This speech was delivered in an effort to get a woman suffrage plank included in the Republican and Populist party platforms in Kansas.
I come to you tonight not as a stranger, not as an outsider but, in spirit and in every sense, as one of you. I have been connected with you by the ties of relationship for nearly forty years. Twenty-seven years ago I canvassed this entire State of Kansas in your first woman suffrage campaign. During the last decade I have made a speaking tour of your congressional districts over and over again. Now I come once more to appeal to you for justice to the women of your State.
To preface, I want to say that when the rebellion broke out in this country, we of the woman suffrage movement postponed our meetings, and organized ourselves into a great National Women's Loyal League with headquarters in the city of New York. We sent out thousands of petitions praying Congress to abolish slavery, as a war measure, and to these petitions we obtained 365,000 signatures. They were presented by Charles Sumner, that noblest Republican of them all, and it took two stalwart negroes to carry them into the Senate chamber. We did our work faithfully all those years. Other women scraped lint, made jellies, ministered to sick and suffering soldiers and in every way worked for the help of the government in putting down that rebellion. No man, no Republican leader, worked more faithfully or loyally than did the women of this nation in every city and county of the North to aid the government.
In 1865 I made my first visit to Kansas and, on the 2d of July, went by stage from Leavenworth to Topeka. 0, how I remember those first acres and miles of cornfields I ever had seen; how I remember that ride to Topeka and from there in an open mail wagon to Ottumwa, where I was one of the speakers at the Fourth of July celebration. Those were the days, as you recollect, just after the murder of Lincoln and the accession to the presidential chair of Andrew Johnson, who had issued his proclamation for the reconstruction of Mississippi. So the question of the negro's enfranchisement was uppermost in the minds of leading Republicans, though no one save Charles Sumner had dared to speak it aloud. In that speech, I clearly stated that the government never would be reconstructed, that peace never would reign and justice never be uppermost until not only the black men were enfranchised but also the women of the entire nation. The men congratulated me upon my speech, the first part of it, every word I said about negro suffrage, but declared that I should not have mentioned woman suffrage at so critical an hour.
A little later the Associated Press dispatch came that motions had been made on the floor of the House of Representatives at Washington to insert the word "male" in the second clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. You remember the first clause, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges and immunities of citizens." That was magnificent. Every woman of us saw that it included the women of the nation as well as black men. The second section, as Thaddeus Stevens drew it, said, "If any State shall disfranchise any of its citizens on account of color, all that class shall be counted out of the basis of representation;" but at once the enemy asked, "Do you mean that if any State shall disfranchise its negro women, you are going to count all the black race out of the basis of representation?" And weak-kneed Republicans, after having fought such a glorious battle, surrendered; they could not stand the taunt. Charles Sumner said he wrote over nineteen pages of foolscap in order to keep the word "male" out of the Constitution; but he could not do it so he with the rest subscribed to the amendment: "If any State shall disfranchise any of its male citizens all of that class shall be counted out of the basis of representation."
There was the first great surrender and, in all those years of reconstruction, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the great leader of our woman suffrage movement, declared that because the Republicans were willing to sacrifice the enfranchisement of the women of the nation they would lose eventually the power to protect the black man in his right to vote. But the leaders of the Republican party shouted back to us, "Keep silence, this is the negro's hour." Even our glorious Wendell Phillips, who said, "To talk to a black man of freedom without the ballot is mockery," joined in the cry, "This is the negro's hour;" but we never yielded the point that, "To talk to women of freedom without the ballot is mockery also." But timidity, cowardice and want of principle carried forward the reconstruction of the government with the women left out.
Then came in 1867 the submission by your Kansas legislature of three amendments to your constitution: That all men who had served in the rebel army should be disfranchised; that all black men should be enfranchised; and that all women should be enfranchised. The Democrats held their State convention and resolved they would have nothing to do with that "modern fanaticism of woman's rights." The Germans held a meeting in Lawrence, and denounced this "new-fangled idea." The Republicans held their State convention and resolved to be "neutral." And they were neutral precisely as England was neutral in the rebellion. While England declared neutrality, she allowed the Shenandoah, the Alabama and other pirate ships to be fitted up in her ports to maraud the seas and capture American vessels. The fact was not a single stump speaker appointed by the Republican committee advocated the woman suffrage amendment and, more than this, all spoke against it.
