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Women's Suffrage in the Progressive Era
The Remonstrance (Boston), January, 1909

The Remonstrance was published quarterly by the Massachusetts Association Opposed to the Further Extension of Suffrage to Women. The publication expressed the views of women who believed that the great majority of women did not want the right to vote and that to force it upon them would be unjust, lessen their influence for good, and threaten the community. The following excerpts are taken from the January 1909 edition. What arguments does the author make against extending the right to vote to women?

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


In a letter to the London Times, in reply to Mrs. Humphry Ward, Mrs. Julia Ward Howe writes, "In America most women are still indifferent on the question of suffrage."

This candid admission, by the accredited leader of the woman suffrage movement in the United States, should not be forgotten. It accords exactly with the view of the remonstrants. How small the suffrage minority is may be inferred from the fact that, when the opportunity was given to Massachusetts women of voting age, in 1895, to say by their votes on the pending referendum whether they wanted the municipal ballot, only about four per cent of them responded in the affirmative. There is no reason to believe that the portion varies materially in other states.

In view of Mrs. Howe's admission, two questions may properly be considered by members of state legislatures before which suffrage proposals may come this year:

First, Ought the wishes of the four per cent of American women who want the ballot, or those of the ninety-six per cent who are either opposed or indifferent to it, to control the decision?

Second, Is there not already among men voters quite as much indifference to the ballot as is consistent with the public good without adding an enormous number of women voters who, on the testimony of the suffrage leaders themselves, are indifferent to it?


Legislators who are asked this year to vote for bills conferring municipal suffrage upon women may wisely consider the question, Who would be profited by the proposed legislation?

Would it be the women? Only a small minority of the women ask for the privilege. To the large majority it would come as an undesired burden. In what respect would either class, the minority or the majority, profit by the grant of municipal suffrage?

Would it be the community? To justify this assumption it must be held that the average woman would vote not only as wisely and unselfishly as the average man, but more wisely and unselfishly. But the average man, by the very nature of his ordinary employments, is familiar with the practical questions of local government, questions of the care of the streets, lighting, policing, sewer construction, and like. He is familiar also with the character, capacity, and records of men who are candidates for office. The average woman, on the other hand, is already overburdened with duties which she cannot escape and from which no one proposes to relieve her. If she is given the suffrage, it is an added duty. Is it reasonable to suppose that, called upon to perform a duty which lies outside of the ordinary employments of her life, she would do it more wisely than the average man? Would she not inevitably act hastily, impulsively, spasmodically? And, in that case, would not the community as well as she herself suffer by the change?
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View the document from which this excerpt was taken, from Votes for Women, 1848-1921. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.