The Republican Party/Chapter XVI

CHAPTER XVI

EQUAL SUFFRAGE

Latest of all the great advancements made in the civic life of America and greatest of all the late reforms achieved under the influence and leadership of the Republican party, is the enfranchisement of women. It was eminently appropriate that this work should be done chiefly by Republicans because it was in logical accord with the fundamental principles of that party. An organization which came into existence for the vindication of the rights of man was unmistakably destined to become the champion of equal rights of citizenship for men and women. Between the Republican party and the early movement for woman suffrage there was indeed an intimate personal connection. We cannot say that all Republicans were suffragists or that all suffragists were Republicans. But it is a fact of record that many of the founders of the Republican party were advocates of woman suffrage, and that the great majority of suffragists were affiliated with the Republican party.

Some citations from the national platforms of the Republican party with reference to the rights of women have already been made. It will be profitable to review the record in detail. As early as 1872 the Republican national convention, which nominated Grant and Wilson for the presidency and vice-presidency, declared:

"The Republican party is; mindful of its obligations to the loyal women of America for their noble devotion to the cause of freedom. Their admission to wider fields of usefulness is viewed with satisfaction; and the honest demand of any class of citizens for additional rights should be treated with respectful consideration.”

That was a tentative and conservative utterance. But it was the first utterance on the subject that was made by any considerable poliical party. Again in 1876 the Republican platform, upon which Hayes and Wheeler were nominated, declared:

“The Republican party recognizes with approval the substantial advances recently made toward the establishment of equal rights for women by the many important amendments effected by Republican legislatures, in the laws which concern the personal and property relations of wives, mothers and widows and by the appointment and election of women to the superintendence of education, charities and other public trusts. The honest demands of this class of citizens for additional rights, privileges and immunities should be treated with respectful consideration.”

Again, in 1896, when McKinley and Hobart were nominated, the Republican platform said:

“The Republican party is mindful of the rights and interests of women. Protection of American industries includes equal opportunities, equal pay for equal work and protection to the home. We favor the admission of women to wider spheres of usefulness and welcome their co-operation.”

Naturally, when McKinley was renominated in 1900 the Republican platform again recognized the public services of women and expressed appreciation of their co-operation.

Then in 1912 came the climax. We have already told of the great Progressive movement of that year, when more than half of the Republican party temporarily separated itself from the general organization in order the more to emphasize the demand for attainment of the advanced aims to which the party was committed. The Progressive Republicans in their platform unequivocally declared for the complete enfranchisement of women. They said:

“The Progressive party believing that no people can justly claim to be a true democracy which denies political rights on account of sex, pledges itself to the task of securing equal suffrage to men and women alike.”

With the reunion four years later of the Progressives with the regular Republican party, that unequivocally expressed principle of the former was fully and heartily adopted by the latter, so that the Republican national convention of 1916 declared in its platform:

“The Republican party, reaffirming its faith in government of the people, by the people, for the people, as a measure of justice to one-half the adult people of this country, favors the extension of the suffrage to women, but recognizes the right of each state to settle this question for itself.”

Meanwhile, what of the Democratic party? While the Republicans at intervals during nearly half a century were making these half dozen explicit declarations in favor of the rights of women, what did the Democrats say? Not one word. The subject of the civil and electoral rights of women was never so much as referred to in a Democratic platform until 1916 when, under sheer compulsion and most reluctantly, there was inserted this dodging and begrudging plank:

“We recommend the extension of the franchise to the women of the country by the states upon the same terms as to men.”

That was all; a single utterance of fewer than two dozen words, without a hint at belief in the matter or at appreciation of the civic and patriotic worth of womanhood—that constitutes the entire record of the Democratic party on the subject of woman suffrage.

The declaration of the Republican platform of 1916 was, it is true, in favor of suffrage for women by state rather than by national action. But when a little later the issue was brought before Congress in the form of a proposal for an amendment to the Constitution of the United States which would make equal suffrage a national and not merely a state right, Republicans readily accepted and supported it and it was by Republican votes that the amendment was adopted by both Houses of Congress and recommended to the states for ratification.

The House of Representatives took action first; on May 21, 1919. The former Congress, having a Democratic majority, had by Democratic votes rejected the amendment. But in May, 1919 there was a Republican majority and the amendment was favorably received. The vote stood as follows:

Republicans—For, 200; against, 19.

Democrats—For, 102; against, 70.

A little later, on June 4, the Senate voted as follows:

Republicans—For, 36; against 8.

Democrats—For, 20; against, 17.

Thus in the whole Congress, 236 Republicans voted for equal suffrage and only 27 against it; while only 122 Democrats voted for it and no fewer than 87 against it. It was emphatically and indisputably the work of the Republican party, therefore, that the so-called Susan B. Anthony suffrage amendment to the Constitution of the United States was adopted by Congress for submission and recommendation to the States for ratification.

No less is it the work of the Republican party that ratification by the states has been secured. The first eight states that ratified it were the staunch Republican states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Kansas, Ohio, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, every one of which had, of course, a Republican legislature. Of the thirty-five states which ratified it and brought it down to within a single state of adoption, only six had Democratic legislatures, while of three more the legislatures were divided, and twenty-six had Republican legislatures. On the other hand, of the six states which down to that crucial point had outrightly rejected the amendment, every one had a Democratic legislature and a Democratic governor. And of the seven states which then had not yet acted, three had Republican and four Democratic legislatures.

Thus twenty-six Republican states had ratified and not one had rejected the equal suffrage amendment, while only six Democratic states had ratified and six had rejected it. Thus the granting of equal suffrage, both by congressional initiative and by the final ratification of the states has been and will be unmistakably and indisputably the work of the Republican party, successfully effected in the face of Democratic opposition.