Carrie Chapman Catt

Address at the 28th Annual NAWSA Convention - Jan. 25, 1896

Carrie Chapman Catt
January 25, 1896— Washington, D.C.
Print friendly

We must learn to concentrate our forces, our workers, our money wherever we find a vulnerable spot, no matter where it is. We must never fail to win a victory, however small, by the division our forces. It is our duty now give assistance to Arizona and to Oklahoma in order to bring these Territories into the Union as Suffrage States. It is true the population is very small, and they will bring us but one member in the House, but they will add to our force two United States Senators, and their votes are of quite as much consequence as those of the two Senators of New York. Nevada, it is said, has not at present sufficient population to make her a State if she were now a Territory but, for all that, when she becomes a Woman Suffrage State her Senators can cast just as telling votes as the two Senators from New York with a population of six millions of people behind them; therefore, is it not common sense to gain this much from any territory wherever an opportunity is offered? Let us add to the number of our friends in the United States Senate every time we can. Montana will be prepared to submit an amendment soon, and much political power is standing ready to endorse it. Let us help all the states surrounding our suffrage nucleus with their constitutional amendments. We can carry them there by popular vote.

The sentiment in Washington is strong for woman suffrage because woman once had the authority of the ballot in that State. The question is pending in Oregon and California. In Idaho it is to be voted upon in November, so that it will not be at all strange if within the next four years we see every state west of the Mississippi River with woman suffrage established within it. We will then have the great West solid for woman suffrage. With this accomplished who is there that can measure the force and power of the West as it will be represented in the United Senate and the House of Representatives? The great strength of our sentiment lies west of Missouri, but in the meantime let us not neglect our organization at home, for the time is speedily coming when every state in the Union will be called upon to take action on this question.

While by popular votes it would not possible to carry the states of Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois with its great city of Chicago, Wisconsin with its breweries, Missouri with its city of St. Louis, it is possible to carry all the states west of Missouri. When this is done it is possible to carry every state south of the Mason's and Dixon's line. In Montana, I became more and more convinced of the force of Miss Clay's appeal for work in the South. In the earlier days the southern people settled in Montana. The one great obstacle to our success in that state is the southern sentiment. Nothing could awaken it into activity like the news that the South was organizing and that the Democratic party was favoring the enfranchisement of women. Theirs is the most harmoniously Anglo Saxon population in the United States; when we have converted one state we have converted the whole South. Let us then work upon the South and we can carry it in due time.

With all this accomplished let us go as one body before the United States Congress. Let us not take that step until we have a political prestige behind us. It is a difficult matter to secure a constitutional amendment, but we can compel Congress to submit an amendment if we have sufficient power in three fourths of the states. We will ask for the National amendment, and it will be ratified in conventions and legislatures all over the country. This is the manner in which women must be enfranchised.

I wish we could make all the states understand that their work is to organize, not necessarily for popular vote, but to make ready the question to be ratified in the Legislature. I wish every state might be educated to see the advantage there is for us all to stand together and put our united forces wherever we can gain a point. If we can but hold to this policy the day of our final victory is not far away. In order that we may know how to proceed intelligently along this line, I want us to have a very carefully selected committee of three; I request that these persons be those of unusual intelligence and careful training; that they know something about political work. I would suggest that the committee be composed of two men and one woman who is a politician. I would have the committee thoroughly investigate conditions in every state in the Union, ascertain population, number of foreigners, how much majority is required to carry an amendment, whether an amendment must be carried through one legislature or two, and to learn all things in regard to the conditions of an amendment and a campaign in each state.

I move that a committee of three to be called the Committee on Campaign Conditions, be appointed by the Business Committee, and that it be endorsed by the Executive Committee. Carried.

Avery, R. F. (Ed.). (1896). Proceedings of the Twenty-Eighth Annual Convention of the National-American Woman Suffrage Association Held in Washington, D.C., January 23d to 28th, 1896. Philadelphia: Press of Alfred Ferris.