Then, of course, we had to make a woman suffrage campaign through the months of September and October. We did our best. Everywhere we had splendid audiences and I think we had a larger ratio of men in those olden times than we have nowadays. Election day came, that 5th day of November, 1867, when 9,070 men voted yes, and over 18,000 voted no. On the negro suffrage amendment, 10,500 voted yes and the remainder voted no. Both amendments were lost. All the political power of the national and State Republican party was brought to bear to induce every man to vote for negro suffrage; on the other hand, all the enginery and power of the Republican, as well as of the Democratic party, were against us; and many were so ignorant they absolutely believed that to vote for woman suffrage was to vote against the negro. It was exactly like declaring here tonight that if every woman in this house should fill her lungs with oxygen, she would rob all you men of enough to fill yours. Nobody is robbed by letting everybody have equal rights.
Since 1867 seven other States have submitted the question. Let me run them over.
[Miss Anthony then gave a graphic description of the campaigns in Michigan, 1874; Colorado, 1877; Nebraska, 1882; Oregon, 1884; Rhode Island, 1886; Washington, 1889; South Dakota, 1890; all of which failed for lack of support from the political platforms, editors and speakers.]
But at last in Colorado, in the second campaign, we won by the popular vote, gained through party endorsement, the enfranchisement of women. During the summer of 1893 nearly every Republican and Populist and not a few Democratic county conventions put approving planks in their platforms. When the fall campaign opened every stump orator was authorized to speak favorably upon the subject; no man could oppose it unless he ran counter to the principles laid down in his party platform. That made it a truly educational campaign to all the voters of the State. A word to the wise is sufficient. Let every man who wants the suffrage amendment carried, demand a full and hearty endorsement of the measure by his political party, be it Democrat, Republican, Populist or Prohibition, so that Kansas shall win as did her neighbor State, Colorado.
The Republicans of Kansas made the Prohibition amendment a party measure in 1880. After they secured the law they had planks in their platform for its enforcement from year to year, until they were tired of fighting the liquor dealers, backed by the Democrats in the State and on the borders. They wearied of being taunted with the fact that they had not the power to enforce the law. Then in 1887 they gave municipal suffrage to women as a sheer party necessity. Just as much as it was a necessity of the Republicans in reconstruction days to enfranchise the negroes, so was it a political necessity in the State of Kansas to enfranchise the women, because they needed a new balance of power to help them elect and re-elect officers who would enforce the law. Where else could they go to get that balance? Every man in the State, native and foreign, drunk and sober, outside of the penitentiary, the idiot and lunatic asylums, already had the right to vote. They had nobody left but the women. As a last resort the Republicans, by a straight party vote, extended municipal suffrage to women.
This political power was put into the hands of the women of this State by the old Republican party with its magnificent majorities—82,000, you remember, the last time you bragged. It was before you had the quarrel and division in the family; it was by that grand old party, solid as it was in those bygone days!
Last year, and two years ago, after the Peoples' party was organized, when their State convention was held, and also when the Republican convention was held, each put a plank in its platform declaring that the time had come for the submission of a proposition for full suffrage to women. What then could the women infer but that such action meant political help in carrying this amendment? If I had not believed this I never would have come to the State and given my voice in twenty-five or thirty political meetings, reminding the Republicans what a grand and glorious record they had made, not only in the enfranchisement of the black men but in furnishing all the votes on the floor of Congress ever given for women's enfranchisement there, and in extending municipal suffrage to the women of Kansas. I have vowed, from the time I began to see that woman suffrage could be carried only through party help, that I never would lend my influence to either of the two dominant parties that did not have a woman suffrage plank in its platform.
