Carrie Chapman Catt

Statement before U.S. House Judiciary Committee – Feb. 16, 1904

Carrie Chapman Catt
February 16, 1904— Washington, D.C.
Print friendly

Following are excerpts of Catt's opening and closing statements before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee in 1904. Catt conducted the hearing on behalf of the National American Women Suffrage Association.

Opening Statement

Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen of the Committee : Last year when we appeared before the committee to speak in behalf of the bill asking the submission of the 16th Amendment we called attention to the fact that Congress had appointed a great many commissions for investigation of the conditions, political and otherwise, of various classes of people, and inasmuch as we have come here year after year claiming that woman suffrage had wrought none of the ills which its enemies said it would and that it had brought many benefits, we asked that Congress, through a commission, should investigate it in the western States. You are aware that no such commission resulted from our petition. When Mahomet commanded the mountain to come to him and the mountain did not come he said: 'Then Mahomet will go to the mountain.' We have therefore this year brought Colorado to you and the speakers who will address you this morning are all from that State.

Closing Statement

When the constitution of Colorado was first made in 1876 a provision was placed in it that at any time the Legislature might enfranchise the women by a referendum of a law to the voters. That was done in 1893 and it was passed by 6,000 majority. Last year an amendment to the constitution was submitted to the electors, now both men and women, concerning the qualifications for the vote and in it there was included, of course, the recognition of the enfranchisement of women quite as much as that of men, so that it was virtually a woman suffrage amendment. It received a majority of 35,000, showing certainly that after ten years of experience the people were willing to put woman suffrage in the constitution, where it became an integral part of it and permanent.

When the American constitution was formulated it was the first of its kind and this was the first republic of its kind. Man suffrage was an experiment and it was considered universally a very doubtful one. We find overwhelming evidence that the thinkers of the world feared that if this republic should fail to live it would come to its end through the instability of the minds of men and that revolutionary thought would arise to overturn the Government. We find it in George Washington and Benjamin Franklin and all of our statesmen as well as those who were watching the experiment here so anxiously from across the sea. What was the result? The result was they made a constitution just as ironclad as they could, so as to prevent its amendment. They made it as difficult for the fundamental law of the nation to be changed as they knew how to do.... Those of us who wish to enter the political life, who believe that we have quite as good a right to express ourselves there as any man—what is our position? Within the last century there has been extension after extension of the suffrage, and every one has put suffrage for women further off....

Do you not see that while in this country there are millions of people who believe in the enfranchisement of women, while there is more sentiment for it than in any other, yet we are restricted by this stone wall of constitutional limitations which was set at a time when a republican form of government was totally untried? Because of this we find ourselves distanced by monarchies and the women enfranchised in other lands are coming to us to express their pity and sympathy.... So I ask that you will this time make a report to the House of Representatives and if you do not believe that we are right, for Heaven's sake make an adverse report. Anything will be more satisfactory than the indifference with which we have been treated for many years. Do at least recognize that we have a cause, that there are women here whose hearts are aching because they see great movements to which they desire to give their help and yet they are chained down to work for the power that is not yet within their hands... If you, Mr. Chairman, feel that you can not offer a favorable report because the majority of the committee is not favorable, then I beg of you, in behalf of the women of the United States, to show where you stand and to give an adverse report.

PDF version