The History of Woman Suffrage Volume III Part 93
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The euphonious Indian name, Iowa, signifying "the beautiful land,"
is peculiarly appropriate to those gently undulating prairies, decorated in the season of flowers with a brilliant garniture of honey-suckles, ja.s.samines, wild roses and violets, watered with a chain of picturesque lakes and rivers, chasing each other into the bosom of the boundless Mississippi. The motto on the great seal of the State, "Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain," is the key-note to the successive struggles made there to build up a community of moral, virtuous, intelligent people, securing justice, liberty and equality to all. Iowa has been the State to give large Republican majorities; to prohibit the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors by a const.i.tutional amendment; and to present propositions before her legislature for eight successive sessions to give the right of suffrage to woman.
In the article on Iowa, in the American Cyclopaedia, the writer says: "No distinction is made in law between the husband and the wife in regard to property. One-third in value of all the real estate of either, upon the death of the other, goes to the survivor in fee simple. Neither is liable for the separate debts of the other. The wife may make contracts and incur liabilities which may be enforced by or against her in the same manner as if she was unmarried; and so a married woman may sue and be sued without the husband being joined in the action." Many women living in Iowa often quote these laws with pride, showing the liberality of their rulers as far as they go. But in new countries the number of women that inherit property is very small compared to the number that work all their days to help pay for their humble homes. It is in the right to these joint earnings where the wife is most cruelly defrauded, because the mother of a large family, who washes, irons, cooks, bakes, patches and darns, takes care of the children, labors from early dawn to midnight in her own home, is not supposed to earn anything, hence owns nothing, and all the labors of a long life, the results of her thrift and economy, belong absolutely to the husband, so that when he dies they call it liberality for the husband to make his partner an heir, and give her one-third of their joint earnings.
For this chapter we are indebted to Mrs. Amelia Bloomer, who moved into this State from New York in the spring of 1855 with her husband, who commenced the practice of law in Council Bluffs, where they have resided ever since. Mrs. Bloomer had been the editor for several years of a weekly paper called the _Lily_, which advocated both temperance and woman's rights, and for the six years of its publication was of inestimable value alike to both reforms. She was one of the earliest champions of the woman's rights movement, and as writer, editor and lecturer, did much to forward the cause in its infancy.
The first agitation of the question of woman suffrage in Iowa was in the summer of 1854, when Frances Dana Gage of Ohio gave a series of lectures in the southeastern section of the State on temperance and woman's rights. Letters written to _Lily_ at the time show that large audiences congregated to see and hear a woman publicly proclaiming the wrongs of her s.e.x, and demanding equal rights before the law. During the year 1855 the writer gave several lectures at Council Bluffs, and in January, 1856, by invitation, addressed the second territorial legislature of Nebraska, in Representative Hall, Omaha; and in the year following lectured in Council Bluffs, Omaha, Nebraska City, Glenwood and other towns.
In 1868 Mrs. Martha H. Brinkerhoff made a very successful lecture-tour through the northern counties of Iowa. She roused great interest and organized many societies, canva.s.sing meanwhile for subscribers to _The Revolution_. In the same year Mrs. Annie C. Savery gave a lecture for the benefit of a blind editor at Des Moines. In February, 1870, by invitation, she responded to a toast at a Masonic festival in that city; and during that and the year following she lectured in several places on woman suffrage, and wrote many able articles for the press.
On April 17, 1869, the "Northern Woman Suffrage a.s.sociation" was organized at Dubuque. This was the first society in Iowa, though about the same time others were being organized in different localities. J. L. McCreery, in his editorial position, advocated the enfranchis.e.m.e.nt of woman, and wrote an able paper in favor of the object of the organization. Mrs. Mary N. Adams opened a correspondence with friends of the movement in other parts of the State; Henry O'Connor, Mary A. Livermore and others lectured before the society, thus educating the people into a better understanding of woman's rights and needs. Mrs. Adams not only addressed the home society, but gave lectures before lyceums and educational inst.i.tutions.
Des Moines has always maintained the most successful organization having a band of earnest women enlisted in the work, and being the capital of the State, where every opportunity was afforded to facilitate their efforts. The liberality of the press, too, aided vastly in moulding public sentiment in favor of the cause. About the earliest work done in that city was in June, 1870, when Hannah Tracy Cutler and Amelia Bloomer (immediately on returning from the formation of the State Society at Mt. Pleasant) held two meetings there--one in the open air on the grounds where the new capitol now stands, on the question of temperance, Sunday afternoon, presided over by Governor Merrill; the other in the Baptist Church, on woman suffrage, the following evening, Mrs.
Annie C. Savery presiding.
The Polk County Woman Suffrage Society was formed October 25, and has never failed to hold its meetings regularly each month since that time. Every congress and every legislature have been appealed to by pet.i.tions signed by thousands of the best citizens, and it is on record that the senators and representatives of Polk county, with one exception, have always voted in favor of submitting the question of woman's enfranchis.e.m.e.nt to the electors of the State. When men are talked of for legislative honors they are interviewed by a committee from the society, and pledges secured that they will vote "aye"
on any woman suffrage bill that may come before them.
