Anna Howard Shaw

Statement before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee - Dec. 16, 1915

Anna Howard Shaw
December 16, 1915— Washington, D.C.
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Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the Committee on the Judiciary: This, I believe, is the forty-fifth year since the first introduction of the resolution of which I wish to speak, and of which the members of my association with to speak, which is popularly known throughout the country as the Susan B. Anthony amendment to the National Constitution, but which has been known by various names in Congress because of the different gentlemen who have introduced it from Congress to Congress—this resolution is the one which we have asked to have passed all these years, making an amendment to the National Constitution granting the women citizens of the United States equal political rights, and as far as the right to vote in concerned, with the male citizens of the nation. We of older days popularly know this amendment as the Sixteenth Amendment of the National Constitution. It is only recently that the name has been changed so that we could designate among ourselves, because the Sixteenth Amendment was taken by another.

We come again this year with the same hope and same expectation which we have had in our hearts all these 45 years, and as I look over your committee and over the ladies present I find that I am the only woman alive and the only person alive who was present at the first hearing. I did not attend the very first hearing, but I am the only person alive among those who were present at the first hearing that I attended. During all these years we have been working toward this one end and aim as citizen of this great Nation of ours. We feel that we are the only class of citizens, the only sex of citizens, deprived of citizens' rights, and being deprived of the rights of citizens deprives us of many other rights which belong to us as human beings. And because of this we are making our usual demand of this Congress, that your committee shall report to the lower House of Congress a bill asking that this amendment shall be granted by the Congress of the United States. And we hope, from the agitation which has taken place, from the education which has taken place, throughout the country that Congress is particularly impressed with the fact of the progress of our movement, and we hope that not only will the committee report our measure favorably but that it will receive a favorable action at the hands of Congress. We know that Congress is not able to grant suffrage to women; we only know that this amendment opens up the way by which it is possible for some of the States to pass it. We know that there are objections on the ground of State rights, and other objections which have been raised. But one of the difficulties which stands in our way is the fact that the constitutions of some of the States are so framed that it is absolutely impossible to amend them, and the only way by which we can hope to receive our rights as citizens, and have the power to protect and defend ourselves as other citizens do, is by an act of Congress. The process has been very long; it has been long enough; it needs to be shortened, and the shortest process by which this thing can be gained is by the passage of the amendment in the United States Congress and its submission to the legislatures of the various States, realizing, as we do, that it needs only a two-thirds vote in the Congress of the United States and a vote of three-fourths of the States in order to enact it into law.

I am not here to address you this morning on the reasons why we want this done. I only come here as one of the oldest of the suffragists, one who has labored longest, one who has devoted more years of service to this fundamental principle of freedom and justice than any woman who has ever lived has devoted to it. And I come appealing to you again. I ask that we may have a favorable report from your committee. My duties as president of the national association call me away from this meeting, and I must leave after I have introduced Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt, the president of the International Women's Suffrage Alliance, which body comprises 28 nations, all of whom have large organizations like our own asking for suffrage. This international body meets every four years—although I think it does meet yearly—for the purpose of reelecting its officers, and it holds a foremost place in the nations of the world. Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt is president, and has been president from the beginnings, and as such I introduce her to-day, not only as president of the International Women's Suffrage Alliance but as president of the New York State Suffrage Association. After Mrs. Catt has finished her address I will be compelled to leave, and I would like to have one of our officers, Mrs. James Lees Laidlaw, all from New York, take my place.