Carrie Chapman Catt

Women Voters - Are You Satisfied With? - June 23, 1939

Carrie Chapman Catt
June 23, 1939
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The following transcript contains three versions of this National Broadcasting Company radio address.

As prepared and given

Equal citizenship and the vote were added to the program of the Woman Movement in 1848. That campaign began with practically the entire world against it; it closed seventy-two years later with an organization of two millions of women at work within it its ranks.

Today, no woman is uneducated for want of schools and every woman citizen has a ballot in her hand. Mrs. [Eva vom Baur] Hansl asks me, as one of the elders, whether I am satisfied with women voters. No, I am neither satisfied with women voters nor with men voters. They make tremendous blunders, but it is no time to judge man or woman suffrage when tested in the aftermath of a terrible World War and the fear of another. She asks what should women now do with the vote.

I answer that since all liberal institutions have been definitely retrograded by great wars, nothing can so certainly obstruct future progress as another war. Therefore prevent it!

Every civilized citizen should make the riddance of war his primary aim object. The next aim should be to build a democracy so clean, honest and intelligent that it can be defended without question against any criticisms a dictatorship the world around can possibly make. The ideal government breeds no enemies within it.

It becomes the duty of every man and woman, therefore, to render the most effective service to these fundamental tasks. Any citizen who shirks his or her duty retards the progress of a nation. If you, who listen, do not value your citizenship, then I pronounce you an enemy of your nation. If you do care and wish to enjoy a still completer freedom than is yours today, I beg you to give patriotic service to this great Republic.

Imagine all the women who, in centuries past, have protested against the wrongs of women, to be gathered around me here and their voices joined with mine. Together, they would say:

"Arise, women of America, lead on! A greater duty than women have ever known in all the ages past is now urging crucial action. We labored for your freedom. Use the powers gained to keep that liberty and to bequeath still greater freedom to those yet to come unborn."

Second version

Equal citizenship and the vote was added to the program of the long preceding woman movement in 1848. That campaign began with brave women hiring their own halls, printing and nailing up nailing up announcements of their own meetings. They introduced themselves to their audiences, often delivered a prayer to begin the program, and took up a collection at the close to pay their expenses. Few then believes that women should speak in public and common opinion condemned all they did and said with harsh comments.

The campaign closed seventy-two years later with banners flying and an organization of two millions of women at work upon the task. Generous funds paid the bills, millions of dollars were raised, mainly in small sums, and expended with economic care; tons of literature in all the languages read in this country were scattered; women spoke on street corners to chance hearers and in larger halls to great audiences; they were heard in the church, the theatre, on the baseball field, and even in the circus, and all the known devices of triumphant campaigning were employed. Hundreds of women gave all the accumulated possibilities of an entire lifetime, thousands gave years of their lives, and hundreds of thousands gave constant interest and such aid as they could.

Now the campaign has been won. No woman is uneducated for the want of schools and every woman citizen has a ballot in her hands. To what uses will women put the privileges so hard earned and with so much sacrifice by the women of yesterday?

I am frequently asked as one of the elders, whether I am satisfied with the results of the victory. Ah, how senseless it is to judge of results in the midst of the aftermath of a great world war. Indeed, the chief stumblick block to further progress for men and women lies in the question, - how may we get rid of war? The status of women has been definitely retrograded by every great war of the past. Nothing now can so certainly obstruct future progress of women, men, and civilization as another war.

To my mind, the next most important problem before our country today is one which does not concern women alone. Every flaw in our governmental machinery offers a temptation to the dictator to condemn our government of the future. Naturally, among our population there is a large percentage of ignorance, dinhonesty, greed and selfishness

The problem is, how to build a democracy so clean, so honest, and so intelligent that it can be defended without question against any dictatorship the world around. The ideal is a democracy so satisfactory to every conscientious citizen that it breeds no enemies of government by the people. If every other problem was laid aside at the moment and the netire energy of our nation devoted to this question alone, we might do well.

It became the duty of every man and woman, therefore, to render the highest and most effective service to these fundamental tasks. Any citizen who shirks his duty, any citizen who is ignorant, dishonest, or indifferent, retards the progress of a nation, if you, who listen, do not value your citizenship, if you do not care to exercise the responsibility of its use, then I pronounce you an enemy of your nation. If you do care, if you wish to enjoy a still completer freedom than is yours today, a juster status, then I beg you to prove patriotic, constant working citizens of this great Republic.

Imagine that all the women that in centuries past have protested against the wrongs of women or urged the extension of new rights are now gathered around me and their voiced joined with mine: All, would I am sure united with me in saying:

"Arise, women of America, lead on! A greater duty than women have ever known in all the ages past in now urging crucial action, We labored that you might have liberty. Use those privileges to keep that liberty and to bequeath still greater freedom to those who come after."

Third version

Equal citizenship and the vote was added to the program of the Woman Movement in 1848. That campaign began with practically the entire world against it; it closed seventy-two years later with an organization of two millions of women at work within it.

Today, no woman is uneducated for want of schools and every woman citizen has a ballot in her hand. Mrs. Hansl asks me, as one of the elders, whether I am satisfied with women voters. No, I am neither satisfied with women voters nor men voters. They make tremendous blunders, but it is no time to judge man or woman suffrage when tested in the aftermath of a terrible World War. She asks what should women now do with the vote.

I answer that since all liberal institutions have been definitely retrograded by great wars, nothing can so certainly obstruct future progress as another war. Prevent it!

Every civilized citizen should make the riddance of war his primary aim. The next aim should be to build a democracy so clean, honest and intelligent that it can be defended without question against any dictatorship the world around. The ideal government breeds no enemies within.

It becomes the duty of every man and woman, therefore, to render the most effective service to these fundamental tasks. Any citizen who shirks his duty retards the progress of a nation if you, who listen, do not value your citizenship, then I pronounce you an enemy of your nation. If you do care, and wish to enjoy a still completer freedom than is yours today, I beg you to give patriotic service to this great Republic.

Imagine all the women who, in centuries past, have protested against the wrongs of women are now gathered around me and their voices joined with mine. Together, they would say:

"Arise, women of America, lead on! A greater duty than women have ever known in all the ages past is now urging crucial action. We labored for your freedom. Use the powers gained to keep that liberty and to bequeath still greater freedom to those who come after you."

Catt, C. C. (1939). Carrie Chapman Catt Papers: Speech and Article File, 1892-1946; Speeches; Untitled; 1928 to 1944. [Manuscript/Mixed Material] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/mss154040425.