Mary Jane Coggeshall

Speech in Portland, Oregon - 1905

Mary Jane Coggeshall
January 01, 1905— Portland, Oregon
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We bring you a word tonight from that broad plateau which is drained by the three great rivers of the country, with the giant Rockies on one side and the mighty Alleghenies on the other - the states of the Middle West lean smilingly to the southland's sunny slopes. With their rich deposits of metals and coal, with their wooded hills and sparkling streams - and with a soil so generous that if you tickle it with a hoe, it will laugh with the harvest; we are confident that it is the very spot where God stood when he said, "Let there be light."

In this great struggle for the freedom of women, the Middle West is trying to do its honorable share. In some of these states, I speak especially of Iowa, the state of my adoption; the women who are asking for political liberty have for thirty years regularly come to our legislative fig tree only to find that the time of figs is not yet. The politicians do not want a class of voters introduced upon whom they cannot count and the stave off our appeal as long as possible. Our state is overwhelmingly Republican, but the other day, a well informed, ambitious gentleman of that party said to me, "There is no danger that the granting of woman suffrage would injure the dominant party in Iowa and they might just as well give the ballot to women as not."

All this time the people are being educated. Today, there are counties in Iowa where a man dare not stand for the legislature unless he is first known to stand for the political rights of women. When the master of the universe has points to carry in his government, he impresses his will in the structure of minds. The women of these states have determined that they will have the ballot granted to them even if they have to born and raise the men to do it. The scheme is already begun. Other women have done far more, but I have myself been privileged to raise three sons to manhood representing eighteen feet of woman suffrage dyed in the wool.

It requires a fine effort of the imagination to see an evil that surrounds us on every side. Uncle Sam is good and generous, but stiff and stupid and dreadfully slow to see that women can help him. He reminds us of Bishop Niles of New Hampshire who, while attending an Episcopal Convention in Boston, was one day seated in the public garden on one of the low settees. The Bishop is a very heavy man and when he attempted to rise, he found great difficulty in regaining his feet. In the midst of his struggle, a wee tot of a girl came along and offered to help him. The Bishop had ceased trying to rise and, looking critically at the little girl, told her that she could not. "Well," said the little girl finally, "I've helped Grandpa lots of times when he was lots drunker than you are."

It is claimed that no country is easily governed whose territory lies chiefly north and south; and Kipling says, "There is never a law of God or man runs north of fifty three." There is a great unrest up and down this valley plateau; an unrest that will not down at the behest of politicians. The same unrest that stirs the Russian peasant to revolt, and made of our Revolutionary fathers slayers of men. It is as great an injustice to a man to make him a tyrant as to make him a slave. The women of the Middle West are realizing that their duty to their husbands and sons demands that they should secure the ballot - and let a woman once get a vision of duty, and she will rise up early and lie down later.

Does the time seem long? It took Copernicanism two or three hundred years to overthrow the Ptolemaic system, and between the time of Hero whose first steam engine revolved in the Serapion (?) until James Watts made possible our ocean liners was period of twenty centuries.

Manhood suffrage to achieve its present proportions has been over six hundred years in the making. Woman suffrage has been agitated less than seventy. But the women of the Middle West are neither sighing nor crying. The day has gone by when for women to weep over their wrongs. Our country is prosperous. Women share in this prosperity. We no longer talk about the schools being open to us. We make the schools. We take the goods the gods provide, believing that if we remain underlings, it is not in our starts but in ourselves. To doubt is to be disloyal.

In this great battle for freedom, there is no bugle to ever sound retreat for the women of the Middle West, "We are coming father Abraham, six hundred thousand more."

Transcription from Ferris, J. N. (2017). Mary Jane Whiteley Coggeshall, Hicksite Quaker, Iowa/National Suffragette and Her Speeches. Milton, IN: Kids at Heart Publishing LLC.