to the Republican and Progressive party conventions. Indeed, as Inez Haynes Irwin said, the NWP convention was a "god-send" since the press was relieved of the chore of ferreting out preconvention stories that would keep both their editors and their readers satisfied. The NWP delegates were only too happy to help out their friends in the press with detailed information of the proceedings.

Alice Paul extended invitations to representatives of all the major parties, to address the NWP convention. Even this served as grist for the media's mill. Ida Tarbell, the famous muckraking journalist who had exposed the Standard Oil monopoly in the pages of McClure's Magazine, covered the convention for the New York World. Tarbell described with amusement the dispatch with which the women handled the male politicians. She reported:

'We do not ask you here to tell us what we can do for your Parties, but what your Parties can do for us,' Miss Martin told the speakers in a tone of exultant sweetness which sent a cheer from shore to shore of the human sea which filled the house. Another thing the gentlemen must have noticed—used as they are to the same game—and that was, that no amount of eloquence made the faintest scratch on the rock-ribbed determination of the women. The one and only thing they wanted to know … was whether or not they proposed to support the amendment,…Wasit, yesorno?14

The NWP convention closed on the day that the Republican and Progressive party conventions convened with a "Suffrage First" luncheon, which turned into a standing-room-only affair. The speakers at the luncheon, who included Crystal Eastman, Rheta Childe Dorr, and Helen Keller, were only slightly less exuberant than their audiences. In spite of the lack of elbow room, the audience managed to cheer and clap wildly, so caught up were they by the feeling of solidarity that pervaded the room.15

In the months ahead, the NWP became almost a casebook example of Charles A. Beard's description of the purpose and function of third parties in a two-party system: "By agitation and by the use of marginal votes in close campaigns, minorities are able to force the gradual acceptance of some or all of their leading doctrines by one or the other of the great parties, and through inevitable competition between these parties, to educate the whole nation into accepting ideas that were once abhorrent."16 In the meantime, the NWP would immediately have an opportunity to agitate the major parties.

Members of the NWP appeared before the resolutions committees of each of the parties in an effort to persuade them to support federal suffragism. For the first time, both major parties included suffrage planks in their party platforms, although neither one endorsed a federal amendment. The Republican delegates accepted their committee's resolution with little argument, probably because they were only too happy to cooperate with potential allies against their November adversaries. When the Democrats opened their convention in St. Louis on June 14, the NWP advised the resolutions committee that unless the Democrats, as the party in power, supported the Anthony amendment, the NWP intended to campaign against them in the West.17 Not only were the Democrats unwilling to endorse federal suffragism, some of them did not wish to endorse suffrage at all. The suffrage plank, consequently, was brought to a floor fight—the only issue so debated at the convention.18 The minority favored no plank at all and preferred that the states be left to their own devices regarding suffrage. Senator Thomas James Walsh of Montana, speaking on behalf of the states' rights plank, noted the advisability of including a suffrage plank of some sort since women voters had the power to defeat the President and to give the Senate majority to the Republicans.19 In its follow-up analysis, the New York Times concurred with Walsh: "Whatever the more conservative suffragists think or say … the radical wing which calls itself the Woman's Party… offer[s] facts and figures to prove that they have an organized vote which can be swung in any direction they want … Whether the hand that ruled the Democratic convention today, rocks the cradle in its hours of recreation … it can certainly add up a column of figures in a convincing manner."20 The minority plank was subsequently defeated and the Democrats, too, included a suffrage plank based on state rights in their party platform, which, observers agreed, had been largely written by Woodrow Wilson. And, while the Republicans and Democrats could bring themselves only to endorse suffrage while refusing to support a federal amendment, the Progressive, Socialists, and Prohibitionist parties all came out unequivocally for a federal woman suffrage amendment.21

NAWSA could not have been happier at the turn of events since it had lobbied simply for recognition of the principle of woman suffrage and not for support of a federal amendment.22 In NAWSA's eyes, the NWP had suffered a defeat. The NWP, although it was disappointed, certainly did not consider itself defeated. For one thing, it had received enormous amounts of publicity. There were few areas in the country where people remained unaware of the new political party composed entirely of women. Thus it had succeeded in large measure in making the "National Woman's Party convention in Chicago dominate the suffrage world, so that it seem[ed] to the public and to the politicians assembled there that the whole agitation [was] really on behalf of the national amendment."23 The NWP also managed to secure support from quarters that previously had questioned its effectiveness. The New Republic, for example, had, in 1914, jailed NAWSA's "rational" and "thoughtful" approach as the best hope for success.24 Now, the journal believed, "the time has undoubtedly come for NAWSA to revive their tactics.…The political power of the woman voter must be brought to bear on Washington now.…If the National Association cannot see its way to harvest this field, they should leave the field clear for the Congressional Union [i.e., NWP]."25 Finally, Charles A. Beard, in a letter to Carrie Chapman Catt, expressed the view of many who believed that "all that was got at Chicago and St. Louis was got only because the politicans were afraid of the impending danger created by the Congressional Union and the Woman's Party, namely that western women would not be non-partisan when the freedom of their sisters was at stake."26

Immediately following the conventions, the NWP began to put pressure on Republican nominee Charles Evans Hughes. Earlier that year, in May 1916, Paul and Harriot Stanton Blatch had secured Theodore Roosevelt's support for the federal amendment.27 Now, Paul sought to enlist Roosevelt's assistance to help persuade Hughes to come out for the amendment. Discussions with Roosevelt at Oyster Bay confirmed Paul's impression of Hughes' state of mind: the former President believed Hughes was ready to commit himself to the federal amendment. It was simply a matter of the proper timing.28 Paul inaugurated a campaign calculated to help convince Hughes that the time was now. State NWP and Union officials were encouraged not only to write letters but to "flood Hughes with telegrams from every possible source."29 In addition, Paul dispatched Anne Martin and Abby Scott Baker to track down Hughes on the campaign trail in order to make a personal appeal.30

The lobbying effort paid off handsomely. On August 1, Hughes, departing from his party's campaign platform, endorsed the federal amendment. His reasons for doing so, as he himself admitted, were to many people more eyebrow-raising than the fact that he was supporting federal suffragism at all. Hughes readily conceded that women should have the vote. That, he felt, was no longer at issue. What was at issue was the impact that suffrage agitation of the sort engaged in by the NWP would have on national politics. "Facts should be squarely met. We shall have a constantly intensified effort and a distinct feminist movement constantly perfecting its organization to the subversion of normal political issues. We shall have a struggle increase in bitterness … inimical to our welfare.… It seems to me that in the interest of the public life of this country, the contest should be ended promptly."31

Hughes' endorsement of the federal amendment was an important victory for suffragists. For the first time, a major party's presidential candidate had publicly stood up for federal suffragism. On such a momentous occasion, Paul debated whether or not to break policy and endorse Hughes straight out. She decided against such a step in order to retain her organization's independence. Besides, publicly allying herself and the NWP with the Republicans would give the Democrats an opportunity to turn the issue into a partisan one. The NWP, therefore, would not endorse Hughes' candidacy, but it applauded vigorously his endorsement.32 Not only did they have Hughes' support, but the Republican's action would almost certainly require some response from the Democrats. But if Paul hoped that Wilson would follow Hughes' lead, those hopes were short-lived. Carrie Chapman Catt, who apparently had the same thought, approached Wilson about announcing in favor of federal suffragism, particularly since his opponent now had the clear edge on the issue. Wilson declined. "If I should change my personal attitude now I should seem to the country like nothing better than an angler for votes."33

With Wilson obviously committed to the states' rights principle, in accordance with his party platform—his standard excuse for refusing to take up federal suffragism—Alice Paul called a meeting for August 10, 11, and 12, to take place in Colorado Springs. She had in mind to map out the role the NWP would play in the upcoming elections. The decision of the conference would be greatly influenced, Paul noted, by the record of the Democratic party when the women met on the tenth of August.34 With her usual eye toward maximum publicity, Paul chose August 10 to convene the meeting because of the automobile races, scheduled for that time, celebrating the opening of the new road up Pike's Peak. "There will probably be large numbers of people there at the time," Paul explained.35

There were few delegates, if any, who arrived at the Antlers Hotel in Colorado Springs who were seriously in doubt as to the outcome of the conference. The Democrats had done next to nothing in recent months to suggest that their position on suffrage would change. The conference, then, was not concerned with whether the NWP ought to be involved. Discussions revolved instead around organizations, tactics, and issues. Wilson, of course, would be the primary target. As the leader of his party, Wilson symbolized the control which the Democrats exercised over all political and legislative matters. The issue of states' rights was to be handled in as straightforward a manner as possible, pointing out that since thirty-six states had to ratify a federal amendment, each state legislature could indeed be responsive to the needs and desires of its constituents by ratifying or failing to ratify when the time came. A federal amendment, secured under the terms of the Constitution, could in no way be construed as an infringement of states' rights.36

With state leaders thus armed with guidelines and instructions, the NWP inaugurated its campaign of 1916. In many ways it was a replay of 1914, with two organizers again assigned to each suffrage state, with essentially the same responsibilities as the organizers had in 1914. Alice Paul dispatched her most effective organizers—women who had proven their skills as managers, fundraisers, and especially as public speakers with "crowd pleaser" reputations. Doris Stevens, Sara Bard Field, Maud Younger, Elsie Hill, Anne Martin, and Mabel Vernon, all agreed to spend another fall enduring the rigors of the campaign trail.37

Longtime members who had not organized in 1914, but who demonstrated valuable organizing and speaking skills, were also enlisted. Perhaps the most noticeable of this group was Inez Milholland Boissevain, a lawyer and feminist who had graduated from Vassar and New York University. It was Inez who had led the suffrage parade, in flowing white robes and riding a white horse, in Washington in 1913. Her photograph, taken during the parade, became one of the memorable images that people associated with the event. It was not unusual to see her name accompanied by adjectives such as "brilliant" and "beautiful," for she was both. Inez' political beliefs led her to champion a number of feminist and radical causes. She was, for a time, part of the bohemian-radical group that dominated Greenwich Village in the early twentieth century—a group that included Crystal Eastman and her brother Max. Inez and Max Eastman, the editor of The Masses, had a short-lived romance that ended when she married Eugen Jan Boissevain, a Dutch entrepreneur. Following her marriage, Inez traveled to Europe with Guglielmo Marconi, another longtime admirer, in order to report on the war in Europe. Her pacifist articles earned Inez an invitation to leave Italy, where she was based, tendered by the Italian government. Within months, she was back in Europe, this time on Henry Ford's Peace Ship. On her return to the United States, Inez became more actively involved in suffrage, offering her services as a speaker throughout the West. So great was her reputation, that the success of political rallies sometimes hinged entirely on Inez' agreement to be the featured speaker.38

In addition to Inez Milholland, Alice Paul enlisted other promising and enthusiastic young women, a "second generation" of organizers to round out the contingent of seasoned organizers sent to the West.39 Included in the second generation organizers, were Iris Calderhead, the daughter of a Kansas congressman; Hazel Hunkins Hallinan, the Vassar alumna who had taken the daring airplane ride over San Francisco; Lucy Branham, a Johns Hopkins graduate who had won a Carnegie medal for heroism after saving a man and woman from drowning in Florida; and Rebecca Hourwich Rehyer, who managed to squeeze in suffrage activities between her studies, first at Columbia and then at the University of Chicago, her marriage, and the birth of her first child.40 This second generation of organizers tended to be younger than the first. In age, background, and education, the new organizers were very representative of the new members coming into the NWP. The NWP still attracted only a small percentage of the women joining suffrage organizations in 1916. But Paul needed all the volunteers she could get. The increase in membership permitted the NWP to engage not only in the political campaign in the suffrage states, but in increasingly active lobbying in Washington.41

Although the structure of the campaign of 1916 resembled that of 1914, there were new problems for Paul and the NWP. For one thing, 1916 was the organization's second political campaign effort. Democrats and antisuffragists were better prepared this time around. For another thing, 1914 was an off-year election featuring races for the Senate, the House, and state offices. In 1916, the Presidency was at stake. Local Democratic machines were even less willing to tolerate the organizers than they had been two years earlier. After distributing literature in Denver, for example, Elsie Hill was arrested and taken by "paddy wagon" to the local police station. In Colorado Springs, a banner whose legend demanded passage of the federal amendment was confiscated and held by the police authorities overnight, to the amusement of the suffragists who reported that their banner had been arrested and detained in a jail cell. In Chicago, 100 women stationed outside an auditorium where Wilson was scheduled to speak, were attacked by a mob. Their banners were torn down and the suffragists were pushed and shoved aside, with minor injuries sustained by some of the women in the process.42 Iris Calderhead reported the increasing hostility of the Democrats in Arizona. Calderhead explained that the municipalities were largely controlled by the Democrats who could, and did, prohibit street meetings, advertising, poster and billboard notices, and most other forms of activity and advertising that the NWP engaged in.43

At the same time, the relationship between the NWP and the Republican party had to be carefully monitored. Paul did not want the NWP linked to the Republican party in an overt or official way. Yet, it was clearly in the best interest of suffrage and the NWP, to promote votes for the GOP. "Our interest is in … the amendment and not in.. Hughes, but it is vital to the success of the amendment … that we secure the defeat of Wilson," Paul noted. Nevertheless, she cautioned her lieutenants that it was paramount that the NWP remain distinct from all other political parties in order to maintain its integrity among the voters. Furthermore, Paul believed that it was tactically more effective to conduct a campaign of opposition against Democrats rather than one of support for Republicans. Paul did not want the burden of having to defend Republican policy.44

