Alice Stone Blackwell

Statement before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee – Feb. 17, 1892

Alice Stone Blackwell
February 17, 1892— Washington, D.C.
Print friendly

Except where there is some very strong reason to the contrary, it is generally admitted that every man has a right to be consulted in regard to his own concerns. The laws which he has to obey and the taxes he has to pay are things that do most intimately concern him, and the only way of being directly consulted in regard to them, under our form of government, is through the ballot. Is there any very good reason why women should not be free to be consulted in this direct manner? Let us consider a few of the reasons which are generally given against this freedom of women, and see whether they are good.

It is said that women do not need to vote, because they are virtually represented by their husbands, fathers and brothers. The first trouble with this doctrine of virtual representation is that it is not according to numbers. I know a man who had a wife, a widowed mother, four unmarried daughters and five unmarried sisters. According to this theory his vote represented himself and all those eleven women. Yet it counted but one, just the same as the vote of his next-door bachelor neighbor without a female relative in the world.

Then, again, suppose that all the women in one family do not think alike. A member of our Massachusetts Legislature had two daughters. One was a suffragist, the other was so much opposed that she used to bum the Woman's Journal as soon as it came in the house. How was that man to represent both his daughters by his single vote on the suffrage question? Instead of two daughters he might have had three, one a Republican, one a Democrat and the other a Prohibitionist. How could he have represented all of them by his one vote unless he had voted "early and often?"

Again, in order to represent the women of his family a man may have to go without representation himself. There was a case of an old gentleman in Chicago, a Greenbacker, who had three daughters, all of whom were Republicans. When election day approached his three daughters said to him that he was the natural representative of their family—he had always told them so, and they fully agreed with him—and they pointed out to him how very wrong it would be, when that family consisted of three Republicans and only one Greenbacker, with but one ballot to represent the family, that it should be cast for the Greenback candidate. The old gentleman was conscientious and consistent and, although he was a man of strong Greenback convictions, he actually voted the Republican ticket in order to represent his daughters. It was the nearest he could come to representing them under this theory. But did it give that family any accurate or adequate representation? Evidently not. The Greenback candidate was entitled to one vote from that family, and he did not get it; and the Republican candidate was entitled to three ballots, and he got only one. And then, in order to represent his daughters, that chivalrous father had to go without any representation himself. It is evident that the only fair way to get at public sentiment in such a case is for each member of the family to have one vote, and thus represent himself or herself.

Another proof that women are not virtually represented is to be found in the laws as they actually exist. These one-sided laws were not made because men meant to be unjust or unkind to women, but simply because they naturally looked at things mainly from their own point of view. It does not indicate any special depravity on the part of men. I have no doubt that if women alone had made the laws, those laws would be just as one-sided as they are to-day, only in the opposite direction.

It is said that if women are enfranchised, husbands and wives will vote just alike, and you will simply double the vote and have no change in the result. Then, in the next breath, it is said that husbands and wives would vote for opposing candidates, and then there would be matrimonial quarrels. If they vote just alike there will be no harm done, and this good may be done—the women will be broadened by a knowledge of public affairs, and husband and wife will have a subject of mutual interest in which they can sympathize with each other. In cases where husband and wife do not think alike as to who will make the best selectmen, for instance, you will admit that is hardly sufficient to cause them to quarrel; but if they should think differently on very many other points, they would quarrel anyway, so that politics would not make much differ­ence with them.

Then it is said that women do not want to vote, and in proof it is said they do not vote generally for school committeemen where allowed to do so. We all know that the size of the vote cast at any election is just in proportion to the amount of interest that election calls forth. At a Presidential election nearly all the voters turn out ; in an ordinary State election only about half; at a municipal election only a small fraction of the men take the trouble to vote. The Troy Press states that at a recent election in Syracuse for a board of education, out of about 3,000 qualified voters only 40 voted.

Then, it is said that this movement is making no progress; that while the movements along other lines are largely succeeding, there has been no advance along this line. Twenty-five years ago, with insignificant exceptions, women could not vote anywhere. To-day they have school suffrage in twenty-three States, full suffrage in Wyoming, municipal suffrage in Kansas, and municipal suffrage for single women and widows in England, Scotland and most of the British provinces. The common sense of the world is slowly but surely working toward the enfranchisement of women.