This speech contains many graphic descriptions of events that, while based in fact, are framed in a way some may find offensive.
“Subject and Sovereign”
Across the State of South Dakota there flows the great Missouri River. Its deep turgid waters and low bluffs, cut into two parts a vast, fertile plain, stretching away to the Eastward, until it is merged in the prairies of Iowa and Nebraska, and to the Westward, until it is lost in the lines of the Black Hills. On the East side, it is known to the world as the State of South Dakota; on the West side it is known as the Sioux Reservation. Upon this Reservation, the government has maintained one of the most hostile and troublesome of all its Indian tribes.
For 400 years the American people have been trying to find a solution for what is known as an Indian problem. From the earliest days when those first intrepid pioneers, in their little settlements along the shores of the Atlantic were hazarding life and fortune to build the foundation of this Republic, all down the years of American history to the present period of prosperity and greatness, the Indian has been a persistent source of trouble and anxiety. To preserve peace with him and to make him over into a useful and valuable member of society has been a constant and all-absorbing problem. With no precedent or experience to guide them, the Indian policy of the colonies was of necessity experimental. The government’s policy has continued to be experimental all through the 400 years. It has included almost every conceivable theory which could be hoped to bring about the desired result. Force, coercion, intimidation, persuasion, bribery, schools and churches have all been included in the varied and ever changing policy. Millions of dollars have been expended and thousands of precious lives have been sacrificed in the endeavor to solve the problem, but it is unsolved still. It is the fashionable and popular sentiment today to denounce the government because of its failure to settle this question years ago. But to the credit of the government, let it be said at all times, that more than once it has acknowledged its own incompetency to deal with this grave question. It has turned aside its own policy to accept the advices of reformers who said they knew just what ought to be done. It is a common opinion to-day, that I have often heard expressed that had our ancestors performed their plain duty, there would be no Indian problem, and every Red man would have been transformed years ago into a respected and honorable member of society. Be that as it may, the fact remains that despite all the advices of philanthropists, reformers and religionists; despite the varied and changing experiments the government has tried; despite the fact that the united wisdom of the American people has been free to expend itself upon this problem, it is unsolved still.
There are Indians and there are Indians. In the course of time some of the tribes have become extinct, protesting with their dying breath against the institutions of the pale face; other tribes there are which have accepted civilization and rapidly developing into respectable American citizens. Still other tribes have accepted the bounty of the government as a bribe for peace and are living out the few remaining years of their tribal existence in a condition of lazy and filthy degradation. But it is none of these tribes which constitute the Indian problem to-day. So far as they are concerned it may be said to be solved. But there are other tribes still. Tribes who have met every effort to civilize them with a periodic and bloody protest; Tribes who only live in peace because of their fear of the U.S. troops. Tribes who must be carefully watched and watched that the lives of pioneer settlers in the West may be protected from their depredations. These are the tribes which make up the center and circumference of the Indian problem today. One of the most representative of all these tribes are the Sioux living upon the West side of the Missouri on the Reservation extending through the Dakotas. With these Indians, a new treaty was made three years ago, which introduced into the governmental policy a new theory and a new experiment. You are doubtless all more or less familiar with the provisions of that treaty.
It offered to each Sioux adult a quarter section of land, as fertile and productive as any within the United States. It agreed to furnish him with the aid of a skilled agriculturalist who would instruct him in all the arts of modern farming. It agreed further to supply him with houses and barns, blankets and food and clothing; with seeds, wagons and implements; with horses and cattle and hogs – in fact to set him up in the business of practical and prosperous farming and to maintain him until such time as he shall be self dependent and self-reliant. There was nothing especially new in these provisions. They had all been tried before. The new provision was the promise of the government to give to each Sioux who would accept these gifts as conditions, that sacred right and privilege we call the American ballot. It was the climax reached by 400 years of constant experiment – the last effort of a discouraged government, to will this people to peace and civilization.
On the East side of the Missouri River there lies a territory known as the Crow Creek Reservation. Portions of this territory were opened to white settlement under Presidents Grant and Hayes. Following the precedent established by these two presidents, Pres. Arthur just at the close of his administration opened still another portion. In these days of lively competition in the business of bread earning, the ownership of land even in the wilds of the West has come to be regarded as the sure beginning of a fortune and every new section opened by the government has witnessed the repetition of scenes of strife to secure possession of it. So it was, that for some time before the proclamation went forth this Crow Creek territory was surrounded by the camps of ambitious would-be landowners, waiting for the authority to take up the government claims. When the rumor came that the proclamation would be signed in the morning, the camps arose and with true Western enterprise, they crept over upon the coveted land. In the darkness of the night they staked their claims, put up their houses and established themselves as proprietors. The sun had set at night upon a prairie flat and unbroken. It rose in the morning upon a full-fledged and active civilization. Within a week every acre of tillable land had been taken up.