I consider, by every pledge of the past, by the passage of the resolution through the legislature when the representatives of the two parties, the Peoples' and Republican, vied with each other to see who would give the largest majority, that both promised to make this a party measure and I speak tonight to the two parties as the old Republican party. You are not the same men altogether, but you are the descendants, the children, of that party; and I am here tonight, and have come all the way from my home, to beg you to stand by the principles which have made you great and strong, and to finish the work you have so nobly begun.
The Republicans are to have their State convention the 6th of June. I shall be ashamed if the telegraph wires flash the word over the country, "No pledge for the amendment," as was flashed from the Republican League the other day. Should this happen, as I have heard intimated, and there is a woman in the State of Kansas who has any affiliation with the Republican party, any sympathy with it, who will float its banner after it shall have thus failed to redeem its pledge, I will disown her; she is not one of my sort.
The Populist convention is to be held the 12th of June. If it should shirk its responsibility, and not put a strong suffrage plank in its platform, pledging itself to use all its educational powers and all its party machinery to carry the amendment, then I shall have no respect for any woman who will speak of work for its success.
The Democrats have declared their purpose. They are going to fight us. What does the good Book say? "He that is not for me is against me." We know where the Democratic party is, it is against us. If the Republican and Peoples' parties say nothing for us, they say and do everything against us. No plank will be equivalent to saying to every woman suffrage Republican and Populist speaker, "You must not advocate this amendment, for to do so will lose us the whisky vote, it will lose us the foreign vote." Hence, no plank means no word for us, and no word for us means no vote for us. But while no word can be spoken in favor, every campaign orator, as in 1867, is free to speak in opposition.
Men of the Republican party, it comes your time first to choose whom you will have for your future constituents, to make up the bone and sinew of your party; whether you will have the most ignorant foreigners, just landed on our shores, who have not learned a single principle of free government—or the women of your own households; whether you will lose to-day a few votes of the high license or the low license Republicans, foreign or native, black or white, as the case may be, and gain to yourselves hereafter the votes of the women of the State. These are the alternatives. It has been stated that you can not have a suffrage plank in the Republican platform in Saline county because it would lose the votes of the Scandinavians. Will those 1,000 Scandinavian men be of more value to the Republicans than will be the votes of their own wives, mothers, daughters and sisters in all the years to come?
The crucial moment is upon you now, and I say unto you, men of both parties, you will have driven the last nail in the coffin of this amendment and banished all hope of carrying it at the ballot-box if you do not incorporate woman suffrage in your platforms. I know what the party managers will say, I have talked with and heard from many of them. I read Mr. Morrill's statement that "this question should go to the ballot-box on its merits and should not be spoken of in the political meetings or made a party measure."
The masses are rooted and grounded in the old beliefs in the inferiority and subjection of women, and consider them born merely to help man carry out his plans and not to have any of their own. Now, friends, because this is true, because no man believes in political equality for woman, except he is educated out of every bigotry, every prejudice and every usage that he was born into, in the family, in the church and in the state, so there can be no hope of the rank and file of men voting for this amendment, until they are taught the principles of justice and right and there is no possibility that these men can be reached, can be educated, through any other instrumentality than that of the campaign meetings and campaign papers of the political parties Therefore, when you say this is not to be a political question, not to be in your platform, not to be discussed in your meetings, not to be advocated in your papers, you make it impossible for its merits to be brought before the voters.
Who are the men that come to our women's meetings? We have just finished the tour of the sixty counties in the State of New York. We had magnificent gatherings, composed of people from the farthest townships in the county, and in many of them from every township, with the largest opera houses packed, hundreds going away who could not get in. Our audiences have been five-sixths women, and the one man out of the six, who was he? A man who already believed there was but one means of salvation for the race or the country, and that was through the political equality of women, making them the peers of men in every department of life. How are we going to reach the other five-sixths of the men who never come to women's meetings? There is no way except through the political rallies which are attended by all men. Now if you shut out of these the discussion of this question, then I say the fate of this amendment is sealed.
