Anti-Suffrage Society

Anti-Suffrage Society

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William Cremer was one of the leading opponents of women's suffrage. Hansard reported a speech he made in the House of Commons on women's suffrage on 25th April, 1906, he argued: "He (William Cremer) had always contended that if we opened the door and enfranchised ever so small a number of females, they could not possibly close it, and that it ultimately meant adult suffrage. The government of the country would therefore be handed over to a majority who would not be men, but women. Women are creatures of impulse and emotion and did not decide questions on the ground of reason as men did. He was sometimes described as a woman-hater, but he had had two wives, and he thought that was the best answer he could give to those who called him a woman-hater. He was too fond of them to drag them into the political arena and to ask them to undertake responsibilities, duties and obligations which they did not understand and did not care for."

In the summer of 1908 the famous author, Mary Humphry Ward, was approached by Lord Curzon and William Cremer and asked to become the first president of the Anti-Suffrage League. Ward agreed and on 8th July, 1908 the organisation published its manifesto. It included the following: "It is time that the women who are opposed to the concession of the parliamentary franchise to women should make themselves fully and widely heard. The matter is urgent. Unless those who hold that the success of the women's suffrage movement would bring disaster upon England are prepared to take immediate and effective action, judgement may go by default and our country drift towards a momentous revolution, both social and political, before it has realised the dangers involved."

Mary Humphry Ward argued the case against women's suffrage at debates at Newnham College and Girton College. Once a role model for educated young women, she received a hostile reception from the students when she told them that the "emancipating process has now reached the limits fixed by the physical constitution of women". She recorded in her diary after the Girton debate that "the fire and the rage were immense" and blamed the staff who she accused of being "hotly suffrage".

In an article that appeared in The Times on 27th February, 1909, Ward wrote: "Women's suffrage is a more dangerous leap in the dark than it was in the 1860s because of the vast growth of the Empire, the immense increase of England's imperial responsibilities, and therewith the increased complexity and risk of the problems which lie before our statesmen - constitutional, legal, financial, military, international problems - problems of men, only to be solved by the labour and special knowledge of men, and where the men who bear the burden ought to be left unhampered by the political inexperience of women."

The Anti-Suffrage League collected signatures against women having the vote and at a meeting on 26th March, 1909, Mary Humphry Ward announced that over 250,000 people had signed the petition. The following June she reported that the movement had 15,000 paying members and 110 branches and the number who had signed the petition had reached 320,000.

Mary Humphry Ward became editor of the organizations journal, the Anti-Suffrage Review and as well as writing a large number of articles on the subject, several of her novels, notably, The Testing of Diana Mallory (1908) and Delia Blanchflower (1915) criticised women's suffrage campaigners.

The leaders of the Anti-Suffrage League claimed that the vast majority of women in Britain were not interested in having the vote and that there was a danger that a small group of organised women would force the government to change the electoral system.

One of the Anti-Suffrage League's main supporters was Almroth E. Wright. He argued that if women were given the vote it would lead to war: "Now it is by physical force alone and by prestige - which represents physical force in the background - that a nation protects itself against foreign interference, upholds its rule over subject populations, and enforces its own laws. And nothing could in the end more certainly lead to war and revolt than the decline of the military spirit and loss of prestige which would inevitably follow if man admitted woman into political co-partnership."

He had always contended that if we opened the door and enfranchised ever so small a number of females, they could not possibly close it, and that it ultimately meant adult suffrage. Women are creatures of impulse and emotion and did not decide questions on the ground of reason as men did.

He was sometimes described as a woman-hater, but he had had two wives, and he thought that was the best answer he could give to those who called him a woman-hater. He was too fond of them to drag them into the political arena and to ask them to undertake responsibilities, duties and obligations which they did not understand and did not care for.

What did one find when one got into the company of women and talked politics? They were soon asked to stop talking silly politics, and yet that was the type of people to whom we were invited to hand over the destinies of the country.

It was not only because he thought that women were unfitted by their physical nature to exercise political power, but because he believed that the majority of them did not want it and would vote against it, that he asked the House to pause before they took the step suggested by the honorable member for Merthyr Tydfil (Keir Hardie). He believed that if women were enfranchised the end would be disastrous to all political parties. He therefore asked the House to pause before it took a step from which it could never retreat.

Women's suffrage is a more dangerous leap in the dark than it was in the 1860s because of the vast growth of the Empire, the immense increase of England's imperial responsibilities, and therewith the increased complexity and risk of the problems which lie before our statesmen - constitutional, legal, financial, military, international problems - problems of men, only to be solved by the labour and special knowledge of men, and where the men who bear the burden ought to be left unhampered by the political inexperience of women.

There was a large attendance at a "At Home" held at Hurst-on-Clays, East Grinstead, by kind permission of Lady Jeannie Lucinda Musgrave on Tuesday afternoon. Mrs. Archibald Colquhoun of the Women’s National Anti-Suffrage League said that women had never possessed the right to vote for Members of Parliament in this country nor in any great country, and although the women’s vote had been granted in one or two smaller countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, no great empire have given women’s a voice in running the country. Women have not had the political experience that men had, and, on the whole, did not want the vote, and had little knowledge of, or interest in, politics. Politics would go on without the help of women, but the home wouldn’t.

The speaker also stated that in a recent canvas by postcard, of the 200 odd women in East Grinstead, they found that 80 did not want the vote, 40 did want the vote and the remainder would not sufficiently interested in replying.Lady Musgrave, President of the East Grinstead branch of the Anti-Suffragette League said she was strongly against the franchise being extended to women, for she did not think it would do any good whatsoever, and in sex interests, would do a lot of harm. She quoted the words of Lady Jersey: "Put not this additional burden upon us." Women were not equal to men in endurance or nervous energy, and she thought she might say, on the whole, in intellect.

There was a large attendance – chiefly of ladies – at the Queen’s Hall on Friday afternoon, where there was a debate on Women’s Suffrage. Mr. Charles Everard presided. Maconochie spoke against the extension of the franchise to women. Maconochie was opposed to suffrage because there were two many women to make it safe. There were 1,300,000 more women than men in the country, and he objected to the political voting power being placed in the hands of women.

The woman of the world will gaily assure you that of course half the women in London have to be shut up when they come to the change of life ... no doctor can ever lose sight of the fact that the mind of woman is always threatened with danger from the reverberations of her physiological emergencies. It is with such thoughts that the doctor lets his eyes rest upon the militant suffragist. He cannot shut them to the fact that there is mixed up with the woman's movement much mental disorder.

Now it is by physical force alone and by prestige - which represents physical force in the background - that a nation protects itself against foreign interference, upholds its rule over subject populations, and enforces its own laws. And nothing could in the end more certainly lead to war and revolt than the decline of the military spirit and loss of prestige which would inevitably follow if man admitted woman into political co-partnership.

While it is arguable that such a partnership with woman in government as obtains in Australia and New Zealand is sufficiently unreal to be endurable, there cannot be two opinions on the question that a virile and imperial race will not brook any attempt at forcible control by women.

Again, no military foreign nation or native race would ever believe in the stamina and firmness of purpose of any nation that submitted even to the semblance of such control.

The internal equilibrium of the State also would be endangered by the admission to the register of millions of electors whose vote would not be endorsed by the authority of physical force.

Regarded from this point of view a Woman's Suffrage measure stands on an absolutely different basis to any other extension of the suffrage. An extension which takes in more men - whatever else it may do - makes for stability in the respect that it makes the decrees of the legislature more irresistible.

An extension which takes in any women undermines the physical sanction of the laws.

We can see indications of the evil that would follow such an event in the profound dissatisfaction which is felt when - in violation of the democratic principle that every man shall count for one, and no man for more than one - the political wishes of the large constituencies which return relatively few members to Parliament, are overborne by those of constituencies which, with a smaller aggregate population, return more members.

