Monday, October 5, 2020

On (Virtual) Display in the State Library

This October, we’re changing our virtual display case to feature a women’s suffrage pamphlet from the early 1900s. Titled “Why Women Should Vote” the pamphlet was published by the National American Woman Suffrage Association as part of the Political Equality Series. With Election Day only one month away, we thought this was a fitting time to share a suffrage publication! 

This pamphlet was written by Alice Stone Blackwell, a well-known suffragist, feminist, and journalist who spent much of her life in Massachusetts. Blackwell was the daughter of Lucy Stone, an abolitionist and one of the most prominent early advocates for women’s suffrage. Among her many accomplishments and activities, Lucy Stone was the editor of the Woman’s Journal, the periodical of the American Woman Suffrage Association. Alice Stone Blackwell followed in her mother’s footsteps by serving in that same role, and she was also instrumental in facilitating the reunification of two suffrage groups - the National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association, which merged into the National American Woman Suffrage Association, the organization that published the Political Equality Series

Pamphlets published in the Political Equality Series covered a variety of topics related to women’s suffrage, including “Suffrage for Women Wage Earners” and “Equal Suffrage in Australia,” which was essentially a case-study from a country where women already received the right to vote. When the pamphlet in our collection, “Why Women Should Vote,” was published in 1905, women were still over a decade away from obtaining the right to vote. But this pamphlet lists out sixteen reasons why women should vote alongside men, and gives an explanation for each of those reasons. A selection are included below: 

Because laws unjust to women would be amended more quickly           It cost Massachusetts women 55 years of effort to secure the law making mothers equal guardians of their children with the fathers. In Colorado, after women were enfranchised, the very next Legislature granted it. After more than half a  century of agitation by women for this reform, only 13 out of 45 States now give equal guardianship to mothers.

Because it would help those women who need help the most
Theodore Roosevelt recommended woman suffrage in his message to the New York Legislature. On being asked why, he is reported to have answered that many women have a very hard time, working women especially, and if the ballot would help them, even a little, he was willing to see it tried. Mrs. Maud. Nathan, president of the National Consumers' League, said in an address at the National Suffrage Convention in Washington, in February,. 1904: "My experience in investigating the condition of women wage-earners warrants the assertion that some of the evils from which they suffer would not exist if women had the ballot. In the state where women vote, there is far better enforcement of the laws which protect  working girls. 

Because woman's ballot would make it harder for notoriously bad candidates to be nominated or elected
In the equal suffrage states, both parties have to put up men of respectable character, or lose the women's vote.

Click on the image to see a closer look of page one of the pamphlet and read the full four-page pamphlet on DSpace.

2020 marks one hundred years since the passage of the 19th Amendment, which legally granted women the right to vote. However, some states had discriminatory voting laws in place that kept minority women from exercising their right even after the amendment passed. It is undeniable that the 19th Amendment was a huge accomplishment that was hard fought by many women’s organizations starting in the 1840s, but we must also remember that the struggle to vote continued after 1920. 

As you make your voting plan this November, be sure to visit the Massachusetts Elections Division website for answers to any questions you may have, as well as a number of other useful voting resources.

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian