National American Woman Suffrage Association: Congressional Hearing (1892)

Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, addressed the committee. She said.
(selections only)

Secondly, if we consider her as a citizen, as a member of a great nation, she must have the same rights as all other members, according to the fundamental principles of our Government.

The strongest reason for giving women all the opportunities for higher education, for the full development of her faculties, forces of mind and body; for giving her the most enlarged freedom of thought and action; a complete emancipation from all forms of bondage, of custom, dependence, superstition; from all the crippling influences of fear, is the solitude and personal responsibility of her own individual life. The strongest reason why we ask for woman a voice in the government under which she lives; in the religion she is asked to believe; equality in social life, where she is the chief factor; a place in the trades and professions, where she may earn her bread, is because of her birthright to self-sovereignty; because, as an individual, she must rely on herself. No matter how much women prefer to lean, to be protected and supported, nor how much men desire to have them do so, they must make the voyage of life alone, and for safety in an emergency they must know something of the laws of navigation. To guide our own craft, we must be captain, pilot, engineer; with chart and compass to stand at the wheel; to watch the wind and waves and know when to take in the sail, and to read the signs in the firmament over all. In matters not whether the solitary voyager is man or woman.


But the thing I want to say particularly is that we have our immortal Declaration of Independence and the various bills of rights of the different States (and George Washington advised us to recur often to first principles), and in the Declaration of Independence nothing is clearer than the basis of the claim that women should have equal rights with men. It is that those that are to obey the laws should make them. A complete government is a perfectly just government. Now it is easy to say that our fathers announced that principle but did not apply it. Of course they were in no condition to do so, and they could not. In the white heat of the struggle of the war of the Revolution these men declared better things than they could do. They saw the great truth that a complete government must be a just government; but they were too near the throne; they had the idea of the one man power, and so they were unable to carry out the principle of a just government. In my own State of Massachusetts they allowed none but church members to vote. Then property holders alone had the right to vote; and then the Democratic party came in and said that the poor man had as much right to vote as the man of property, and abolished the property qualification. Then the Republicans came and abolished the disfranchisement of the negroes; and to-day every human being in the United States except woman has the right to vote.

Now you see, gentlemen, the helplessness of our position. I can think of nothing so helpless and humiliating as the position of a disfranchised person. I do not know whether I am treading on dangerous toes when I say that after the late war the Government in power wished to punish Jefferson Davis, and it considered that the worst punishment it could inflict upon him was to take away from him the right to vote. Now, the odium which attached to him from his disfranchisement is just the same that attaches to women from their disfranchisement. The only persons who are not allowed to vote in Massachusetts are the lunatics, idiots, and felons, and people who can not read and write. In what a category is that to place women, after one hundred years, and at the close of this nineteenth century! And yet that is history. In Massachusetts we are trying to get a small concession—the right to vote in the cities and towns in which we live in regard to the taxes we have to pay. In 1792, in the town of Newburyport, Mass., it was not thought necessary to give women education. At that time there were no schools for girls; the public money was not used for girl's schools, and when one man said that he had five daughters, and paid his taxes like other men, and his girls were not allowed to attend school, and that they ought to give the girls a chance, another man said, "Take the public money and educate shes? Never!"

Elizabeth Cady Stanton: Seneca Falls speech (1848)

We are assembled to protest against a form of government, existing without the consent of the governed—to declare our right to be free as man is free, to be represented in the government which we are taxed to support, to have such disgraceful laws as give man the power to chastise and imprison his wife, to take the wages which she earns, the property which she inherits, and, in case of separation, the children of her love; laws which make her the mere dependent on his bounty. It is to protest against such unjust laws as these that we are assembled to-day, and to have them, if possible, forever erased from our statute-books, deeming them a shame and a disgrace to a Christian republic in the nineteenth century. . . .
But what would woman gain by voting? Men must know the advantages of voting, for they all seem very tenacious about the right. Think you, if woman had a vote in this government, that all those laws affecting her interests would so entirely violate every principle of right and justice? Had woman a vote to give, might not the office-holders and seekers propose some change in her condition? Might not Woman's Rights become as great a question as free soil?

