Mary Jane Coggeshall

What Has Our Society Done for the Franchise - 1892

Mary Jane Coggeshall
January 01, 1892
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Coggeshall presented this speech before the Women's Christian Temperance Union.

Your committee for the program has asked me to answer these questions: What has our society done for the franchise?, What is it doing?, What is it going to do? and Why do we work for the franchise at all?

We will not pretend to answer these questions in the few minutes allowed us, but only make a few casual remarks as we choose.

Twenty two years ago in Dubuque, the state's W. S. Society was born, and from that day on we have been making life unpleasant for our opponents.

But we imagine that we have been the pioneers that blazed the way, cut down the mountains of prejudice, bridged the chasms of ridicule, and helped to make possible the way for the oncoming feet of the sisters of the W.C.T.U. And if we had done nothing else but help to open the way for such a grand organization as this we would feel that our lives had been worth the living. But we have done more; we have been hard at work at the foundation of things, rearing our substructure so what we are doing now is beginning to show above the surface. We have established, and are establishing very many centers of influence throughout the state. Organization is our watchword today. Years ago it was less so.

In our own feebleness we were ready to lean upon the arm of any organization that offered its sympathy; and when your society opened its franchise department, it was hailed with delight; although often when we through our speakers would plant little suffrage societies about the state – along would come the W.C.T.U. and gobble them up. Times have changed somewhat and it is our turn now. But the good seed you have sown, the good seed you are sowing is preparing the harvest by and by. But with your two dozen different lines of state work, when you have made a good W.C.T.U. woman, only one twenty fourth of her is a suffragist.

Naturally with very many women this is not enough and they ally themselves with the society which makes the franchise its specialty. A certain philosopher says that the test of any principle or creed is the kind in individuals it makes.

We believe that the principles of the W.C.T.U. – We believe that the principles of the perfect equality of the sexes before God and man - help to develop a well balanced character.

We are not rivals, and when you ask what our society is going to do – we answer. We are going to help you – as you are helping us. If you will keep the men sober long enough for them to vote right, we will see to it that power is put into hands of women to help them stay sober.

Lady Henry Somerset said the other day in reply to an invitation to join the Liberal League, of which Mrs. Gladstone is President, that she had for the last seven years given all her time and energy to temperance causes. That churches, politicians, journalists - men of every profession, creed and class were giving active work for it. These efforts have been mainly along the line of moral persuasion, and statistics prove that as yet no marked impression has been made upon the drink habits of England: therefore she had come to demand a machinery that would make the temperance sentiment into law, and women's ballots, as well as brains must help to do it.

One of the wisest mothers in our Israel today says that if the cause of temperance was the one to which she was giving all the efforts of her life, her first work would be to get the vote into the hands of women. Therefore in answer to the question, why do we work for the franchise, we would say it is because it seems to us to be an economy of force. The economic, social and domestic conditions of the average American woman are such that but little time can be given to any work outside the conventional routine. And believing that the duties of the home should not be left undone, our next duty is to work for the larger home-society, and as in our homes we try to make every step count, every effort tells in the largest results to our families, so in the work for the larger home-society, we would put our hands and our limited time upon the lever whose fulcrum is at the foundation of thing.

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.