With the incoming Cleveland administration there arose an agitation in behalf of the Indian, who it was claimed had not been sufficiently recompensed for the land, and at length yielding to the great pressure brought to bear upon him. Mr. Cleveland revoked the proclamation of Mr. Arthur. Although these settlers in full accord with law had been in rightful possession, as they believed for several weeks, they were all ordered off the land and in the event of any failure to comply with the order, the President threatened to bring against them the full force of the whole U.S. Army. Daniel Webster (inserted in text). The Press took up the matter and continued the agitation in long and labored editorials. A general sentiment seemed to prevail all over the East that these settlers were at best only a lot of speculators and land grabbers whose rights and convenience it was not necessary to consider. One paper declared them a “lot of bummers and vagrants.” Another styled them a crowd of desperadoes armed to the teeth with guns and butcher knives. A great religious journal whose comments upon such a question should at least be calm and unbiased declared they were a gang of cowboys, and the off-scoring of respectable society and there was not one among them all with whom a decent person would shake hands even at $5 a shake. Everybody expected trouble. It seemed that a terrible war was imminent between the U.S. troops and these terrible desperadoes of the West.
One of these “vagrants and bummers” thought the honor of her community was at stake and so she set out to take a census of all the Crow Creek settlers. She discovered the very interesting fact that nearly half of these terrible desperadoes were American women and of these women an astonishingly large percent were the graduates of Eastern colleges. It is needless for me to say that the U.S. troops were never called out to enforce the President’s orders. They got off the land without any assistance but they did not leave Dakota. They found other lands lying nearby on the East side of the Missouri. There they are to be found today the owners of their claims and full-fledged American farmers.
At one time I rode for many miles out into the country from the village of Pukwana. We stopped at every farm and every farm was owned and cultivated by an American woman. I saw houses and barns and every nail in them had been driven by women. I saw a genteel cottage with an amazing red roof and porch and the stylish looking dressmaker who lived there assured me she painted it roof and all. I saw field plowed by women, and harvests sowed and gathered by women. There were among the number, two teachers of panting, a teacher of elocution, two University girls who had graduated with the highest honors in their classes, a writer of stories, an ex-editor, several teachers, dressmakers and book-keepers. I give you these facts to show the character of the women. I dare say there is no territory in the U.S where in proportion to the population there are so many women farmers as in that tract lying along the East side of the Missouri River. There are young maids and old maids, widows with and without children, but in accord with the homestead law, of course they were all unmarried women.
I believe there is a common notion that women who have been government claim holders, have been little better than speculators, hiring some man to plow the necessary number of acres, sow the necessary crop, which they allowed to grow up to weeds, and then left the land as soon as it was theirs. However that may be with women in other sections, the Crow Creek women are self-reliant, independent, individualized American farmers. There isn’t one among them, who could not carry on her farm without the aid of any man. No more independent class of citizens is there anywhere to be formed than these Dakota women.
Across the waters of the Missouri they look upon the broad lands occupied by the Sioux. Two twin prairies, alike in fertility in resources and climate. Both are occupied by a wronged and defrauded class. On the East side the women just being freed from the thralldom the customs of centuries have imposed upon them. On the West side the Indians just emerging from the darkness of Savagery.
Out in the West our people do not think much of pedigree. It is not often one hears inquiries as to another’s antecedents. As one Western man said: Everybody out here stands on his own hypotenuse. However in these days of science, we are repeatedly told that if we would thoroughly know the characteristics of an individual, it is always best to investigate the character of his grandfather and grandmother. In the just consideration of the claims of these two classes of citizens it will certainly be good sense to inquire a little into their pedigree. For two hundred years every detail of the Sioux is known and every page of that history is stained with blood.
