Susan B. Anthony

Statement Before the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary - Jan. 28, 1896

Susan B. Anthony
January 28, 1896— Washington, D.C.
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Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen of the Committee: Allow me at the beginning to read the resolution:

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article be proposed to the legislatures of the several States as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which, when ratified by three-fourths of the said legislatures, shall be valid as part of said Constitution, namely:


“SECTION 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

“SEC. 2. The Congress shall have power by appropriate legislation to enforce the provisions of this article.”

You will see that this proposed amendment to the Constitution is worded precisely like the fifteenth amendment, with the exception of the latter part of the clause—“on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

The woman-suffrage adherents of this nation have been coming to Congress for the last thirty years pleading for equality before the law. We first came to Congress by petition in 1866, when there was presented on the floor of the House and also of the Senate a petition asking that the word “male” should not be inserted in the second section of the fourteenth amendment, which reads:

SEC. 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, including Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice-President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the executive and judicial officers of a State, or the members of the legislature thereof is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State being twenty-one years of age and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

We asked Congress not to desecrate the national Constitution by the insertion of that little restrictive adjective “male.” We were beaten! And again, when the fifteenth amendment was pending, we came with 10,000 names on the petition to Congress praying that this little word “sex” should be added to the fifteenth amendment, making it read “on account of sex, race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” But Congress went ahead and did not put “sex” in. From that time we have been praying before Congress—this is the fourteenth Congress before which I have appeared in person—through this Committee of the Judiciary, that you Congressmen will do as much for the women of this nation, for your own mothers, your own wives and sisters and daughters, as your predecessors did for the newly emancipated black man from the plantations of the South. It certainly is not asking very much of you; nevertheless, we have asked in vain for all these years. This question has never been brought to but one direct vote in the Senate. In 1885 it was brought to a discussion and vote. What we now ask of you, gentlemen, is to report favorably upon this resolution, if you can; and if you can not, there are certainly enough of you who favor it to make a minority report, and that will bring this subject before the House of Representatives this very Congress, that we may have the advantage of discussion and a vote, and know how far along in the progress of civilization we have moved; just where we stand—as one of your Congressmen said, “where we are at.”

The Chairman. But, Miss Anthony, what I want to know is, where do you stand with the women? We are given to understand that as a rule women do not want the suffrage.

Miss Anthony. I do not care where we stand with the women! We have been getting them for fifty years. We are after the men now. Men have the vote, and it is all nonsense to refer me back to the women.

The Chairman. It seems to me that there is a decided majority of the ladies against this legislation.

Miss Anthony. Suppose there is! The majority of children are against public schools, but we put the children in schools just the same. Women are classed as children, because they are governed.

Now, gentlemen, I hold in my hand an appeal sent to you by the honored president of this association, the woman who came here with Lucretia Mott to the very first convention held in Washington, twenty-five years ago, Elizabeth Cady Stanton. I will hand it to the stenographer to be incorporated in the remarks as a part of my speech this morning, as I will not take your time to read it.

I have been persecuting you and your predecessors all these years with my presence. If you were the same men you would be tired of me. You new members are very lucky. I am sure of some familiar faces on this committee, but the most of you are new men to me.

I now have the pleasure of presenting to you that new and beautiful Territory, Arizona, the first on our list of States, in the person of Mrs. L. T. Hughes, wife of the governor of that Territory, who was appointed by the present Administration. The old common law says that husband and wife are one, and that one the husband; but in this case the husband and wife are one, and that one is the wife.