One common objection to this movement is, that if the principles of freedom and equality which we advocate were put into practice, it would destroy all harmony in the domestic circle. Here let me ask, how many truly harmonious households have we now? . . . The only happy households we now see are those in which husband and wife share equally in counsel and government. There can be no true dignity or independence where there is subordination to the absolute will of another, no happiness without freedom. Let us then have no fears that the movement will disturb what is seldom found, a truly united and happy family. . . .

Declaration of Sentiments (1848)

Whereas, the great precept of nature is conceded to be that "man shall pursue his own true and substantial happiness." Blackstone in his Commentaries remarks that this law of nature being coeval with mankind, and dictated by God himself, is of course superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries and at all times; no human laws are of any validity if contrary to this, and such of them as are valid, derive all their force, and all their validity, and all their authority, immediately from this original; therefore:
Resolved, that all laws which prevent woman from occupying such a station in society as her conscience shall dictate, or which place her in a position inferior to that of man, are contrary to the great precept of nature, and therefore of no force or authority.

Resolved, that woman is man's equal—was intended to be so by the Creator, and the highest good of the race demands that she should be recognized as such.

Resolved, that the women of this country ought to be enlightened in regard to the laws under which they live, that they may no longer publish their degradation by declaring themselves satisfied with their present position, nor their ignorance by asserting that they have all the rights they want.

Resolved, that inasmuch as man, while claiming for himself intellectual superiority, does accord to woman moral superiority, it is preeminently his duty to encourage her to speak and teach, as she has an opportunity, in all religious assemblies.

Resolved, that the same amount of virtue, delicacy, and refinement of behavior that is required of woman in the social state, should also be required of man, and the same transgressions should be visited with equal severity on both man and woman.

Resolved, that the objection of indelicacy and impropriety, which is so often brought against woman when she addresses a public audience, comes with a very ill grace from those who encourage, by their attendance, her appearance on the stage, in the concert, or in feats of the circus.

Resolved, that woman has too long rested satisfied in the circumscribed limits which corrupt customs and a perverted application of the Scriptures have marked out for her, and that it is time she should move in the enlarged sphere which her great Creator has assigned her.

Resolved, that it is the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise.

Resolved, that the equality of human rights results necessarily from the fact of the identity of the race in capabilities and responsibilities.

Resolved, that the speedy success of our cause depends upon the zealous and untiring efforts of both men and women, for the overthrow of the monopoly of the pulpit, and for the securing to women an equal participation with men in the various trades, professions, and commerce.

Resolved, therefore, that, being invested by the Creator with the same capabilities, and the same consciousness of responsibility for their exercise, it is demonstrably the right and duty of woman, equally with man, to promote every righteous cause by every righteous means; and especially in regard to the great subjects of morals and religion, it is self-evidently her right to participate with her brother in teaching them, both in private and in public, by writing and by speaking, by any instrumentalities proper to be used, and in any assemblies proper to be held; and this being a self-evident truth growing out of the divinely implanted principles of human nature, any custom or authority adverse to it, whether modern or wearing the hoary sanction of antiquity, is to be regarded as a self-evident falsehood, and at war with mankind.

Declaration of Rights for Women (1876)

The history of our country the past hundred years has been a series of assumptions and usurpations of power over woman, in direct opposition to the principles of just government, acknowledged by the United States as its foundation, which are:

First—The natural rights of each individual.
Second—The equality of these rights.
Third—That rights not delegated are retained by the individual.
Fourth—That no person can exercise the rights of others without delegated authority.
Fifth—That the non-use of rights does not destroy them.

And now, at the close of a hundred years . . . , we declare our faith in the principles of self government; our full equality with man in natural rights; that woman was made first for her own happiness, with the absolute right to herself—to all the opportunities and advantages life affords for her complete development; and we deny that dogma of the centuries, incorporated in the codes of all nations—that woman was made for man—her best interests, in all cases, to be sacrificed to his will. We ask of our rulers, at this hour, no special favors, no special privileges, no special legislation. We ask justice, we ask equality, we ask that all the civil and political rights that belong to citizens of the United States, be guaranteed to us and our daughters forever.