There is an opinion, somewhat common, which I have often heard expressed, that when white men first began to settle America they found the Indian an embodiment of all virtue; no emotion ever stirred his breast save the highest honor and integrity. Be that as it may concerning other Indians, the Sioux were never contaminated by the influence of the pale face. It was not until white men had lived in the Eastern section of this country for 200 yrs that any white man had ever looked into the face of a Sioux. Two hundred years ago Father Hennepin undertook the discovery of the Source of the Mississippi. It was he who crossed for the first time the track of the Sioux. He was captured by them and after a most marvelous escape, he wrote the first chapter of their history. At that time they were in full possession of the greater portion of Iowa and Minnesota. Among all the neighboring tribes they were known as the most cruel and audacious of all the Northwest Indians. Now and then a captive had escaped their surveillance and the blood-curdling tale he told of their cruelties spread far and near. Not a warrior was there in all that great country whose heart did not quail within him whenever he met a band of Sioux. Well he knew all the details of his fate – how at the very moment of the conflict, the Sioux Squaws at home were (2) gathering the fagots and (1) setting the stakes that were to burn him alive. Well, he knew how while the fires were slowly consuming his feet, these same warriors would playfully dance around him and gleefully snip off his nose and ears with his tomahawk – how they would put out his eyes and pull out his tongue. Few Sioux warriors were there whose row of scalp locks dangling at his belt did not entitle him to wear upon all great occasions, the blood stained eagle’s plume. So renowned were they for their atrocities, which had never been known to grant quarter to a vanquished foe, no enemy dared to encroach upon their domain. This was the reputation they bore when they were first discovered by white men.
Later, when Lewis and Clarke, only 86 yrs ago made their adventurous trip up the Missouri they crossed again the path of the Sioux and wrote the second chapter of their history. They repeated and corroborated all that Father Hennepin had said. Later still when white men began to look longingly over the Western prairies and to push Westward the…
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…from the infernal regions could have perpetrated such a deed. They tied delicate women to trees and in plain sight murdered their husbands in cruelest fashion. They tied men to trees and while slow fires were consuming their feet, in plain sight their wives were outraged in such manner as no voice would dare describe. They put babes in ovens and baked them alive. They disjointed the hands and feet of infants and carried them away as trophies. They tied the hands of little children together and slung them over fence posts like saddlebags to die. They ripped out the hearts of the dead and carried them away steaming hot on poles. They cut the bodies of their victims into shreds. They adorned the fence posts along the road with the heads of their victims from which the eyes and tongues had been pulled out. O, it was a scene to make the flesh creep and the blood run cold of the hardest hearted. It was a scene compared with which the wildest flights of imagination in Dante’s Inferno fades into utter insignificance. If ever a human thought deserved to be called hell-born it was the plot of that Minn. massacre. The Government treated with them. A few of the leaders were hung. To the rest were given blankets and food and clothing. But in five years more heredity had made its impress and they were on the war path again. The great and cruel Fetterman massacre was the result. There were more blankets and food and clothing. Heredity will tell and in 1876 without the memory of all, they had donned the war paint again. The U.S. troops were called out and were kept in the West for two long years. Some of the brightest and most promising lives were sacrificed in that war, including the much beloved Custer. Even then they did not surrender. A large portion fled to Canada under the leadership of the lamented Sitting Bull. After a stay of three years in that inhospitable country he was frozen out and came back to the U.S. where blankets and food was more plentiful. It was then that they were put on the Dakota Reservation. A little later, the new provisions were offered them which opened the gate to every murdering, scalping warrior among them to all the privileges and immunities of American citizenship. Scarcely had the 300 who at first signed the treaty agreed to its provisions that the ghost dance came in fashion and the great majority of this newly enfranchised tribe joined in its fantasies. The U.S. troops were again called out at great expense in order that the honest settlers on the East side of the River might be protected from the depredations of these insane and unreasoning voters on the West side. This is the pedigree of the Sioux. It is not prejudice, no illiberal anti-Indian sentiment. It is the calm and unbiased testimony of authentic history.
On the East side the women have their pedigree too. There is behind them a long line of American civilization. They are citizens who have been reared under the educating influences of American institutions, citizens whose hearts have thrilled with American patriotism since earliest infancy. They are a class of citizens who represent industry, economy and intelligence. The government has looked upon these two true prairies of the West. It has recognized the pedigree of the two classes of people who occupy them. With the magic wand of its authority it has touched the Sioux upon the West side and has said: “Arise out of your barbarism, You are today the public charges of the government yet we propose to make every one among you who will, a sovereign. We shall give to you the authority to help shape every law and custom and institution in America. To the women on the East side it has said, you are intelligent law-abiding citizens. The government tax you in full upon your possessions but on account of the cut of your clothes we can allow you no voice in the councils of the Nation. To the Indians, it has said We impose in the U.S. a tariff tax which must be paid by all consumers of market products, but we will exempt you from this tax as well, we shall supply you with blankets and food and clothing. To the women it has said, we shall be obliged to demand from your hard earnings this indirect tax in order that the treasury of the National shall be full enough to buy blankets and tobacco for the voters on the West side.