Even if it were possible to reach the men through separate meetings, the women of Kansas can not carry on a fall campaign. They can not get the money to do it unless you men furnish it. Our eastern friends have already contributed to the extent of their ability to hold these spring meetings, and you very well know that after the husbands shall have paid their party assessments there will be nothing left for them to "give to their wives" to defray the expenses of a woman suffrage campaign. Therefore, no discussion in the regular political meetings means no discussion anywhere. But suppose there were plenty of money, and there could be a most thorough fall campaign, what then? Why, the same old story of "women talking to women," not one of whom can vote on the question.
Again, with what decency can either of the parties ask women to come to their political meetings to expound Populist or Republican doctrines after they have set their heels on the amendment? Do you not see that if it will lose votes to the parties to have the plank, it will lose votes to allow women to advocate the amendment on their platforms? And what a spectacle it would be to see women pleading with men to vote for the one or the other party, while their tongues were tied on the question of their own right to vote! Heaven and the Republican and Populist State Conventions spare us such a dire humiliation!
But should the Republicans refuse to insert the plank on June 6 and the Populists put a good solid one in their platform on June 12, what then? Do you suppose all the women in the State would shout for the Republicans and against the Populists? Would they pack the Republican meetings, where no word could be spoken for their liberty, and leave the benches empty in the Populist meetings where at every one hearty appeals were made to vote for woman's enfranchisement? My dear friends, woman surely will be able to see that her highest interest, her liberty, her right to a voice in government, is the great issue of this campaign, and overtops, outweighs, all material questions which are now pending between the parties.
I know you think your Kansas men are going to vote on this amendment independently of party endorsement. You are no more sanguine today than were the men and women, myself included, in 1867, that those Free State men, who had given up every comfort which human beings prize for the sake of liberty, who had fought not only through the border ruffian warfare but through the four years of the rebellion, would vote freedom to the heroic women of Kansas. Where would you ever expect to find a majority more ready to grant to women equal rights than among those old Free State men? You have not as glorious a generation of men in Kansas today as you had in 1867. I do not wish to speak disparagingly, but in the nature of things there can not be another race of men as brave as those. If you had told me then that a majority of those men would have gone to the ballot-box and voted against equal rights for women, I should have defended them with all my power; but they did it, two to one.
Do you mean to repeat the experiment of 1867? If so, do not put a plank in your platform; just have a "still hunt." Think of a "still hunt" when it must be necessarily a work of education! My friends, I know enough of this State, to feel that it is worth saving. I have given more time and money and effort to Kansas than to any other State in the Union, because I wanted it to be the first to make its women free. Women of Kansas, all is lost if you sit down and supinely listen to politicians and candidates. Both reckon what they will lose or what they will gain. They study expediency rather than principle. I appeal to you, men and women, make the demand imperative: "The amendment must be endorsed by the parties and advocated on the platform and in the press." Let me propose a resolution:
WHEREAS, From the standpoint of justice, political expediency and grateful appreciation of their wise and practical use of school suffrage from the organization of the State, and of municipal suffrage for the past eight years, we, Republicans and Populists, descendants of that grand old party of splendid majorities which extended these rights to the women of Kansas, in mass meeting assembled do hereby
Resolve, That we urgently request our delegates in their approaching State conventions to endorse the woman suffrage amendment in their respective platforms.
[The resolution was adopted by a unanimous vote.)
That vote fills my soul with joy and hope. Now I want to say to you, my good friends, I never would have made a 1,500 mile journey hither to appeal to the thinking, justice-loving men of Kansas. They already are converted, but they are a minority. We have to consider those whose votes can be obtained only by that party influence and machinery which politicians alone know how to use. This hearty response is a pledge that you will demand of your State conventions that the full power of this political machinery shall be used to carry the woman suffrage amendment to victory.
As transcribed in Anderson, J. (1984). Outspoken Women: Speeches by American Women Reformers. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company.