Carrie Chapman Catt: Do You Know? (1915)

DO YOU KNOW that the question of votes for women is one which is commanding the attention of the whole civilized world; that woman suffrage organizations of representative men and women exist in twenty-seven different countries; that in this country alone there are more than 1,000 woman suffrage organizations; that there is an International and a National Men's League for Woman Suffrage and numbers of local men's leagues; that the number of women who are asking for the vote in this country is larger than the number of men who have ever asked for anything in its entire history; that more and larger petitions asking for votes for women have been sent to legislative bodies than for any other one measure; that the press of this country is giving more space to woman suffrage than to any other one public question; that the legislatures of twenty-eight states in year 1914 entertained woman suffrage measures; and that a bill for a woman suffrage amendment to the United States Constitution is now before Congress?

DO YOU KNOW that the women of New Zealand and the women of Australia possess all the political rights accorded to men?

DO YOU KNOW that the women of Finland vote in all elections upon the same terms as men, and that since their enfranchisement in 1906, from sixteen to twenty-five have been elected to the different Parliaments?

DO YOU KNOW that in Norway all women have the full Parliamentary vote, and that in 1910 one woman sat in the Norwegian Parliament, and that numbers of women are serving as members and alternates to city councils?

DO YOU KNOW that the women of Iceland have the full Parliamentary franchise and that since 1902 one-fourth of the members of the council of the capital city have been women?

DO YOU KNOW that in Sweden women have had some measure of suffrage since the eighteenth century, that in 1862 unmarried women who had to pay taxes were given the municipal franchise, and that in 1909, this right was extended to all women; that, furthermore, it is only a matter of a little time before women will have the full Parliamentary vote? The measure has already twice passed the Lower House of the Swedish Parliament and is known to have the support of the King and the Prime Minister. It is opposed only by the aristocrats of the Upper House who are against all democratic measures, but it is admitted that even they cannot long keep back so popular a cause.

DO YOU KNOW that in Denmark all women who pay taxes and the wives of men who pay taxes were given the municipal franchise in 1908, and that, as in Sweden, the measure to extend to them the full Parliamentary vote has passed the Lower House in two successive sessions of Parliament, and that, as in Sweden, it has the support of the King, the Prime Minister and the people in general, and is opposed only by the aristocrats, of the Upper House who cannot long continue to stand out against the popular will?

DO YOU KNOW that in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales women vote in all elections except for members of Parliament; that they are eligible and have been elected to office as mayors and members of city and county councils and that on the Isle of Man women who pay rent or taxes can vote for member of the Manx Parliament?

DO YOU KNOW that in eight of the provinces of Canada—Ontario, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan—tax-paying widows and spinsters have the municipal vote, while in Nova Scotia married women whose husbands are not voters are included also?

DO YOU KNOW that women have the municipal vote in Rangoon, the capital of Burmah; in Belize, the capital of British Honduras; and in the cities of Baroda and Bombay in British India; and that in certain provinces of Austria, Hungary and Russia they have limited communal franchise rights?

DO YOU KNOW that within the past year the subject of woman suffrage has been considered in the National Parliaments of 17 countries; that the revolutionary government in China stands pledged to woman suffrage, and that women have already voted in one province; that in France a special commission appointed to investigate the question has recommended that the full franchise be extended to women as rapidly as may be deemed feasible, and that the municipal franchise be granted immediately?

DO YOU KNOW that in our own country women have been voting on the same terms as men in Wyoming since 1860, in Colorado since 1893, in Utah and Idaho since 1896; that in 1910, the state of Washington voted three to one to extend the full suffrage to women; that in 1911, California doubled the number of voting women in this country by giving the full suffrage to more than half a million women citizens; that in 1912, the men of Kansas, Oregon, and Arizona voted to give votes to their women; that in 1913, the legislature of the State of Illinois passed a measure giving to women all the voting rights within the power of the legislature to bestow, including presidential electors, all municipal officers and some county and some state officers; and that the territorial legislature of Alaska granted full suffrage to women, and that in 1914 Nevada and Montana gave full suffrage to women?