Gentlemen, I ask you where is there a principle of government, of economics, of common sense or justice which should have established that inconsistency? and made this comparison possible? I am told that the Sioux have been cruelly wronged by the government, that they have been defrauded of lands which should have been theirs. They tell us the ballot is given to the Indians of this generation as a sort of restitution for the wrongs our ancestors visited upon their ancestors. It is always a safe thing to accuse one’s ancestors of a neglect of duty. There is not the slightest chance any of them will arise to defend themselves. They certainly must have been a very thievish and disagreeable lot of people for long before they had ever heard of the Sioux, they must have lain awake nights to devise means to rob their own wives and daughters. They robbed the Sioux of a portion of his possession but they made a pretense of paying for it, but they robbed every married woman in America, (and at that time every woman was married if she could find anything in the shape of a man to marry her. No dream ever came to the mind of a young girl so filled with horror as that of seeing herself an “old maid”) From all these women they took away every dollar. A father might loan his daughter a million, but not a cent of it could she claim. They denied to all women too the right to accumulate property and even the poor washerwomen was denied the wretched privilege of collecting her hard-earned wages.
They at least granted to the Indian his blanket and his pony, but they took away from the married woman the clothes that were on her own back. Though she had earned them herself, they were not hers. She couldn’t even own her own false teeth and when her husband died he could will them away if he chose. She couldn’t own her own legs. If she fell down and broke one of them, she couldn’t sue anybody for damages for the leg was not hers. Her husband could sue for her and he could spend the money, for the leg and the damage was his. They tell us it is impossible to say how rich the present Sioux would have been had their ancestors been paid a fair price for the lands that were taken from them. So I say it is impossible for anybody to say how rich this generation of women would have been, or what the distribution of wealth would have been today, had our mother ancestors been free to own their own property, to accumulate new riches and to will it to her daughters.
They tell us cruel white men have robbed the Sioux of the chiefest pleasure of his life – the chase of the buffalo and the antelope. Aye, but crueler still they stepped into the sacred precinct of the home, and snatched from the mother’s arms the babe she had gone down into the shadow of the valley of death to bring into existence and gave it away if her husband so willed. Indeed the present generation have continued this wrong of our ancestors in most of the States and the married mother has no right whatsoever to her own child. In happy homes, she is never made to suffer through this law, because most men are infinitely better than the law. But when there is a bad man, and there are lots of them, he finds a law in most of the States his aider and abettor which steals from his wife the child that is dearer than life. It is a law which has landed thousands of women in the insane asylum and driven thousands more broken hearted to their graves.
Our ancestors at least granted liberty to the Indian to live his life as he chose, but they wouldn’t permit a woman to go to the post office after her own mail, she couldn’t go to a public lecture, and even in the house of God the women must sit on one side and the men on the other. A young man could go to church with his girl even in those days but he couldn’t sit with her. I once heard of a very bold young man who did walk in and sit down with his girl. The whole congregation were terribly scandalized and the good minister arose in his pulpit and in a voice trembling with excitement thundered out, “I want it distinctly understood there is to be no promiscuous sittin in this house.” Why, I know a church where it has been the custom for the women to sit on one side and the men on the other. One man who had
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…how many ballots must be given to the women farmers on the East side of the River?