Campaigning against Suffrage

In 1895, Massachusetts held a non-binding referendum to determine whether women should vote in municipal elections. Anyone registered to vote in school elections, including women, could cast a ballot. In response, women founded the Massachusetts Association Opposed to the Further Extension of Suffrage to Women, the nation&rsquos first organization to oppose women&rsquos votes. They argued that &ldquothe great majority&rdquo of women did not want to vote.

Massachusetts anti-suffragists held conventions, wore red roses and &ldquoanti&rdquo lapel pins, and distributed political cartoons such as &ldquoHer Mother&rsquos Voice&rdquo, which features a young girl and her father who are shocked at the sight of a woman, the girl&rsquos mother, rushing off to a suffrage protest. The mother runs wildly past the window wielding a hatchet and a &ldquoVotes for Women&rdquo pennant. A band around her head holds a feather, associating her behavior with racist stereotypes of &ldquoIndian savagery&rdquo and suggesting that suffragists were &ldquouncivilized&rdquo threats to the established order.

"Her Mother's Voice"
Cartoon by Harold Bird, January 1912

Anti-suffragists also published The Remonstrance to urge women to avoid the polls.They wanted women &ldquoto use their influence&rdquo to win men to their side. As they hoped, the turnout of women voters was low. While 96% of female voters supported suffrage, only 32% of men did.

The Remonstrance
January 1908 Anti-Suffrage Calendar, 1917
Anti-suffrage calendar-1916. Including page for January and February.

The anti-suffrage rose
Words and music by Phil Hanna Shall the Tail Wag the Dog?
Broadside Count the Cost
Circular by the Women's Anti-Suffrage Association of Massachusetts

In the anti-suffrage illustration shown below, a woman holds her ballot in her arms and rocks it. Entitled &ldquoHugging a Delusion,&rdquo the cartoon suggests both that the ballot will not solve all of women&rsquos problems and that voting would not be as satisfying as motherhood. Anti-suffragists could not envision a world where women could participate in politics and be good mothers. In the 1910s, artist Laura Foster designed illustrations for and against women&rsquos suffrage. As a professional artist, she produced work to support herself regardless of her own viewpoint.

Hugging a Delusion
Postcard by Laura E. Foster, 1915

Anti-Suffrage Society - History

Calling women who wanted the vote &lsquoSoapbox Militants,&rdquo Kate Roosevelt and her socially and financially-secure New York City group wanted no part of the Suffrage Cause. Instead they aligned themselves with the Anti-Suffrage Movement.

An independent woman and a member of the politically-active Roosevelt Family Kate Shippen Roosevelt opposed women gaining the right to vote. In her diary, written from 1912-19, Mrs. Roosevelt, the widow of Theodore Roosevelt&rsquos first cousin, Hilborne L. Roosevelt, often expressed her negative views on this heated debate.

Describing women&rsquos right to vote as, &ldquosimply unnecessary,&rdquo Mrs. Roosevelt did not mince words. She along with, for the most part middle to upper-middle class, conservative Protestants like herself subscribed to the notion that women were biologically destined to be childbearers and homemakers. In this realm, anti-suffragists felt women had total domestic freedom in their own homes and it was going against the laws of nature to shake-up the status quo. Of course men thought this was a great philosophy, leave the &ldquolittle woman at home&rdquo while they made all the important business and political decisions. Nearly as many anti-suffrage groups sprang up throughout the country as did pro-suffrage groups, but apparently they were not as vocal or did not have the same political and financial support as their opponents.

Miss Minnie Bronson, secretary of the Association Opposed to Woman&rsquos Suffrage, called suffrage a &ldquodangerous experiment&rdquo and blamed the relatively new Progressive Party for promoting it.

In 1912, the leader of the Progressive Party, also known as the Bull Moose Party, was none-other than the civic-minded politician, Theodore Roosevelt. He was seeking his party&rsquos nomination to run against William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson for President of the United States. Many of his speeches were laced with the topic of women&rsquos rights.

The Progressive Movement was meant to energize American Politics. It was Roosevelt&rsquos remedy to cure the ills that plagued American society. Its philosophy was that if enfranchised women supported the movement&rsquos reforms, the party would be perceived as more moral and compassionate. Their goal was to counter the anti-suffrage claim that suffrage was incompatible with the woman&rsquos place in the home and that politics was a dirty business that would soil the pristine persona of the female.

Theodore Roosevelt, the consummate politician and strategist knew he had a tiger by the tail and wasn&rsquot letting go. In 1912, at the presidential convention in Chicago, he made a bold but calculated move. He asked Jane Addams to give the speech nominating him to run as his parties&rsquo candidate for President of the United States. She would go down in history as the first woman to speak at a national convention.

By then, Jane Addams was well-known for her social activism and for establishing Hull House in the slums of Chicago. She was also Vice President of the National American Woman&rsquos Suffrage Association.

As the author of a column in the Ladies&rsquo Home Journal entitled &ldquoWhy Women Should Vote.&rdquo Addams had been gaining notoriety on the subject of suffrage since 1910. Officially, the magazine opposed woman&rsquos suffrage, but sales swayed some of their editorial content and Jane Addams became a regular contributor.

Addams&rsquo counter-part in New York City was Lillian Wald, who with the help of Teddy Roosevelt and other socially-active liberals like Jacob Riis, started the Henry Street Settlement House.

Even though Kate Roosevelt&rsquos politics differed from those of her relative, Teddy, she kept track of his comings and goings often commenting on his politics in her diary. In October, 1912 she wrote, &ldquoEveryone went to the rally at Madison Square Garden for Theodore.&rdquo Her comments were not coy or at-all family-oriented. She continued, &ldquoHis politics are the politics of the very far future. They are too altruistic, idealist and unwanted for the human nature of the present day!&rdquo

On April 25, 1913 Kate Roosevelt went to New York City&rsquos elite Colony Club, to hear Mrs. John Martin speak on behalf of the anti-suffrage side. Amember of the New York State Association opposed to Woman Suffrage Mrs. Martin was an outspoken devotee of its cause. For this reason she was often called upon to share her views. The garden parties held at her estate in Tomkinsville, New York, were well-attended and well-known.

One year later, on April 3, 1914, Mrs. Roosevelt&rsquos diary mentions Mrs. Martin speaking at the home of Mrs. Henry Seligman, wife of the millionaire banker. Their home at 30 West Fifty-Sixth Street was the setting for a rally against Woman&rsquos Suffrage. Although Mrs. Roosevelt did not attend, her diary included a clipping from the New York Times describing the No-Votes-For Women event. According to the Times, Mrs. Martin proceeded to tear to tatters the great new cause. The audience listened to her demolition of the suffrage movement &ldquoWe are not merely against feminism, but for the family. We cannot reconcile feminism and the family. We hope to hear the sound of women&rsquos feet, walking away from the factory and back to the home.&rdquo

Dr. Anna Shaw, President of the National American Women&rsquos Suffrage Association called anti-suffragists the &ldquohome, hearth and mother crowd.&rdquo Obviously, she was not interested in any of these identities. When asked why there was no marriage in heaven, Dr. Shaw brazenly responded, &ldquoBecause there are no men in heaven.&rdquo Like many suffragettes, she felt that men were not necessary and women, banding together could take care of themselves and live happily ever-after in a female-dominated world and after-life. When she died in 1919, at her beside was Lucy Anthony (Susan B. Anthony&rsquos niece). Called her &ldquointimate companion,&rdquo Lucy Anthony lived with Dr. Shaw for thirty years.

The Woman&rsquos National Anti-Suffrage League was established in London on July 21, 1908 with a mission to oppose women being granted the vote in the United Kingdom&rsquos Parliamentary elections, although it did support their having votes in local government elections. It was founded at a time when there was a resurgence in support of women&rsquos suffrage in England.

The movement crossed the Atlantic and landed in New York in 1897 under the auspices of the New York State Association Opposed to Woman&rsquos Suffrage. By 1908 it had more than 90 members active in publishing pamphlets, giving speeches and organizing rallies. Mrs. William Winslow Crannell published the Anti Suffragist quarterly from 1908 to 1912. Later called the Woman&rsquos Protest, it was published by the organization at large.

