June 5, 1916: Rival Suffrage Groups Take Different Paths to Achieve Bipartisan Support for Women’s Vote

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An exciting week and a half of activity began today as members of two rival suffrage organizations arrived in Chicago.

Both are planning on heavily lobbying the Republicans at their national convention here this week, then doing the same with the Democrats at their convention in St. Louis from June 14th to 16th, with the goal of getting both parties to include woman suffrage planks in their platforms.

The National American Woman Suffrage Association and the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage are working hard to win the vote for women nationwide, but are taking radically different paths to achieve their mutual goal. Probably the most obvious difference between the two approaches can be seen by the fact that one task of Alice Paul’s Congressional Union over the next few days will be to organize a new political party made up entirely of women.

Now that women vote in almost 1/4 of the States, they can become a meaningful force in politics. As keynote speaker Maud Younger noted when the Congressional Union convention kicked off this morning:

With the formation of the Woman’s Party a new force marches on the political field, a new cry rings out in the national campaign. For the first time in a Presidential election the voting women are a factor to be reckoned with. The Woman’s Party has no candidates, and but one plank, the enfranchisement of the women of America through Federal Amendment. There is no higher service for which we can use our votes. With enough women in each State organized to hold the balance of power, the women voters may determine the Presidency of the United States.

Ann Martin summarized the party’s purpose: “The object of our party is not to create sex antagonism. It has no fantastic vision of sex solidarity. It is simply an organization of the 4,000,000 voting women in the suffrage States who place equal suffrage before the interests of any political party.”

Ann Martin (far left) and Sara Bard Field (far right) pose behind the "Great Demand" banner of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage.
Ann Martin (far left) and Sara Bard Field (far right) pose behind the “Great Demand” banner of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage.

Alva Belmont, arriving today from New York, is not only a strong supporter of the new party, but quite optimistic about feminism’s future in general:

I am sure that the Susan B. Anthony Amendment will be passed within the next year. Before that great goal is reached the women of New York City will have placed New York among the suffrage States. The women of that city have been making great headway, and immediate access is bound to be the result of their wonderful fight … A new woman’s world is about to be created. From this day forward this history of the woman movement throughout the world will be one of emancipation and entrance into the councils of nations.

Not wanting to be eclipsed by their younger and more militant rivals, the National American Woman Suffrage Association has some big plans as well. Day after tomorrow it will hold a mass march down Michigan Avenue as a way of pressuring the Republican Convention to adopt a woman suffrage plank.

Once the Republican Convention closes on the 10th, suffrage forces plan on trekking South to St. Louis to lobby Democrats for a suffrage plank when their convention opens on the 14th. Getting both parties on record in favor of nationwide woman suffrage could be of great help in regard to upcoming State referenda and in getting Congress to pass the Anthony Amendment, so every possible effort will be made by suffrage groups at both conventions.

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