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WOULD WOMEN VOTE?
from The Brandon Mail [Manitoba] -- Nov 8, 1888, p. 3
Jewett's contribution to this newspaper compilation appears first. This is followed by the entire text, with Jewett's piece shown in context.
I believe it would have been better to carefully restrict the voting of men by high educational and certain property qualifications. But since only the matter of general representation, and not a certain degree of intelligence and knowledge of the care of property are considered in the matter of deciding upon public questions which concern women as well as men, I believe common justice gives women the right to vote. Personally, I have no wish to hasten the day when woman suffrage will be allowed, but I believe that day to be inevitable, and I should certainly consider it my duty to vote. To the plea that the ignorant vote would be so greatly increased, I maintain that women will become educated by the use and possession of their right much faster than men who have become educated, and that there will be a larger proportion of conscientious and unpartisan votes than are cast now.
Sarah Orne Jewett.
WOULD WOMEN VOTE?
Over Thirty of the Most Famous Women Answer the Question.
Curiously enough the most important and vital question which enters into the woman suffrage discussion has hitherto been overlooked -- would women vote if they could? With view to securing the best attainable answer to this query, it has been propounded to some of the brightest minds -- women whose opinions would be most valuable. The writers whose letters are given below represent, it will be noticed, almost every walk of life in which the women of the United States have distinguished themselves, and this collection of opinions, it may justly be urged, will stand as the most important contribution ever offered to the woman suffrage question.
The Duke of Argyle, whom I remember once to have seen superbly overshadowed by his magnificent mother-in-law, the Duchess of Sutherland, though himself a fair specimen of progressive manhood, is sternly conservative womanward. In a lecture, which some twenty years ago he was gracious enough to deliver before a Mechanics' Institute, he said, "A woman has no right to appear upon a platform except when she is about to be hung -- then it is unavoidable." This smart saying caused great hilarity among his Grace's audience, a little wit from a nobleman going a great way. I used to quote that sentence in a lecture I was bold enough to deliver from many a platform, and it always brought a laugh at woman's expense -- but then, again, my comment on it, though not particularly smart, never failed to bring generous applause, and this comment was: "The freedom of the scaffold, the ghastly equality of the gallows, as graciously accorded to woman by the Duke of Argyle, is not enough. Give her a fair swing at life as well as at death; let her have a voice at least in the selection of the men who make and administer the laws under which woman may be taxed, divorced, deprived of her children, imprisoned, tried, and hung." That was my sentiment twenty years ago, it is mine to-day, and I propose to stand by it. Would I vote if I could? Yea, verily, at divers times and in divers places, to make up for my long political disability. I think that for the first presidential election after my tardy enfranchisement I would hie me to a certain city in which I lived during my trying days of the Republic, and when my little literary income was taxed for the carrying of a war in which no woman had any glory stock, only a ruinous investment of anxieties and agonies, and in that city I would wield the franchise with the patriotic prodigality of a newly-landed Hibernian Democrat, casting my vote right and left from "morn to dewy eve."
If the right were mine, I should hold it a duty and a pleasure to go to the polls and vote.
Susan E. Wallace
If suffrage were given me I certainly should not go the polls without my husband's company. Had that right been given before he was taken from me. it is not necessary for me to say what I should have done.
Mrs. Henry Ward Beecher.
Personally I have no sympathy with the Woman's Suffrage movement, but should it come to pass that the majority of women of the United States thought it fit to have a vote, I should fall into line as a matter of duty. When I think of the attendant necessities, such as separate polls for women, women inspectors of election, the means of appointment and the gradual merging of the detestable features of practical politics into a woman's life, I cannot but say that it is bad enough when men are compelled to mingle in the crowd that stir up the ingredients thrown into the political cauldron.
Anna Catharine Green.
Under no circumstances would I exercise the right of suffrage were it possible for me to do so. I see no benefit that could accrue to my sex by such on act. On the other hand, I see the harm which might ensue. There is a great deal of talk about the refining influence of woman upon politics, but the coarsening effects of polities upon woman are evidently overlooked. No, no! I do not wish to vote, and I hope the day may be far distant when my sex is given the lawful right to do so.
