Before Equal Suffrage: Women in Partisan Politics from Colonial Times to 1920

By Robert J. Dinkin | Go to book overview

Chapter 7
Politics and the Suffrage Amendment

For many decades, as we have seen, the woman suffrage movement had had at least some connection with partisan politics. Beginning in the late 1860s, the suffragists had offered to support either of the parties, promising everlasting allegiance to the one that would help them achieve the vote. They at times had participated in campaigns with the hope that the particular party would be grateful and reward them for their contribution. After a while, it had become evident that this strategy was not working: The parties, especially the Republican side, had benefited from women's efforts but had not provided any degree of reciprocation. Nevertheless, some suffrage advocates continued to back their favorite party, believing, as GOP activist J. Ellen Foster did, that this was the best alternative for women and would ultimately lead to their obtaining the franchise. Yet the majority of suffragists, particularly those involved in the reunited National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) starting in 1890, chose to follow a nonpartisan approach and avoid making any political commitment. They insisted that neutrality was essential in gaining legislative support in the states or building a consensus in Congress for a constitutional amendment. But after 1912 a significant minority would reenter the partisan arena, and, instead of asking for favors, attempted to put pressure on the party in power to hasten passage of a suffrage amendment. As a result, many additional women were thrust into partisan politics via election campaigns, and although the plan as outlined did not fully succeed, it did have a catalytic effect on the process of securing the vote for all women.

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