There is a deep and abiding prejudice against woman suffrage. I don’t know why it is unclear. Alexander Hamilton was right when he said “Man is a reasoning but rarely a reasonable animal.” Story of xx. I think there are people so prejudiced against it that if you told them eternal destruction would come and that woman suffrage alone would xx it they would say bring on the destruction. There is no woman suffragist, great or small, who in the course of her experience has not seen congressmen, or legislators, or reformers, or philanthropists or ministers or other good people to whom she has appealed for aid in this cause, shrug their shoulders in self-satisfaction and exclaim “O you are not working at this thing in the right manner. What you ought to do is get all the women to want to vote and when they all want to vote, and want to vote bad enough, so they refuse to cook their husband’s beefsteak and mend his stockings and make his bed, and sew on his buttons and take care of his children; when they want to vote bad enough to go away and leave their husbands and will take up arms and threaten to kill every man, or give some other similar wild evidence that they really want the ballot, then we think you will get it. This is the commonest reason urged why there is no haste to enfranchise women. It is said in the face of the fact that more petitions have been poured into Congress and Legislatures asking for the enfranchisement of women, than upon any other subject whatsoever. In the face of the fact that there are thousands of women today who are sacrificing every effort of their lives to establish this greatest of reforms. Did the Sioux want to vote? Not one among them ever asked for the ballot. Not the most sanguine of the Indian Rights Association would say for a moment that anyone over 30 yrs of age would be a fit voter. Some of the younger ones learned the rudiments of an education, but the great majority couldn’t tell the difference between a ballot and a cross-cut saw. We hear a great deal of affected anxiety lest this fearful responsibility shall be thrust upon women. The government thrust it upon the Sioux unasked and unwanted. They tell us the woman’s vote would only introduce an ignorant element into politics in fact that women do not know enough to vote. This they say in the light of the 30,000 young women who are graduated every year from our colleges, in the light of their achievements in every line of science and literature and art, in the face of the fact that the vast majority of those chosen to mould the character of our future citizens as teachers in the public schools are women. What did the Sioux know? During our suffrage amendment campaign in South Dakota two years ago, Rev. Anna Shaw, the most eloquent advocate of our cause, spoke in one of the largest towns. She was severely critiqued by the leading journal which declared in a long and labored editorial that the great majority of women were utterly incapable of understanding the grave problems of state. They would have difficulty in balancing carefully the pros and cons of complicated questions like the tariff and the silver question. A few days later in another town someone pointed out to her two of the newly enfranchised Sioux. They were sauntering up and down the street dragging government blankets behind them and were smoking long black pipes. She walked straight up to them and introduced herself. “Mr. White Feather and Mr. Crow Horse, I understand that you are new citizens of the American Republic. I understand you have renounced your own monarchic government and I want to ask you what is your opinion about the benefits in a representative government. I want to know too, whither you are going to be a free trader or a protectionist – and if you don’t mind, what is your opinion on the silver question anyway.” And Mr. White Feather and Mr. Crow Horse both exclaimed with one breath Ugh! Ugh! and that was all they knew about American politics.
They tell us as a whole women are not good enough for there are many bad women. This they say while 2/3 of the membership of churches and philanthropic and reformatory societies are women. This they say although the census of 1890 assures us the last ten years had witnessed 43,442 male criminals and only 1,1491 women criminals.
Two centuries of the most atrocious history in all time is the testimony of the virtues of the Sioux.
They tell us too, that women are already represented in politics and if there is any woman who wants to vote she should go at once and ask her husband to vote for her. But my friends it is not such an easy matter to get married. There are not men enough to go around – at least not decent ones enough. In these days of broader opportunities for women there are a great many women making their $1000 a year and more and you may be sure the $1000 woman is bound to turn the matter over in her mind a great many times before she gives her consent to marry a ten cent man. So it happens there are a great many women who must of necessity have no representatives. But are there not scores of offices well paid by the government to represent the Sioux and is there not an Indian Bureau maintained at great expense to guard his every right and privilege? Of course there is.
These are but fair samples of the slick objections poured out against us. Yet it is plain none of these reasons make up the basis of citizenship. It is none of these things which are the qualifications of a voter. What are they? Gentlemen I ask you who are the guardians of the public welfare and custodians of this xx of this republic, what are the qualifications of an American voter. What were the qualifications which enfranchised the Sioux? When you have found the reason then I take upon myself the responsibility to withdraw from public consideration every argument that was ever advanced for the enfranchisement of women, and for the xx cause which gave the ballot to the Sioux and for that alone, I do ask it for American women. Can it be it was given them with the hope it would civilize them? Then, gentlemen, civilize us. Educate us, develop us. You do not know what possibilities there are in Am. Women. It is a field that has never been tilled. It must be there is some truth after all in that saying of George Meredith who declared in one of his flights of imagination that “women would be the last class of persons men would ever attempt to civilize.”
(note by Catt: Omit) [[The whole movement for woman’s enfranchisement is bound up in a saying of Senator Ingalls when he said “I don’t think there has ever been a girl who has not wished she were a boy, but who has ever heard of a boy who wished he had been born a girl?” Where is the boy indeed who would voluntarily put himself in the class who are the political inferiors and subordinates of the semi civilized, barbarous savages. There was once a woman who went to visit an old schoolmate. She found her the mother of a large family of children and they were all boys. One day, in the presence of the youngest, a little five year old, she was commiserating with her upon this fact and said: “What a pity it is, that one of your boys had not been a girl!” The little five year old plucked up his ears and exclaimed “Well I don’t know who’d’a bin her. John wouldn’t’a bin her, and Joe wouldn’t and Jack wouldn’t and I wouldn’t a’bin her.” The whole movement may be put in a nutshell and means the establishment of such opportunities and conditions that any boy in America would be perfectly willing to a’bin her.]]