The Republicans, for their part, viewed the NWP as a useful ally in the campaign, but they also maintained a patronizing attitude toward the women. W. Y. Morgan, the director of the Republican National Committee's publicity bureau, advised Kansas Republicans that the NWP could be "helped without any injury to the Republican Party."45 In any event, the Republicans, while willing to make use of the NWP, did not particularly feel comfortable with the idea of an independent woman's political party. Offers of economic support from the Republicans to the NWP, which were declined in every instance, often came with conditions attached. "The truth is that they are unwilling to give us some money unless we will give up our independence and become an annex of the GOP," reported Abby Scott Baker in disgust. "When I am with the GOP's, I'd rather die than be one," she declared. But, she added ruefully, "I feel the same way when I am with the Democrats, so I think I'll go into a convent."46 Rumors that the NWP was on the Republican payroll did not help their cause either. "Every indication that has ever been brought to my notice advances the theory of the oft-repeated statement that the National Woman's Party is merely an ally of the National Republican Committee," wrote the editor of the Nevada State Herald to Mabel Vernon.47

Moreover, the Republicans were unwilling to take seriously the overall campaign analysis provided by the NWP regarding the jeopardy in which Republican candidates stood in the suffrage states. Doris Stevens reported to Alice Paul from California that the Republicans were trailing Wilson in that state. Stevens believed that the GOP's difficulties had arisen in large part because the Hughes' people managed to alienate governor Hiram W. Johnson, the powerful Progressive candidate for the United States Senate, whose support Hughes badly needed.48 "I have taken your various letters with regard to the situation in California to the Republican headquarters," Paul told Stevens. "But I have seemed unable to even suggest to them that there is any possibility that California may not go to Hughes."49 In Nevada, the political situation seemed more hopeful on the local level, but it was still bad for Hughes. "The great trouble is that the Republican state campaign committee is not putting up an active fight—not as active as the Democratic campaign committee," Anne Martin observed. She added that the Republicans were not even as active as the NWP.50 Martin also reported to Paul on the state of affairs in Utah. "Utah is in a very critical state. The Democrats have never stood such a good chance of carrying the state.…The Republican organization rely on the fact that the Mormon Church is Republican. They tell me to rest easy.… Perhaps there is some mystic word that can be sent out but I think they had better get busy and send it out pretty quickly because the situation looks alarming to me."51 Martin's exasperation over the seemingly casual attitude of the Republican party to its own plight was only too obvious. In the face of such fumbling on the part of the GOP, it was no wonder that NWP campaigners became frustrated. "The Republican Party is really so stupid," complained Abby Scott Baker. "Some-times I despair of pulling them through."52

To be sure, the lackadaisical campaigning of the Republican party during the first weeks of the campaign was not the major stumbling block for the NWP. The major campaign issue in 1916 was the peace issue. As the war in Europe raged on, with the growing threat of United States involvement in the conflict, hardly a voter in the country remained neutral about the peace issue. The NWP attempted to counter the Democratic slogan, "He Kept Us Out Of War," with its own slogan, "He Kept Us Out Of Suffrage."53 The two appeals placed women voters in a quandary of conscience. Where did their allegiance lie? Ought they to place their desire for equality first, or their desire for peace? Even the members of the NWP felt torn by the dilemma. Some, like pacifist Crystal Eastman, decided that she could not support an anti-Democratic campaign at such a crucial juncture in the nation's wellbeing. A Hughes Presidency, Eastman believed, would surely mean United States entry into the war. Eastman chose to campaign for Wilson and peace, rather than for suffrage.54 As the campaign progressed, it became more and more apparent that most voters agreed with Eastman's sentiments. And, although suffrage was considered by most observers the main local and domestic issue in the suffrage states, peace was the overriding national foreign-policy issue.55 While the NWP almost always attracted audiences sympathetic to suffrage, their audiences frequently had to admit that they could not and would not support Hughes' position on preparedness and the implications of that policy.56

The campaign for the NWP was, to say the least, an uphill battle and was so reflected by the pessimistic note struck in many of the organizers' reports. "The opposition is so strong that no matter how much we try or how many people we interview, we seem to make little progress," wrote Helen Heffernon, the Goldfield, Nevada organizer.57 "Nothing but luck will carry the Republicans through [in Nevada]," concurred Abby Scott Baker.58 "There is no doubt that the women in this state [Oregon] are strong for Wilson," concluded Margaret Whittemore.59 In Montana, organizer Clara Louise Rowe, who had been organizing the state since early spring, lamented then that, "It's very uphill here in Montana. I sometimes wonder if it is worth all the money & effort, but Miss Burns [Lucy] said it was … so I suppose it is."60 Her task did not grow any easier as time went on.

In the circumstances, Paul was asked to reconsider the campaign which the NWP had embarked upon with such high hopes. Despite the pessimistic predictions from the field, Paul refused to even consider withdrawing from the campaign in order to cut NWP losses. "No," she insisted, "if we withdraw the speakers from the campaign, we withdraw the issue from the campaign. We must make this such an important thing in national elections that the Democrats will not want to meet it again."61

For the organizers and speakers, the campaign was physically taxing as well as psychologically difficult. Although the NWP now paid its field organizers monthly salaries that ranged from $70 to $100 per month, still the stipend barely covered expenses, if they were frugal.62 As in most things, Paul attempted to transfer imposed frugality into an advantage to be harvested. Organizers were cautioned by her to exercise conspicuous frugality, since "the more frugal you are, the greater the appeal you will make to people from whom you will have to collect money."63

The necessity to make do was inconvenient and the efforts to change hearts and minds was frustrating. But most organizers were not deterred and viewed the hardships as well worth the price for ultimate success. But the exhaustingly long hours and nearly impossible schedules began to take their toll. Paul herself had succumbed to exhaustion on several occasions over the course of her suffrage career. Ill health and frazzled nerves forced her into a hospital at one point early on.64 In addition to her own health, she had to be aware of her changes, for each one lost to the campaign meant a significant diminishment of effort. Inquiring about the health of one organizer, Mabel Vernon commented, "Poor Alice Paul has been fairly desperate, I hear, because so many of the organizers have failed her on account of illness."65 For some, the stress resulted in more than just a few days of being under the weather. Edna Latimer, after six weeks in Arizona, required a complete rest in a San Francisco sanitarium.66 Most tragically, the vivacious and energetic Inez Milholland, so much in demand as a speaker, and who suffered from pernicious anemia, ignored the warnings of her father and her husband to conserve her strength. Milholland collapsed in the middle of a speech in Los Angeles, on October 22. Rushed to a local hospital, she received repeated transfusions over the course of the next several weeks as she alternately rallied and then failed. Her death on November 25, at the age of thirty, sent shock waves through suffrage circles.67

Throughout the campaign, the NWP had to contend with NAWSA, which, predictably, viewed the activities of the younger suffragists as detrimental to suffrage. To be sure, NAWSA's own strategy had changed in interesting ways. Carrie Chapman Catt was a much shrewder politician than Anna Howard Shaw had been. Catt also had a far greater facility for organization and management, as well as an eye for what had to be done to secure suffrage. NAWSA's convention of 1916, held in September of that year, was significant for good reason: Woodrow Wilson was the featured speaker, thanks in large measure to Carrie Chapman Catt's efforts.

Wilson had agreed to speak to the NAWSA convention the previous August, in response to Hughes' endorsement of the federal amendment. When the President walked out on to the stage on the evening of September 8, the convention gave him a thunderous welcome. For the first time, Wilson did not overtly champion the states' rights position, although neither did he endorse federal suffragism. "I have not come to fight anybody, but with somebody." he declared. "We feel the tide; we rejoice in the strength of it; and we shall not quarrel in the long run as to the method of it."68

Not only was Wilson responding to Hughes' declaration, he was also making a bid for the votes of the former Bull Moose Progressives, Independents, and Agrarians who were disenchanted with his failure to pursue further domestic reform during the previous two years.69 His attempts to correct the situation, beginning in 1916, included supporting several pieces of social legislation which, for a variety of reasons, he had previously rejected and failed to support. These included the Adamson Eight-Hour Day Law, the Keating-Owen Child Labor Act, the Rural Credits Act, and a Federal Workman's Compensation Act. Woodrow Wilson was, in most cases, an astute politician. As both Governor of New Jersey and as President of the United States, Wilson demonstrated time and again a great capacity to read his constituency and articulate the issues accordingly. Extending the franchise as an act of social justice, in line with his support of other social justice measures, was a matter of political expediency.70

At the same time, Wilson's speech to NAWSA was also evidence of his evolving position on the suffrage issue. Wilson, a Southerner by birth, subscribed wholeheartedly to views regarding women and their proper place commonly held by most Southerners. Indeed, as a very young man, he once stated that universal suffrage lay "at the foundation of every evil in this country."71 While he had left that notion far behind him, at least as it applied to white males, Wilson had not yet accepted women as full citizens entitled to full equal rights, by the time he was elected President. But with three daughters of his own to contend with, and with his adoption of a states' rights position as his defense when questioned by suffragists regarding the issue, Wilson had succumbed to modest changes in his own beliefs that, when coupled with his perceptions of what was politically expedient, proved beneficial for suffrage. Whatever NAWSA delegates may have felt about his reasons for appearing at the convention, they were more than pleased with his speech. Anna Howard Shaw spoke for most of them when she declared, "We have waited so long, Mr. President! We have dared to hope that our release might come in your Administration and that yours would be the voice to pronounce the words to bring our freedom."72

With the implementation of Catt's "Winning Plan," which, like the NWP strategy, focused on federal suffragism, the two organizations technically were not that far apart. Yet, NAWSA's refusal to yield any quarter to the upstart NWP prevented a cooperative working relationship from developing. Thus, while the campaign of 1916 unfolded, the ever-present animosities surfaced and often revealed the deep-seated feelings of bitterness of some NAWSA people toward the NWP. "The situation in Chicago is extremely difficult," reported Abby Scott Baker, the NWP's national press chairwoman. "The animosity of Mrs. [Ruth Hanna] McCormick is almost unbelievable. She has broken up three meetings after they had been arranged for Mrs. [Louisine] Havemeyer, and we have reason to believe that she had [our] banners taken down in the town where she has her summer home."73

By election day, November 7, 1916, everyone was glad the campaign was over. Exhausted organizers waited in anticipation for the results. The race between Wilson and Hughes was one of the closest in American political history. In the last days of the campaign, some organizers detected movement away from Wilson and toward Hughes. In California, for example, the NWP organizer was told that "the street railway men are falling away [from Wilson], and the local labor leaders cannot get them back in line." The city editor of a Los Angeles daily—a Wilson supporter—expressed his fear that "it is the last swing. I am afraid the election will come on the crest of it. If it does, California will be lost to us."74

Suffragists notwithstanding, the war in Europe, not women's rights, weighed most heavily on the minds of Americans as they went to the polls on November 7. The election hung in the balance for some time as California slowly counted its votes. When the last vote had been counted, Wilson emerged victorious—although just barely—winning 277 electoral votes to Hughes' 254. Of the twelve suffrage states, Wilson won all but Oregon and Illinois, despite the NWP campaign. It is one of the ironies of the campaign that Wilson's narrow victory in 1916 was attributed to the women's vote—because of the peace issue. Women in California, with thirteen electoral votes and the election in the balance, voted disproportionately for Wilson, according to the New York Times. William Allen White observed that if women in Kansas had not voted for Wilson, "Kansas would have gone for Hughes." And analysts in Arizona, Idaho, Utah, and Washington credited women with swinging their combined eighteen electoral votes to the Democratic column.75

Many NWP organizers were disappointed and discouraged. They had hoped for a more obvious victory. But the campaign itself was far from a failure. Paul had stressed time and again the importance of "spread[ing] abroad the impression of a very active campaign on the part of women against Democrats."76 The response of both the Republicans and the Democrats demonstrated the success of this strategy. The Republicans tried to capitalize on the NWP campaign; the Democrats tried to put a damper on it. Both parties attempted to win over women voters, and the Democrats, in particular, mounted a major effort toward this end.77

Then, too, Illinois, which did go for Hughes, was the only one of the twelve suffrage states where women's votes were counted separately from men's votes. In that state, Hughes won 52.6 percent of the overall vote. Women voters went for the Republican candidate by 55.3 percent, while only 49.9 percent of the male voters voted for Hughes.78 In Illinois, it appears that women did indeed register a protest vote against Wilson.

Regardless of which party won in 1916, the NWP could not lose. As the Wichita [Kansas] Eagle observed, "When the Congress next meets, no matter whether Wilson or Hughes is elected, the women of the nation are going to have a powerful argument for national woman suffrage."79 A Ventura [California] Free Press editorial noted that "the universal opinion of political leaders of all parties is that no new political party ever before made such a remarkable showing in a presidential campaign as has the National Woman's Party."80 The Democrats, asserted the New Republic, owed their victory to women voters. "Yet but for women suffrage, to which he tepidly assents, Mr. Wilson would not have been continued in the White House. The balance of power, so far as Congress is concerned, and so far as rival parties are concerned, is conceivably in women's hands."81

Alice Paul had no intention of allowing the Democrats to forget to whom they owed their victory. Not that they were likely to forget. Vance C. McCormick, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, in his own postelection analysis, noted the advisability of attending to the party's weak spots before the elections of 1918. "Our weakest spot is the suffrage situation," McCormick confided to a fellow committeeman. "We must get rid of the suffrage amendment before 1918 if we want to control the next Congress."82 As the San Francisco Examiner noted, suffrage had ceased to be a "western vagary. Nothing that has 2,000,000 votes is ever vague to the politicians."83


  1. In 1912, Democrat Key Pittman won the Nevada race with 7,942 votes (39.8 percent), over Republican candidate W. A. Massey, with 7,853 votes (39.3 percent); a switch of 45 votes would have produced a different winner, Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U.S. Elections, p. 493.
  2. Alice Paul, quoted in Irwin, Up Hill with Banners Flying, pp. 152-154.
  3. The card index is contained in the NWP Papers; on Maud Younger, see "Maud Younger," Notable American Women, III, pp. 699-700; Maud Younger, "The Diary of an Amateur Waitress: An Industrial Problem from the Worker's Point of View," McClure's Magazine, XXVII (March 1907), pp. 543-552, and XXVIII (April 1907), pp. 665-677; "Taking Orders: A Day as a Waitress in a San Francisco Restaurant," Sunset Magazine XXI (October 1908), pp. 518-522; and "Revelations of a Woman Lobbyist," McCall's, XLX (September, October, and November 1919), passim.
  4. Irwin, Up Hill with Banners Flying, pp. 134-144.
  5. Report of the National Advisory Council, December 1916, NWP Papers; see also, Alice Paul to Mrs. Lucius Cuthbert, April 14, 1916, NWP Papers.
  6. Lucy Burns to Alice Park Locke, March 25, 1916, Alice Park Locke Papers, Hunington Library.
  7. Margery Ross to Joy Webster, April 8, 1916, NWP Papers; see also, Harriot Stanton Blatch to W. H. Gates, February 25, 1916; Alice Paul to Harriot Stanton Blatch, March 1916; Harriot Stanton Blatch to Alice Paul, March 7, March 15, and March 17, 1916, all in NWP Papers.
  8. Ella Reigel to Joy Webster, April 26, 1916, NWP Papers.
  9. Ella Reigel to Joy Webster, April 29, 1916, NWP Papers.
  10. Olive H. Hasbrook to Joy Webster, April 28, 1916; Margery Ross to Joy Webster, June 1916; Ella Reigel to Joy Webster, April 13 and 29, 1916; Harriot Stanton Blatch, Speech to Audience in Salem, Oregon, May 10, 1916; Annette McCrea to Alden Thomas, May 15, 1916; and Ella Reigel to Joy Webster, May 3, 1916, all in NWP Papers.
  11. Report of the Proceedings of the National Woman's Party Convention, June 5-7, 1916, NWP Papers.
  12. Constitution of the National Woman's Party, NWP Papers.
  13. Report of the Proceedings of the National Woman's Party Convention, June 5-7, 1916, NWP Papers. Paul remained chairwoman of the Congressional Union as well.
  14. New York World, June 7 and 8, 1916.
  15. Report of the Proceedings of the National Woman's Party Convention, June 5-7, 1916, NWP Papers; New York World, June 8, 1916; Irwin, Up Hill with Banners Flying, p. 161.
  16. Charles A. Beard, "Third Party Functions," The Suffragists, IV (November 25, 1916), p. 6.
  17. Campaign Text-Book 1916, NWP Papers.
  18. Arthur S. Link and William M. Leary, Jr., "The Election of 1916," in Arthur Schlesinger, et al., eds., The History of American Presidential Elections 1789-1968, III (1917), pp. 2245-2270.
  19. New York Times, June 17, 1916; see also, History of Woman Suffrage, V, pp. 712-715.
  20. New York Times, June 17, 1916.
  21. For a discussion of the various party planks, from the perspective of the NWP, see The Suffragist, V: June 17, 1916 (Republican platform); July 1, 1916 (Democratic platform); July 8, 1916 (Progressive platform); July 22, 1916 (Socialist platform); and July 29, 1916 (Prohibitionist platform).
  22. Alice Paul to Mabel Vernon, April 20, 1916, Mabel Vernon Papers, Bancroft Library, University of California at Berkeley.
  23. Alice Paul to Mabel Vernon, April 20, 1916, Mabel Vernon Papers.
  24. New Republic, VI (November 21, 1914), p. 4.
  25. Ibid., IX (November 18, 1916), p. 59.
  26. Charles A. Beard to Carrie Chapman Catt, August 5, 1916, NWP Papers.
  27. Speech delivered at Salem, Oregon by Mrs. Harriot Stanton Blatch, May 10, 1916, NWP Papers; Paul Interview, pp. 154-155; Vernon Interview, pp. 191-192.
  28. Paul Interview, pp. 155-156.
  29. Alice Paul to Harriot Stanton Blatch, July 7, 1917, NWP Papers; Anne Martin to Abby Scott Baker, August 10, 1916, Martin Papers; Paul Interview, pp. 155-156; Ella Reigel to Joy Webster, June 29, 1916, and Anne Martin to Margaret Whittemore, July 22, 1916, both in NWP Papers.
  30. Vernon Interview, pp. 191-192.
  31. New York Times, August 1, 1916.
  32. Alice Paul to Mrs. Lucius Cuthbert, August 23, 1916, NWP Papers.
  33. Woodrow Wilson to Mrs. E. P. Davis, August 5, 1916, Wilson Papers.
  34. Anne Martin to Natalie Gray, July 7, 1916, NWP Papers.
  35. Alice Paul to Mrs. Robert Morton, July 5, 1916, NWP Papers.
  36. Resolutions Adopted by the National Woman's Party, August 11, 1916; Campaign Text-Book 1916, both in NWP Papers; see also Alice Paul to Mrs. Lucius Cuthbert, August 23, 1916, NWP Papers.
  37. Campaign Text-Book 1916. NWP Papers. Mabel Vernon was Alice Paul's first paid organizer. Vernon had graduated Swarthmore a year ahead of Paul, but the two did not really know each other until the suffrage period. Paul had been apprised of Vernon's varied talents by a mutual friend shortly after the Congressional Union was organized. She invited Vernon to Washington and asked the Baltimore native how much she would need to live on; Vernon, then a schoolteacher, estimated she could get along on $70 a month, Paul guaranteed that amount and the bargain was struck. Neither was ever sorry. A month before the Colorado Springs meeting, during Fourth of July ceremonies in Washington, Vernon achieved national notoriety as the woman who had to be forceably removed from Woodrow Wilson's reviewing stand when she proceeded to heckle the President for his refusal to take up the suffrage issue. The idea was Paul's, but the adventure-some Vernon readily agreed to it. Paul managed to secure platform tickets for Wilson's speech. At appropriate moments during the speech, Vernon called out loudly and clearly, "Mr. President, what will you do for suffrage?" Wilson ignored the question, but after several similar interruptions, Secret Service Agents escorted Vernon off the stage, asking as they went out, "What makes you act that way?" Paul remained on stage, impassively observing the scene. Later, recalling the Secret Service agents' question to friends, one of them asked Vernon, "Why didn't you say, 'She does!'", referring to Paul. See, for example, the Washington Post and the New York Times, July 5, 1916. Vernon Interview, pp. 61-62, 141-142; and, "Mabel Vernon," Notable American Women, IV, pp. 711-712.
  38. "Inez Milholland Boissevain," Notable American Women, I, pp. 188-190; Paul Interview, pp. 170-173, 339-340, 496; Vernon Interview, pp. 19-21, 64-65; Irwin, Up Hill with Banners Flying, pp. 98, 160, 177; Stevens, Jailed for Freedom, pp. 48-60.
  39. The term "second generation" was Mabel Vernon's description of the new NWP organizers. Vernon referred to those women who were with the Congressional Union from the very beginning as the first generation. Those who came into the organization after 1914 were the second generation, and a third generation, according to Vernon, came in after 1916. Vernon Interview, pp. 141-158.
  40. Stevens, Jailed for Freedom, Appendix D, pp. 354-371; Vernon Interview, pp. 141-158; Reyher Interview, pp. 33-45.
  41. The membership of the Congressional Union and National Woman's Party probably never constituted more than five per cent of the nation's suffragists. At the numerical height of its success, the NWP enrolled fewer than 50,000 members, whereas NAWSA's membership numbered in the hundreds of thousands. The difference was that the NWP members were almost always active and a significant number sacrificed jobs and personal lives to work full-time for the cause. Thus, their relatively small numbers were extremely significant in terms of productivity and influence. Paul Interview, pp. 327-329; Vernon Interview, pp. 190-191.
  42. Irwin, Up Hill with Banners Flying, pp. 178-179; New York Times, October 23, 1916.
  43. Iris Calderhead to Anne Martin, October 25, 1916, Martin Papers.
  44. Alice Paul to Mrs. Lucius Cuthbert, August 23, 1916, NWP Papers; Alice Paul to Organizers, September 20, 1916, and Alice Paul to Mrs. Stevenson, September 20, 1916, both in Martin Papers; The Suffragist, IV (August 19, 1916), p. 6.
  45. W. Y. Morgan to John S. Simmons, September 27, 1916, Martin Papers.
  46. Abby Scott Baker to Anne Martin, September 21, 1916, Martin Papers; see also, Helen Bonnifield to Mabel Vernon, November 12, 1916, Vernon Papers.
  47. Philip S. Triplett to Mabel Vernon, September 30, 1916, NWP Papers.
  48. Doris Stevens to Alice Paul, September 20, 1916, NWP Papers. Stevens analysis proved to be accurate, as both the events of the time and later historical analysis demonstrated. See Link and Leary, "The Election of 1916," p. 2257.
  49. Alice Paul to Doris Stevens, September 25, 1916, NWP Papers.
  50. Anne Martin to Alice Paul, October 3, 1916, Martin Papers.
  51. Anne Martin to Alice Paul, September 30, 1916, Martin Papers.
  52. Abby Scott Baker to Anne Martin, September 29, 1916, Martin Papers.
  53. Campaign Text-Book 1916, NWP Papers.
  54. Cook, Crystal Eastman On Women and Revolution, pp. 15-20, 241-247.
  55. Edith Barringer to Anne Martin, September 23, 1916, Martin Papers.
  56. Mrs. J. E. Drennan to Alva Belmont, September 27, 1916; Nannie T. Daniels to Alva Belmont, September 28, 1916; Emma Haley Flanagan to Alva Belmont, September 30, 1916, and, Jessie Earnshaw to Alva Belmont, October 1, 1916, all in NWP Papers.
  57. Helen Heffernon to Mabel Vernon, October 20, 1916, Vernon Papers.
  58. Abby Scott Baker to Mabel Vernon, September 26, 1916, Vernon Papers; see also, H. V. Castle to Mabel Vernon, October 28, 1916, and Mabel Davis to Mabel Vernon, October 17, 1916, all in Vernon Papers.
  59. Margaret Fay Whittemore to Mabel Vernon, September 28, 1916, Vernon Papers.
  60. Clara Louise Rowe to Joy Webster, May 21, 1916, NWP Papers.
  61. Irwin, Up Hill with Banners Flying, p. 183.
  62. Report of the Treasury Department of the 1916 Campaign, NWP Papers.
  63. Alice Paul to Alice Henkle, September 3, 1916, NWP Papers; Vivian Pierce to Joy Webster, September 21, and September 24, 1916; and Elsie Hill to Joy Webster, September 27, 1916, NWP Papers.
  64. Paul Interview, pp. 104, 108-109; Vernon Interview, pp. 37-38.
  65. Mabel Vernon to Doris Stevens, October 14, 1916, Vernon Papers.
  66. C. F. Clark to Mabel Vernon, September 30, 1916 and October 8, 1916; and, Mabel Vernon to Maud Younger, October 6, 1916, all in Vernon Papers; Gertrude Crocker to Lucy Burns, October 18, 1916, Martin Papers.
  67. Alice Park Locke to Anne Martin, November 17, 1916, Martin Papers. A glance at Inez Milholland's itinerary reveals that her speaking schedule was as exhausting as that of any of the candidates and, in retrospect, much too demanding given her physical impairment. After leaving New York on October 4, Milholland was scheduled to speak in forty-three different cities in Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, California, Kansas, and Illinois, all in less than one month. Revised Itinerary of Inez Milholland, n.d. (1916), NWP Papers.
  68. Baker and Dodd, eds., The Public Papers of Woodrow Wilson, IV, pp. 297-300.
  69. Bull Moose Progressives were members of the Republican Party who refused to support William Howard Taft in the election of 1912. Bull Moose Progressives, instead, cast their lot with Theodore Roosevelt. This split in the Republican Party is generally credited with throwing the election to Woodrow Wilson.
  70. Lunardini and Knock, "Woodrow Wilson and Woman Suffrage: A New Look," Political Science Quarterly XCV (Winter 1980/81), pp. 670-671; see also, Arthur S. Link, Wilson: Campaigns for Progressivism and Peace 1916-1917, Princeton: Princeton University Press (1965), passim; and Link, Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Era 1910-1917, New York: Harper Torchbooks (1963), passim.
  71. Diary entry, June 19, 1876, The Papers of Woodrow Wilson, 36 vols., Arthur S. Link et al., eds., III, p. 143.
  72. Catt and Shuler, Woman Suffrage and Politics, p. 260.
  73. Abby Scott Baker to Anne Martin, September 29, 1916, Martin Papers.
  74. Beulah Amidon to Anne Martin, November 1, 1916, Martin Papers.
  75. New York Times, November 10 and 12, 1916; Literary Digest, November 18, 1916, pp. 1312-1316; New Republic, November 25, 1916, pp. 86-87; see also, Link, Wilson, Campaigns For Progressivism and Peace, p. 161 fn.; and, Catt and Shuler, Woman Suffrage and Politics, pp. 264-265.
  76. See, for example, Alice Paul to Organizers, September 20, 1916; Alice Paul to Mrs. Stevenson, September 20, 1916; and Alice Paul to Organizers, n.d. (ca. October 1916), all in Martin Papers.
  77. See, for example, Elizabeth Bass, Chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee's Woman's Bureau, to "Dear Madam," September 18, 1916, NWP Papers; and Harriet E. Vittum, Director of Woman's Work, Republican National Committee, to Anne Martin, September 22, 1916, Martin Papers.
  78. Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U.S. Elections, Election of 1916: Presidential Results by State; see also Gilson Gardner, "The Work of the Woman's Party," The Suffragist, IV (November 25, 1916), p. 4.
  79. Quoted in The Suffragist, IV (November 25, 1916), p. 8.
  80. Ibid.
  81. New Republic, IX (November 25, 1916), pp. 85-86; see also similar excerpts from the San Francisco Examiner, Wichita Eagle, Utica [New York] Dispatch, Flagstaff [Arizona] Sun, and the Oroville [California] Mercury, all quoted in The Suffragist, IV (November 25, 1916), pp. 4-8.
  82. Vance C. McCormick, quoted in Irwin, Up Hill with Banners Flying, p. 183.
  83. Quoted in The Suffragist, IV (November 25, 1916), p.8.