DO YOU KNOW that wherever women have got the vote they have used it in large numbers—larger, frequently, than the men of the same city, state or country; that in the first election after the New Zealand women were given the franchise, seventy-eight per cent of the women voted as opposed to sixty-nine per cent of the men, while in subsequent elections the proportion of both men and women voting steadily rose until now it is about eighty per cent of the qualified persons of both sexes; that in the equal suffrage states of our own country from seventy to ninety per cent of the women vote, whereas in most states of the Union only sixty to sixty-five per cent of the qualified men voters actually cast their ballots; that in some of the equal suffrage states almost half the vote is cast by women, although they do not nearly constitute half the population; that in the first elections after the Washington women were enfranchised, women's votes secured the recall of corrupt city governments in Seattle and Tacoma; that in the first election after the women of California were enfranchised, taking place in Los Angeles in 1911, ninety-five per cent of the women voted, outnumbering the men voters in many wards?

DO YOU KNOW that, on the other hand, large numbers of men are utterly indifferent to their rights as voters; that in the presidential election of 1912, the total vote cast was only 14,720,1038, while the number of men eligible to vote was 24,335,000: that in the presidential election of 1909 the total vote cast was only 14,888,442, while the number of men eligible to vote was fully 22,000,000; that in the presidential election of 1904 the total vote was only 13,961,560 while the total number of men eligible to vote was 21,000,000?
DO YOU KNOW, moreover, that in every state and country where the franchise has been extended to women, the vote of the men has steadily risen?, In Australia in the first elections in which women voted, taking place in 1903, 53 per cent of the men eligible cast their ballots, whereas, in 1906, 56 per cent, and in 1901, 67 per cent cast their ballots. In our own country the vote of the men is larger in the equal suffrage states than in most of those in which women are unenfranchised.

DO YOU KNOW that extending the franchise to women actually increases the proportion of intelligent voters; that there is now and has been for years, according to the report of the Commissioner of Education, one-third more girls in the high schools of the country than boys; and that, according to the last census, the illiterate men of the country greatly outnumbered the illiterate women?

DO YOU KNOW that extending the suffrage to women increases the moral vote; that in all states and countries that have adopted equal suffrage the vote of the disreputable women is practically negligible, the slum wards of cities invariably having the lightest woman vote and respectable residence wards the heaviest; that only one out of every twenty criminals are women; that women constitute a minority of drunkards and petty miscreants; that for every prostitute there are at least two men responsible for her immorality; that in all the factors that tend to handicap the progress of society, women form a minority, whereas in churches, schools and all organizations working for the uplift of humanity, women are a majority?

DO YOU KNOW that extending the suffrage to women increases the number of native-born voters; that for every one hundred foreign white women immigrants coming to this country there are 129 men, while among Asiatic immigrants the men outnumber the women two to one, according to the figures of the census of

DO YOU KNOW that there are in the United States about 8,000,000 women in gainful occupations outside the home who need the protection of the ballot to regulate the conditions under which they must labor; and that the efforts of working women to regulate these conditions without the ballot have been practically unavailing?

DO YOU KNOW that the laws of many states discriminate unjustly against women; that, for instance, in only seventeen is a mother equal guardian with the father over her own children; that for fifty-five years the women of Massachusetts worked for—an equal guardianship law and then succeeded in getting it only when a dreadful tragedy had shocked the public into a realization of the injustice of the old law, whereas in Colorado and in California women had themselves made equal guardians with the fathers over their own children in the very next year following their enfranchisement?

DO YOU KNOW that wherever women, the traditional housekeepers of the world, have been given a voice in the government, public housekeeping, has been materially improved by an increased attention to questions of pure food, pure water supply, sanitation, housing, public health and morals, child welfare and education?

DO YOU KNOW that the movement for woman suffrage is just a part of the eternal forward march of the human race toward a complete democracy; that in the American colonies only a very small proportion of the men could vote; that even after the Revolution only property-holders could vote; that it was only by slow and hard-fought stages that all men finally won the right to vote; and that in most foreign countries the franchise for men is still heavily loaded with restrictions?