With a great deal of tender solicitude we are assured from some quarters that politics would degrade women and rob them of their sweet and womanly charm. I don’t know what politics may do for women in the future, but it is certain it has already degraded her with a degradation deep enough that it would seem every woman of spirit would be forced to blush with shame. It was not long after the first 300 Indians had signed the treaty which made them voters, than the women of South Dakota were made to drink the cup of humiliation to its very dregs. Two years ago, there was a woman suffrage amendment campaign in that state. The women who were managing the campaign though it would be a good plan to have a hearing before each political convention and give each party an opportunity to ratify the cause in their platforms. I was not present at the People’s Party or Democratic convention, but I was present at the Republican convention. There had been held in the town of Mitchell a great Woman Suffrage convention attended by 500 delegates. They had come from far and near. All the hotels and boarding houses and private houses were filled with the delegates and around the town on the prairie were camps of enthusiastic suffragists. One good minister, staked his horses on the plain, slept in his carriage and breakfasted on a bologna sausage and a potato he got out of the back door of a restaurant. It was an enthusiastic and earnest collection of people and represented, to say the least, half the State: A delegation from this convention was appointed to appear before the Republican convention, which met in the same hall the next day, and to present the cause of the woman suffrage amendment. At the front of the platform were placed a row of tables for the Chair, the Secretary and the press reporters. Behind the tables were some rows of chairs where were seated a brass band; behind the band were some more rows of chairs where were seated the wives and friends of the men who came up for nomination in the convention. Behind these chairs were some rows of standing men. Behind these men next to the wall, where not one could see anybody in the audience and no one in the audience could see them the woman suffrage delegation were seated. As soon as the preliminary business of the convention was finished and the convention was about to adjourn to await the report of committees, the Chm said he had a petition to present. He handed it to the secretary to read. He arose in his place, grew very red in the face, wiggled and twisted, stammered and stuttered and then confessed he couldn’t read it. The Chm then took it, He grew red in the face and wiggled and twisted and stammered and stuttered and said he couldn’t read it. He then called for the man who had handed it in to tell what was in it. The man arose and said: “Gentlemen that petition is from the 300 newly enfranchised Indians on the Reservation. Next year they will be able to cast votes. They are not voters now, but they say if they like the Republican party real well, they will vote the Republican ticket and because of that they ask seats in this convention for three delegates.” The question was put to a vote and I think unanimously carried. The man went out after the delegates and in they came, three full-fledged Sioux, with the moccasins still on their feet and their long, disheveled hair so full of inhabitants you could see them clear across the room. Were they put out of sight. Ah no! They were led in and honorably seated on the floor of that house. Had they had anything favor to ask of that convention, it might not have been granted, but it would at least have been considered for there were 300 new votes to be bid for and won. When the women, representing fully half the people of the State asked a hearing upon an amendment already before the voters, it was not granted. The Chm adjourned the meeting and said, if anybody wanted to hear what the women had to say, they could stay, but most of them got up and went out. This year they sat in the convention and participated in all the work of nomination, while Dems and Repubs alike vied with each other to pin their party badges on government xx by these Indian voters. If there is any good devout Republican here who feels that I am telling a hard story on the Republicans, I will say for his comfort, that the women got treated a great deal worse in the Democratic convention. It was a thing which would have happened in any convention. It was not that they meant to be mean, but is the nature of parties to bid for votes and the women had none. The insult was the price they paid for their degradation. There is sometimes a recompense even in injustice. It is the one crumb of comfort we could take away with us. The name of Susan B. Anthony who led that delegation of Dakota women has already been written in the tablet of the immortals and will be read long centuries hence as one of the staunchest advocates of human liberty, while the names of most of the men who composed that convention will long have been buried in the forgetfulness of oblivion.
There is not a woman suffragist who would put a hair in the way of the fullest and highest development of the Sioux. Not a woman who does know there is a broad field for philanthropic work among them; not a woman who does not recognize their wrongs and misfortunes. There is not a woman suffragist who would take the ballot from them if it can win them to peace and civilization.
If any say would put down one class to rise ourselves they do not know us. The woman suffrage movement is not one for woman alone. It is for equality of rights and privileges and it knows no difference between black and white. But the waters of the Missouri are not broad enough nor muddy enough to conceal the humiliation to American women there is in this comparison between the two sides of the River.