The Anti-Suffrage Movement was active throughout the country, but New York seemed to be the cog from which the wheel turned. Officially formed in 1911, and called the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage, it was headquartered in New York. Although specific reasons for opposing women voting varied throughout differing regions of the country, the national organization was united in its general opposition. It was not limited to New York or just to conservatives. It had its champions all over the country, coming from many walks of life, even those who traveled in liberal circles.

Emma Goldman, one of the most well-known liberals at the time, worked to rally the anti-suffrage contingent. . A feminist ahead of her time, one would think she would champion the cause of suffrage for women. An advocate of free-love, she campaigned against women voting on the grounds that women were more &ldquoinclined toward legal enforcement of morality (as in the Women&rsquos Christian Temperance Union) that women were the equals of men and that suffrage would not make a difference.&rdquo She also argued, &ldquoActivists ought to advocate revolution rather than seek greater privileges within an inherently unjust system.&rdquo

Another anarchist who spoke on the subject was Max Eastman, who addressed the debate from a different direction. When Mrs. Roosevelt heard him speak she referred to him in her diary as a &ldquoranting radical.&rdquo

Lucy Price, the youngest, and one of the most effective crusaders for anti-suffrage often challenged Max Eastman to debate at New York&rsquos Cooper Union. As a newspaper reporter in Cleveland, Price was tenacious. When Ohio was adopting a new constitution in 1913, giving voters the opportunity to include a clause that would give women the vote, she handled the fight. She presented her side so well that suffrage was defeated in a conclusive manner. Like military leaders going from one battlefront to another, Lucy Price and others traveled the country voicing their opinions.

Miss Alice Chittenden, then President of the Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage, wrote a letter to the New York Times dated February 11, 1915. In it she stated, &ldquoOpposition to woman suffrage is not merely an effort on the part of a few women to keep other women from voting, as is sometimes foolishly said, but that it is based upon principles which are so fundamental that women have organized a movement which is daily growing in strength, and which is directed wholly against the enfranchisement of their sex. The Woman Suffrage Movement, is in fact, the only woman&rsquos movement in history which women themselves have banded together to oppose one another.&rdquo

In a letter dated, May 24, 1915, former Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson responded to Miss Chittenden, &ldquoSuffrage is not a natural right. No class of the community can insist upon the right to vote as it could upon the right to life and liberty. I am opposed to woman suffrage because I believe it would throw an additional strain upon the efficiency of government.&rdquo

Mrs. Roosevelt&rsquos diary attests to her approval of Miss Chittenden and her allies. Kate Roosevelt commented how she had enjoyed seeing her friends at New York&rsquos elite Colony Club wearing colors contesting the movement. &ldquoThe loveliest frocks carrying the tints of French gray and mauve were worn by those opposed to woman&rsquos suffrage.&rdquo Delicate colors and pastels representing the demure nature of women were often worn by anti-suffragists as opposed to the bold gold and yellows worn by the suffragettes.

In another diary entry Mrs. Roosevelt shares her thoughts on women and the perception that they were disenfranchised, for example, &ldquoMrs. Hanks makes five thousand dollars a year as a buyer for a large department store.&rdquo

The world around her was changing and Mrs. Kate Roosevelt, unlike Cousin Teddy and even her own sister, wanted to keep the status quo. &ldquoThe whole Christian world has gone dance-mad. The same situation came about when the waltz and polka were introduced into the drawing room.&rdquo Her feelings are reflected in her choices of which theater productions she was involved in. Two of them have very revealing titles: &ldquoHer Husband&rsquos Wife&rdquo and &ldquoThe Road to Yesterday.&rdquo

Mrs. Roosevelt&rsquos views on the dance craze called &ldquothe Tango&rdquo are even more conservative: her diary contains a newspaper clipping stating that even &ldquodoctors are warning of its evils.&rdquo

One doctor who was not interested in the dance fad sweeping the country, but rather concerned about woman&rsquos suffrage was Dr. William Thompson Sedgwick. The noted epidemiologist, bacteriologist, and prominent figure in the sphere of Public Health spoke at the Colony Club. Mrs. Roosevelt&rsquos diary quoted him as saying, &ldquoWomen voting would throw the world back one thousand years.&rdquo

The average New Yorker, Mrs. Roosevelt felt was &ldquoso full of arguments for and against women&rsquos getting into politics, having the vote and doing things that it would seem thus only men were really fit for.&rdquo

As the fight for women&rsquos rights occupied center stage, another fight was looming. The World War in Europe and the United States&rsquo probable eventual involvement was on everyone&rsquos mind. The subject of woman&rsquos suffrage took on a new twist as it evolved into a discussion of the role of women in general. Even Mrs. John Martin, the militant anti-suffrage spokesperson, began talking about the status of women after the war. At a gathering of the League for Political Education at Carnegie Hall in 1916 she debated Mrs. Forbes Robertson Hale on the question, &ldquoIs mankind advancing?&rdquo

By 1917, the country had entered the war and the Suffragettes were still fighting their own battle. Mrs. Roosevelt&rsquos diary overflows with clippings and comments about the war, but she still has some room for her views on the Suffrage Movement.

A newspaper clipping with the headline reads, &ldquoFor Woman Suffrage or for the Kaiser?&rdquo Alongside this she writes, &ldquoThe National Woman&rsquos Party maintains suffrage pickets in front of the White House. Is it an American organization or has it been transformed into a bureau for German Propaganda? They have done the cause of woman&rsquos votes a grave injury by accusing the President and Elihu Root of deceiving Russia. The women were finally arrested after several exhibitions of themselves and their banners. This happened when the Russian Mission was visiting the White House. The suffrage women exhibited banners with insulting implications in them directed against President Wilson and Mr. Root who is going on a special mission to Russia. One of the women was Mrs. Lavinia Lewis. She is rather out of her mind, but the world at large does not know this.&rdquo In all fairness to the proponents of women&rsquos suffrage, most of their leaders including Dr. Anna Shaw, President of the Woman&rsquos Suffrage Movement did not approve of this controversial demonstration.

Mrs. Roosevelt&rsquos diary ends in 1919: American women won the right to vote in 1920. There is no record of her feelings when suffrage was achieved, but we can imagine her reaction. Her familial opponent, Theodore Roosevelt died in 1919, never having been able to celebrate the passing of the Nineteenth Amendment. But from his speeches, actions and early writings (including his Harvard senior thesis on the equality of women), we can be certain he felt victorious!

Sharon Hazard is a writer/researcher living in the New York City area who specializes in non-fiction and historical work. Her work has appeared in Victoria Magazine, New Jersey Monthly, American Cowboy, and Arts and Antiques. Check out her books: Historic Newark, The City Beyond the Bluff, Long Branch in the Golden Age and the soon to be released Catholics in New York.


Opposing votes for women may seem surprising today, but anti-suffrage views dominated among men and women through the early twentieth century. Suffragists had national organizations since 1869, but anti-suffragists did not found their own group until 1911.

Before organizing, suffrage opponents bonded without an official institution. Artists created political cartoons that mocked suffragists. Religious leaders spoke out against women’s political activism from the pulpit. Articles attacked women who took part in public life. Even without a coordinating institution, opposition to suffrage remained popular.

In the 1860s, opponents of woman suffrage began to organize locally. Massachusetts was home to leading suffrage advocates, and it was also one of the first states with an organized anti-suffrage group. In the 1880s, anti-suffrage activists joined together and eventually became known as the Massachusetts Association Opposed to the Further Extension of Suffrage to Women.

In 1911, Josephine Dodge, who also led a movement to establish day care centers to help working mothers, founded the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage (NAOWS). The NAOWS was most popular in northeastern cities. Like pro-suffrage groups, NAOWS distributed publications and organized events and state campaigns.