SOURCE: DuBois, Ellen Carol. "Working Women, Class Relations, and Suffrage Militance: Harriot Stanton Blatch and the New York Woman Suffrage Movement, 1894-1909." In, pp. 176-209. New York: New York University Press, 1998.

In the following essay, DuBois discusses Blatch's ideas and suffrage work in the context of the politics of the Progressive Era.

More than any other period in American reform history, the Progressive Era eludes interpretation. It seems marked by widespread concern for social justice and by extraordinary elitism, by democratization and by increasing social control. The challenge posed to historians is to understand how Progressivism could simultaneously represent gains for the masses and more power for the classes. The traditional way to approach the period has been to study the discrete social programs reformers so energetically pushed in those years, from the abolition of child labor to the Americanization of the immigrants. Recently, historians' emphasis has shifted to politics, where it will probably remain for a time. Historians have begun to recognize that the rules of political life, the nature of American "democracy," were fundamentally reformulated beginning in the Progressive Era, and that such political change shaped the ultimate impact of particular social reforms.

Where were women in all this? The new focus on politics requires a reinterpretation of women's role in Progressivism. As the field of women's history has grown, the importance of women in the Progressive Era has gained notice, but there remains a tendency to concentrate on their roles with respect to social reform. Modern scholarship on the Progressive Era thus retains a separate spheres flavor; women are concerned with social and moral issues, but the world of politics is male. Nowhere is this clearer than in the tendency to minimize, even to omit, the woman suffrage movement from the general literature on the Progressive Era.1

Scholarship on woman suffrage is beginning to grow in detail and analytic sophistication, but it has yet to be fully integrated into overviews of the period.2 Histories that include woman suffrage usually do so in passing, listing it with other constitutional alterations in the electoral process such as the popular election of senators, the initiative, and the referendum. But woman suffrage was a mass movement, and that fact is rarely noticed. Precisely because it was a mass political movement—perhaps the first modern one—woman suffrage may well illuminate Progressive-Era politics, especially the class dynamics underlying their reformulation. When the woman suffrage movement is given its due, we may begin to understand the process by which democratic hope turned into mass political alienation, which is the history of modern American politics.

To illuminate the origin and nature of the woman suffrage movement in the Progressive Era I will examine the politics of Harriot Stanton Blatch. Blatch was the daughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the founding mother of political feminism. Beginning in the early twentieth century, she was a leader in her own right, initially in New York, later nationally. As early as 1903, when politics was still considered something that disreputable men did, like smoking tobacco, Blatch proclaimed: "There are born politicians just as there are born artists, writers, painters. I confess that I should be a politician, that I am not interested in machine politics, but that the devotion to the public cause … rather than the individual, appeals to me."3

Just as her zest for politics marked Blatch as a new kind of suffragist, so did her efforts to fuse women of different classes into a revitalized suffrage movement. Blatch's emphasis on class was by no means unique; she shared it with other women reformers of her generation. Many historians have treated the theme of class by labeling the organized women's reform movement in the early twentieth century "middle-class." By contrast, I have tried to keep open the question of the class character of women's reform in the Progressive Era by rigorously avoiding the term. Characterizing the early twentieth-century suffrage movement as "middle-class" obscures its most striking element, the new interest in the vote among women at both ends of the class structure. Furthermore, it tends to homogenize the movement. The very term "middle-class" is contradictory, alternatively characterized as people who are not poor, and people who work for a living. By contrast, I have emphasized distinctions between classes and organized my analysis around the relations between them.

No doubt there is some distortion in this framework, particularly for suffragists who worked in occupations like teaching. But there is far greater distortion in using the term "middle-class" to describe women like Blatch or Carrie Chapman Catt or Jane Addams. For example, it makes more sense to characterize an unmarried woman with an independent income who was not under financial compulsion to work for her living as "elite," rather than "middle-class." The question is not just one of social stratification, but of the place of women in a whole system of class relations. For these new style suffragists, as for contemporary feminists who write about them, the complex relationship between paid labor, marital status, and women's place in the class structure was a fundamental puzzle. The concept of "middle-class" emerged among early twentieth-century reformers, but may ultimately prove more useful in describing a set of relations between classes that was coming into being in those years, than in designating a segment of the social structure.

Blatch, examined as a political strategist and a critic of class relations, is important less as a unique figure than as a representative leader, through whose career the historical forces transforming twentieth-century suffragism can be traced. The scope of her leadership offers clues to the larger movement: She was one of the first to open up suffrage campaigns to working-class women, even as she worked closely with wealthy and influential upper-class women; she pioneered militant street tactics and backroom political lobbying at the same time. Blatch's political evolution reveals close ties between other stirrings among American women in the Progressive Era and the rejuvenated suffrage movement. Many of her ideas paralleled Charlotte Perkins Gilman's influential reformulation of women's emancipation in economic terms. Many of Blatch's innovations as a suffragist drew on her prior experience in the Women's Trade Union League. Overall, Blatch's activities suggest that early twentieth-century changes in the American suffrage movement, often traced to the example of militant British suffragettes, had deep, indigenous roots. Among them were the growth of trade unionism among working-class women and professionalism among the elite, changing relations between these classes, and the growing involvement of women of all sorts in political reform.

The suffrage revival began in New York in 1893-1894, as part of a general political reform movement. In the 1890s New York's political reformers were largely upper-class men concerned about political "corruption," which they blamed partly on city Democratic machines and the bosses who ran them, partly on the masses of voting men, ignorant, immigrant, and ripe for political manipulation. Their concern about political corruption and about the consequences of uncontrolled political democracy became the focus of New York's 1894 constitutional convention, which addressed itself largely to "governmental procedures: the rules for filling offices, locating authority and organizing the different branches."4

The New York woman suffrage movement, led by Susan B. Anthony, recognized a great opportunity in the constitutional convention of 1894. Focusing on political corruption, Anthony and her allies argued that women were the political reformers' best allies. For while men were already voters and vulnerable to the ethic of partisan loyalty—indeed a man without a party affiliation in the 1890s was damned close to unsexed—everyone knew that women were naturally nonpartisan. Enfranchising women was therefore the solution to the power of party bosses. Suffragists began by trying to get women elected to the constitutional convention itself. Failing this, they worked to convince the convention delegates to include woman suffrage among the proposed amendments.5

Anthony planned a house-to-house canvass to collect signatures on a mammoth woman suffrage petition. For the $50,000 she wanted to fund this effort, she approached wealthy women in New York City, including physician Mary Putnam Jacobi, society leader Catherine Palmer (Mrs. Robert) Abbe, social reformer Josephine Shaw Lowell, and philanthropist Olivia (Mrs. Russell) Sage. Several of them were already associated with efforts for the amelioration of working-class women, notably in the recently formed Consumers' League, and Anthony had reason to think they might be ready to advocate woman suffrage.6

The elite women were interested in woman suffrage, but they had their own ideas about how to work for it. Instead of funding Anthony's campaign, they formed their own organization. At parlor meetings in the homes of wealthy women, they tried to strike a genteel note, emphasizing that enfranchisement would not take women out of their proper sphere and would not increase the political power of the lower classes. Eighty-year-old Elizabeth Stanton, observing the campaign from her armchair, thought that "men and women of the conservative stamp of the Sages can aid us greatly at this stage of our movement."7

Why did wealthy women first take an active and prominent part in the suffrage movement in the 1890s? In part they shared the perspective of men of their class that the influence of the wealthy in government had to be strengthened; they believed that with the vote they could increase the political power of their class. In a representative argument before the constitutional convention, Jacobi proposed woman suffrage as a response to "the shifting of political power from privileged classes to the masses of men." The disfranchisement of women contributed to this shift because it made all women, "no matter how well born, how well educated, how intelligent, how rich, how serviceable to the State," the political inferiors of all men, "no matter how base-born, how poverty stricken, how ignorant, how vicious, how brutal." Olivia Sage presented woman suffrage as an antidote to the growing and dangerous "idleness" of elite women, who had forgotten their responsibility to set the moral tone for society.8

Yet, the new elite converts also supported woman suffrage on the grounds of changes taking place in women's status, especially within their own class. Jacobi argued that the educational advancement of elite women "and the new activities into which they have been led by it—in the work of charities, in the professions, and in the direction of public education—naturally and logically tend toward the same result, their political equality." She argued that elite women, who had aided the community through organized charity and benevolent activities, should have the same "opportunity to serve the State nobly." Sage was willing to advocate woman suffrage because of women's recent "strides … in the acquirement of business methods, in the management of their affairs, in the effective interest they have evinced in civic affairs."9

Suffragists like Jacobi and Sage characteristically conflated their class perspective with the role they saw for themselves as women, contending for political leadership not so much on the grounds of their wealth, as of their womanliness. Women, they argued, had the characteristics needed in politics—benevolence, morality, selflessness, and industry; conveniently, they believed that elite women most fully embodied these virtues. Indeed, they liked to believe that women like themselves were elite because they were virtuous, not because they were wealthy. The confusion of class and gender coincided with a more general elite ideology that identified the fundamental division in American society not between rich and poor, but between industrious and idle, virtuous and vicious, community-minded and selfish. On these grounds Sage found the purposeless leisure of wealthy women dangerous to the body politic. She believed firmly that the elite, women included, should provide moral—and ultimately political—leadership, but it was important to her that they earn the right to lead.10

The problem for elite suffragists was that woman suffrage meant the enfranchisement of working-class, as well as elite, women. Jacobi described a prominent woman who "had interested herself nobly and effectively in public affairs,…but preferred not to claim the right [of suffrage] for herself, lest its concession entail the enfranchisement of ignorant and irresponsible women." An elite antisuffrage organization committed to such views was active in the 1894 campaign as well, led by women of the same class, with many of the same beliefs, as the prosuffrage movement. As Stanton wrote, "The fashionable women are about equally divided between two camps." The antis included prominent society figures Abby Hamlin (Mrs. Lyman) Abbott and Josephine Jewell (Mrs. Arthur) Dodge, as well as Annie Nathan Meyer, founder of Barnard College and member of the Consumers' League. Like the elite suffragists, upper-class antis wanted to insure greater elite influence in politics; but they argued that woman suffrage would decrease elite influence, rather than enhance it.11

Elite suffragists' willingness to support woman suffrage rested on their confidence that their class would provide political leadership for all women once they had the vote. Because they expected working-class women to defer to them, they believed that class relations among women would be more cooperative and less antagonistic than among men. Elite women, Jacobi argued before the 1894 convention, would "so guide ignorant women voters that they could be made to counterbalance, when necessary, the votes of ignorant and interested men." Such suffragists assumed that working-class women were too weak, timid, and disorganized to make their own demands. Since early in the nineteenth century, elite women had claimed social and religious authority on the grounds of their responsibility for the women and children of the poor. They had begun to adapt this tradition to the new conditions of an industrial age, notably in the Consumers' League, formed in response to the pleas of women wage earners for improvement in their working conditions. In fact, elite antis also asserted that they spoke for working-class women, but they contended that working-class women neither needed nor wanted to vote.12

From an exclusively elite perspective, the anti-suffrage argument was more consistent than the prosuffrage one; woman suffrage undoubtedly meant greater political democracy, which the political reform movement of the 1890s most fundamentally feared. Elite suffragists found themselves organizing their own arguments around weak refutations of the antis' objections.13 The ideological weakness had political implications. Woman suffrage got no serious hearing in the constitutional convention, and the 1894 constitutional revisions designed to "clean up government" ignored women's plea for political equality.

