This speech was reported in the Jan. 23, 1895 issue of the Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Louisiana. Catt and Susan B. Anthony both spoke to a large crowd.
I am sure there are rising in your hearts many objections as to the practicable working of this theory as though Henry George should come here and present his theory, or Bellamy his ideal government—it is all very well in theory, but will it work? Twenty-seven years ago this month an incident happened in the Rocky mountains which proves the woman suffrage movement not a theory, but an established fact, in America. Twenty-seven years ago, in the Rocky mountains, in the dead of winter, a little band of people—in which were two women—no railroad leading to this little village—snow lay heavy on the ground, so that you could scarcely see the houses on either side. One of those women was a Quaker from the east; the other, a young wife.
It was impossible to secure succor, nurses or doctors. This Quaker woman went to her and nursed her through her long illness. When she recovered her husband said to the Quaker woman, Hester Morris: "If I even have the power to grant you any favor I will do it." Years passed and a territorial government was organized. The first legislature met and this gentleman was one of them. Hester Morris went to him and asked him to introduce a bill giving the women of Wyoming equal rights with men in ballot box. He promised and introduced the bill. At that time all over east and west the "women's rights" was the subject for jest—hardly a self-respecting woman dared to face the ridicule and put herself on its side. Well, the bill was presented: it was the first legislature; they hadn't much else to do, and so—though it was greeted with loud guffaws—they consented to receive and discuss it. Some one stated the important fact that there were a small number of women, and therefore if they passed it it would be an inducement to eastern women to come out to Wyoming, and they wanted them for wives.
There was a governor then, young, handsome, gallant and surrounded by the women. At all places of public amusement the other men had to stand as wall flowers, while the women grouped about their handsome governor. So they thought they would make him veto the bill, and thus make him lose his popularity. Thus, with these various motives governing these men, they finally passed the bill, thinking, of course, the governor would veto it. But he signed it!
So they never tried it again. And for twenty-five years the women of that state have had the same political privileges as the men.
What can prove that women suffrage is not only a theory, but an established fact? Actual test. Very well; is not the "proof of the pudding in the eating"—then the proof of this fact is good government.
You say, if you give your women suffrage they will not vote.
Well, that's what they said in Wyoming, too, and worse than that. Some bad men said: "Leave it to us; we'll see that they don't vote." They procured every bad woman in the town and paid them to go to the polls and vote. The good women were roused at this; they went, too, and the proportion of good women over the bad was such that the "ring" candidate, despite his fallen women quota of votes, was completely overwhelmed, and they've never dared to have a "ring" in Wyoming since.
[The reporter then writes, "Mrs. Catt then gave, in her thrilling, impressive manner, some interesting statistics of her own state, where woman suffrage reigns supreme, with the result that is has the smallest percentage of illiteracy and criminality of any state in the union.
"She also made some startling statements that, as grand and great as our government is, illiteracy is on the increase; poverty is on the increase, and the percentage of criminality is alarming. America has more insane and idiots than any other country. In the face of these statistics, we cannot say our government is the ideal, nor on the march toward it.
"In Wyoming every man and woman must read the constitution and understand it before they can vote. Education is compulsory. They take education to the child. If they are far away in the mountains, they send teachers to them—one teacher for one child for three months and all the expenses paid by the state.
"Mrs. Catt then gave some very amusing incidents, showing the influence of the wife over the husband, instead of the husband influencing the wife's vote, as it is contended would be the case. She then gave an incident of how women would vote for a good man for office and not for a "ring" candidate."]
A certain judge was on the "ring" ticket, and his wife said: "John, I don't want to vote against you, but I won't vote for a 'ring' ticket." "Very well, my dear," he replied, "I don't wish to force your vote." So she went, and every other woman went, and, although they were Republicans, they voted the Democratic "anti-ring" ticket and received such an overwhelming vote that they've never dared to have a "ring" in Wyoming since!
Maybe you men here will say that you don't want your wives to go and vote against you. "Well, the men in Wyoming have got beyond that!" said Mrs. Catt proudly.
Many years ago Wendell Phillips said, in quoting Jacitus: "In all grave matters we consult our women," and said he: "We need some second Jacitus to arise and make it true of our women of today, and in 'all grave matters we consult our women.'"
["Mrs. Catt then gave a spirited account of the admission of Wyoming into the union."]
First they thought they would submit and go into the union without the suffrage plank. They would make the sacrifice for one year. But at last, when their statesmen wired for their answer, they replied: "God only knows how Wyoming needs statehood; we need irrigation, and without statehood we cannot have irrigation; yet, tell the United States that without woman's suffrage, although we need statehood so sorely, we will stay out for 100 years!"
That was our answer.
If, as you say, it will rob woman of her charm, do you think the men of Wyoming would have sent that answer?
It is a question of now, not of the future. You say it is a great problem. Down here in the south you call it a black problem—in the east they call it a white problem; 500,000 men come across the seas and vote, in all their ignorance. In the southwest they call it a "greaser" problem, and in the northwest, the Indian problem, for in their frantic haste to enfranchise everything "male" they have even franchised the half-breed, the Indian and the Chinese. I have seen a delegate from the Sioux tribe, a half washed creature, with long hair, and unable to speak the English language, yet able to vote. But I tell you, it is not any of these. There should be no north, south, east or west. It should be one problem, and that, a question of education and property qualification.
Again you say, women will not make as good mothers. Well, physicians tell us that the statistics of idiocy is the best test of the duties of motherhood having been performed rightly. Well, the only thing I will say is, there is only one idiot in Wyoming, and that is a man.
["General laughter followed this sally, and the audience seemed to enjoy it heartily, the men quite as well as the women.
"Mrs. Catt then made an announcement that was greeted with surprise; this was that Wyoming is the only state in the union in which there is a law that equal wages shall be paid man and woman for equal work.
"Another instance which Mrs. Catt emphasized with great impressiveness was the age of consent, which, in all other states is 13 years. In Wyoming the law places it at 18 years.
"Mrs. Catt then gave some startling and very interesting statistics of the ratio of fallen women, should they receive enfranchisement."]
There are only 100,000 fallen women in the United States, but I'll say 160,000, although I don't believe in that number. I'll say while I'm about it, for every one woman you must count twelve men who helped to make her so. Now I will say to the men, if you will agree to take care of the bad men, we will take care of the bad women. We'll appropriate 120,000 good women and set them over against your 12,000 bad women, and then we'll appropriate 120,000 more and set them against your 12,000 bad men, and we'll still have 10,700,000 good women left.
["Mrs. Catt's voice rang with triumph when she had completed her splendid statistical showing of the triumph of good women over bad in the world and the audience showed their appreciation heartily. Mrs. Catt then made her application…"]
Women of Louisiana…
I have laid the facts before you. Here they are. Woman's suffrage is an established fact. It must come. Now are you willing to take the lead in this movement, or will you only come in after all the rest have led you in?
["(Some clapping from the Portia Club and cheers from the house around.)"]
Every idea of good to the nation and for the furtherance of the general weal has originated south of the Mason and Dixon line. Our first presidents were all from the south. But after the war there came a change. The south began to grow conservative. And now the north is conservative. So it is with the west, where the best flower of north and south meets, where we begin to look to join this battle for us. Shall we win?
["Mrs. Catt was the recipient of prolonged applause—every one pressing forward to take the hands of the distinguished visitors. Miss Anthony and Mrs. Catt leave this evening for Shreveport."]
Women Raise Their Own Fair Standard. (1895, January 23). The Times-Picayune (New Orleans), 7. Retrieved from https://www.newspapers.com/image/28310656.