Women’s History Month: The Anti Suffrage Movement

After decades of struggling to gain the right to vote, women were finally granted that right with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment on August 18, 1920. But opponents to women’s suffrage were many, and not all of them were men. For example, Josephine Dodge, who attended Vassar College and was an accomplished woman of her time – heading, for example, a movement for the establishment of day nurseries for childcare, also founded, in 1911, the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage (NAOWS). Dodge gave speeches, wrote articles, and even testified before Congress in support of her beliefs. NAOWS, active on both the state and federal level, also established a newsletter, Woman’s Protest (reorganized as Woman Patriot in 1918).

Men Looking in Window of National Anti-Suffrage Association. 1911. Photographer Harris & Ewing. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

Men Looking in Window of National Anti-Suffrage Association. 1911. Photographer Harris & Ewing. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

Mrs. Dodge contended that because women had special rights and special exemptions in society, “she has failed to discharge the obligations which the voting man assumes with the elective franchise.” Further, as she pointed out:

While she may have political power, she does not have political control. Stability of government demands that the control of government should remain in the hands of those who can be held responsible for results.”

To exercise political power without responsibility, would, in her estimation, “menace the stability of the state.”

What about treating women equally then? Mrs. Dodge objected to this solution:

…it would be a brutal interpretation of woman’s rights to insist that the hard-won body of legislation, which protects woman because she is the potential mother, be abolished and the vote given to woman in exchange. Yet this and this only is equal suffrage. “To treat women exactly as men” is to deny all the progress through evolution which has been made by an increasing specialization of function. Woman suffrage in its last analysis is a retrogressive movement toward conditions where the work of man and woman was the same because neither sex had evolved enough to see the wisdom of being a specialist in its own line.”

“Woman are too sentimental for jury duty” –Anti-Suffrage argument / Kenneth Russell Chamberlain, 1891-1984, artist (published by Puck Publishing Corporation, Jan. 23, 1915). Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

“Woman are too sentimental for jury duty” –Anti-Suffrage argument / Kenneth Russell Chamberlain, 1891-1984, artist (published by Puck Publishing Corporation, Jan. 23, 1915). Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Her movement was only disbanded in 1920, after the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment.

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