Founding Feminists: October 29, 1915

Founding Feminists is FMF’s daily herstory column.


The final few days and most strenuous phase of the New York State suffrage campaign was kicked off at just after midnight this morning when the Women’s Political Union began 24 hours of continuous speeches at 47th and Broadway.

But that was only the first of 250 open-air suffrage meetings held today in various parts of New York City by all the suffrage groups as the November 2nd election approaches and last-minute arguments are being made to every potential voter.

The Woman Suffrage Party has just begun their own speech-making marathon at Columbus Circle late this evening, and among those expected to take the podium overnight will be “General” Rosalie Jones, who led her hardy band of suffrage hikers to Washington, D.C., in February, 1913, and on two hikes to Albany in 1912 and 1914.

The rally at Tompkins Square began a few hours ago and features a band, with Dora de Vera of the Boston Opera Company doing the singing. Another of the big rallies being held tonight is at Madison Square with music provided by the 100-piece Beethoven Symphony Orchestra.

James Montgomery Flagg’s illustration on the cover of this week’s “Leslie’s” captioned: “As her father fought so will she.”

But tonight’s rally in Carnegie Hall was certainly the biggest, and the best advertised. Not content to just distribute massive numbers of flyers around town, its sponsors had young women, led by a bugler, and wearing front and back “sandwich boards” promoting the rally, walking around town from 2 p.m. until just before the meeting began. This is a typical example of the enthusiasm of the entire campaign, because there was really no chance that the event would be less than a sellout thanks to Carrie Chapman Catt presiding, and a number of noted orators making the case for suffrage.

One of the Carnegie Hall speakers was Representative Edward Keating, Democrat of Colorado. He got a laugh when he addressed some of the statements made by anti-suffragists that “Votes for Women” had been a failure in the Western States: “I ride in the subways here in New York and I read the anti-suffrage signs and learn many new things about the West that I never knew before.”

Rabbi Stephen S. Wise’s speech was so well received that he was later compelled to do another, and in the encore he said that he wished he could do something similar on Tuesday and vote twice for suffrage. He also talked of the European war, and said that women should have a say about whether their nations should have become involved: “There will never be a beginning of the end of war until women have such a voice.”

Mothers who favor suffrage have been driving around town all day in the “Baby Truck,” decorated with drawings of “Kewpies” by suffragist Rose O’Neill. The truck contains suffrage balloons and toys to be given to children while their mothers go to meetings or listen to speeches given by, and addressed specifically to, mothers. Even though none of the women can vote, they can certainly influence the men who do.

This campaign is being run with professional political precision. Seven years ago names on suffrage petitions were gathered, then index cards made for each name. In addition to this, polling lists are used to gather more names for the index cards. Canvassers then go out and knock on doors and mark “S” on the cards of those who indicate they’re pro-suffrage, “I” if they’re indifferent, and “U” for unconverted, rather than a more pessimistic “O” for opposed. This tactic is proving to be as effective as anything used by any political machine in the city’s history.

Though no one at the Empire State Campaign Committee would give exact figures, and the outlook in Rochester and Syracuse is not favorable, there was a universal expectation of victory around their office today. Voter registration is up Statewide, and most of these new voters are thought to be pro-suffrage. Speeches have been well-received, and the turnout for the parades and other events has been phenomenal. Alva Belmont, of the Political Equality Association said today that:

Not long ago it was almost impossible to get a man to consider the subject, and now I find that they come into our headquarters and buy literature because they want to understand the question. Miss Florence Harmon, who does most of the speaking for the Association is often kept out, with her mother, until 1 o’clock in the morning answering questions. The men are so interested they buy literature off her on the street and give generously to the contributions for the work. As suffrage is only a question of reason and justice, as soon as people begin to consider it they will favor it.

Of course, no amount of confidence will lead to any slackening of efforts between now and November 2nd. In fact, the campaign will continue even on Election Day itself with 2,500 women officially certified in Manhattan alone as poll-watchers. They will be on duty inside the polling places to guard against fraud. There will also be volunteers stationed as closely as the law allows outside every polling place to give instructions, answer questions, and give out sample ballots showing how to vote for suffrage. The suffrage organizations are doing everything right – and in just four days we’ll know if the voters do their job right as well.

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