Just like men and women supported votes for women, men and women organized against suffrage as well. Anti-suffragists argued that most women did not want the vote. Because they took care of the home and children, they said women did not have time to vote or stay updated on politics. Some argued women lacked the expertise or mental capacity to offer a useful opinion about political issues. Others asserted that women’s votes would simply double the electorate voting would cost more without adding any new value.

For further reading:

Goodier, S. (2012). No Votes for Women. The New York State Anti-Suffrage Movement. Urbana : University of Illinois Press

Anti-Woman Suffrage Postcard, Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Behring Center

National Anti-Suffrage Association, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Parkman, F. Some of the Reasons Against Woman Suffrage. Boston, Mass. : Issued by the Massachusetts Association Opposed to the Further Extension of Suffrage to Women.

Anti-Suffrage Society - History

Oklahoma women, calling themselves antisuffragists or "antis," organized in opposition to women's suffrage in 1918 and established the Oklahoma Anti-Suffrage Association, also known as the Oklahoma Anti-Suffrage League or the Oklahoma Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage. Until then, organized antisuffrage activity in Oklahoma had remained sporadic and actually unnecessary. Members of the Oklahoma Constitutional Convention of 1906 had voted against women's suffrage. Consequently, Article 3 of the Oklahoma Constitution defined electors as male citizens over twenty-one years of age.

In 1911 several state antisuffrage associations merged, creating the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage (NAOWS) headquartered in New York City. The association recruited supporters "[by educating] the public in the belief that women can be more useful to the community without the ballot than if affiliated with and influenced by party politics." Active between 1912 and 1918, the organization, consisting of state association representatives, sent speakers, funds, and literature to campaigning states. By 1916 the NAOWS coordinated the activities of twenty-five state organizations.

After World War I suffragists accelerated their demand for the right to vote as a more receptive attitude toward women's suffrage grew nationwide and in Oklahoma. The formation of additional antisuffrage state associations became necessary, and in 1918 the NAOWS sent Sarah C. White to Oklahoma to speak against suffrage and establish an organization. Oklahoma Anti-Suffrage Association officers included Sallie Sturgeon of Oklahoma City, president, Alice Robertson of Muskogee, vice president, and Maybelle Stuard of Oklahoma City, press chair and speaker. Meldia Constantin served as treasurer, and her husband's business, the Constantin Refining Company in Tulsa, provided the association with unlimited funds. Other committee members included Laura Greer of Tulsa, Ruth Fluarty of Pawnee, and Jessie E. Moore of Oklahoma City.

Antisuffrage members alleged that the right to vote would not solve the problems of women and society. They opposed suffrage primarily because they believed in the "cult of true womanhood" (piety, purity, domesticity, and submissiveness) and in the separate sphere of the home. The apolitical association served to educate and to legitimize activism within the traditional female domain. Members rarely coordinated efforts to elect antisuffrage candidates to state or federal offices or to form coalitions for political issues. Only on occasion would an antisuffragist speak in public. Rather, they campaigned at country fairs by distributing bulletins while offering advice on such womanly subjects as first aid. Considered the "Heaven, Home and Mother crowd," they held teas, fund-raising balls, and luncheons at hotels and women's colleges, as opposed to the noisy parading, picketing, and public speaking promoted by suffragists. The "antis," wearing their emblem of pink or red roses, campaigned quietly by circulating antisuffrage literature in the state legislative gallery.

Sallie Sturgeon published a weekly magazine, The Oklahoma Lady, which included antisuffrage commentary, and Alice Robertson actively distributed literature. The NAOWS published pamphlets and the official journal, The Woman's Protest, which the Oklahoma organization distributed as well. Published monthly, The Woman's Protest documented state associations' activities, evaluated strategies, and presented extensive arguments against franchising women.

Antisuffragists described themselves as positive, quiet, genteel, and dignified. However, in 1918 suffragists accused the Oklahoma Anti-Suffrage Association of being "backed by the breweries and anti-prohibitionists [who] are paid fat salaries to work up feelings against this movement." Members of both groups hurled charges and countercharges, resulting in an interesting lawsuit.

On November 5, 1918, the passage of State Question 97 franchising Oklahoma women brought defeat to the Oklahoma Anti-Suffrage Association, and the final deathblow came when Oklahoma ratified the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution on February 28, 1920.


Anne Myra Goodman Benjamin, A History of the Anti-Suffrage Movement in the United States from 1895–1920 (Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1991).

Bernice Norman Crockett, "'No job for a woman,'" The Chronicles of Oklahoma 61 (Summer 1983).

Louise Boyd James, "Woman's Suffrage, Oklahoma Style, 1890–1918," in Women in Oklahoma: A Century of Change, ed. Melvena Thurman (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Historical Society, 1982).

Catherine Mambretti, "The Burden of the Ballot: The Women's Anti-Suffragist Movement," American Heritage 30 (December 1978).

Elizabeth Cady Stanton et al., eds., History of Woman Suffrage, Vols. 5–6 (New York: Fowler and Wells, 1881–1922).

James R. Wright, Jr., "The Assiduous Wedge: Woman Suffrage and the Oklahoma Constitutional Convention," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 51 (Winter 1973–74).

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100 Years Ago: Anti-Suffrage New Hampshire Women

Offering prizes for best answer if women should be allowed to vote.

Today and with our current mindset, I know it is difficult to grasp that some women in New Hampshire did not want any women to have the right to vote in local and national elections. They did exist, but seemingly in lower numbers than the pro-suffrage women.

I’ve seen it written that many of these so-called “anti-suffrage” women were well-off, either by a marriage to a wealthy, prominent man, or by having money and prestige in their own right. It is implied that they did not want their “lesser” female counterparts to rise in influence. Several newspaper stories of the time, if they can be completely believed, paint the anti-suffrage women as rich, privileged females not wanting to share their societal prestige, and feeling that equal voting rights would lessen their ability to influence. It would be unfair to state this is always true, though my research does seem to point to it being mostly true.

One example to the contrary–if you look at New Hampshire’s foremost and longest advocate of women’s suffrage–Mrs. Armenia (Hall) White. Clearly see a woman who had financial clout and personal power and yet suffrage was something she fought for until her death. Other claims by the “antis” (a nickname for anti-suffrage advocates) was that voting was not feminine. Some claimed that it was un-Christian.

Whether anti-suffragists were influenced by the men in their lives who were anti-suffrage, or whether they personally believed that politics was a terrible thing that women should avoid, these were strongly held beliefs. The anti-suffrage movement generally began about 2 decades after the pro-suffrage groups organized. In Massachusetts, for example, organized work by women against suffrage began in 1884 and 1885. In this case, the leaders were connected to men of Harvard College and included women of wealth and influential families. In New York, the first anti-suffrage society was formed in Albany in 1894.

In a New Hampshire Historical Society collection, a circa 1913 broadside entitled “A Word To The Wise: An Overwhelming Majority of the Women of the United States Oppose Woman Suffrage includes these reasons:
1. It is contrary to the universal law of “division of labor,” etc.
2. Because of the undemocratic spirit shown by the suffragists, etc.
3. Because the Suffrage Movement develops sex hatred, etc.
4. Because their fathers, brothers, husband and sons vote…etc
5. Because men have NOT found the ballot a cure-all, etc.
6. Because the great advance of woman in the last century has been made without the ballot.
7. Because of the Alliance of Suffrage and Socialism,. etc.
8. Because the Liquor traffic, and all forms of vice, still flourish unabated in equal Suffrage States.
9. Because now, every woman can work to clean up the morals of her town, without being hindered by the votes of the ignorant women, and the women who vote as bad men tell them, and the women who don’t care”
10. Because since 75% of all food and contamination takes place in the home,” etc.
11. Because woman, the awakener of public conscience and the arbiter of social caste, can best serve her state and race by learning the laws governing the health of body, mind and character, etc.

A very “telling” article was published in the Boston Sunday post in March of 1912 which details how the anti-suffragists viewed their opponents–the suffragists. What I find amusing is that the article details so much about the pro-suffrage organization’s work that it was almost like reading an advertisement for them. It is an interesting read, and so I include it here.

