Founding Feminists is FMF’s daily herstory column.
October 27, 1915: One day after Tammany Hall leaders made a pledge of neutrality, and assured suffragists that no New York County Democrat would work against the upcoming suffrage referendum, a clever and very effective campaign was launched today by the Women’s Political Union to embarrass those who may consider violating that promise.
John F. Curry was unable to refrain from making anti-suffrage remarks for even the duration of the day the pledge was made, so today the Union produced a photograph of his signature, as well as those of other Tammany politicians, affixed to a document signed just last year as the State’s Democrats gathered in convention at Saratoga, where a plank favoring woman suffrage was adopted. The document read:
We the undersigned members of the Democratic Party in the State of New York, urge our Representatives in State Convention assembled, that the platform of 1914 not only renew the party’s promise of 1912 to refer woman suffrage to the voters, but pledge the party to stand in the Constitutional Convention for submitting a Constitution embodying woman suffrage, and we further urge that the platform of 1914 call upon all Democratic voters, when woman suffrage is submitted to them, to help fulfill the ideals of the greatest leader of our party and establish in this State government based upon the consent of the people.
The Union then invited any of the men who signed that statement and are now thinking about expressing opposing views to drop over at any time to refresh their memories about what they believe in regard to woman suffrage.
The theater campaign went very well earlier this evening, as many of the boxes in New York’s finest theaters bore suffrage yellow bunting and posters that read: “VOTE YES ON WOMAN SUFFRAGE NOV. 2.” In some locations, orators were permitted to make suffrage speeches during intermissions or after the performance. Books of matches with a pro-suffrage message on their covers were also distributed to patrons, as well as many leaflets giving pro-suffrage statements from prestigious individuals up to and including President Wilson.
Senator William Borah, Republican of Idaho, has journeyed across the country to help the cause, and just gave a speech to the Bronx Woman Suffrage Party at Hunt’s Point Hall. He said in part:
Do not mind what the ‘antis’ say about suffrage, for I am willing to predict that they will be the first to rush to the polls when women get the vote …. According to the voting records there were 108,000 citizens who did not vote at the last election. Why not permit the 200,000 women of this greater city to vote and make up this deficiency on the part of the men who fail to perform their political duty?
Borah had an audience of more than 3,000, of which at least 1,800 were men. There would have been more listeners, but when the hall reached its capacity at 8:30, Police Captain Palmer closed the doors. Rabbi Stephen S. Wise has returned from speaking for suffrage in Massachusetts, and spoke this evening as well.
On another front, Vera Boarman Whitehouse is going to the Public Service Commission to complain about Ward & Gow, a local firm which has refused to take suffrage advertisements for subways, and will not even allow suffragists to place placards in spaces donated to them by a supporter who normally uses the space for his company’s advertising. Ward & Gow has accepted and posted ads from anti-suffragists, so it has no blanket ban on “issue” ads. If the Commission doesn’t act by Saturday, many of the women of the Empire State Campaign Committee will carry pro-suffrage placards in their laps and ride around all day so subway riders can read the pro-suffrage side of the argument, as well as see that actual suffragists look much different from the negative images of them that anti-suffragists promote.
Suffragists have been making a major effort in Buffalo for two years now, and the public is finally starting to warm up to it, according to Marjorie Shuler. She’s quite optimistic and says: “If this remarkable change means anything, it indicates that we have made headway, and that we can look hopefully for a good vote on Election Day.” The Empire State Campaign Committee oversees all the activities there and in neighboring counties, and currently averages 18 open-air meetings daily.
In Massachusetts, the battle continues in written form as well as speeches. An advertisement for the big meeting in Associate Hall in Lowell tomorrow night contains a number of reasons why Massachusetts working men should vote for suffrage. Entitled “Plain Facts for the Working Man,” it says:
You know that your vote helps you to get better working conditions. Why? Because it helps to elect to office the men who can get you what you want. If you were to die tomorrow and your wife and daughters had to work, they would need the vote for the same reasons. You love your family, but you are away all day and your wife looks after the children and the home. Think what happens when the food supply has not been properly inspected, where there is cheating in weights and measures and in the quality of goods. Your earnings are wasted. Think what happens when there are not enough schools or playgrounds. Your children go without education and play in crowded streets.
Think what happens when housing laws are bad, and streets are filthy and milk isn’t pure. Your babies sicken and die. Think what happens when dance halls and theaters are not decent, and when unlawful sale of ‘dope’ is carried on. Your boys and girls are in danger of going wrong. Remember you haven’t time to look after all these things, and your wife’s complaints to the City departments that control them do no good because she hasn’t the vote. And don’t forget there are more working people in this State than any other kind. When you let the women vote, you will double your power for getting what you need. Think it over and vote for the Woman Suffrage Amendment, November 2.
The Fitchburg branch of the Massachusetts Anti-Suffrage Association is summarizing its case to the public as well:
Mr. Voter: The suffrage fight is not a fight between men and women, but a fight between women. A small minority of women is demanding the ballot, and thus is trying to trample on the real rights of the majority of women who wish to remain free from political responsibilities. The sexes were created different, and designed to cooperate not to compete. Each is superior in its own sphere. Both are essential to life. The duty of men is to protect women from the wasteful and unnatural burden of political life. Vote no on Nov. 2.
In Pennsylvania, the suffrage amendment picked up the unanimous endorsement of the New Castle Teachers’ Federation this evening thanks to the eloquence of Eudora Ramsey, visiting the city from North Carolina to take part in the campaign. Suffragists in the Keystone State are expressing confidence, because the recent unsuccessful vote in New Jersey was in a special election, while the vote in Pennsylvania will be at a regular election, so the turnout should be much higher and be a more representative sample of the population. Pennsylvania suffragists have also encountered no meaningful opposition from any of the powerful political machines in the State, quite the opposite of what happened in its neighboring State where suffrage was defeated on the 19th.
There are just six days left to win three States. That’s no easy task, but all “Votes for Women” advocates are eager to meet the challenge!