The episode revealed dilemmas, especially with respect to class relations among women, that a successful suffrage movement would have to address. Elite women had begun to aspire to political roles that led them to support woman suffrage, and the resources they commanded would be crucial to the future success of suffrage efforts. But their attraction to woman suffrage rested on a portrait of working-class women and a system of class relations that had become problematic to a modern industrial society. Could elite women sponsor the entrance of working-class women into politics without risking their influence over them, and perhaps their position of leadership? Might not working-class women assume a newly active, politically autonomous role? The tradition of class relations among women had to be transformed before a thriving and modern woman suffrage movement could be built. Harriot Stanton Blatch had the combination of suffrage convictions and class awareness to lead New York suffragists through that transition.

The 1894 campaign, which confronted suffragists with the issue of class, also drew Blatch actively into the American woman suffrage movement. She had come back from England, where she had lived for many years, to receive a master's degree from Vassar College for her study of the English rural poor. A powerful orator, she was "immediately pressed into service … speaking every day," at parlor suffrage meetings, often to replace her aged mother.14 Like her mother, Blatch was comfortable in upper-class circles; she had married into a wealthy British family. She generally shared the elite perspective of the campaign, assuming that "educated women" would lead their sex. But she disliked the implication that politics could ever become too democratic and, virtually alone among the suffragists, criticized all "those little anti-republican things I hear so often here in America, this talk of the quality of votes." And while other elite suffragists discussed working-class women as domestic servants and shop clerks, Blatch understood the centrality of industrial workers, although her knowledge of them was still primarily academic.15

Blatch's disagreements with the elite suffrage framework were highlighted a few months after the constitutional convention in an extraordinary public debate with her mother. In the Woman's Journal, Stanton urged that the suffrage movement incorporate an educational restriction into its demand, to respond to "the greatest block in the way of woman's enfranchisement … the fear of the 'ignorant vote' being doubled." Her justification for this position, so at odds with the principles of a lifetime, was that the enfranchisement of "educated women" best supplied "the imperative need at the time … woman's influence in public life." From England, Blatch wrote a powerful dissent. Challenging the authority of her venerated mother was a dramatic act that—perhaps deliberately—marked the end of her political daughterhood. She defended both the need and the capacity of the working class to engage in democratic politics. On important questions, "for example … the housing of the poor," their opinion was more informed than that of the elite. She also argued that since "the conditions of the poor are so much harder … every working man needs the suffrage more than I do." And finally, she insisted on the claims of a group her mother had ignored, working women.16

The debate between mother and daughter elegantly symbolizes the degree to which class threatened the continued vitality of the republican tradition of suffragism. Partly because of her participation in the British Fabian movement, Blatch was able to adapt the republican faith to modern class relations, while Stanton was not. As a Fabian, Blatch had gained an appreciation for the political intelligence and power of the working class very rare among elite reformers in the U.S. When she insisted that the spirit of democracy was more alive in England than in the U.S., she was undoubtedly thinking of the development of a working-class political movement there.17

Over the next few years, Blatch explored basic assumptions of the woman suffrage faith she had inherited, in the context of modern class relations. In the process, like other women reformers of her era, such as Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Florence Kelley, Jane Addams, and numerous settlement house residents and supporters of organized labor, she focused on the relation of women and work. She emphasized the productive labor that women performed, both as it contributed to the larger social good and as it created the conditions of freedom and equality for women themselves. Women had always worked, she insisted. The new factor was the shift of women's work from the home to the factory and the office, and from the status of unpaid to paid labor. Sometimes she stressed that women's unpaid domestic labor made an important contribution to society; at other times she stressed that such unpaid work was not valued, but always she emphasized the historical development that was taking women's labor out of the home and into the commercial economy. The question for modern society was not whether women should work, but under what conditions, and with what consequences for their own lives.18

Although Blatch was troubled by the wages and working conditions of the laboring poor, her emphasis on work as a means to emancipation led her to regard wage-earning women less as victims to be succored, than as exemplars to their sex. She vigorously denied that women ideally hovered somewhere above the world of work. She had no respect for the "handful of rich women who have no employment other than organizing servants, social functions and charities." Upper-class women, she believed, should also "work," should make an individualized contribution to the public good, and where possible should have the value of their labor recognized by being paid for it.19 As a member of the first generation of college-educated women, she believed that education and professional achievement, rather than wealth and refinement, fitted a woman for social leadership.

Turning away from nineteenth-century definitions of the unity of women that emphasized their place in the home, their motherhood, and their exclusion from the economy, and emphasizing instead the unity that productive work provided for all women, Blatch rewrote feminism in its essentially modern form, around work. She tended to see women's work, including homemaking and child rearing, as a mammoth portion of the world's productive labor, which women collectively accomplished. Thus she retained the concept of "women's work" for the sex as a whole, while vigorously discarding it on the individual level, explicitly challenging the notion that all women had the same tastes and talents.20

Her approach to "women's work" led Blatch to believe that the interconnection of women's labor fundamentally shaped relations among them. Here were the most critical aspects of her thought. Much as she admired professional women, she insisted that they recognize the degree to which their success rested on the labor of other women, who cared for their homes and their children. "Whatever merit [their homes] possess," Blatch wrote, "is largely due to the fact that the actress when on the stage, the doctor when by her patient's side, the writer when at her desk, has a Bridget to do the homebuilding for her." The problem was that the professional woman's labor brought her so much more freedom than the housemaid's labor brought her. "Side by side with the marked improvement in the condition of the well-to-do or educated woman," Blatch observed, "our century shows little or no progress in the condition of the woman of the people." Like her friend Gilman, Blatch urged that professional standards of work—good pay, an emphasis on expertise, the assumption of a lifelong career—be extended to the nurserymaid and the dressmaker, as well as to the lawyer and the journalist. Until such time, the "movement for the emancipation of women [would] remain … a well-dressed movement."21

But professional training and better wages alone would not give labor an emancipatory power in the lives of working-class women. Blatch recognized the core of the problem of women's work, especially for working-class women: "How can the duties of mother and wage earner be reconciled?" She believed that wage-earning women had the same desire as professional women to continue to enjoy careers and independence after marriage. "It may be perverse in lowly wage earners to show individuality as if they were rich," Blatch wrote, "but apparently we shall have to accept the fact that all women do not prefer domestic work to all other kinds." But the problem of balancing a career and a homelife was "insoluble—under present conditions—for the women of the people." "The pivotal question for women," she wrote, "is how to organize their work as home-builders and race-builders, how to get that work paid for not in so called protection, but in the currency of the state."22

As the female labor force grew in the late nineteenth century, so did the number of married women workers and demands that they be driven from the labor force. The suffrage movement had traditionally avoided the conflict between work and motherhood by pinning the demand for economic equality on the existence of unmarried women, who had no men to support them.23 Blatch confronted the problem of work and motherhood more directly. In a 1905 article, she drew from the utopian ideas of William Morris to recommend that married women work in small, worker-owned manufacturing shops where they could have more control over their hours and could bring their children with them. Elsewhere, she argued that the workplace should be reorganized around women's needs, rather than assume the male worker's standards, but she did not specify what that would mean. She never solved the riddle of work and children for women—nor have we—but she knew that the solution could not be to force women to choose between the two nor to banish mothers from the labor force.24

Blatch's vision of women in industrial society was democratic—all must work and all must be recognized and rewarded for their work—but it was not an egalitarian approach nor one that recognized most working women's material concerns. According to Blatch, women worked for psychological and ethical reasons, as much as for monetary ones. "As human beings we must have work," she wrote; "we rust out if we have not an opportunity to function on something." She emphasized the common promises and problems work raised in women's lives, not the differences in how they worked, how much individual choice they had, and especially in how much they were paid. She was relatively unconcerned with the way work enabled women to earn their livings. No doubt, her own experience partially explains this. As a young woman fresh out of college in the 1870s, she had dared to imagine that her desire for meaningful work and a role in the world need not deprive her of marriage and motherhood, and it did not. Despite her marriage, the birth of two children, and the death of one, she never interrupted her political and intellectual labors. But she also never earned her own living, depending instead on the income from her husband's family's business. In later years, she joked about the fact that she was the only "parasite" in the organization of self-supporting women she headed.25

But the contradictions in her analysis of the problem of work and women reflected more than her personal situation. There were two problems of work and women: the long-standing exploitation of laboring women of the working classes and the newly expanding place of paid labor in the lives of all women in bourgeois society. While the two processes were not the same, they were related, and women thinkers and activists of the Progressive period struggled to understand how. As more women worked for pay and outside of the home, how would the meaning of "woman-hood" change? What would be the difference between "woman" and "man" when as many women as men were paid workers? And what would be the class differences between women if all of them worked? Indeed, would there be any difference between the classes at all, once the woman of leisure no longer existed? Virtually all the efforts to link the gender and class problems of work for woman were incomplete. If Blatch's analysis of work, like Gilman's, shorted the role of class, others' analyses, for instance Florence Kelley's, underplayed what work meant for women as a sex.

Blatch rethought the principles of political equality in the light of her emphasis on women's work. At an 1898 congressional hearing, Blatch hailed "the most convincing argument upon which our future claims must rest—the growing recognition of the economic value of the work of women."26 Whereas her mother had based her suffragism on the nineteenth-century argument for natural rights and on the individual, Blatch based hers on women's economic contribution and their significance as a group.

The contradictions in Blatch's approach to women and work also emerged in her attempts to link work and the vote. On the one hand, she approached women's political rights as she did their economic emancipation, democratically: Just as all sorts of women must work, all needed the vote. Wealthy women needed the vote because they were taxpayers and had the right to see that their money was not squandered; women industrial workers needed it because their jobs and factories were subject to laws, which they had the right to shape. On the other hand, she recognized the strategic centrality of the enormous class of industrial workers, whose economic role was so important and whose political power was potentially so great. "It is the women of the industrial class," she explained, "the wage-earners, reckoned by the hundreds of thousands,…the women whose work has been submitted to a money test, who have been the means of bringing about the altered attitude of public opinion toward woman's work in every sphere of life."27

Blatch returned to New York for several extended visits after 1894, and she moved back for good in 1902. She had two purposes. Elizabeth Stanton was dying, and Blatch had come to be with her. Blatch also intended to take a leading role in the New York City suffrage movement. On her deathbed in 1902, Stanton asked Anthony to aid Blatch. However, hampered by Anthony's determination to keep control of the movement, Blatch was not able to make her bid for suffrage leadership until Anthony died, four years later.28

Meanwhile, Blatch was excited by other reform efforts, which were beginning to provide the resources for a new kind of suffrage movement. During the first years of the twentieth century two movements contributed to Blatch's political education—a broadened, less socially exclusive campaign against political corruption and a democratized movement for the welfare of working women. By 1907, her combined experience in these two movements enabled her to put her ideas about women and work into practice within the suffrage movement itself.

Women had become more active in the campaign against political corruption after 1894. In New York City, Josephine Shaw Lowell and Mary Putnam Jacobi formed the Woman's Municipal League, which concentrated on educating the public about corruption, in particular the links between the police and organized prostitution. Women were conspicuous in the reform campaigns of Seth Low, who was elected mayor in 1901.29

By the early 1900s, moreover, the spirit of political reform in New York City had spread beyond the elite. A left wing of the political reform movement had developed that charged that "Wall Street" was more responsible for political corruption than "the Bowery." Women were active in this wing, and there were women's political organizations with links to the Democratic party and the labor movement, a Women's Henry George Society, and a female wing of William Randolph Hearst's Independence League. The nonelite women in these groups were as politically enthusiastic as the members of the Woman's Municipal League, and considerably less ambivalent about enlarging the electorate. Many of them strongly supported woman suffrage. Beginning in 1905, a group of them organized an Equal Rights League to sponsor mock polling places for women to register their political opinions on election day.30

Through the 1900s Blatch dutifully attended suffrage meetings, and without much excitement advocated the municipal suffrage for propertied women favored by the New York movement's leaders after their 1894 defeat. Like many other politically minded women, however, she found her enthusiasm caught by the movement for municipal political reform. She supported Low for mayor in 1901 and believed that his victory demonstrated "how strong woman's power really was when it was aroused." By 1903 she suggested to the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) that it set aside agitation for the vote, so that "the women of the organization should use it for one year, nationally and locally, to pursue and punish corruption in politics." She supported the increasing attention given to "the laboring man" in reform political coalitions, but she pointedly observed that "the working woman was never considered."31

However, working-class women were emerging as active factors in other women's reform organizations. The crucial arena for this development was the Women's Trade Union League (WTUL), formed in 1903 by a coalition of working-class and elite women to draw wage-earning women into trade unions. The New York chapter was formed in 1905, and Blatch was one of the first elite women to join. The WTUL represented a significant move away from the tradition of elite, ameliorative sisterhood at work in the 1894 campaign for woman suffrage. Like the Consumers' League, it had been formed in response to the request of women wage earners for aid from elite women, but it was an organization of both classes working together. Blatch had never been attracted to the strictly ameliorative tradition of women's reform, and the shift toward a partnership of upper-class and working-class women paralleled her own thinking about the relation between the classes and the role of work in women's lives. She and other elite women in the WTUL found themselves laboring not for working-class women, but with them, and toward a goal of forming unions that did not merely "uplift" working-class women, but empowered them. Instead of being working-class women's protectors, they were their "allies." Instead of speaking on behalf of poor women, they began to hear them speak for themselves. Within the organization wage earners were frequently in conflict with allies. Nonetheless, the league provided them an arena to articulate a working-class feminism related to, but distinct from, that of elite women.32