[start of newspaper article]

“The suffragette battleground at the present moment is New Hampshire. Leaders of the votes for women movement all over the country are announcing from public platforms and in campaign literature that the Old Granite State must grant equal suffrage. Anti-suffragists are just as certain that this cannot be.”

“REASON FOR SITUATION. The reason for this situation is the New Hampshire State Grange, composed of 40,000 farmers and their families. This body to a large measure determines social and political questions in the State. One of the basic principles on which the grange is founded is the equality of women with man. This, the suffrage leaders declare, makes New Hampshire particularly sympathetic with the ballot for its womankind.

All the leaders of the equal suffrage movement in Massachusetts have stirred to activity those in New Hampshire who believed in the movement but had done nothing. The result has been the formation of associations calculated to cover the field completely. The heads of the anti-suffrage movement in Massachusetts have been interested in the campaign by Mrs. Barrett Wendell, whose husband, Professor Wendell of Harvard has just taken a summer home in Portsmouth. The “antis” have begun in that city a fight to organize the forces opposed to votes for women.”

Armenia White photograph, undated, taken by Kimball & Sons of Concord NH. New Hampshire Historical Society. She was an ardent pro-suffrage supporter and worker for women having the vote.

“The achievements of the suffragists to date include the organization of the New Hampshire Equal Suffrage Association, of which Miss Mary N. Chase of Concord, N.H. is president the Concord Equal Suffrage Association for Good Government, of which Miss Agnes M. Jenks is president the New Hampshire College Women’s Equal Suffrage Club, the New Hampshire Men’s Equal Suffrage Club, The Dartmouth Students’ League for Equal Suffrage, and the Dartmouth Professors’ Wives’ Equal Suffrage Society.”

“They have secured positive declarations of support of the equal suffrage movement from Governor Bass, Clarence E. Clough of Lebanon, Senator William E. Chandler, Senator Gallinger, Henry H. Hollis and other prominent in the State. The executive committee of the Concord Society includes Mrs. George Hingham, whose husband as a Supreme Court justice once refused the Republican nomination for Governor Miss Harriet Huntress of the State Board of Education, Mrs. George Rublee of Cornish and Mrs. Susan Whiting Ives, wife of Dr. Ives of Andover.”

“The Rev. Anna M. Shaw is to address a meeting at Concord next week. The College Women’s Club, which Mrs. Maud Wood Parks of Boston organized, is offering prizes of $10 and $5 each for the best essays on equal suffrage by elementary and secondary school students. The New Hampshire State Grange has recommended that the question of equal suffrage for women shall be submitted to the next constitutional convention. Witter Brynner of Cornish, the author, is going a great deal of pioneer work in strengthening the Men’s Equal Suffrage Club. Joseph L. Richards plans to send out Dartmouth students in co-operation with the work of the other bodies.”

“The suffragettes were especially elated when the wife of President Nichols of Dartmouth joined the equal suffrage society organized by the professors’ wives. Mrs. Winston Churchill has been in daily communication with the Massachusetts leaders and is active in the movement. The State branch of the American Federation of Labor and the Concord Central Labor Union, as well as the Socialist Party in the State, have gone on record for equal suffrage in New Hampshire and members of the former two bodies have been requested to work for the cause.”

“The movement of the anti-suffrage workers is younger and not so widely diffused. But it is no less keen and in Portsmouth has scored heavily. Barrett Wendell, professor of English at Harvard, recently inherited the old Wendell estate at 28 Pleasant Street, Portsmouth. Mrs. Wendell is a member of the Massachusetts Association Opposed to the Further Extension of Suffrage to Women and the head of the Boston local of that body. She recently organized the Portsmouth Anti-Suffrage Association and was elected its first president.”

“The Wendells, who are social leaders in Boston, will make Portsmouth their summer home, and Mrs. Wendell, in talking with a Sunday Post reporter, says she intends to spend a great deal of her time in Portsmouth to perfect the organization there and increase the opposition in the State. MRS. WENDELL’S VIEWS. The suffragettes have been laying plans to capture New Hampshire and add it to the States where women vote,” said Mrs. Wendell. “We don’t propose to remain idle and watch them do it without giving the people an opportunity to hear all the arguments as to why women should not vote.”

‘The State of Colorado has had equal suffrage for a number of years and it has proved a miserable failure. Miss Emily P. Bissell of Wilmington, Del., has investigated the situation in Colorado and written an article for the Outlook on the subject. She sways the best people in Colorado are opposed to its further continuance.”

“Dr. Wendell and I will make our summer home at Portsmouth and so long as I am to live there I am going to continue my endeavors in the anti-suffrage movement in New Hampshire. Mrs. Wendell recently invited 150 prominent women of Portsmouth to a meeting at the Hotel Rockingham where they were addressed by Civil Service Commissioner Frank Foxcroft of Cambridge Miss Emily P. Bissell of Wilmington, Del., an anti-suffragette, who has written an article on Colorado equal suffrage Attorney William W. Thayer of Concord, Professor Barrett Wendell, ex-Mayor, Wallace Hackett, and Mayor Badger. Of this meeting Mrs. Wendell said: ‘The women seemed only too anxious to hear why women should not vote. They were especially willing to form and join a New Hampshire anti-suffrage association.”

“Many persons signed membership cards at the Rockingham meeting and later they met at Mrs. Wendell’s home. There the organization was effected. Mrs. Wendell was elected president Mrs. John M. Kelley, wife of City Solicitor Kelley, was elected recording secretary Mrs. Lulu D. Walker was named the corresponding secretary and Miss Marion Hackett, treasurer.”

“The suffragettes are strong in New Hampshire, said Mrs. Wendell. They have got a head start, but they have perfected a strong opposition and they will not find everything so rosy as they imagine. Possibly without our opposition, they might have made New Hampshire an equal suffrage state.”

It was not easy to find the names of the New Hampshire anti-suffrage women and men (except in the great numbers of male legislators who voted against suffrage). Even after hours of research, I only had a handful of actual names gleaned from old newspaper notices. To this, I must mention in a broadside now located at the New Hampshire Historical Society, especially one entitled “Vote Against Women Suffrage,” dated 14 February 1913 at Concord, New Hampshire.

=====SOME of the Anti-suffrage Women of New Hampshire=====
[Editor’s Note: in writing about these “antis,” women who worked to prevent the passage of the 19th amendment, my purpose is not to vilify them. They were intelligent, motivated, and often worked before and after 1920 to make their communities better places in which to live. ]

Photograph of Edith (Greenough) Wendell before her marriage, age 19.
From the Wendell Photograph Collection, Portsmouth Anthenaeum, Portsmouth NH. Used with permission.

— Mrs. Edith (Greenough) Wendell was perhaps the most prominent of the New Hampshire anti-suffrage women, creating the Portsmouth Anti-Suffrage Association in 1912, and was voted its first President. She was born on 2 Aug 1859 at Swampscott MA, the daughter of William Whitwell & Catherine Scollay (Curtis) Greenough. She married Prof. Barrett Wendell, an 1877 graduate of Harvard, and an instructor there and other places of English. They lived in Boston MA, but spent summers in Portsmouth NH. Mrs. Wendell was active in anti-suffrage groups in Massachusetts also. She died 3 Oct 1938 (aged 79) at Boston MA. Among her many accomplishments was the preservation of the Warner House in Portsmouth NH [She prevented the Warner House (1715) on Daniel Street from being torn down and replaced with a gas station].

Mrs. Frances P. Dudley, President of New Hampshire Association Opposed To The Further Extension of Suffrage to Women by February 1913. She was born Frances Fiske Perry on 10 Dec 1861 in Exeter NH, daughter of William G. & Lucretia Morse (Fiske) Perry. She married 2 July 1890 in Exeter NH to Albertus T. Dudley. She d. 4 Jan 1953 in Exeter NH. Her husband was a member of the professional faculty of Phillips Exeter Academy. According to the noted historian, Barbara Rimkunas, Mrs. Dudley was one of the founders of the Exeter (NH) Historical Society.

