Susan B. Anthony

Statement before the Select Committee on Woman Suffrage, U.S. Senate - March 7, 1884

Susan B. Anthony
March 07, 1884— Washington, D.C.
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Miss ANTHONY. I wish I could state the avocations and professions of the various women who have spoken in our convention during the last three days. I do not wish to speak disparagingly in regard to the men in Congress, but I doubt if a man on the floor of either House could have made a better speech than some of those which have been made by women during this convention. Twenty-six States and Territories are represented with live women, traveling all the way from Kansas, Arkansas, Oregon, and Washington Territory. It does seem to me that after all these years of coming up to this Capitol an impression should be made upon the minds of legislators that we are never to be silenced until we gain the demand. We have never had in the whole thirty years of our agitation so many States represented in any convention as we had this year.

This fact shows the growth of public sentiment. Mrs. Duniway is here all the way from Oregon, and you say, when Mrs. Duniway is doing so well up there, and is so hopeful of carrying the State of Oregon, why do not you all rest satisfied with that plan of gaining the suffrage? My answer is that I do not wish to see the women of the thirty-eight States of this Union compelled to leave their homes and canvass each State, school district by school district. It is asking too much of a moneyless class of people, disfranchised by the constitution of every State in the Union. The joint earnings of the marriage copartnership in all the States belong legally to the husband. If the wife goes outside the home to work, the law in most of the States permits her to own and control the money thus earned. We have not a single State in the Union where the wife's earnings inside the marriage copartnership are owned by her. Therefore, to ask the vast majority of women who are thus situated, without an independent dollar of their own, to make a canvass of the States is asking too much.

Mrs. GOUGAR. Why did they not ask the negro to do that?

Miss ANTHONY. Of course the negro was not asked to go begging the white man from school district to school district to get his ballot. If it was known that we could be driven to the ballot-box: like a flock of sheep, and all vote for one party, there would be a bid made for us; but that is not done, because we can not promise you any such thing; because we stand before you and honestly tell you that the women of this nation are educated equally with the men, and that they, too, have political opinions. There is not a woman on our platform, there is scarcely a woman in this city of Washington, whether the wife of a Senator or a Congress man—I do not believe you can find a score of women in the whole nation—who have not opinions on the pending Presidential election. We all have opinions; we all have parties. Some of us like one party and one candidate and some another.

Therefore we can not promise you that women will vote as a unit when they are enfranchised. Suppose the Democrats shall put a woman suffrage plank in their platform in their Presidential convention, and nominate an open and avowed friend of woman suffrage to stand upon that platform; we can not pledge you that all the women of this nation will work for the success of that party, nor can I pledge you that they will all vote for the Republican party if it should be the one to take the lead in their enfranchisement. Our women will not toe a mark anywhere; they will think and act for themselves, and when they are enfranchised they will divide upon all political questions, as do intelligent, educated men.

I have tried the experiment of canvassing four States prior to Oregon, and in each State with the best canvass that it was possible for us to make we obtained a vote of one-third. One man out of every three men voted for the enfranchisement of the women of their households, while two voted against it. But we are proud to say that our splendid minority is always composed of the very best men of the State, and I think Senator PALMER will agree with me that the forty thousand men of Michigan who voted for the enfranchisement of the women of his State were really the picked men in intelligence, in culture, in morals, in standing, and in every direction.

It is too much to say that the majority of the voters in any State are superior, educated, and capable, or that they investigate every question thoroughly, and cast the ballot thereon intelligently. We all know that the majority of the voters of any State are not of that stamp. The vast masses of the people, the laboring classes, have all they can do in their struggle to get food and shelter for their families. They have very little time or opportunity to study great questions of constitutional law.

Because of this impossibility for women to canvass the States over and over to educate the rank and file of the voters we come to you to ask you to make it possible for the Legislatures of the thirty-eight States to settle the question, where we shall have a few representative men assembled before whom we can make our appeals and arguments.

This method of settling the question by the Legislatures is just as much in the line of States' rights as is that of the popular vote. The one question before you is, will you insist that a majority of the individual voters of every State must be converted before its women shall have the right to vote, or will you allow the matter to be settled by the representative men in the Legislatures of the several States? You need not fear that we shall get suffrage too quickly if Congress shall submit the proposition, for even then we shall have a hard time in going from Legislature to Legislature to secure the two-thirds votes of three-fourths of the States necessary to ratify the amendment. It may take twenty years after Congress has taken the initiative step to make action by the State Legislatures possible.

I pray you, gentlemen, that you will make your report to the Senate speedily. I know you are ready to make a favorable one. Some of our speakers may not have known this as well as I. I ask you to make a report and to bring it to a discussion and a vote on the floor of the Senate.

You ask me if we want to press this question to a vote provided there is not a majority to carry it. I say yes, because we want the reflex influence of the discussion and of the opinions of Senators to go back into the States to help us to educate the people of the States.

Senator LAPHAM. It would require a two-thirds vote in both, the House and the Senate to submit the amendment to the State Legislatures for ratification.

Miss ANTHONY. I know that it requires a two-thirds vote of both Houses. But still, I repeat, even if you can not get the two-thirds vote, we ask you to report the bill and bring it to a discussion and a vote at the earliest day possible. We feel that this question should be brought before Congress at every session. We ask this little attention from Congressmen whose salaries are paid from the taxes; women do their share for the support of this great Government, We think we are entitled to two or three days of each session of Congress in both the Senate and House. Therefore I ask of you to help us to a discussion in the Senate this session. There is no reason why the Senate, composed of seventy-six of the most intelligent and liberty-loving men of the nation, shall not pass the resolution by a two-thirds vote, I really believe it will do so if the friends on this committee and on the floor of the Senate will champion the measure as earnestly as if it were to benefit themselves instead of their mothers and sisters. Gentlemen, I thank you for this hearing granted, and I hope the telegraph wires will soon tell us that your report is presented, and that a discussion is inaugurated on the floor of the Senate.