The story is told of the little waif brought from the abode of vice into the Sabbath school, and there taught the love of Jesus and his power to save; and who afterwards being taken sick was visited by his teacher, and being near death, he said, in his untutored language: “Mister, didn’t you say as how that if I axed Jesus to forgive my sins he would save me?” and being answered in the affirmative, he expressed a fear that in the multitude the Saviour would not see him; and to calm his fears the teacher told him that if he held up his hand Jesus would see him; and who was found the next morning on his bed cold in death, with his little arm held up stiff and cold. With a faith as absolute and as pitiful millions of good women all over our land have been holding up their hands whenever any moral question has been before our people, but our political divinity has neither seen nor counted them. Every woman here tonight prays. If she doesn’t pray in the orthodox way upon her knees she prays anyway, for after all a prayer is only an earnest desire of the heart. So it is that every woman prays and she prays for better conditions for temperance and purity and morality, for better and higher manhood and womanhood, but the political divinity who hears and answers prayers, does not listen. From all these uplifted hands which it sees not and from all these earnest and soul agonized prayers which it hears not, our government which calls itself ideal, can turn to the poor wretched half civilized Sioux and say if you have a wish, a prayer, a hope, put it in the ballot box and it shall be counted. There seems to be a common notion whenever woman suffrage is spoken of, that to vote means something which is to turn our social and political customs upside down. Why all voting is, is to put opinions in the ballot box. Women have their opinions now. The only difference when they are enfranchised will be that they will be counted.
Women have had to bear dishonor before. All down the years of her history she has borne degradation, but in all time no insult was ever visited upon her which could compare with that of the American government, which lifted out of savagery, half barbarous Indians and made them the political rulers over the college xx, moral intelligent women citizens. If there is a woman whose soul does not writhe under this humiliation it is because the customs of centuries have squeezed out of her the pride and spirit which are rightfully hers. If there is a man who does not blush with shame at the degradation put upon his own wife and mother, it is because the same customs of centuries have calloused his soul to injustice.
We do not ask the government to adopt any new principles. We are not urging a revolution which is to upset existing conditions. We only ask the government to stand true to the principles it has already adopted. We only ask it to mean what it says when it declares that this is a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Why in that same state of S. Dakota, the witness of this degradation of women, the motto on the seal stamped upon every public document is that “Under God the people rule.” But it is a lie and every document repeats it. Under God men and Indians rule and half the people are held in the most abject servility. Do you ask what is our plea for the ballot: The self same plea which gave it to you. Most men of this generation were born to find themselves voters and they found women were not voters. On the principle that “whatever is, is right,” they have never ever asked themselves what claim they had to the ballot. I ask you tonight to ask yourself what right and reason gave it to you. When you find out, then for that reason, I ask the ballot for myself and my sex. Senator Hoar, of Mass, once said, “No man could argue five minutes against woman suffrage, that he would not repudiate every principle of our government” and I say no man can argue five years for his own enfranchisement that- every word of it does not stand just as emphatically for the enfranchisement of his sister. All the eloquence of every great political reformer pleads for us. Right and Justice demand it and all the forces of the Universe declare that it shall be. All this we have on our side and what is there against us? Only a hard deep rooted prejudice, which disguise it as we will only means that women are an inferior class whose opinions are of no account. But prejudices are swept away before the march of progress. Someone has said “the prophecy of today is the established law of tomorrow.” Woman Suffrage is coming, for the world moves and it moves ever onward and upward, every decade brings with it broader opportunities and new liberty. If there are those who doubt, I can but point you to that peerless state of Wyoming, for more than one generation the women have voted there upon the only subject their brothers have. It was that state which could produce a man and a constituency to stand behind him that he could rise in the halls of the U.S. Congress when the bill to admit Wyoming as a state was opposed because of woman suffrage and he could say “Gentlemen, I am told to say to you that we will stay out the Union a hundred years if we cannot come in with the women too.” I ask you if there could be a stronger testimonial of the beneficence and acceptance of enfranchised women.
There was once a priest who was walking through the streets of Paris deeply absorbed in thought. Two small boys began throwing stones and calling him names. The priest knelt down in the street and began to pray that the boys would learn reverence for the priesthood, but when he arose the boys stood there grinning at him. So he thought a moment and kneeling down again he began to pray for the parents of the boys who had not taught them proper respect for his office. He arose and the boys still grinned. Then he hadn’t found the right cause yet or his prayer would be answered. He knelt again and prayed long and frequently that society would teach the parents their duty. But the boys grinned still. Then he thought society was made up of individuals and he knelt again and he prayed long and fervently for all the individuals who had not done their duty. The boys still grinned at him. Then he thought he was himself one of the individuals of society and so he knelt and prayed longer and more fervently for himself. When he arose he found the boys penitent and respectful. So I say to you, if it is given you to feel this humiliation; go home and pray. Do not pray for the Congresses and Legislatures that are neglectful, not for the society that is indifferent, not for the women who do not want to vote. Go home and pray for yourselves. Pray until you experience such a sense of indignation and offended righteousness you will arise, gird on the armor and join the first suffrage association at hand. Pray until you are compelled to work and work as long as there is a wronged or defrauded woman in America, for “There is no prayer prayed ‘neath the sun like the prayer at work well done.”