Although prominent as a suffragist, Blatch participated in the WTUL on its own terms, rather than as a colonizer for suffrage. She and two other members assigned to the millinery trade conducted investigations into conditions and organized mass meetings to interest women workers in unions. She sat on the Executive Council from 1906 through 1909 and was often called on to stand in for President Mary Dreier. Her academic knowledge of "the industrial woman" was replaced by direct knowledge of wage-earning women and their working conditions. She was impressed with what she saw of trade unionism, especially its unrelenting "militance." Perhaps most important, she developed working relations with politically sophisticated working-class women, notably Leonora O'Reilly and Rose Schneiderman. Increasingly she believed that the organized power of labor and the enfranchisement of women were closely allied.33

Working-class feminists in the league were drawn to ideas like Blatch's—to conceptions of dignity and equality for women in the workplace and to the ethic of self-support and lifelong independence; they wanted to upgrade the condition of wage-earning women so that they, too, could enjoy personal independence on the basis of their labor. On the one hand, they understood why most working-class women would want to leave their hateful jobs upon marriage; on the other, they knew that women as a group, if not the individual worker, were a permanent factor in the modern labor force. Mary Kenney O'Sullivan of Boston, one of the league's founders, believed that "self support" was a goal for working-class women, but that only trade unions would give the masses of working women the "courage, independence, and self respect" they needed to improve their conditions. She expected "women of opportunity" to help in organizing women workers, because they "owed much to workers who give them a large part of what they have and enjoy," and because "the time has passed when women of opportunity can be self respecting and work for others."34

Initially, the demand for the vote was less important to such working-class feminists than to the allies. Still, as they began to participate in the organized women's movement on a more equal basis, wage-earning women began to receive serious attention within the woman suffrage movement as well. Beginning about 1905, advocates of trade unionism and the vote for women linked the demands. At the 1906 suffrage convention WTUL member Gertrude Barnum pointed out that "our hope as suffragists lies with these strong working women." Kelley and Addams wrote about the working woman's need for the vote to improve her own conditions. In New York, Blatch called on the established suffrage societies to recognize the importance of the vote to wage-earning women and the importance of wage-earning women to winning the vote. When she realized that existing groups could not adapt to the new challenges, she moved to form her own society.35

In January 1907, Blatch declared the formation of a new suffrage organization, the Equality League of Self-Supporting Women. The New York Times reported that the two hundred women present at the first meeting included "doctors, lawyers, milliners and shirtmakers."36 Blatch's decision to establish a suffrage organization that emphasized female "self-support"—lifelong economic independence—grew out of her ideas about work as the basis of women's claim on the state, the leadership role she envisioned for educated professionals, and her discovery of the power and political capacity of trade-union women. The Equality League provided the medium for introducing a new and aggressive style of activism into the suffrage movement—a version of the "militance" Blatch admired among trade unionists.

Initially, Blatch envisioned the Equality League of Self-Supporting Women as the political wing of the Women's Trade Union League. All the industrial workers she recruited were WTUL activists, including O'Reilly, the Equality League's first vice-president, and Schneiderman, its most popular speaker. To welcome working-class women, the Equality League virtually abolished membership fees; the policy had the added advantage of allowing Blatch to claim every woman who ever attended a league meeting in her estimate of its membership. She also claimed the members of the several trade unions affiliated with the Equality League, such as the bookbinders, overall makers, and cap makers, so that when she went before the New York legislature to demand the vote, she could say that the Equality League represented thousands of wage-earning women.37

Blatch wanted the Equality League to connect industrial workers, not with "club women" (her phrase), but with educated, professional workers, who should, she thought, replace benevolent ladies as the leaders of their sex. Such professionals—college educated and often women pioneers in their professions—formed the bulk of the Equality League's active membership. Many were lawyers, for instance Ida Rauh, Helen Hoy, Madeleine Doty, Jessie Ashley, Adelma Burd, and Bertha Rembaugh. Others were social welfare workers, for instance the Equality League's treasurer, Kate Claghorn, a tenement housing inspector and the highest paid female employee of the New York City government. Blatch's own daughter, Nora, the first woman graduate civil engineer in the United States, worked in the New York City Department of Public Works. Many of these women had inherited incomes and did not work out of economic need, but out of a desire to give serious, public substance to their lives and to make an impact on society. Many of them expressed the determination to maintain economic independence after they married.38

Although Blatch brought together trade-union women and college-educated professionals in the Equality League, there were tensions between the classes. The first correspondence between O'Reilly and Barnard graduate Caroline Lexow was full of class suspicion and mutual recrimination. More generally, there were real differences in how and why the two classes of working women demanded the vote. Trade-union feminists wanted the vote so that women industrial workers would have power over the labor laws that directly affected their working lives. Many of the college-educated self-supporters were the designers and administrators of this labor legislation. Several of them were, or aspired to be, government employees, and political power affected their jobs through party patronage. The occupation that might have bridged the differences was teaching. As in other cities, women teachers in New York organized for greater power and equal pay. The Equality League frequently offered aid, but the New York teachers' leaders were relatively conservative and kept their distance from the suffrage movement.39

Blatch's special contribution was her understanding of the bonds and common interests uniting industrial and professional women workers. The industrial women admired the professional ethic, if not the striving careerism, of the educated working women, and the professionals admired the matter-of-fact way wage-earning women went out to work. The fate of the professional woman was closely tied to that of the industrial worker; the cultural regard in which all working women were held affected both. Blatch dramatized that tie when she was refused service at a restaurant because she was unescorted by a man (that is, because she was eating with a woman). The management claimed that its policy aimed to protect "respectable" women, like Blatch, from "objectionable" women, like the common woman worker who went about on her own, whose morals were therefore questionable. Blatch rejected the division between respectable women and working women, pointing out that "there are five million women earning their livelihood in this country, and it seems strange that feudal customs should still exist here."40

The dilemma of economically dependent married women was crucial to the future of both classes of working women. Blatch believed that if work was to free women, they could not leave it for dependence on men in marriage. The professional and working-class members of the Equality League shared this belief, one of the distinguishing convictions of their new approach to suffragism. In 1908 Blatch and Mary Dreier chaired a debate about the housewife, sponsored by the WTUL and attended by many Equality League members. Charlotte Perkins Gilman took the Equality League position, that the unemployed wife was a "parasite" on her husband, and that all women, married as well as unmarried, should work, "like every other self-respecting being." Anna Howard Shaw argued that women's domestic labor was valuable, even if unpaid, and that the husband was dependent on his wife. A large audience attended, and although they "warmly applauded" Gilman, they preferred Shaw's sentimental construction of the economics of marriage.41

A month after the Equality League was formed, Blatch arranged for trade-union women to testify before the New York legislature on behalf of woman suffrage, the first working-class women ever to do so. The New York Woman Suffrage Association was still concentrating on the limited, property-based form of municipal suffrage; in lethargic testimony its leaders admitted that they had "no new arguments to present." Everyone at the hearing agreed that the antis had the better of the argument. The Equality League testimony the next day was in sharp contrast. Clara Silver and Mary Duffy, WTUL activists and organizers in the garment industry, supported full suffrage for all New York women. The very presence of these women before the legislature, and their dignity and intelligence, countered the antis' dire predictions about enfranchising the unfit. Both linked suffrage to their trade-union efforts: While they struggled for equality in unions and in industry, "the state" undermined them, by teaching the lesson of female inferiority to male unionists and bosses. "To be left out by the State just sets up a prejudice against us," Silver explained. "Bosses think and women come to think themselves that they don't count for so much as men."42

The formation of the Equality League and its appearance before the New York legislature awakened enthusiasm. Lillie Devereux Blake, whose own suffrage group had tried "one whole Winter … to [interest] the working women" but found that they were "so overworked and so poor that they can do little for us," congratulated Blatch on her apparent success. Helen Marot, organizing secretary for the New York WTUL, praised the Equality League for "realizing the increasing necessity of including working women in the suffrage movement." Blatch, O'Reilly, and Schneiderman were the star speakers at the 1907 New York suffrage convention. "We realize that probably it will not be the educated workers, the college women, the men's association for equal suffrage, but the people who are fighting for industrial freedom who will be our vital force at the finish," proclaimed the newsletter of the NAWSA.43

The unique class character of the Equality League encouraged the development of a new style of agitation, more radical than anything practiced in the suffrage movement since Elizabeth Stanton's prime. The immediate source of the change was the Women's Social and Political Union of England (WSPU), led by Blatch's comrade from her Fabian days, Emmeline Pankhurst. Members of the WSPU were just beginning to be arrested for their suffrage protests. At the end of the Equality League's first year, Blatch invited one of the first WSPU prisoners, Anne Cobden-Sanderson, daughter of Richard Cobden, to the United States to tell about her experiences, scoring a coup for the Equality League. By emphasizing Cobden-Sanderson's connection with the British Labour Party and distributing free platform tickets to tradeunion leaders, Blatch was able to get an overflow crowd at Cooper Union, Manhattan's labor temple, two-thirds of them men, many of them trade unionists.44

The Equality League's meeting for Cobden-Sanderson offered American audiences their first account of the new radicalism of English suffragists, or as they were beginning to be called, suffragettes. Cobden-Sanderson emphasized the suffragettes' working-class origins. She attributed the revival of the British suffrage movement to Lancashire factory workers; the heroic figure in her account was the working-class suffragette Annie Kenney, while Christabel Pankhurst, later canonized as the Joan of Arc of British militance, went unnamed. After women factory workers were arrested for trying to see the prime minister, Cobden-Sanderson and other privileged women, who felt they "had not so much to lose as [the workers] had," decided to join them and get arrested. She spent almost two months in jail, living the life of a common prisoner and coming to a new awareness of the poor and suffering women she saw there. Her simple but moving account conveyed the transcendent impact of the experience.45

Cobden-Sanderson's visit to New York catalyzed a great outburst of suffrage energy; in its wake, Blatch and a handful of other new leaders introduced the WSPU tactics into the American movement, and the word "suffragette" became as common in New York as in London. The "militants" became an increasingly distinct wing of the movement in New York and other American cities. But it would be too simple to say that the British example caused the new, more militant phase in the American movement. The developments that were broadening the class basis and the outlook of American suffragism had prepared American women to respond to the heroism of the British militants.46

The development of militance in the American suffrage movement was marked by new aggressive tactics practiced by the WSPU, especially open-air meetings and outdoor parades. At this stage in the development of British militance, American suffragists generally admired the heroism of the WSPU martyrs. Therefore, although the press emphasized dissent within the suffrage movement—it always organized its coverage of suffrage around female rivalries of some sort—the new militant activities were well received throughout the movement. And, conversely, even the most daring American suffragettes believed in an American exceptionalism that made it unnecessary to contemplate going to prison, to suffer as did the British militants.47

Despite Blatch's later claims, she did not actually introduce the new tactics in New York City. The first open-air meetings were organized immediately after the Cobden-Sanderson visit by a group called the American Suffragettes. Initiated by Bettina Borrman Wells, a visiting member of the WSPU, most of the American Suffragettes' membership came from the Equal Rights League, the left-wing municipal reform group that had organized mock polling places in New York since 1905. Feminist egalitarians with radical cultural leanings, its members were actresses, artists, writers, teachers, and social welfare workers—less wealthy versions of the professional self-supporters in the Equality League. Their local leader was a librarian, Maud Malone, whose role in encouraging new suffrage tactics was almost as important as, although less recognized than, Blatch's own.48

The American Suffragettes held their first open-air meeting in Madison Square on New Year's Eve, 1907. After that they met in the open at least once a week. Six weeks later, they announced they would hold New York's first all-woman parade. Denied a police permit, they determined to march anyway. The twenty-three women in the "parade" were many times outnumbered by the onlookers, mostly working-class men. In a public school to which they adjourned to make speeches, the American Suffragettes told a sympathetic audience that "the woman who works is the underdog of the world"; thus she needed the vote to defend herself. Socialists and working women rose from the floor to support them. Two years later the Equality League organized a much more successful suffrage parade in New York. Several hundred suffragettes, organized by occupation, marched from Fifty-ninth Street to Union Square. O'Reilly, the featured speaker, made "a tearful plea on behalf of the working girl that drew the first big demonstration of applause from the street crowd."49

Perhaps because the American Suffragettes were so active in New York City, Blatch held the Equality League's first open-air meetings in May 1908 upstate. Accompanied by Maud Malone, she organized an inventive "trolley car campaign" between Syracuse and Albany, using the interurban trolleys to go from town to town. The audiences expressed the complex class character of the suffrage movement at that moment. In Syracuse Blatch had her wealthy friend Dora Hazard arrange a meeting among the workers at her husband's factory. She also held a successful outdoor meeting in Troy, home of the Laundry Workers' Union, one of the oldest and most militant independent women's trade unions in the country. Albany was an antisuffrage stronghold, and its mayor tried to prevent the meeting, but Blatch outwitted him. The highlight of the tour was in Poughkeepsie, where Blatch and Inez Milholland, then a student at Vassar College, organized a legendary meeting. Since Vassar's male president forbade any woman suffrage activities on college grounds, Blatch and Milholland defiantly announced they would meet students in a cemetery. Gilman, who was extremely popular among college women, spoke, but it was the passionate trade-union feminist Schneiderman who was the star.50