I do not feel prepared to say what, as an individual, I would do were franchise given to women.
Edith M. Thomas.
Whether I would vote would depend upon what was to be voted for. Political questions, as I look at them now from the outside, do not interest me enough to make me desire to be a voter. They do not seem to me to involve the principles that I really care for -- party politics I mean, of course. If I saw that my vote would help to make the national standard a higher one, I should consider it my duty to give it, and my desire is always to do my duty,
I should not vote. My reasons are that whenever I undertake any new enterprise I give a vast amount of mentality, vital force, and time to it. I have only enough mentality, vital force, and time now to inadequately meet the demands of nearer duties than national affairs. To keep my family comfortably looked after, my home attractive to my household and guests, (which is still a part of woman's sphere. I think), my literary contracts filled, and to follow my idea of duty in other directions, renders it impossible for me to enter into the subject of suffrage intelligently. I leave it, therefore, for the present to others who are more capable or to those who have fewer obligations of a domestic nature.
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
I have never worked for suffrage because I do not believe in it for all men any more than for all women. But if it came unsought, if it was conferred, its exercise becomes the citizen's duty. When the candidate suited me, I should certainly vote, but I would desire no part or lot in mere machine politics. The great point in regard to suffrage, so far as women are concerned, is the recognition which the state accords to manhood. Womanhood does not exist for it, and presumably, therefore, has no value. The vulgar and ignorant look upon it in this way, and treat women accordingly. The state ought to recognize those upon whom it imposes taxes and burdens in some other way than punishable creatures. If women are not allowed to exist as citizens, they ought not to be taxed as citizens, and they should be as free of punishment as they are declared to be of responsibility. I like to be governed myself, by some one who understands it, and I do not want any part in it because I do not think I understand it. But if it is to be a free game in which everybody takes a hand -- a dinner for which every one cooks his own potato -- women should not be left out without being heavily handicapped in the straggle for that existence which, once imposed, must be maintained; and it is not creditable to the great modern Republic to cast such a slur upon the women who helped to found it, or lower them in the eyes of the brutal and ignorant to whom it opens its arms.
I might vote if pressed into the necessity by the voting of all sorts of other women. But I shall hope that it may never fall to my experience. I believe that woman occupies a central, not an external place in the order of things, and I do not wish that order turned inside out.
Adeline D. T. Whitney.
Did I possess the right of suffrage, I certainly should vote on almost all occasions. The exceptions would be those few cases where the question to be voted upon demanded for an intelligent decision, technical knowledge that I had either insufficient time or ability to acquire; or where I happened to be distinctly opposed to all the candidates nominated for election.
Mary Putnam Jacobi, M. D.
Nothing would induce me to go to the polls and vote. For the reason that I do not think it is a woman's place, or within a woman's capacity to do so. I fully agree with St. Paul in his estimate of a woman's powers and duties.
Rose Terry Cooke.
I believe it would have been better to carefully restrict the voting of men by high educational and certain property qualifications. But since only the matter of general representation, and not a certain degree of intelligence and knowledge of the care of property are considered in the matter of deciding upon public questions which concern women as well as men, I believe common justice gives women the right to vote. Personally, I have no wish to hasten the day when woman suffrage will be allowed, but I believe that day to be inevitable, and I should certainly consider it my duty to vote. To the plea that the ignorant vote would be so greatly increased, I maintain that women will become educated by the use and possession of their right much faster than men who have become educated, and that there will be a larger proportion of conscientious and unpartisan votes than are cast now,
Sarah Orne Jewett.
