Crystal Eastman

Statement Before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee - March 3, 1914

Crystal Eastman
March 03, 1914— Washington, D.C.
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We have had a blizzard in in New York for the last two days, and the train has only just arrived that left New York at 12.34 last night. If that makes my opening words little flurried, please do not blame the cause.

We are not before you to-day as supplicants, as powerless women petitioning your favor. We come as successful women asking in the friendliest spirit the logical, necessary, and inevitable extension of our success. To make myself quite clear I have brought along a few little maps which I am going to ask you to look at as I talk. If you will each take one of these little maps and have it before you for a few minutes, I shall be grateful.

We call this the woman-suffrage map. The white States are those in which women have the full suffrage now. The dotted white State is Illinois, in which women have municipal suffrage, but have not yet the right to vote for Senators and Congressmen. The lined States are those where women have a very little political power, such as school suffrage or tax-paying suffrage. The black States are those where women have no right to vote whatever.

But this map is not quite perfect. It does not show the whole situation. It should represent a white cloud hanging over Nevada, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota in the West, and the same white cloud just about to descend and envelop New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey in the East. That would indicate the true situation; that is, that in these seven additional States woman suffrage is imminent; it has passed the legislative stage and is a question about to be put to the voters. We call these " campaign " States, because in each of them the suffrage bill has passed the legislature and the time has come for a campaign to convince the voters before it can be ratified.

Now, when we go to the voters of a campaign State to ask them to vote yes on a woman-suffrage amendment, we do go as petitioners, with smiles and arguments and unwearied patience. We tell them over and over again the same well-established truths; we tell them that it is the essence of democracy that all classes of people should have the power of protection in their own hands. We tell them that women are people and that they have special interests which need representation in politics. We tell them that where women have the right to vote they vote in the same proportion ns men, that on the whole their influence in government has been decidedly good, and that absolutely no evils can be traced to that influence. In short, we reason and plead with them. We try to touch their sense of honor, their sense of justice, their reason—in fact, whatever noble human quality these voters possess.

Now, that is one way of getting woman suffrage in the United States. It is a long, laborious, and very costly way, as you gentlemen who have campaigned must know. Up to 1912 it was the only way we had, and we have devoted ourselves to it absolutely. But since 1912 it has ceased to be the only way. We have now achieved woman suffrage in 10 States. We are a political power, and the time has come for us to compel this great reform by the simple, direct, American method of amending the Federal Constitution. And therefore it is that we are here this morning.

Our argument to you, then, is not one of justice or democracy or fair play. It is one merely of political expediency. Our plea is simply that you look at the little map again. That triumphant, threatening army of white States crowding rapidly eastward toward the center of center of population is the sum of our argument to you. It represents 4,000,000 women voters.

I ask you, then, to look at the map and consider whether you want to put yourselves in the very delicate position of going to those 4,000,000 women voters next fall for indorsement and reelection after having refused to ever report a woman-suffrage amendment out of committee for discussion on the floor of the House. There are two or three considerations that may haw occurred to you which would seem to weaken this proposition of ours and I want to consider them quite frankly.

You might say, "Why do you select this Democratic administration for your demand! This is the first time in 18 years that the Democratic Party has been in control of the Government. We are doing our best to give the people what they want. We are trying to live up to our platform pledges. We think we are doing pretty well. Why persist in embarrassing us with this very troub1esome question! We do not want to decide it just now. It is not convenient. We do not want to take a stand on it. Why don't you leave us alone!"

And to this I can only answer, we, too, think you are doing pretty well. We think it is a good administration. [Applause] And the last thing in the world we want is to get you into any kind of trouble. But, gentlemen, with us getting the vote is the big issue. Until we get it there is not much in the way of tariff or currency that we care about. You may think we are indifferent; but I ask you, If you had not the vote to-day, would you not be making your effort to get the vote your main issue? So I say getting the vote is the big issue with us. Until we get it the tariff and currency are not so very important to us.

Mr. McCoy. How about the trusts?

Mrs. Benedict. The same applies equally to all other subjects.

Now, this is the first year we have been strong enough politically to make suffrage a national question, to put it up to Congress. You Democrats happen to control the Government: that is all. We have nothing against you. This is the way it stands: The Democratic Party for the first time in 18 years is in a position to pass the Federal woman-suffrage amendment. We for the first time in the history of the country are in a position to demand action on that amendment.

Now, you may also say, with a good show of reason, "The women voters in suffrage States have never voted as a body on anything. They have divided. They have voted Democratic, Republican, or Progressive, according to their learnings. They will probably go on doing this. Why worry?" You might say this. Yes: But an entirely new situation has arisen Woman suffrage has never been made a party question before. It is a national party question now unmistakably, made so by our insistence upon your responsibility as a party, and made so emphatically by your own party action in committee and in caucus.

If this Congress adjourns without taking action on the woman-suffrage amendment it will be because the Democratic Party deliberately dodged the issues. Every woman voter will know this, and we have faith that the woman voter will stand by us. You will go to her and say, "Madam, we have done thus and so. We have lowered the tariff. We have made new banking laws. We have avoided war with Mexico," and she will say, "It is true you have done these things, but you have done a great injustice: you have insulted my sister in this near-by State. She asked for a fundamental Democratic right, a right which I possess and which you are asking me to exercise in your favor. It was in your power to extend this right to her and you refused, and after this you come to me and ask for my vote, but I shall show you that we stand together on this question, my sister and I."

Now, we believe that a great many hundreds or thousands of women voters are going to stand about like that on this question if the Democratic Party takes no action in this matter.