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Women's Suffrage in the Progressive Era
The Blue Book

The Blue Book was published in 1917 by the National American Woman Suffrage Association to help support the cause of women's suffrage. Chapters in the book included the following: Early History; Where Women Vote; Why Women Should Vote; and Twelve Reasons Why Women Should Vote. In one chapter, Alice Stone Blackwell states often-heard objections to women's suffrage and answers each objection. Excerpts from that chapter follow. Do any of the objections surprise you? Why or why not? What is your evaluation of how Ms. Blackwell answers the objections? What do the objections tell you about the people that made them or believed them?

View the book from which this excerpt was taken, from Votes for Women, 1848-1921. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.

The Ignorant Vote

It would double the ignorant vote.

Statistics published by the National Bureau of Education show that the high schools of every state in the Union are graduating more girls than boys-some of them twice and three times as many. Because of the growing tendency to take boys out of school early in order to put them into business, girls are getting more schooling than boys. Equal suffrage would increase the proportion of voters who have received more than a merely elementary education. . . .

The Bad Women's Vote

The bad women would outvote the good ones.

In America, the bad women are so few compared with the good ones, that their votes could have little influence. Mrs. Helen Gilbert Ecob, wife of a prominent clergyman who was for some years a pastor in Denver, writes:

"The bad women represent, in any city of the United States, but an infinitesimal proportion of its population, and the vote of the class in Denver is confined practically to three precincts out of 120."

he late Mrs. Sarah Platt Decker, of Denver, at one time President of the General Federation of Women's Clubs and also of the Colorado State Board of Charities and Correction, wrote:

"Does not the vote of the disreputable class of women overbalance the better element? No; the women of the half-world are not willing to vote. They are constantly changing their residences and their names. They do not wish to give any data concerning themselves, their age, name or number of street; they prefer to remain unidentified."

Ex-Gov. Warren, of Wyoming, sums it all up when he says, in a letter to Horace G. Wadlin, of Massachusetts:

"Our women nearly all vote; and since, in Wyoming as elsewhere, the majority of women are good and not bad, the result is good and not evil." . . .

Opposition of Women

Women in large numbers are organizing against suffrage. The majority are opposed to it and the majority ought to rule.

The organized opposition among women to suffrage is very small compared with the organized movement of women in its favor.

In Chicago, 104 organizations, with an aggregate membership of more than 10,000 women, petitioned for women suffrage, while only one small organization of women petitioned against it. In Maine, in Iowa, in short, in every state where petitions for suffrage and remonstrances against it have been sent to the Legislature, the petitioners have always outnumbered the remonstrants, and have generally outnumbered them 50 or 100 to one. On the only occasion when the government took an official referendum among women on the subject (in Massachusetts, in 1895), the womens vote stood: Yes, 22,204; No, 861. Less than one sixth of one percent of the women in the State voted against it.

Julia Ward Howe said: Most women are as yet indifferent on the suffrage question; but, of those who take any lively interest in it either way, the great majority are in favor. This has been demonstrated wherever the matter has been brought to a test.

Every constitutional amendment that has ever been carried in New York or Massachusetts would have been set down as defeated if all the men too indifferent to vote upon it either way had been counted as opposed. In New York, a successful amendment seldom gets more than 25 per cent of the popular vote. The remaining 75 per cent are either indifferent or opposed, but, if less than 25 per cent are actually opposed, the amendment is carried.

In Massachusetts the AntiSuffrage Association has been collecting signatures of women against suffrage ever since 1895, and in 21 years it has succeeded in accumulating the names of only a little over 3 per cent of the women of the State. In the country at large, despite urgent and widely published appeals from the Antis, only about one per cent who protest claim to carry more weight than the 99 per cent who either want the ballot or do not object to it?

Already OverBurdened

Women are already overburdened. A woman would not have time to perform her political duties without neglecting higher duties.

Mrs. Alice Freeman Palmer wrote:

"How much time must she spend on her political duties? If she belongs to the well-to-do-class, and hires others to do her work, she has time for whatever interests her most-only let these interest be noble! If she does her own housework, she can take ten minutes to stop on her way to market and vote once or twice a year. She can find half an hour a day for the newspapers and other means of information. She can talk with family and friends about what she reads. She does this now; she will then do it more intelligently and will give and receive more from what she says and hears. If she does this reading and talking, she will be better informed than the majority of voters are now. The duties of motherhood and the making of a home are the most sacred work of women and the dearest to them, of every class. If casting an intelligent vote would interfere with what only women can do-and what, failed in, undermines society and government-no one can question which a woman must choose. But it cannot be shown that there are any large number of women in this country who have not the necessary time to vote intelligently, and it can be argued that study of the vital questions of our government would make them better comrades to their husbands and friends, better guides to their sons, and more interesting and valuable members of society. Women of every class have more leisure than men, are less tied to hours of routine; they have had more years of school training than men. All this makes simple the combination of public and higher duties." . . .

Too Emotional

Women are too emotional and sentimental to be trusted with the ballot.

Mrs. E. T. Brown, at a meeting of the Georgia State Federation of Women's Clubs read a paper, in which she said: "You tell us that women are not fitted for dealing with the problems of government, being too visionary and too much controlled by sentiment. "Now it is very true of women that they are largely controlled by sentiment, and, as a matter of fact, men are largely controlled by sentiment also, in spite of their protesting blushes. Was it logic that swept like a wave over this country and sent our army to protect the Cubans when their suffering grew too intense to be endured even in the hearing? Is it shrewd business calculation that sends thousands of dollars out of this country to fed a starving people during the ever-recurring famines in unhappy India? Was it hard common sense that sent thousands of American soldiers into what looked like the death-trap of China in the almost baseless hope of rescuing a few hundred American citizens? Do not men like Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson and Lee live in the hearts of American men, not alone for what they did, but still more for what they dreamed of? The man who is not controlled by sentiment betrays his friends, sells his vote, is a traitor to his country, or wrecks himself, body and soul, with immoralities; for nothing but sentiment prevents any of these things. The sense of honor is pure sentiment. The sentiment of loyalty is the only thing that makes truth and honesty desirable, or a vote a non-salable commodity. "Government would be a poor affair without sentiment, and is not likely to be damaged by a slightly increased supply." . . .

Would Unsex Women

It will turn women into men.

The differences between men and women are natural; they are not the result of disfranchisement. The fact that all men have equal rights before the law does not wipe out natural differences of character and temperament between man and man. Why should it wipe out the natural differences between men and women? The women of England, Scotland, Canada, Yucatan, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, the Scandinavian countries and our own equal suffrage States are not perceptibly different in looks or manners from women elsewhere, although they have been voting for years.
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View the book from which this excerpt was taken, from Votes for Women, 1848-1921. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.