Blatch believed that the first function of militant tactics was to gain much-needed publicity for the movement. The mainstream press had long ignored suffrage activities. If an occasional meeting was reported, it was usually buried in a small back-page article, focusing on the absurdity and incompetence of women's efforts to organize a political campaign. Gilded Age suffragists themselves accepted the Victorian convention that respectable women did not court public attention. The Equality League's emphasis on the importance of paid labor for women of all classes struck at the heart of that convention. Blatch understood "the value of publicity or rather the harm of the lack of it." She encouraged open-air meetings and trolley car campaigns because they generated much publicity, which no longer held the conventional horror for her followers.51

Militant tactics broke through the "press boycott" by violating standards of respectable femininity, making the cause newsworthy, and embracing the subsequent ridicule and attention. "We … believe in standing on street corners and fighting our way to recognition, forcing the men to think about us," an American Suffragette manifesto proclaimed. "We glory … that we are theatrical." The militant pursuit of publicity was an instant success: Newspaper coverage increased immediately; by 1908 even the sneering New York Times reported regularly on suffrage. The more outrageous or controversial the event, the more prominent the coverage. Blatch was often pictured and quoted.52

The new methods had a second function: they intensified women's commitment to the movement. Militants expected that overstepping the boundary of respectability would etch suffrage beliefs on women's souls, beyond retraction or modification. Blatch caught the psychology of this process. "Society has taught women self sacrifice and now this force is to be drawn upon in the arduous campaign for their own emancipation," she wrote. "The new methods of agitation, in that they are difficult and disagreeable, lay hold of the imagination and devotion of women, wherein lies the strength of the new appeal, the certainty of victory." Borrman Wells spoke of the "divine spirit of self-sacrifice," which underlay the suffragette's transgressions against respectability and was the source of the "true inwardness of the movement."53

If suffrage militants had a general goal beyond getting the vote, it was to challenge existing standards of femininity. "We must eliminate that abominable word ladylike from our vocabularies," Borrman Wells proclaimed. "We must get out and fight." The new definition of femininity the militants were evolving drew, on the one hand, on traditionally male behaviors, like aggression, fighting, provocation, and rebelliousness. Blatch was particularly drawn to the "virile" world of politics, which she characterized as a male "sport" she was sure she could master. On the other hand, they undertook a spirited defense of female sexuality, denying that it need be forfeited by women who participated vigorously in public life. "Women are no longer to be considered little tootsey wootseys who have nothing to do but look pretty," suffragette Lydia Commander declared. "They are determined to take an active part in the community and look pretty too." A member of a slightly older generation, Blatch never adopted the modern sexual ethic of the new woman, but she constantly emphasized the fact that women had distinct concerns that had to be accommodated in politics and industry. These two notes—the difference of the sexes and the repressed ability of women for manly activities—existed side by side in the thought of all the suffrage insurgents.54

The militant methods, taking suffrage out of the parlors and into the streets, indicated the new significance of working-class women in several ways. Blatch pointed out that the new methods—open-air meetings, newspaper publicity—suited a movement whose members had little money and therefore could not afford to rent halls or publish a newspaper. As a style of protest, "militance" was an import from the labor movement; WTUL organizers had been speaking from street corners for several years. And disrespect for the standards of ladylike respectability showed at least an impatience with rigid standards of class distinction, at most the influence of class-conscious wage-earning women.55

Working-class feminists were eager to speak from the militants' platform, as were many Socialists. A Socialist cadre, Dr. Anna Mercy, organized a branch of the American Suffragettes on the Lower East Side, which issued the first suffrage leaflets ever published in Yiddish. Militants also prepared propaganda in German and Italian and, in general, pursued working-class audiences. "Our relation to the State will be determined by the vote of the average man," Blatch asserted. "None but the converted … will come to us. We must seek on the highways the unconverted."56

However, it would be a mistake to confuse the suffragettes' radicalism with the radicalism of a working-class movement. The ultimate goal of the suffragettes was not a single-class movement, but a universal one, "the union of women of all shades of political thought and of all ranks of society on the single issue of their political enfranchisement." While the Equality League's 1907 hearing before the state legislature highlighted trade-union suffragists, at the 1908 hearing the league also featured elite speakers, in effect deemphasizing the working-class perspective.57 Militants could neither repudiate the Socialist support they were attracting, and alienate working-class women, nor associate too closely with Socialists, and lose access to the wealthy. Blatch—who actually became a Socialist after the suffrage was won—would not arrange for the Socialist party leader Morris Hillquit to join other prosuffrage speakers at the 1908 legislative hearing. Similarly, the American Suffragettes allowed individual Socialists on their platform but barred Socialist propaganda. Speaking for Socialist women who found the "idea of a 'radical' suffrage movement … very alluring," Josephine Conger Kaneko admitted that the suffragettes left her confused.58

Moreover, the militant challenge to femininity and the emphasis on publicity introduced a distinctly elite bias; a society matron on an open-air platform made page one while a working girl did not, because society women were obliged by conventions and could outrage by flouting them. In their very desire to redefine femininity, the militants were anxious to stake their claim to it, and it was upper-class women who determined femininity. In Elizabeth Robin's drama about the rise of militance in the British suffrage movement, The Convert, the heroine of the title was a beautiful aristocratic woman who became radical when she realized the emptiness of her ladylike existence and the contempt for women obscured by gentlemen's chivalrous gestures. The Equality League brought The Convert to New York in 1908 as its first large fund-raising effort; working-class women, as well as elite women, made up the audience. Malone was one of the few militants to recognize and to protest against excessive solicitousness for the elite convert. She resigned from the American Suffragettes when she concluded that they had become interested in attracting "a well-dressed crowd, not the rabble."59

Blatch's perspective and associations had always been fundamentally elite. The most well connected of the new militant leaders, she played a major role in bringing the new suffrage propaganda to the attention of upper-class women. She presided over street meetings in fashionable neighborhoods, where reporters commented on the "smart" crowds and described the speakers' outfits in society-page detail. Blatch's first important ally from the Four Hundred was Katherine Duer Mackay, wife of the founder of the International Telephone and Telegraph Company and a famous society beauty. Mackay's suffragism was very ladylike, but other members of her set who followed her into the movement were more drawn to militance: Alva Belmont, a veritable mistress of flamboyance, began her suffrage career as Mackay's protégé. The elitist subtext of militance was a minor theme in 1908 and 1909. But by 1910 becoming a suffragette was proving "fashionable," and upper-class women began to identify with the new suffrage style in significant numbers. By the time suffragette militance became a national movement, its working-class origins and trade-union associations had been submerged, and it was in the hands of women of wealth.60

From the beginning, though, class was the contradiction at the suffrage movement's heart. In the campaign of 1894, elite women began to pursue more power for themselves by advocating the suffrage in the name of all women. When Cobden-Sanderson spoke for the Equality League at Cooper Union in 1907, she criticized "idle women of wealth" as the enemies of woman suffrage, and she was wildly applauded. But what did her charge mean? Were all rich women under indictment, or only those who stayed aloof from social responsibility and political activism? Were the militants calling for working-class leadership of the suffrage movement or for cultural changes in bourgeois definitions of womanhood? This ambiguity paralleled the mixed meanings in Blatch's emphasis on working women; it coincided with an implicit tension between the older, elite women's reform traditions and the newer, trade-union politics they had helped to usher in; and it was related to a lurking confusion about whether feminism's object was the superfluity of wealthy women or the exploitation of the poor. It would continue to plague suffragism in its final decade, and feminism afterward, into our own time.