Under no imaginable circumstances could I go to the polls or exercise the right of voting. American women enjoy without restraint every civil, social, ethical, and intellectual right compatible with feminine delicacy and refined Christian womanhood; and to invite them into the arena of politics would prove subversive of all domestic quietude, loosen the ties that link them to their true kingdom, the home hearth, and prove as disastrous to harmonious social order as did the "Wooden Horse" to the households of Troy. "Woman's right to vote" would involve the forfeiture of woman's privilege of commanding the reverence and deferential homage of mankind. Feminine opinion is a powerful political factor when expressed gently in the sacred precincts of home by dropping ballots of noble aims and exalted principles and sentiments into the open hearts and minds of brothers, husbands and sons, but wrangling and wrestling at "election polls" would inevitably resolve the whole question of woman's political influence into one of mere numerical valuation.
Augusta Evans Wilson.
I am in favor of Woman Suffrage, and would vote if the right were extended to me, for many reasons, based on the advantage to be derived therefrom by both sexes. One of my weightiest reasons for it is, that I think it would be the surest means of securing for women the simple justice of equal pay for equal work. Facts show that voters alone have their interests property guarded. For example, while the disbanded volunteers of the late war who stay at home and vote are a privileged class on whom honors and emoluments are heaped -- and very justly -- the regular army, who fought no less bravely, but who are non-voters, are treated with scant consideration. In time of peace, moreover, I believe that the exercise of suffrage would train women to higher thoughts and aims, and introduce a refining influence in politics, so that women would be made stronger and men finer thereby.
Mary L. Booth.
I should most certainly vote if I had the legal right to do so.
For the sake of other women who have wrongs to right, and to exert an influence in the direction of progress and reform, I should go to the polls and vote. Interested in all topics of the time: Education, religion, politics, the liquor question, social purity (with one moral. standard for both sexes), I should gladly endure a little discomfort or criticism for the privilege of declaring my conviction by a vote.
The sense of duty alone would induce me to vote if I could, but never should I do so from choice. The ballot-box receives woman's best aid when she exercises her influence upon her husband, brother or father to vote honestly and for the highest and best principles. If the polls are surrounded with such an impure atmosphere as to make respectable mnn dread going to them on election day, surely woman would have no place there.
Christine Terhune Herrick. [Daughter of Mary Virginia Terhune (Marion Harland), see above.]
To a good citizen -- man or woman -- the right to vote should imply the honorable exercise of a grave trust, after a conscientious consideration of the history, the significance, and the tendencies of national movements and political situations. Personally, I am not impatient for the advent of Woman Suffrage. But if it should come I certainly would recognize the obligations involved.
Mary Mapes Dodge.
Should I exercise the right of suffrage if I had it? I certainly should think I ought to do so.
Elizabeth Stuart Phelps.
Would women vote ! I confidently answer yes. Majorities of men must be in favor of woman's vote before it will be granted, since only by their will can this change come. When they have grown so large-minded and generous-hearted as to welcome woman to a place beside them upon the throne of government, women will not be at all backward about coming forward. King Majority will find his suit not less successful than have been those of lesser kings since time began. In some of the states women have voted, much to the terror of the illicit saloons and the liquor traffic, and women all over our country are gaining some dim idea that for one half the race to be wholly governed by laws made and administered by the other half is not fair play.
Frances [Francis] E. Willard.
I have never desired suffrage for women. I think woman has her sphere, and man his sphere, and that these spheres are not interchangeable. -- Nevertheless, if suffrage were given to women, I fear that I should feel it my duty to vote, but I, for one, would prefer that no such additional burden should be laid upon me.
Louise Chandler Moulton.
Whatever my opinions as to the importance or desirability to women of the ballot, if the polls were opened to them I should feel obliged to vote, for the same reason that I insist every man should vote now, namely, that the intelligence of the country shall be represented as well as its ignorance.
I have always believed in the right of Woman Suffrage, and when a few years since the right was first given in Boston to vote upon school matters, I complied with the conditions and voted.
Elizabeth P. Peabody.
I do not admit that any man, or body of men, can "extend to me the right" of self-government. That "right," like the right to breathe, is already as much woman's as man's; he simply denies her the chance to exercise it. Should opportunity arise, I should most certainly vote -- not as a privilege graciously granted by my masters, but as a right and a duty.Elizabeth Akers.
Edited by Terry Heller, Coe College
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