Carrie Chapman Catt

The Outlook (Boston Festival) - May 10, 1905

Carrie Chapman Catt
May 10, 1905— Boston, Massachusetts
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In this speech, Catt chastised Western states for the perceived hypocrisy of rebuking woman suffrage while also touting a liberal society.

Upon occasions like this, one is expected to express only the thoughts which are gay, optimistic and joyous. I confess that I like that kind of speech at a social gathering, yet my mood bids me talk of more serious things tonight. Within the past eight months, thirty-five of our forty eight states have held legislative sessions. The proceedure of each legislature has now passed into history. These records will forever stand as mile posts along the way, reliably pointing out to future generations just how intelligently each state met the living problems of 1905. They will indicate too just how far these legislatures have led civilization onward or how much they may have contributed to a receding wave which every now and then appears in the tide of progress.

We search these records for the evidences which concern the cause nearest and dearest to us, and what do we find? Certainly nothing which indicates legislative progress in our movement, nothing particularly encouraging or hopeful.

We have come to expect little from Mass or from the far East. The opponents here have grown stubborn and stiffnecked. The West finds amusement in talking of the effete East and in boasting of its own liberality and we have come to expect more of it in consequence. There the prairies are broader, and the mountains higher and nature has been more bountiful in all her proportions. There civilization is newer and men and women are relieved from the narrowing influence of ancestral example, and are more willing to give up the thoughts of their grandfathers and to think thoughts more in accord with their own time. Yet in that great West every suffrage bill has been voted down the past legislative session. Perhaps the most significant of these records is that of California. The perpetual sunshine and the impressive fertility of nature has taught men to be generous.

For the past year, the women have conducted an able campaign there. The papers say they have made no mistakes. Their cause was nobly presented at the legislature and by women whose names and stations should prove a guarantee for the worth of any cause they might advocate. Eight years ago the voters of the state carried the question with the exception of San Francisco and Sacramento. The legislature therefore knew there was a powerful sentiment for woman suffrage in the State. Yet they not only voted the measure down but speeches were made so coarse and vulgar as to positively offensive even to the opponents themselves. The question was merely upon the submission to the voters. This has been the question in all the Western States. The action of the legislatures has been a refusal to permit the voters to express themselves upon it. When I began doing suffrage work, and it was not so very many years ago as time flies, there were suffrage debates in legislatures. Men of character, intelligence and consequence defended their opposition to suffrage for women by dignified argument. That rarely happens now. When their is any debate the presentation of the opponents is merely spectacular --- a play to the galleries. It deceives no one. It has not the slightest influence upon the fate of the bill. I think any one who has watched carefully the legislative progress of woman suffrage would agree that this little sample taken from the debate in Kansas is fairly representative of the whole legislative situation.

Two Kansas speeches.

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