Carrie Chapman Catt

Radio address - Oct.1928

Carrie Chapman Catt
October 01, 1928
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Have you registered, fellow citizens? If not, why not? Perhaps you are among women who suffer from "inferiority complex" and think one vote will make no difference, therefore why bother to register and cast it? I've met such women, and men too. I know of a woman's political club, a party club, in a big city. Every women in it is a partisan, yet when this campaign started, it was discovered that only 33% of the membership had ever registered and voted. They were members because they liked the teas and bridges, but they did not vote because it was too much trouble. Isn't that enough to make a kangaroo laugh?

Do not hasten to say that women never did want to vote anyway until I tell you another. There is an organization of Christian Citizenship in this country composted of church people, mostly men. In the same city where this curious club of partisan women live there is a branch of this association and it was also discovered [unreadable] the same percentage of its members had registered and voted.

It is laughable to think of party women counting themselves in at a party bridge but counting themselves out on election day, but women have not had the vote very long and may not know any better. Men have had the vote for some generations and when some of them join a League for Christian Citizenship, perhaps to pray for food government, but don't vote for it, the situation ceases to be comic and becomes tragic. It is a behaviorism that only a psychologist could explain and even he would be nonplussed.

A few countries have tried making voting compulsory. I hope we will not be driven to that.

Listen: One hundred pennies make a dollar and ten million pennies make $100,000. What is a penny? It is so insignificant, it is scarcely worth stooping to pick up when dropped, but $100,000 will build a school house or a library or an old folks' home. It can save minds from despair and bodies from torture and will keep on working for at least two generations; this is, if the pennies stay together. Now suppose one silly penny said "I'm no good" and rolled itself away. Then 100 pennies caught the infections and a dollar disappeared and all the pennies, getting an attack of "inferiority complex," slunk off into the gutter and kid themselves in the slime. What becomes of the good deeds the $100,000 might have done?

The people are the only rulers of this country and they elect those who do the actual work of carrying on the very big business which this country now represents. Suppose, one by one, the voters get tired of themselves and play wall when the voting is going on. Who is left to do the electing? We might always depend upon a small group of patriots, men and women, ready to vote or to die for the honor of their country and the honesty of its government. There is another class that would stand fast - the grafters - men who steal from every appropriation made, to pay the cost of public welfare. They are a modern variety of thief, slick, shifty and conscienceless. Now, if all the patriots were in one party and all the thieves in the other, and if we knew that the patriots outnumbered the grafters, we, lazy boned, idle minded, "let-George-do-it" citizens might fly kites while these two groups fought their annual battle. Alas, some of the patriots and some of the thieves are Republicans and some are Democrats. More, some of the patriots look so much like grafters and some of the grafters look so much like patriots, that they are not easily identified in advance. We, the voters, can only sponsor the saints and fight the thieves in our own party as best we may, waving, meanwhile, the best principles and the highest ideals of our government in the faces of our fellow partisans. The parties will climb higher just as fast as the voters who compose them see straighter and act more courageously. Truth and courage only spread and grow when there are energetic campaigners behind them.

When I was a child, I learned the importance of a single vote. It happened more than fifty years ago. My small town in Iowa had a referendum on local option. I had no interest in it until it was over. Then it was revealed that local option had carried by a majority of one. It was not difficult to discover who that one was. An old man, practically bed-ridden and 94 years old, had wanted so desperately to vote on the question that four neighbors carried him in a chair to the polling place. He had been unable to walk for some years and voting had been a by-gone task, but he was the happiest man in that town when he learned that his vote had carried the town and he lived a year longer to boast of it. Yet, if the votes on the two sides had not been piled up to make the tie, his vote could not have made a majority, so, after all, every vote in the election had counted. That case was never forgotten in that town. They story has a moral, too, for never after that fateful day was an open saloon tolerated there. It may be that that one vote of an old man was worth more to this nation than all the ninety-five years of that man's life. How do you know but that your vote on November 6th may make a great decision for this nation?

Is there one woman within the sound of my voice who is "disillusioned"? I meet them sometimes. Well, go and bury your disillusionment in the backyard and start over again. There is nothing wrong with the human race nor with the part of it that lives self-government. You cannot vote and be a part of this great event if you do not register. There will not be another presidential election for four years and some of us will not be here then. This is the appointed time for you to accept your citizen's privilege and join in the nation's great demonstration.

No election makes a final decision upon questions, but a movement, an idea, a trend of thought, may be started in an election or given a push forward, or checked. Any and all elections may prove crucial to the nation.

How long do you think women were working that you might have the opportunity to register and vote this year? About 125 years, and for seventy years the campaign was intensive, growing more so every year, with an organized army back of it that kept its camp fires eternally burning, an army equipped with certain conviction that come what may, women would vote one day. What some of you may not realize is that no election brought you the vote. It came as the final outcome of hundreds of contests in legislatures, congresses, and at the polls. Women in plenty died that you might have the vote; women by thousands lived very hour of their working lives with the thought of you - the women of their future - before them. How those women sacrificed, saving the pennies to give the cause a printing fund, and how they labored to get a meeting together. I was a late-comer in the movement, but even I have swept out the church or the school houses, lighted the kerosene lamps, introduced the speaker, held the babies, and passed the contribution box. The movement began in candle light and passing through whale oil, kerosene and gas, came out resplendent with electric lights. It began before stenography and typewriters, telephones or automobiles had been dreamt of. It used them all to bring the century long movement to its triumphant end. I remember one woman who walked fifty miles to a meeting, and walked back to start a suffrage club. All of the first women walked, or went on horseback, the last drove their own motor cars. In the name of the millions of women who lived, labored and died that you might have the vote; in the memory of the millions who followed an ideal that where the people rule, women are people and must be counted in, I implore you to register this year. Let us come to our citizens duty 100% strong.

It takes time, fellow citizens, to get an idea adopted, so do not think the world is going to pass into perpetual perfection after November 6th, but let me tell you that sitting on a watch tower with a mental telescope in hand to discover which way the trend of ideas is moving, is about the most thrilling occupation may citizen can have. It has some advantages over other indulgences. It isn't taxed, nor will you pay for gas to keep it going. It is the cheapest, the funniest, and the most engaging occupation I know. Just try it.

Fellow citizen, on November 6th please answer "here" when your turn comes.

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