Central to the suffragists’ work was persuasion, particularly persuading policy-makers and the public to support the vote for women. In January 1900, for example, the New York State Woman Suffrage Association sent a letter to local presidents asking them to mobilize their members to write to their state senators. The state organization gave directives on what to write and urged local leaders to write “in a respectful manner and in a way that will arouse no personal antagonism.”
The Millers’ collection of articles and reports of the anti-suffrage organizations show that they were also very aware of the efforts to persuade being made by the opposing side. One such news clipping reprinted a 1909 letter from the New York State Anti-Suffrage Association to Governor Hughes, urging the appointment of women to state boards, commissions, and committees dealing with charity, health, education, and reform agendas.
We believe this to be the safest method of utilizing at the present time the capabilities of women and their interests in the public welfare, without exposing our civic institutions to the risk attendant upon granting to women unrestricted suffrage.
Assuming the role of a member of the Geneva Political Equality League, write a persuasive letter to Governor Hughes countering the stance of the Anti-Suffrage Association. Use techniques of persuasive writing or speaking, such as considering the needs and concerns of the audience; referring to respected sources, such as the Constitution or the words of a respected leader; stating your position clearly and using evidence to support it; acknowledging the positions of the opposition and rebutting their arguments; and appealing to shared values and principles.
Examine the paper “The Demand for Enfranchisement” written by Elizabeth Burrell Curtis (ca. 1894) at the behest of Elizabeth Smith Miller.
- How effective are the arguments used in the paper?
- What examples did the author offer as evidence to support her assertions?
- Did the author use the techniques of persuasive writing mentioned above? If you were editing the paper, what improvements would you suggest to make it more persuasive?
Look at the list of opposing viewpoints developed by the Equal Franchise Society. How could this list be useful in developing persuasive arguments on the question of woman suffrage? Pick an issue in which you are interested and create a similar list of arguments on both sides of the issue. How might the list you have created be useful to you?