  1. A good overview of political history in the Progressive Era can be found in Arthur S. Link and Richard L. McCormick, Progressivism (Arlington Heights, Ill., 1983), 26-66. The "separate spheres" framework of Progressive-Era historiography has been identified and challenged by Paula Baker, "The Domestication of Politics: Women and American Political Society, 1780-1920," American Historical Review, 89 (June 1984), esp. 639-47; and by Kathryn Kish Sklar, "Hull House in the 1890s: A Community of Women Reformers," Signs, 10 (Summer 1985), 658-77; Kathryn Kish Sklar, "Florence Kelley and the Integration of 'Women's Sphere' into American Politics, 1890-1921," paper delivered at the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians, New York, April 1986 (in Sklar's possession).
  2. Steven M. Buechler, The Transformation of the Woman Suffrage Movement: The Case of Illinois, 1850-1920 (New Brunswick, 1986); Mari Jo Buhle and Paul Buhle, eds., The Concise History of Woman Suffrage: Selections from the Classic Work of Stanton, Anthony, Gage and Harper (Urbana, 1978); Carole Nichols, Votes and More for Women: Suffrage and After in Connecticut (New York, 1983); Anne F. Scott and Andrew Scott, eds., One Half the People (Philadelphia, 1975); and Sharon Strom, "Leadership and Tactics in the American Woman Suffrage Movement: A New Perspective from Massachusetts," Journal of American History, 52 (Sept. 1975), 296-315.
  3. "Mrs. Blatch's Address," clipping, 1903, Women's Club of Orange, N.J., Scrapbooks, IV (New Jersey Historical Society, Trenton). Thanks to Gail Malmgreen for this citation.
  4. Richard L. McCormick, From Realignment to Reform: Political Change in New York State, 1893-1910 (Ithaca, 1979), 53. An excellent account of the political reform movement in the 1890s in New York City can be found in David C. Hammack, Power and Society: Greater New York at the Turn of the Century (New York, 1982).
  5. Susan B. Anthony and Ida Husted Harper, eds., The History of Woman Suffrage, vol. IV: 1883-1900 (Rochester, 1902), 847-52; New York State Woman Suffrage Party, Record of the New York Campaign of 1894 (New York, 1895); Ida Husted Harper, ed., The Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony (3 vols., Indianapolis, 1898-1908), II, 758-76, esp. 759.
  6. Mary Putnam Jacobi, "Report of the 'Volunteer Committee' in New York City," in Record of the New York Campaign, 217-20; Maud Nathan, The Story of an Epoch-making Movement (Garden City, 1926); William Rhinelander Stewart, ed., The Philanthropic Work of Josephine Shaw Lowell (New York, 1926), 334-56.
  7. New York Times, April 14, 1894, 2; ibid., April 15, 1894, 5. Mrs. Robert (Catherine) Abbe's suffrage scrapbooks provide extensive documentation of the New York suffrage movement, beginning with this campaign. Mrs. Robert Abbe Collection (Manuscript Division, New York Public Library). Theodore Stanton and Harriot Stanton Blatch, eds., Elizabeth Cady Stanton as Revealed in Her Letters, Diary, and Reminiscences (2 vols., New York, 1922), II, 299.
  8. Mary Putnam Jacobi, "Address Delivered at the New York City Hearing," in Record of the New York Campaign, 17-26; Olivia Slocum Sage, "Opportunities and Responsibilities of Leisured Women," North American Review, 181 (Nov. 1905), 712-21.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Ibid
  11. Jacobi, "Report of the 'Volunteer Committee,'" 217; Stanton and Blatch, eds., Elizabeth Cady Stanton, II, 305; New York Times, May 3, 1894, 9. Abby Hamlin Abbott and Josephine Jewell Dodge were both Brooklyn residents; the division between suffragists and antis reflected a conflict between the elites of Manhattan and Brooklyn over the 1894 referendum to consolidate the two cities into Greater New York. See Hammack, Power and Society, 209.
  12. Jacobi, "Address Delivered at the New York City Hearing," 22; New York Times, April 12, 1894, 5. "The woman in charge of the [anti] protest … told a reporter … that her own dressmaker has secured about forty signatories to the protest among working women." Ibid., May 8, 1894, 1.
  13. Woman's Journal, May 12, 1894, 147.
  14. Ibid., May 19, 1894. The study, patterned after Charles Booth and Mary Booth's investigation of the London poor, on which Blatch worked, was published as Harriot Stanton Blatch, "Another View of Village Life," Westminster Review, 140 (Sept. 1893), 318-24.
  15. Stanton and Blatch, eds., Elizabeth Cady Stanton, II, 304; unidentified clipping, April 25, 1894, Scrapbook XX, Susan B. Anthony Collection (Manuscript Division, Library of Congress); New York Times, April 25, 1894, 5; ibid., May 3, 1894, 9; New York Sun, April 15, 1894, n.p.
  16. Woman's Journal, Nov. 3, 1894, 348-49; ibid., Dec. 22, 1894, 402; ibid., Jan. 5, 1895, 1. Blatch wrote that her mother's position "pained" her but there is no evidence of any personal conflict between them at this time. Ibid., Dec. 22, 1894, 402.
  17. Harriot Stanton Blatch and Alma Lutz, Challenging Years: The Memoirs of Harriot Stanton Blatch (New York 1940), 77. Woman's Journal, Jan. 18, 1896, 18.
  18. Woman's Journal, May 12, 1900, 146-47. Along with Blatch and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Florence Kelley and Jane Addams were the most important figures to focus on women and class. See Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Women and Economics: A Study of the Economic Relation between Men and Women as a Factor in Social Evolution (Boston, 1898); Florence Kelley, Woman Suffrage: Its Relation to Working Women and Children (Warren, Ohio, 1906); Florence Kelley, "Women and Social Legislation in the United States," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 56 (Nov. 1914), 62-71; Jane Addams, Newer Ideals of Peace (New York, 1907); and Jane Addams, Twenty Years at Hull House (New York, 1910). Some of the other women reformers who wrote on women and work early in the century were Rheta Childe Dorr, What Eight Million Women Want (Boston, 1910); Lillian Wald, "Organization among Working Women," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 27 (May 1906), 638-45; and Anna Garlin Spencer, Woman's Share in Social Culture (New York, 1913).
  19. Harriot Stanton Blatch, "Specialization of Function in Women," Gunton's Magazine, 10 (May 1896), 349-56, esp. 350.
  20. Ibid.
  21. Ibid., 354-55; see also Blatch's comments at a 1904 suffrage meeting in New York, Woman's Journal, Dec. 31, 1904, 423.
  22. Blatch, "Specialization of Function in Women," 350, 353.
  23. See, for example, the response of the New York City Woman Suffrage League to a proposal before the American Federation of Labor to ban women from all nondomestic employment. New York Times, Dec. 23, 1898, 7.
  24. Harriot Stanton Blatch, "Weaving in a Westchester Farmhouse," International Studio, 26 (Oct. 1905), 102-5; Woman's Journal, Jan. 21, 1905; ibid., Dec. 31, 1904, 423.
  25. Blatch, "Weaving in a Westchester Farmhouse," 104; Blatch and Lutz, Challenging Years, 70-86; Rhoda Barney Jenkins interview by Ellen Carol DuBois, June 10, 1982 (in Ellen Carol DuBois's possession); Ellen DuBois, "'Spanning Two Centuries': The Autobiography of Nora Stanton Barney," History Workshop, no. 22 (Fall 1986), 131-52. esp. 149.
  26. Anthony and Harper, eds., History of Woman Suffrage, IV, 311.
  27. "Mrs. Blatch's Address," Women's Club of Orange, N.J., Scrapbooks; Anthony and Harper, eds., History of Woman Suffrage, IV, 311.
  28. Harriot Stanton Blatch to Susan B. Anthony, Sept. 26, 1902, in Epistolary Autobiography, Theodore Stanton Collection (Douglass College Library, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J.).
  29. Oswald Garrison Villard, "Women in New York Municipal Campaign," Woman's Journal, March 8, 1902, 78-79.
  30. New York Times, Jan. 14, 1901, 7. The Gertrude Colles Collection (New York State Library, Albany) is particularly rich in evidence of the less elite, more radical side of female political reform in these years. On the mock voting organized by the Equal Rights League, see Woman's Journal, Dec. 28, 1905, and New York Times, Nov. 7, 1906, 9.
  31. Anthony and Harper, eds., History of Woman Suffrage, IV, 861; Ida Husted Harper, ed., History of Woman Suffrage, vol. VI: 1900-1920 (New York, 1922), 454; New York Times, March 2, 1902, 8; Woman's Tribune, April 25, 1903, 49. After Blatch had become an acknowledged leader of the New York suffrage movement, the coworker who, she felt, most shared her political perspective was Caroline Lexow, daughter of the man who had conducted the original investigation of police corruption in New York in 1894. See Blatch and Lutz, Challenging Years, 120-21; and Isabelle K. Savelle, Ladies' Lib: How Rockland Women Got the Vote (Nyack, N.Y., 1979).
  32. Minutes, March 29, 1906, reel 1, New York Women's Trade Union League Papers (New York State Labor Library, New York). On the WTUL, see Nancy Schrom Dye, As Equals and as Sisters: Feminism, the Labor Movement, and the Women's Trade Union League of New York (Columbia, 1980); and Meredith Tax, The Rising of the Women: Feminist Solidarity and Class Conflict, 1880-1917 (New York, 1980), 95-124.
  33. Dye, As Equals and as Sisters, 63; Minutes, April 26, Aug. 23, 1906, New York Women's Trade Union League Papers; New York Times, April 11, 1907, 8.
  34. Mary Kenney O'Sullivan, "The Need of Organization among Working Women (1905)," Margaret Dreier Robins Papers (University of Florida Library, Gainesville); Sarah Eisenstein, Give Us Bread but Give Us Roses: Working Women's Consciousness in the United States, 1890 to the First World War (London, 1983), 146-50.
  35. Woman's Journal, March 17, 1906, 43; Kelley, Woman Suffrage; Jane Addams, "Utilization of Women in Government," in Jane Addams: A Centennial Reader (New York, 1960), 116-18; Woman's Journal, Dec. 31, 1904, 423; "Mrs. Blatch's Address," Women's Club of Orange, N.J., Scrapbooks. There was a lengthy discussion of working women's need for the vote, including a speech by Rose Schneiderman, at the 1907 New York State Woman Suffrage Association convention. See Minute Book, 1907-10, New York State Woman Suffrage Association (Butler Library, Columbia University, New York). The WTUL identified woman suffrage as one of its goals by 1907. Dye, As Equals and as Sisters, 123.
  36. New York Times, Jan. 3, 1907, 6; Woman's Journal, Jan. 12, 1907, 8.
  37. Progress, June 1907. Carrie Chapman Catt to Millicent Garrett Fawcett, Oct. 19, 1909, container 5, Papers of Carrie Chapman Catt (Manuscript Division, Library of Congress).
  38. Woman's Journal, Aug. 17, 1907, 129. On Nora Blatch (who later called herself Nora Stanton Barney), see DuBois, "'Spanning Two Centuries,'" 131-52. Those self-supporters who, I believe, had independent incomes include Nora Blatch, Caroline Lexow, Lavinia Dock, Ida Rauh, Gertrude Barnum, Elizabeth Finnegan, and Alice Clark. See, for example, on Nora Blatch, ibid., and on Dock, see Notable American Women: The Modern Period, ed. Sicherman et al. (Cambridge, 1980), 195-98.
  39. Caroline Lexow to Leonora O'Reilly, Jan. 3, 1908, reel 4, Leonora O'Reilly Papers (Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College, Cambridge, Mass.); O'Reilly to Lexow, Jan. 5, 1908, ibid.; Robert Doherty, "Tempest on the Hudson: The Struggle for Equal Pay for Equal Work in the New York City Public Schools, 1907-1911," Harvard Educational Quarterly, 19 (Winter 1979), 413-39. The role of teachers in the twentieth-century suffrage movement is a promising area for research. For information on teachers' organizations in the Buffalo, New York, suffrage movement, I am indebted to Eve S. Faber, Swarthmore College, "Suffrage in Buffalo, 1898-1913" (unpublished paper in DuBois's possession).
  40. New York Times, June 6, 1907, 1.
  41. On self-support for women after marriage, see New York World, July 26, 1908, 3; and Lydia Kingsmill Commander, "The Self Supporting Woman and the Family," American Journal of Sociology, 14 (March 1909), 752-57. On the debate, see New York Times, Jan. 7, 1909, 9.
  42. New York Times, Feb. 6, 1907, 6. Harriot Stanton Blatch, ed., Two Speeches by Industrial Women (New York, 1907), 8. The Equality League's bill authorized a voters' referendum on an amendment to the New York constitution, to remove the word "male" from the state's suffrage provisions, thus enfranchising New York women. Since the U.S. Constitution vests power to determine the electorate with the states, the aim was to win full suffrage in federal, as well as state, elections for New York women. With minor alterations, the measure finally passed, but in 1915 New York voters refused to enfranchise the women of their state; a second referendum in 1917 was successful. See Blatch and Lutz, Challenging Years, 156-238.
  43. Woman's Tribune, Feb. 9, 1907, 12; Minutes, April 27, 1909, New York Women's Trade Union League Papers; Progress, Nov. 1908.
  44. Blatch and Lutz, Challenging Years, 100-101; Progress, Jan. 1908, p. 1.
  45. Woman's Journal, Dec. 28, 1907, 205, 206-7.
  46. By 1908, there was a racehorse named "suffragette." New York Evening Telegram, Sept. 16, 1908. Blatch noted that once she left England in the late 1890s, she and Emmeline Pankhurst did not communicate until 1907, after they had both taken their respective countries' suffrage movements in newly militant directions. Blatch to Christabel Pankhurst, in Christabel Pankhurst, Unshackled: How We Won the Vote (London, 1959), 30.
  47. The first American arrests were not until 1917. For American suffragists' early response to the WSPU, see the Woman's Journal, May 30, 1908, 87. Even Carrie Chapman Catt praised the British militants at first. Woman's Journal, Dec. 12, 1908, 199. For an example of divisive coverage by the mainstream press, see "Suffragist or Suffragette," New York Times, Feb. 29, 1908, 6.
  48. On Bettina Borrman Wells, see A. J. R., ed., Suffrage Annual and Women's Who's Who (London, 1913), 390. Thanks to David Doughan of the Fawcett Library for this reference. The best sources on the Equal Rights League are the Gertrude Colles Collection and The American Suffragette, which the group published from 1909 through 1911. See also Winifred Harper Cooley, "Suffragists and 'Suffragettes,'" World To-Day, 15 (Oct. 1908), 1066-71; and Elinor Lerner, "Jewish Involvement in the New York City Woman Suffrage Movement," American Jewish History, 70 (June 1981), 444-45. The American Suffragettes found a predecessor and benefactor in seventy-five-year-old Lady Cook, formerly Tennessee Claflin, in 1909 the wife of a titled Englishman. "Our Cook Day," American Suffragette, 1 (Nov. 1909), 1.
  49. On the first open-air meeting, see New York Times, Jan. 1, 1908, 16. On the parade, see ibid., Feb. 17, 1908, 7; there is also an account in Dorr, What Eighty Million Women Want, 298-99; New York Evening Journal, May 21, 1910.
  50. Equality League of Self-Supporting Women, Report for Year 1908-1909 (New York, 1909), 2; Blatch and Lutz, Challenging Years, 107-9. On Vassar, see also New York American, June 10, 1908.
  51. Harriot Stanton Blatch, "Radical Move in Two Years," clipping, Nov. 8, 1908, suffrage scrapbooks, Abbe Collection. Blatch "starred" in a prosuffrage movie, What Eighty Million Women Want, produced in 1912. Kay Sloan, "Sexual Warfare in the Silent Cinema: Comedies and Melodramas of Woman Suffragism," American Quarterly, 33 (Fall 1981), 412-36. She was also very interested in the propaganda possibilities of commercial radio, according to Lee de Forest, a pioneer of the industry, who was briefly married to her daughter. Lee de Forest, Father of Radio: The Autobiography of Lee de Forest (Chicago, 1950), 248-49.
  52. Mary Tyng, "Self Denial Week," American Suffragette, 1 (Aug. 1909); New York Herald, Dec. 19, 1908.
  53. Blatch, "Radical Move in Two Years"; Mrs. B. Borrman Wells, "The Militant Movement for Woman Suffrage," Independent, April 23, 1908, 901-3.
  54. "Suffragettes Bar Word 'Ladylike,'" clipping, Jan. 13, 1909, suffrage scrapbooks, Abbe Collection; Blatch and Lutz, Challenging Years, 91-242; New York Herald, March 8, 1908. On militants' views of femininity and sexuality, see also "National Suffrage Convention," American Suffragette, 2 (March 1910), 3.
  55. Blatch and Lutz, Challenging Years, 107; Dye, As Equals and as Sisters, 47.
  56. Woman's Journal, May 30, 1908, 87; Blatch, "Radical Move in Two Years."
  57. Borrman Wells, "Militant Movement for Woman Suffrage," 901; Woman's Journal, Feb. 29, 1908, 34.
  58. New York Times, Feb. 11, 1908, 6; [Josephine C. Kaneko], "To Join, or Not to Join," Socialist Woman, 1 (May 1908), 6.
  59. On The Convert, see Equality League, Report for 1908-1909, 4; Jane Marcus, "Introduction," in The Convert (London, 1980), v-xvi; New York Call, Dec. 9, 1908, 6; and Minutes, Dec. 22, 1908, New York Women's Trade Union League Papers. Maud Malone also charged the American Suffragettes with discrimination against Socialists and Bettina Borrman Wells with personal ambition. For her letter of resignation, see New York Times, March 27, 1908, 4.
  60. New York Times, May 14, 1909, 5. On Mackay and her Equal Franchise Society, see New York Times, Feb. 21, 1909, part 5, 2. On Blatch's relation to Mackay, see Blatch and Lutz, Challenging Years, 118. "As for the suffrage movement, it is actually fashionable now," wrote militant Inez Haynes, who very much approved of the development. "All kinds of society people are taking it up." Inez Haynes to Maud Wood Park, Dec. 2, 1910, reel 11, National American Woman Suffrage Association Papers (Manuscript Division, Library of Congress). Gertrude Foster Brown, another wealthy woman recruited by Blatch, wrote her own history of the New York suffrage movement in which she virtually ignored the role of working-class women. Gertrude Foster Brown, "On Account of Sex," Gertrude Foster Brown Papers, Sophia Smith Collection (Smith College, Northampton, Mass.).

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Suffrage in the 20th Century: Major Figures and Organizations

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