A Popular Fallacy Exploded. Charles Lamb says somewhere in one
of the delightful "Essays of Elia" that
nothing flourishes like a popular fal-
lacy formulated out of the prejudice and
inexperience of one generation and handed on to the next. A living illustration
of the truth of this saying is found in
that sacred syllogism which was born
of the agitation for woman's rights
sixty odd years a go and has regularly
been going the rounds in every state
campaign for equal suffrage ever since--
—namely, -that women as a rule don't
want to vote.
That they will not and do not vote
when given the ballot;
That no good comes of their voting
Therefore, women should not be en-
Well, let us see what the facts are
in the case.
Statistics show that in the recent
presidential election when feeding ran
high and the dramatic situation aroused
the greatest feeling all over the country, only two out of every three men
voted., "Local elections''—-to quote from
a recent editorial—"rarely bring out
more than half the possible vote taking
the country as a whole "
This too when men in their personal ambitions are at stake and candidates have canvassed their respective
territories and made heroic efforts to
arouse their indifferent countrymen. But
when it comes to the enactment of
measures and amendments |he average
of the votes passed in the different
states usually falls to a comparatively
small fraction of this fractional vote
Are men ever arraigned for such negligence and disqualified as citizens?
Certainly not, and this fact ought in
common justice to render null and void
the solemn assertion that women ought
not to have the ballot because they
would not use it. It is a poor rule that
won't work both ways and citizenship as well as
morals should be measured
by the same standard for both sexes."
It would not not be strange if a large proportion
of women born and bred in an atmosphere
of political apathy should follow the
lead of their men folk and fail
to avail themselves of their newly
rights, but figures prove that
this is really not the fact.
Take the case of California for instance—which is only one among many.
When the campaign for equal suffrage
was on the state echoed(?) from end to
end with that old slogan of the Antis
that women wouldn't, couldn't and
shouldn't vote. But when the victory was won and the elections
came off it was found that while less than 20 per cent of the women had worked for suffrage, 90 per cent of them voted--the
women outnumbering- the men by a majority sufficient to turn the laugh
against the perpetrators, against that
It is said that in all equal suffrage
states an average of 83 1-3 per cent of
the women vote.
This record set over against the scant
50 per cent average of the men of the country speaks for
HOW the women vote is another
story that deserves a chapter all to it-
self. "A generally summing up of the
evidence so far available" says Mrs.
Harper in the New York Times—"shows
that the women vote with discrimination,"
and contrary to expectation are
not carried off their feet by personal
feeling and partisan excitement.
Their campaigns have in all instances
been clean, honest, dignified and womanly
and they seem to have shouldered
their new responsibilities in the same
serious, earnest spirit. In the beginning
of the movement the leaders sought the
support of the political parties that
were working for the abolition of slavery.
But the outcome of the civil war
taught them a valuable lesson and established the tradition that never again
should there be an alliance with any
political party. Consequently, the move-
ment has been absolutely non-partisan,
and in all states in which equal suffrage
has carried the credit has been
due, not to any one party, but to a
union of the host element of all parties.
For these reasons the women's vote is
generally independent and apt to center on the man who represents the measures in which they are most inter- ested.
"In matters of public policy," to
quote Mrs. Harper again, "their vote
is inclined to be cautious and conservative" but in local affairs, such as legislation that effects the home, the school
and the material and moral condition
of women and children their vote is
thoroughly progressive—not to say aggressive—as was the case in the re-election of Judge Lindsay by the women
of Denver in defiance of party bosses.
A similar instance was the quick action
of the newly enfranchised women of
Washington in overturning the corrupt
government of Seattle and purging that
plague ridden city of conditions almost
These dramatic victories—by the way,
together with the exemplary action of
California in enfranchising her daughters last year, have had the effect of
lifting the movement from its tentative experimental stage to the domain
of practical politics. The addition of
three new states to the white list—one
might as well say four, for the victory in Michigan is a foregone conclusion—has given the cause an impulse
that brings it abreast of the other vital
issues of the age. and forces politicians
to recognize it as such and give it a
place in their platforms.
But to return to the point in hand—
nothing succeeds like success, we are
told, and theoretical arguments for
women's suffrage are not half as convincing as the proof of its practical
accomplishments. This was the theme
of a most able defense of the cause recently made before congress by Representative Taylor of Colorado, in refutation of this very charge that no good,
results are directly attributable to the
political power of the women voters.
In the course of his speech Mr. Taylor enumerated no less than 150 valuable and progressive laws which stand
to the credit of Colorado women. These
are too numerous to mention here, but
this speech was made a public document, placed in the libraries and sent
out to thousands of people, besides being
used extensively in propaganda work by
equal suffragists, so that all who doubt
may read. Other states are pointing,
with pride to similar legislative records,
some longer, some shorter, but all in
the interest of social betterment. Madame Aino Malmberg, the distinguished
Finnish novelist and patriot who has
been giving a series of lectures in
America tells a thrilling story of the
wonders accomplished by her countrywomen since their enfranchisement in
1906, which by the way was unanimously conferred upon them by a grateful
government as a reward for their services and sacrifices during the dark days
when Finland was struggling to throw
off the galling bondage of Russia. In
the six years of their political power
the women deputies have proposed more
than one-tenth of the entire number of
bills—all of them dealing in a practical way with questions of education,
sanitation, health, social purity, child
labor, factory supervision, prostitution,
maternity insurance, care and education
of poor children, and a host of similar
In New Zealand, which is said to possess "the best system of government
under the sun," the women have a free hand and
the men are proud to give them a
a generous share of the credit for their
model republic. And so it goes.
Everywhere that equal suffrage has
been "tried the results have been astonishing even to its most optimistic advocates, which proves that women want
to vote, do vote and that to some purpose when given the chance. They have
succeeded in doing what, so far, the
men have failed to do—raised questions
of social and moral significance to a
level with political and commercial issues. And yet when any new effort is
made to extend women's suffrage the
same old fallacy is brought into requisition and worked for all it is worth. A
significant fact which may be noted in
this connection, is that the opposition
invariably comes from the same source
—from the professional politicians, the
masters of the "machine," the promoters of graft and corruption, the protectors of commercialized vice and the
liquor traffic—in short, from the worse
element of the country, which spares
neither pains for expense to defeat the
cause-—as was plainly shown in the recent campaigns in Ohio and Michigan.
The protest of these opponents no matter how artfully clothed in deceptive
language, really means "women shall
not vote as long as we have the power
to prevent it, for we know that their
ballots will be cast on the side of civic
righteousness and our little schemes
will suffer in consequence."
The day of this corrupt domination
is waning and "votes for women" will
hasten its passing.
S. H. HOOD.
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