Carrie Chapman Catt

Address to Delaware Legislature for Ratification – March 1920

Carrie Chapman Catt
March 22, 1920— Wilmington, Delaware
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For sixty years the educational work for the enfranchisement of women went forward without a pause. Victories were won here and there and sentiment increased everywhere. When a quarter of a million women voted in the city of Chicago in 1914, this sentiment throughout the country seemed to double over night. It gathered in groups, it became outspoken, it asked that something be done. When in 1916 the two big political parties came out squarely for woman suffrage, a sharp turn in the onward march of the movement was taken and every signboard along the way pointed to certain victory not far ahead. When a year later (1917) the great state of New York by a majority of over one hundred thousand gave the vote to women, the final victory was practically won.

The inconsistences and anomalies of the situation began to work upon the imagination of our people. A women, for instance, might move from Delaware to New York or California or many another state, and there she could not only vote, but she might be elected to the Assembly and help make laws for the state. She might even be elected to Congress and help make laws for the nation, and then she might return to Delaware where she would be denied the right to vote for a dog-catcher. An American woman has just been elected to the British House of Commons and was elected by her blunt common sense and American humor, but should she decide to return to her old home in Virginia, she would not be trusted to vote for a school director under the present law. Kansas City is two cities, one in Kansas, one in Missouri, with the big Missouri River flowing between. On the Kansas side the women are voting, enrolled with the parties, serving as election officials and keeping things clean. On the Missouri side women hold precisely the same political status as that accorded to idiots and criminals. These anomalies and many more have made people laugh at the absurdity—laugh, think and draw conclusions. They saw that a continuation of this condition was states rights gone mad.

Moreover, the Republican and Democratic Parties, in thirty states where women have the right to vote for president in any event, are urging women to organize, speak, work and raise money for them because thirteen women are votes, but in eighteen other states where they are not voters the women are holding these same parties blamable for their disenfranchisement. The leaders have seen clearly that this is an impossible condition. As Lincoln said, "the nation cannot exist half slave and half fee," so now all intelligent people see that it cannot pose as a friend and sponsor of women suffrage in New York and be its enemy in Delaware.

All these absurdities have been fermenting in the minds of the nation and bringing convictions which are sound and unshakable.

So it happened that when Congress on June 4th, 1919, submitted a Federal Suffrage Amendment, it found the nation glad to receive it.

From the very first day when Governor Henry T. Allen of Kansas, Republican and Dry, and Governor Alfred Smith of New York, Democrat and Wet, responded to our telegraphed appeal for a special session with a prompt call which brought ratification in six days after the submission, all through the months Governors, legislators, the chairmen and national committees of the two big parties have given such frank, sincere and generous aid to the campaign of ratification that the amendment has broken all records.

The Twelfth Amendment made the shortest time of any yet added to the Constitution. It went through in nine months and thirteen days, but there were only 17 states then and 13 had ratified. Our amendment had been in the process of ratification just nine months and thirteen days yesterday and had been ratified by 34 states. But the really significant part of the story is that 25 of these ratifications took place in special sessions.

On the whole, the ratifications have moved forward in splendid triumphal procession. Men have stood by the amendment heroically and many incidents of courage, nobility of purpose and proud scorn of political enemies, have won the gratitude of the women of the nation.

The opponents are not all convinced and it is natural and normal that they should have concentrated their frantic efforts on the last two or three states. There are women who do not want to vote and men who are determined that women shall not vote, even if all wanted to. But there are men who not only do not want to vote by do not note. That does not prevent men who want to vote from possessing the rights. The vote is a liberty extended. If on election day a man desires to go fishing instead of voting, he is no patriot, but he is within his rights. The vote is therefore no burden, no oppression—one may use it or not use it. But the denial of the vote is an oppression for there are those who desire to exercise their citizen's right to a share in the government which they support with their taxes.

The opponents of woman suffrage no longer argue the unfitness of women to vote, the neglect of home and children, etc., etc., as was their rule before the amendment was submitted. Now their cry is states rights, states rights, and their former arguments have given way to throwing mud and calling suffragists bad names. But all these experiences are the symptoms of a lost cause. The men of America will see to it that Canada on the North and Great Britian across the sea, and many other nations which have already enfranchised their women, shall not long carry the leadership in our own national specialty, self-government—a nation of the people by the people and for the people.

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