Tuesday, September 8, 2015

"Even Women Didn't Want To Give Women the Vote"

This is from the Wall Street Journal and was written by Cynthia Crossen. It's from 2003.

"It seems to me," Jeannette Gilder wrote in 1894, "that it's a bigger feather in a woman's cap -- a brighter jewel in her crown -- to be the mother of George Washington than to be a member of Congress from the 32nd District."

Ms. Gilder was arguing that women shouldn't be allowed to vote. In her essay, "Why I Am Opposed to Women Suffrage," Ms. Gilder insisted that women belonged in the home, where they could exert more political influence by nurturing sons, fathers and brothers than they could ever command with a single ballot. "Politics is too public, too wearing and too unfitted to the nature of women," Ms. Gilder concluded. "It is my opinion that letting women vote would loose the wheels of purgatory."

Until 1920, women -- along with paupers, felons and so-called idiots -- couldn't vote in federal elections. At the time, it was believed that women simply couldn't be trusted to take the long, objective view. "The female vote ... is always more impulsive and less subject to reason, and almost devoid of the sense of responsibility," wrote Francis Parkman, a historian and antisuffragist.

Women, who were believed to be "too frail for rough usage," were also beleaguered by their household responsibilities, to the point where many seemed to hover on the verge of constant breakdowns. "The instability of the female mind is beyond the comprehension of the majority of men," declared Edith Melvin, a Concord, Mass., antisuffragist.

Not surprisingly, many men agreed that females should not vote. One of their biggest fears was that women would outlaw drinking, and various breweries supported antisuffrage political candidates. The men's antisuffrage movement even went so far as to produce bogus statistics: "If women achieve the feministic idea and live as men do," wrote a male doctor who opposed female suffrage, "they would incur the risk of 25% more insanity than they have now."

But tens of thousands of women also enlisted in the war against women voting, claiming that it was a slippery slope from the ballot box to depravation. If women got the vote, they would have to serve in the army and on juries. There would be fewer children but more divorce. Men would become less chivalrous and reverent of womanhood. Women would take up men's occupations, and men would take up women's occupations; the result, according to an antisuffrage booster, would be a "race of masculine women and effeminate men and the mating of these would result in the procreation of a race of degenerates."

And if women did run for office, wouldn't they invariably win? When all women can vote, wrote Goldwin Smith, "as the women slightly outnumber the men, and many men, sailors or men employed on railways or itinerants, could not go to the poll, the woman's vote would preponderate, and government would be more female than male."

Here the antisuffragists couldn't have been more wrong. Of the 535 members of the 108th Congress, only 73, or less than 14%, are women. All but six of America's 50 governors are men.

The Antis, as the antisuffragists were known, were mostly wealthy, native-born, Republican and Protestant, according to Jane Jerome Camhi, author of "Women Against Women," a history of American antisuffragism. "They leaped midstream into the battle," Ms. Camhi writes, "adopting all the techniques they were so eager for womankind to avoid, including campaigning and even lobbying." However, the Antis drew the line at voting against the vote; they urged a boycott of the polls.

But the suffragists, who had cut their teeth on two other sweeping social issues -- abolition and temperance -- were persistent and noisy. In 1869, Wyoming became the first state to give women the vote in statewide elections. By the end of 1913, 11 other states had done so. Women won the right to vote in school elections in more than 20 states, but in Chicago in 1894, only about a tenth of the eligible women registered.

"Why didn't women register?" Lilian Bell, a suffrage leader, asked rhetorically. "Simply because woman is a contrary beast. If she is denied a thing, why that is the very thing she will have. But if you say, you might as well have this, then she will not accept it under any circumstances."

The Antis didn't necessarily think men were doing such a bang-up job running the country. "But if women simply go and cast their votes with the men, equal suffrage means no more than adding one quart of muddy water to another quart of muddy water," wrote Priscilla Leonard in 1897. "You get two quarts, but it's the same kind of water."

The suffragists were almost derailed by World War I, when they were accused of being pacifists, and therefore disloyal. The first woman to serve in the U.S. Congress -- Jeannette Rankin, elected from Montana in 1916 -- was both a suffragist and an antiwar activist.

In 1917, Ms. Rankin voted against declaring war on Germany. "You can no more win a war," she said, "than you can win an earthquake." Ms. Rankin was defeated in 1918, but not before drafting and lobbying for a constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Men may well still hold most of the elective offices at this point, but most of them are of the "mangina" persuasion and significantly left-wing. Generally speaking, those that posture themselves to the right of that circumstance nevertheless invariably pander to the whim, wish and will of the female electorate too.

Universal suffrage was the worst idea ever considered, let alone adopted as a standard practice. The vast majority of women are "natural socialists" to begin with in spite of what may emanate from their lips, and giving them the "right" to vote simply put us on a "no speed limit" highway to the hell we now find ourselves in.