DO YOU KNOW that the legislatures of some of the suffrage states, the Australian Parliament, and numbers of the most representative people, both men and women, in all the suffrage states and countries have testified time and again in print and over their own signatures, that woman suffrage has brought none of the evils which its opponents fear, but has, instead, been productive of much positive good; that it has enlarged the outlook of women, increased their intelligence and self-reliance, rendered homes happier, ennobled men and dignified politics; that in all the places where women vote, the opponents, thus far, have not been able to find a dozen respectable men to assert, over their own names and addresses, that it has had any bad results; that more than five hundred organizations—state, national and international other than woman suffrage associations—aggregating approximately a membership of over 50,000,000, have officially endorsed woman suffrage?

DO YOU KNOW one single sound, logical reason why the intelligence and individuality of women should not entitle them to the rights and privileges of self-government?

DO YOU KNOW that the women in twelve states and in Alaska will vote for President in 1916?

Carrie Chapman Catt: quote on women's suffrage
"Why do we disturb ourselves to hasten progress? . . . It is the helpless cry of the lost women who are the victims of centuries of wrong; it is the unspoken plea of thousands of women now standing on the brink of similar ruin; it is the silent appeal of the army of women in all lands who in shops and factories are demanding fair living and working conditions; it is the need to turn the energies of more favored women to public service; it is the demand for a complete revision of women's legal, social, educational, and industrial status all along the line, which permits us no delay, no hesitation. The belief that we are defending the highest good of the mothers of our race and the ultimate welfare of society makes every sacrifice seem trivial, every duty a pleasure. The pressing need spurs us on, the certainty of victory gives us daily inspiration."

(Speech before the International Woman Suffrage Alliance in Stockholm, Sweden, 1911)

Grover Cleveland: quote on women's suffrage
"Sensible and responsible women do not want to vote."

Susan B. Anthony: quote on women's suffrage

"Here, in the first paragraph of the Declaration [of Independence], is the assertion of the natural right of all to the ballot; for how can 'the consent of the governed' be given, if the right to vote be denied?"
(Speech delivered before her trial for voting, 1873)

Sojourner Truth: Ain't I a Woman? speech (1851)

[Recounted by abolitionist Frances Gage in 1863.]
Several ministers attended the second day of the Woman's Rights Convention, and were not shy in voicing their opinion of man's superiority over women. One claimed "superior intellect", one spoke of the "manhood of Christ," and still another referred to the "sin of our first mother."

Suddenly, Sojourner Truth rose from her seat in the corner of the church.

"For God's sake, Mrs.Gage, don't let her speak!" half a dozen women whispered loudly, fearing that their cause would be mixed up with Abolition.

Sojourner walked to the podium and slowly took off her sunbonnet. Her six-foot frame towered over the audience. She began to speak in her deep, resonant voice: "Well, children, where there is so much racket, there must be something out of kilter, I think between the Negroes of the South and the women of the North—all talking about rights—the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this talking about?"
Sojourner pointed to one of the ministers. "That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody helps me any best place. And ain't I a woman?"

Sojourner raised herself to her full height. "Look at me! Look at my arm." She bared her right arm and flexed her powerful muscles. "I have plowed, I have planted and I have gathered into barns. And no man could head me. And ain't I a woman?"

"I could work as much, and eat as much as man—when I could get it—and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne children and seen most of them sold into slavery, and when I cried out with a mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me. And ain't I a woman?"

The women in the audience began to cheer wildly.

She pointed to another minister. "He talks about this thing in the head. What's that they call it?"

"Intellect," whispered a woman nearby.

"That's it, honey. What's intellect got to do with women's rights or black folks' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half-measure full?"

"That little man in black there! He says women can't have as much rights as men. 'Cause Christ wasn't a woman." She stood with outstretched arms and eyes of fire. "Where did your Christ come from?"
"Where did your Christ come from?", she thundered again. "From God and a Woman! Man had nothing to do with him!"

The entire church now roared with deafening applause.

"If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back and get it right-side up again. And now that they are asking to do it the men better let them."

the end