Mrs. John M. Kelley, Secretary of the Portsmouth Anti-Suffrage Association. She was born Romaine G. E. (Goddard Eagle) Sherwood, daughter of William & Mary V. (Reese) Sherwood in Aug 1876 [or August 2, 1859,] in Cincinnati Ohio. She died 18 Feb 1949 in Washington DC. Interred St. Mary’s Cemetery, Portsmouth NH. She had married on 12 Jan 1898 in Portsmouth NH to John W. Kelley, son of John & Ellen (Nagle) Kelley.
He was b 3 Dec 1865 Portsmouth NH & d. 21 Sep 1913 in Brookline MA. He was an attorney and at the time of her anti-suffrage activity, was a Rockingham County Solicitor.

Marion Hackett, Treasurer of the Portsmouth Anti-Suffrage Association. She was born 20 March 1886 in Portsmouth, NH, daughter of Wallace & Abbie W. (Winchester) Hackett, living on Middle Street in Portsmouth. Her father was one time Mayor of Portsmouth and Chief Executive in 1907 and 1908. Marion Hackett married 29 Aug 1914 in Portsmouth NH to Robert Emmet Rogers, son of John Clark & Olive (Southwick) Rogers. He was b 4 Jan 1886 Ozark, Missouri, and died in 1971. He was a Lieut. Commander in the United States Navy. She is buried Saint Anne’s Cemetery, Annapolis MD.

Mrs. W.K. Robbins, of Manchester in a 1913 broadside is listed with the anti-suffrage proponents, and declared at hearing “give us (the antis) another two weeks and we will be 7000 names in Manchester alone.” She was born Ellen R Rice on 10 Dec 1857 in Barclay, Blackhawk Co. daughter of Thomas F. & Catherine (Schott) Rice. She married William Keltner Robbins, son of Aaron B. & Elizabeth (Schoepf) Robbins. They moved in December of 1882 from Waterloo Iowa to Manchester New Hampshire, where he worked in the cotton mill as a Color & Chemist. She died on 8 March 1928 in Manchester NH. They lived at 1508 Elm Street corner Langdon Street. [The house is gone.] She is buried in Pine Grove Cemetery, Manchester NH.

Mrs. Sarah F.S. Dearborn, from One thousand New Hampshire Notables. Internet Archive. Colorized by the blog editor.

Mrs. Sarah Dearborn of Pembroke in a 1913 broadside is listed with the anti-suffrage women, and declared at the hearing “I don’t know of one woman in my town who wants to vote.” She was born Sarah F. Stevens, daughter of Josiah & Ann (Head) Stevens, born 23 January 1854 in Concord NH. She married 9 Nov 1880 in Boston MA to Joseph Henry Dearborn, son of Joseph Jewell & Sarah (Jenness) Dearborn. He was a Harvard graduate (1871) and a dry goods dealer in Boston MA, later a farmer and NH state rep. Locally he was a member of the Pembroke Board of Selectmen, and a trustee of Pembroke Academy. They are buried in Blossom Hill Cemetery, Concord NH. There is an extensive biography of her at “One Thousand New Hampshire Notables (Internet Archive)” in which there is no mention of her anti-suffrage sentiments.

Mrs. Lydia Jackson, of Littleton, in a 1913 broadside is listed with the anti-suffrage women, and “reported a club of 90 women in which only two were in favor of suffrage, and another of 25 in which none were in favor.” She was born Lydia Drew, daughter of George Kittredge & Lucy L. (French) Drew in Newmarket NH. She died 14 December 1921 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She married 16 July 1879 to James Robert Jackson,
son of William & Prucia (Morrill) Jackson. He born 1838 and died 22 Nov 1917 Littleton NH. He was a lawyer. In 1920 she was a widow living in Littleton NH. She is buried in Glenwood Cemetery, Littleton NH. She was active in the D.A.R., trustee of Littleton public library and secretary of Littleton branch of NH Chapter American Red Cross. She was a high school teacher for several years.

Mrs. Fay of Hanover (NH), in a 1913 broadside is listed with the anti-suffrage women and “told the Committee that the sentiment of women in their communities was decidedly against the measure.” She was born Sarah Eliza Proctor, daughter of Prof. John C. & Adaline (Young) Proctor, born 5 April 1875 in Hanover NH, and died December 1964 in Cambridge MA. She was both the daughter, and a wife of a college professor. She attended school at Bradford Academy and taught at the Hampton Institute from 1896 to 1900. Sarah E. Proctor married 17 Aug 1904 in Hanover NH to Sidney Bradshaw Fay, son of Edward A. & Mary (Bradshaw) Fay. He was b. 13 April 1876 in Washington DC, and died 29 August 1967 aged 92. He was a college professor, a distinguished historian and teacher. Professor Emeritus of History at Harvard, he taught history at Dartmouth College until 1914, and in Northampton at Smith College until 1929. In 1929 he went to Harvard College as professor of history, where he held the first joint appointment made by Radcliffe and Harvard They had a summer home for many years on Nantucket Island. Mrs. Fay was a trustee of the Avon Home and was active in the College Teas Assn, the social organization of faculty wives, serving as a member of the advisory from 1935 to 1938 and as chairman of the nominating committee in 1939. She took a great interest in welcoming new members of the history department and their families to Harvard. Besides her husband, she leaves two daughters: Mrs. Dwight (Dorothy) Little of Williamstown and Mrs. John M. (Elsa) Craig of Cambridge and by nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Mrs. W.P. Mack of Londonderry, in a 1913 broadside is listed with the anti-suffrage women and “told the Committee that the sentiment of women in their communities was decidedly against the measure.” She was born Harriet Lavina Pillsbury, daughter of Col. William Stoughton & Martha Silver (Crowell) Pillsbury, born 27 October 1870 in Londondery NH. She d. 17 Oct 1931 in Londonderry NH. Harriet L. Pillsbury married 24 Feb 1892 in Londonderry NH to Wallace Preston Mack, son of Andrew W. & Frances A. (Preston) Mack. He was a noted farmer and fruit grower, and manufacturer of the evaporate apple. He was b. 7 Nov 1863 in Londonderry NH. Their Children: Lillian W., Lavinia and Andrew R. He was Chairman of the Board of Supervisors. Member Knights of Pythias. The 1931 Londonderry Directory lists him as poultry farmer, Mammoth Road.

[Editor’s Note: there are a few other names however being unable to pinpoint exactly who they are, I have omitted them here, though they can be found in the original documents].

Right up to and following the 36th state’s (Tennessee) adoption of the 19th Amendment, the anti-suffrage groups continued their fight to prevent women from voting.

University Libraries

Editor's note: Arts and Sciences Dean’s Summer Fellowship recipient Marie Poinsatte of Cleveland, a senior history major and a regular in Roesch Library, spent the spring and summer of 2020 studying the women’s suffrage movement in Dayton. “She found an incredibly rich history in her work,” said Caroline Waldron, associate professor of history and Poinsatte’s fellowship adviser. “The work she accomplished and what she discovered for women’s history and suffrage is an important testament to the possibilities of experiential learning at the heart of a UD education.”

  • "Let us suppose that a thousand women today in Dayton stand for any one reform. They stand together as a solid body. No party leader sees in them political hench-woman or enemies… Give them the vote and they all automatically become democrats, republicans, progressives, socialists, or what not." — Katharine Houk Talbott in a 1914 speech to the Dayton Rotary Club.

August 2020 marked the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. The amendment was actually written in the negative. Rather than giving women the right to vote, it stated that the right of citizens to vote “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex,” [my emphasis]. In other words, it prohibited certain behavior rather than embracing in law citizenship rights per se.

That’s one of the many details of the 20 th -century women’s suffrage movement I learned in the early spring semester during conversations about voting rights with Caroline Waldron, associate professor of history. She recommended that I visit the Dayton Metro Library on East Third Street in downtown Dayton, where the voting rights seminar she led had visited.