The Sioux are not the only Indians who have brought humiliation to women. An intelligent woman who lives in New Mexico told me she sat in the gallery of her territorial legislature and saw a Mexican sworn in as a legislator. They are Indian half breeds and were enfranchised by the government three years ago. He could not understand a word of English. He could neither read or write in any language. The constitution was read in English. An interpreter stood at his elbow and interpreted as best he could into the mongrel Spanish of the Mexican and then he promised to uphold all its provisions and signed his name to the agreement with a cross.
There is a woman in America who is to me one of the greatest of all American citizens. When the war broke she was a young woman, but she went to the front and in the hospital and in the camp and on the field among the wounded and dying she served through the war. She risked her life and health as much as any soldier and by her sacrifice sent back to his regiment many a man whose life was given by the doctors. When the war was over and the men came home some to receive political positions, some pensions and all honor, Clara Barton found other work to do. When the Franco Prussian war broke out, the Empress of Germany wrote to the Pres. of the U.S. to find out where she was, but she was already on the field and all through that war, she did for the German and the Frenchman what in America she had done for the Boys in Blue and the Boys in Gray. They decked her there with the iron cross, the only badge the German ex Chancellor Bismarck ever wears, but her honors did not end her good work. When the earthquake came to Charleston, she was there. When the famine came to Texas and Dakota, the flood to Johnstown and the Cyclones to the West. She was first on the field, administering comfort to despairing men and women. When the famine came to Russia she was there, going in charge of two great ships of wheat. Whenever there is suffering humanity, there she finds her work. She is one American if ever it should be said of any person that the whole world is his country and to do good his religion, it could be said of Clara Barton. I know there is not one here who will share with me the shame I felt when I tell you in a political convention in which there was a large number of soldiers I once heard a simple petition of only a few words: Soldiers: When you were weak and I was strong, I toiled for you. Now you are strong and I am weak. Because of my work for you, I ask your aid. I ask the ballot for myself and my sex. As I stood by you, I pray you stand by me and mine. – Clara Barton to the Soldiers. That was all, yet gentlemen, it was hissed! Alas! Much as America and Americans owe to that great woman she belongs to a disfranchised class and must share its humiliation. Years ago, a noble fight was made by brave John Adams to establish the right of petition and every creature has that right today. “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” So you can petition but can not compel Congresses and Legislatures and Conventions to xx and consider them. If you give the horse a good dose of salt you can make him drink and if you give the petitioners votes enough you can make Congress listen in respectful silence. Had the class to which Clara Barton belonged had political power, she would not have been hissed. What hope can we have of the character of laws and customs and institutions which are to be established in America in the future if our government will keep away from the ballot box the influence of such a woman whose every opinion stands for the broadest humanity and will allow them the ignorant influence of such a man.
We no longer need to argue for woman suffrage. Though never another plea was raised in its behalf, it would come, for upon every side, in every walk of life these odious comparisons and inconsistencies are to be seen. They are slowly and silently doing their work. They are awakening women out of the lethargy where she has been held spell-bound for centuries. They are opening her eyes to see that the boundaries of the sphere she thought was hers have been set by the prejudices of men, while the hand of God is pointing her to new duties and responsibilities. They are arousing the consciences of men too and on every side are awakening the sleeping justice of the Nation. The time is not distant when woman will be lifted out of her political servility and seated in her own rightful kingdom of equality and liberty.
Let us work now and hasten the time when every law and custom and condition which belittles motherhood shall be wiped out of existence. Let us work now, that the star of hope which has risen over the mountain tops of Wyoming shall shed its bright luster over every state in the Union and under its benign influence there shall grow the broadest liberty for the whole human race. I ask you my sisters to hasten this time. Every woman has some influence with her husband. I ask you to use it that he will in his turn use his to secure your enfranchisement. Story of W.C.T.U and temperance in territories. Story of woman in Dakota constitutional convention. So I ask you my sisters whether your way is with a “My darling” or a “William” to use it to the best of your ability to establish Justice and Equality.
“And will we win? Aye Since right is right and God is God And right the day will win, To doubt will be disloyalty To falter would be sin.”