Mabel Vernon

Statement at a Hearing Before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee - Dec. 16, 1915

Mabel Vernon
December 16, 1915— Washington, D.C.
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Mr. Chairman and members of the Judiciary Committee, the reason that we women come bothering Congress with a question of this kind is because we believe that woman suffrage is a national question which deeply concerns the women of this entire country; and if we do not come presenting our own case we fear that it will not be presented at all. [Applause.]

The reason I dare to say that woman suffrage is a national question is because, first of all, we believe that citizenship is a fundamental thing in the Nation itself, and a question which concerns all the women of the Nation. Why , gentlemen, we women believe in the rights of the States just as much as do some of the men who sit upon this committee; but we look upon the rights of the States to deal certain local problems of which the Nation can have no knowledge and in which it has no concern. But woman suffrage is not that kind of question.

You will find in every State of this Union, gentlemen, that there is a movement for woman suffrage. Certainly you will find that it can not be called a local issue just within the individual States, because you can find that the women of every State of this country feel more or less alike about this; and if it is right that the women of 1 State, or of 12 States, of this country shall have the right to vote, it is right that the women of the Nation shall have the right to vote. Why should it be possible for me to go out into the State of Nevada and live there six months, thereby acquiring citizenship in that State and the right to vote in that State, and why, in contrast to that, just as soon as I return to my own native State, Delaware, where l have lived a good many years—ever since I was born—shall I be immediately deprived of that right to vote which I gained in another part of this country?

Another reason we think this question goes beyond a local interest and has aspects that are national in scope is, that we find here in Congress, if put into execution, a simple means of attaining our object, by amending the Constitution of the United States. This means has been laid down by the Constitution of the United States, and is a perfectly proper and just means.

We know that the constitutions of States could be amended in order to give women the right to vote. We women know it better than anybody else because so we have spent many years in endeavoring to amend these same constitutions. But, while we have not succeeded in such a great number of the States, it is certainly a sufficient number to give to the women of this country some prestige in the Congress of the United States. When we realized that one-sixth of the men who sit in the House of Representatives come from States where women are voting and whose constituents are actually women, as well as men, does not that take it out of the category of a local problem? That fact ought to be entitled to some consideration in taking the question of woman suffrage out of the States and elevating it to where it may be considered as a national question.

One reason why we are before you is because this measure has already been voted upon in both Houses of Congress. By your own action you have recognized this question as a national matter, otherwise you would not have given it considerat1on by voting upon the question, which by that act you acknowledge belongs rightfully within the Halls of Congress.

Just one more word. I have been spending the summer out in the western part of this country, out in the States where women do vote, and as I have gone through those States , I have spoken of an amendment to the Constitution of the United States that will enfranchise the women of this country . Do you think the people out there in those States told us to go away, to return to the eastern part of the country and pursue our cause in the States where it is not yet won? They did not. The women out there—at least many of them—said, "If there is anything that we can do to help make women suffrage nation wide we want to do it." The people out there in those equal-suffrage States are taking the stand that if it is right for the women of those States to vote it is right for the women of the Nation to vote. They asked us, "What can we do to help the cause?" Our answer is and always has been, "Use your power in the place where you have power. You women of the West can not help in Pennsylvania or New Jersey. You can not leave your homes and go over there and preach woman suffrage, but you can help in the Congress of the United States, where you are sending your Representatives." And, gentlemen, the fact of the matter is that those very women are trying to help the cause through their Representatives. The women of the West can not do more than that. But they are showing the right spirit. This question which we are discussing before you is of paramount importance to the women of this country. It is not a local question, not a State question, but a question of the Nation itself. [Applause.]