This research became the basis for the Dean’s Summer Fellowship I was awarded. I became fascinated with a discovery I made: There were women who were against women’s suffrage. One example is Katharine Houk Talbott, a Dayton philanthropist and the wife of Oakwood’s first mayor she really believed that female voters would become “hench-women” who took to the streets for the interests of partisan politics.

My plan was to do research in Dayton and Cleveland, my hometown, for the summer fellowship. Cue coronavirus and then a gear shift.

That provided me with a lot of time to think about Talbott and her framing of politics, suffrage and gender.

A woman's place?

When I first read Talbott's 1914 speech, the idea that women were ever “apolitical” struck me as unlikely, and I wondered if a “solid body” of citizens — whether they could vote or not —demanding change from politicians could ever be free of party politics.

I am fascinated with the anti-suffrage women and their insistence that female voters could cause damage to American society. Talbott and other anti-suffrage women contended that a woman’s integral role in society was in the home, the basic unit of society. They did not think she could be both a political being and a homemaker.

I have fewer big answers now than I had hoped to have at this point in my research, but plans gone astray have their own luxuries.

If I had gone with the plan formulated in early March, I would have been gathering tons of research data from as many archives as I could reasonably access. Instead, I did a close reading of this document from the Dayton suffrage archive and contextualized it in literature. I spent a lot of time looking through online suffrage centennial resources and reading secondary historical documents, all with that pamphlet in my mind. I tried to broaden my understanding of the suffrage movement and also those anti-suffrage perspectives I had recently discovered and place Talbott within that discourse. I located other anti-suffrage primary sources from the time and found some perspectives of some who were as wary as Talbott of women’s participation in the political enterprise. Others focused heavily on the woman’s role as leader of the family, a role that includes moral and ethical instruction but surpasses such menial activities as voting.

Women's influence on men: enough?

Grace Duffield Goodwin, a New York anti-suffragist, would agree that focusing on family responsibility absorbs a woman’s political responsibility. She said quite directly, “WE MAKE THEM,” when referring to the husbands, sons, fathers and brothers who represented women in public society, the courts, law, business, diplomacy and war. If women were unhappy with the representation provided by the men with whom they were affiliated, then women had an ability and a responsibility to exert their womanly influence through motherhood or marriage or another role and set their men straight. Essentially, anti-suffragists said, it is a mother’s job to teach her son right from wrong.

To claim that male political representation is somehow unsatisfactory or problematic was to say that mothers had failed to teach their sons how to consider the good of society in matters of governmental importance. Society spins outward from the home, they said, and men should have learned everything they knew from women.

Talbott and others argued against some suffragists’ idea that voting women would ultimately create a more moral and just government system. Men’s governance had always seemed to lead to war and distress and despair, the suffragists said, so perhaps women with their “unique feminine qualities” would exert a fairer influence on government. It was a common enough conception in the 19th and early 20th centuries that women were the morally superior beings, which historian Nancy Cott attributed at least in part to the influence of evangelical Protestantism. Talbott was perceptive enough to figure that alleged feminine morality would not manifest at the polls. She foresaw women being sucked into the same political vortex of parties, platforms, lobbying and money that runs elections. The game would become about soliciting women’s votes, and the purity that Talbott saw in women organizing for individual issues would be tarnished. What would be left would be an electorate double the size (double the expense) and equally corrupt and manipulative. What would be the point?

A complicated calculus of roles, interests, responsibilities

Anti-suffrage women believed that most women were indifferent or did not want to vote because most women were not clamoring for it (Cott cited the National American Women’s Suffrage Association’s peak membership at 2 million members and the more progressive National Women’s Party at 50,000). What anti-suffragists failed to recognize was that joining a suffrage organization was a large commitment that often put women at odds with other people in their lives gaining the franchise was important enough to them that they were willing to take that risk. Conversely, women indifferent to female suffrage lacked that interest because it was not part of their citizenship responsibilities it was not how they were taught to serve society. They served society by raising good men, whose job was to govern justly. Also, though the National Women’s Party and many others took cues from British suffragists and British and American labor movements in the 1910s, they weren’t the first crusaders for the franchise. American women had been fighting for suffrage since Seneca Falls in 1848.

Goodwin’s argument, about women already having that most important role in society of rearing children and raising good men, seems to me a bit indirect. If women are capable enough to teach men right from wrong, then they are capable enough to make that determination in the forms of candidates and issues. If they are to be held responsible for the decisions that men make in government, why would they not fulfill that responsibility directly? As to Talbott’s point, that women would be played by the political system and that women voting would essentially amount to a huge and expensive electorate where the most money still wins — her forecast did prove at least partially true.

What Talbott got right

I’ve been returning to Talbott a lot these days. I did not expect to have much in common with this woman from the past who didn’t believe in female enfranchisement, but I found myself relating to her skepticism of politics. Don’t get me wrong: I believe the expansion of voting rights in general and women’s suffrage in particular are essential to the functioning of representative democracy. But what she got right is that women and other constituencies are often talked down to or seen as blocs of voters who, because of their gender, race, class or other status, are assumed to believe the same things. She warned that party politics would take advantage of women voters and women organizers. Focusing on that document deepened my understanding of anti-suffrage fears and gave me a new angle from which to approach my at-home research.

What Talbott got wrong

Talbott was concerned that women would be diminished by partisan politics and so shouldn’t participate. However, it is necessary for women to participate in government if that government so claims to be representative. Is not the point of expanded voting rights that political outcomes may change? Talbott went wrong because she assumed that men could represent women’s interests.

One man, one vote. One woman, one vote. Only individuals can represent their own interests. In the experiment of American democracy, the voting booth is the sacred place to do so.

Now that we’re into election season, it is important to remember that the ballot should be neither a privilege of an elite class nor a burden to an overworked one. It is instead a shared responsibility of equal citizens and a hard-fought right. Our American predecessors secured and expanded that right, but the right to vote is not guaranteed now any more than it was then. It might be nice to be rid of the suspicion that we are being deluded by “hench-women” or henchmen or anything of the kind, but the truth is that politics is debate over how best to govern ourselves, even if that debate doesn’t sound pretty. A vote is a voice in the discourse.

Anti-Suffrage: A Male and Female Perspective

The image presented here shows a disheartened man attending to domestic chores since his wife is a suffragette, portraying the core of anti-suffrage thought. Anti-suffrage was a drive to turn away from the suffrage movement and found its place in many aspects and forms during the long battle. However, anti-suffrage cards[1] depict this battle as one between men and women being anti-suffrage and pro-suffrage respectively.

Among various anti-suffrage groups, Dunston-Weiler Lithograph Company of New York is responsible for creating 12 anti-suffrage cards among the many put into circulation.[2] These cards were published in 1909, the same year Suffragettes began hunger strikes in prisons, resulting force-feeding by jailers. [3] Anti-suffragettes attempted to respond to suffragists with actions and publications. [4] Anti-suffragists reprinted testimonials and created anti-suffrage cards for distribution among the public. [5] Many of these postcards showed men tending to domestic work to show their anger and disapproval of gender role reversal. A man forced to assume domestic responsibilities since his wife as a suffragette does correctly embody the sexist position that opposed the suffrage movement. The suffragette was given an image as being controlling or attempting to dominate a household while reducing a man from his control of the house. However, these cards do not tell the whole story of the suffrage battle.[6] The comical portrayal of feminizing men only offers a short point of history for the viewer. [7]

In the United States, the woman’s vote was granted only 100 years ago, a recent triumph due to the suffrage movement. However, discussion of such a topic usually only offers a broad understanding of the movement as will be quickly discussed. The movement stemmed from the limitation placed on citizenship, desire for higher pay, and desire for a more feasible divorce due to domestic abuse.[8] Suffragettes took many stances, such as that of justice, claiming women possessed the same capabilities as men or that of claiming the moral superiority of women.[9] The passing of the Fifteenth Amendment insulted suffragettes since African American men were given the vote, attesting to suffrage racial tensions as African American women were rejected from the cause.[10] Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were responsible for founding the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) in 1869.[11] In 1890, the National Woman Suffrage Association would join with the American Suffrage Association to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) in 1890.[12] However, there is more to this suffrage movement that is left from proper discussion.

With the rise of the suffrage movement came an equal rise in anti-suffrage thought. Such thought emerged into anti-suffrage drama, echoing social media sentiment, condemning this desired political freedom in a comical manner.[13] Such plays were created by both men and women who conveyed sexist, classists, and racist depictions intended as an “amateur dramatization…for an evening’s entertainment”.[14] This New Woman, the image of a suffragist, was ridiculed and portrayed with negative images in order to portray the anti-suffrage politics of the authors.[15] Suffragist women were painted as “self-absorbed, negligent of their duties as wives and mothers, ridiculously passionate about the cause for woman’s rights, mannish in dress and manner, corrupt, and in some cases, abusive toward their husbands”.[16] These plays depicted warnings of the New Woman, role-reversal in a marriage where men struggle with domestic chores, and progressive women failing in male professions.[17] Even though there was strong opposition from women, it is important to note the support gained from men during the suffrage movement. With the success of the suffrage movement in territories west of the Mississippi River, western male settlers were hopeful for the increase of women settlers in the area.[18] The American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA), created by Julia Ward Howe and Lucy Stone in 1869, even included men in its leadership. [19]

However, a rise in anti-suffrage thought resulted in many young women rebelling against this New Woman and insisted on the importance of a husband’s love and domestic duties.[20] These women assumed the duties that anti-suffrage cards warned against, the masculinization of women with aggressive and unladylike behavior. [21] Alice Stone Blackwell, a suffrage leader, attested to the fact that “’ the struggle has never been a fight of woman against man” but rather between both men and women on each side of the suffrage argument.[22] A large issue was opposition from women toward the suffrage movement who formed organizations to combat suffrage and were also responsible for petitions encouraging Congress to withhold votes from women.[23] The National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage was founded by Josephine Dodge of New York and insisted that “women had more power to improve society without the vote than with it”.[24] The suffrage battle is falsely portrayed as a “battle of the sexes” since it was mainly between white women of the upper and middle classes, some men would simply join.[25] Many men held the stance that political involvement would taint a woman’s moral purity.[26] However, not much is offered as to why anti-suffrage women opposed their own right to vote. Some insisted that they did not want to be forced into male politics while others insisted that they did not need the vote to have power over lawmakers.[27] In fact, many women insisted that the law did not discriminate against them and were worried that their rights, which were related to their position as a domestic woman, would be taken away. [28]

Dassori, Emma. 2005. “Performing the Woman Question: The Emergence of Anti-Suffrage Drama.” ATQ (The American Transcendental Quarterly) 19 (4): 301.

Hix, Lisa. “War on Women, Waged in Postcards: Memes From the Suffragist Era.” Collectors Weekly. Accessed February 2, 2020.

Miller, Joe C. 2015. “Never A Fight of Woman Against Man: What Textbooks Don’t Say about Women’s Suffrage.” History Teacher 48 (3): 437–82.

Pages, The Society. “Vintage Anti-Suffrage Postcards – Sociological Images.” Sociological Images Vintage AntiSuffrage Postcards Comments. Accessed April 18, 2020.

“Publicity for the Antis.” Publicity for the Antis | New York Heritage. New York Heritage . Accessed April 18, 2020.

Shi, David Emory. America: a Narrative History. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2019.

[1] Lisa Hix. “War on Women, Waged in Postcards: Memes From the Suffragist Era.” Collectors Weekly. Accessed February 2, 2020.

[7] Pages, The Society. “Vintage Anti-Suffrage Postcards – Sociological Images.” Sociological Images Vintage AntiSuffrage Postcards Comments.

[8] David Emory Shi. America: a Narrative History, ( New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2019), 858.

[13] Emma Dassori. “Performing the Woman Question: The Emergence of Anti-Suffrage Drama.” ATQ (The American Transcendental Quarterly) 19 (4) (2005): 301.

[16] Emma Dassori. “Performing the Woman Question: The Emergence of Anti-Suffrage Drama.” ATQ (The American Transcendental Quarterly) 19 (4) (2005): 305.

[18] David Emory Shi. America: a Narrative History, (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2019), 859.

[20] Emma Dassori. “Performing the Woman Question: The Emergence of Anti-Suffrage Drama.” ATQ (The American Transcendental Quarterly) 19 (4) (2005): 305.

[21] Pages, The Society. “Vintage Anti-Suffrage Postcards – Sociological Images.” Sociological Images Vintage AntiSuffrage Postcards Comments.

[22]Joe C. Miller. “Never A Fight of Woman Against Man: What Textbooks Don’t Say about Women’s Suffrage.” History Teacher 48 (3) (2015.): 437.

[26]David Emory Shi. America: a Narrative History, (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2019), 859.

[27]Joe C. Miller. “Never A Fight of Woman Against Man: What Textbooks Don’t Say about Women’s Suffrage.” History Teacher 48 (3) (2015.): 451.

Anti-Suffrage Society - History

Following Seneca Falls there were significant divisions amongst suffragists, notably over the 15 th Amendment which excluded women from voting and the use of racially divisive tactics by the National Woman Suffrage Association. In addition, there were multifaceted and nuanced ways in which suffragists were challenged, both by men and women, in their efforts to win the ballot. In this lesson, students will examine suffrage not just as an issue colored by gender, but by immigration status, race, and myriad other factors based on a close read of primary sources produced by those opposed to suffrage. This lesson will serve as an introduction to the concept of intersectionality and used as a lens to understand the world.

One to two 45 minute class periods

1. Students will create and test their own hypotheses for why some Americans opposed the 19 th Amendment.

2. Students, based on their close examination of primary sources, will determine why some Americans opposed the 19 th Amendment

3. Students will produce a short response, based on what they have learned in class, to explain why opposition to the 19 th Amendment existed, and assess the validity of their arguments.

Students should be introduced to female suffragist leaders, their arguments for suffrage, and the efforts of NAWSA (National American Woman Suffrage Association). Students should also be familiar with the significance of Seneca Falls and the divisions within the suffrage movement.

  1. Do Now: Create a hypothesis! Why did people, including women, oppose suffrage for women?
  2. Class share out: Students will verbally respond to the Do Now. Expected responses include apathy for the cause, sexism, and the cult of domesticity.
  3. Inform students that they are going to test their hypothesis today by closely examining primary sources created by Anti-Suffragists.
  4. Students will complete graphic organizer (included) as they examine primary sources. Teacher should circulate, ask students what they think about primary sources and observe general reaction. The sources include a wide-range of opinions and are accessible for most groups of students.
  5. Class Discussion based on student work. Potential discussion questions are included below
    1. Why did people oppose women’s suffrage?
    2. What were the push and pull factors which made the decision to support or oppose suffrage difficult for women in particular? (Teacher can introduce intersectionality and explain that the decision to support or oppose is not based solely on gender)
    3. Which arguments for the anti-suffragists do you find compelling, if any?
    4. Do we still find these arguments or rhetoric about the role of women or other groups today? If so, where?

    Based on what you learned today in your exploration of primary sources regarding opponents to suffrage as well as class discussion, juxtapose your hypotheses with what we have learned. What is similar? What is different? How does this relate to intersectionality?

    You will incorporate one 19 th or 20 th century anti-suffrage song or political cartoon into your response. I recommend using the Library of Congress or National Archives for cartoons, and YouTube for music. Generally, a Google search can be fruitful as well, as long as you consider the reliability of your sources.

    Analyze complex and interacting factors that influenced the perspectives of people during different historical eras.

    Evaluate how historical events and developments were shaped by unique circumstances of time and place as well as broader historical contexts.

    Watch the video: The historic womens suffrage march on Washington - Michelle Mehrtens (November 2022).

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