This society has from time to time engaged the services of prominent lecturers, and nearly all of the ministers and lawyers of the city have given addresses in favor of the cause.
Only one minister has openly and bitterly opposed the measure, and his sermon on the "Subordination of Woman," published in the _Register_, called out spirited replies from Mrs. Savery and Mrs.
Bloomer in the same journal, which completely demolished the flimsy fancies of the gentleman.
About 1874 Mrs. Maria Orwig edited a column in the _Record_, and Mary A. Work a column in the _Republican_. Since 1880, Mesdames Hunter, Orwig, Woods and Work have filled two columns in _The Prohibitionist_, of which Laura A. Berry is one of the editors.
Mrs. M. J. Coggeshall has for several years served the society as reporter for the _Register_, proving herself a very ready and interesting writer. All of these ladies are efficient and untiring in whatever pertains to woman's interest. The _Register_ says:
The field of labor in Des Moines is pretty well occupied by the ladies. You will find them at the desks in the county and United States court-houses, in the pension office, in the insurance office, in the State offices, behind the counters in stores, in attorneys' offices--and there is one woman who a.s.sists her husband at the blacksmith's trade, and she can strike as hard a blow with a sledge as the brawniest workman in the shop.
In the autumn of 1870 a society was organized at Burlington, with fifty members. One of the earliest advocates of the cause in this place was Mary A. P. Darwin, president of the a.s.sociation, who lectured through the southern tier of counties during the summer of 1870. She was an earnest and forcible speaker.
At Oskaloosa the opening work was done in 1854 by Frances D.
Gage, who gave four lectures there, and roused the people to thought and discussion. Mattie Griffith Davenport has long filled a prominent place in the woman suffrage movement in that city.
She commenced lecturing in 1868, and during that and the two succeeding years traveled over much of the State, speaking upon temperance and woman's rights. During 1879 she edited a column of the Davenport _News_ in the interest of suffrage. In the summer of 1870 Mrs. Cutler and Mrs. Bloomer held two meetings in Oskaloosa, in one of which a gentleman engaged in the discussions, and as is usual in such encounters, the women having right and justice on their side, came out the victors; at least so said the listeners. Following this a Woman's Suffrage Society was organized. Many prominent speakers lectured here in turn, and helped to keep up the interest.
Council Bluffs also organized a society in 1870, holding frequent meetings and sociables. There is here a large element in favor of the ballot for woman; and though we are unfortunate in not having an advocate in the press, still Council Bluffs will give a good report of itself when the question of woman's enfranchis.e.m.e.nt shall come before the electors for action. The trustees of the public library of this city are women; the librarian is a woman: the post-office is in the hands of a woman; the teachers in the public schools, with one or two exceptions, are women; the princ.i.p.al of the high school is a woman; and a large number of the clerks in the dry goods stores are women.
Miss Ingelletta Smith received the nomination of the Republican party for school superintendent in the fall of 1881, but was defeated by her Democratic compet.i.tor.
Marshalltown had a suffrage organization as early as July, 1870. Nettie Sanford lectured in several of the central counties of the State during that and the previous year.
Josephine Guthrie, professor of Belles-Lettres at Le Grand College, in a series of able articles in the Marshalltown _Times_ in 1869, claimed for women equality of rights before the law. In 1873, Aubie Gifford, a woman of high culture and an experienced teacher, was elected to the office of county superintendent of the public schools of Marshall county, by a handsome majority; she was reelected, serving, in all, four years.
At Algona a society was formed in 1871. At the annual meeting of the State Society at Des Moines, in 1873, Lizzie B.
Read delivered an address ent.i.tled, "Coming Up Out of the Wilderness," and in July, 1875, at a ma.s.s-meeting at Clear Lake, one on "The Bible in Favor of Woman Suffrage." Mrs. Read, formerly as Miss Bunnel, published a paper called the _Mayflower_, at Peru, Indiana, and in 1865 a county paper in this State called the _Upper Des Moines_.
Since 1875 Jackson county has had an efficient Equal Rights Society. On July 4, 1876, Nancy R. Allen, at the general celebration at Maquoketa, the county-seat, read the "Protest and Declaration of Rights," issued by the National a.s.sociation from its Centennial Parlors in Philadelphia. It was well received by the majority of the people a.s.sembled; but, as usual, there were some objectors. The Presbyterian minister published a series of articles in the _Sentinel_, to each of which Mrs. Allen replied ably defending the principles of the Woman Suffrage party. The Maquoketa Equal Rights Society celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of the woman's rights movement July 19, 1878, by holding a public meeting in Dr. Allen's grounds, in the shade of the grand old trees. It was a large gathering, and many prominent gentlemen of the city, by their presence and words of cheer, gave dignity to the occasion. Jackson county has long honored women with positions of trust. The deputy recorder is a woman; Mrs.
Allen was notary public; Mrs. Patton was nominated for auditor by the Greenback party in 1880, but was defeated with the rest of the ticket. Women are book-keepers, merchants, clerks, teachers; and, in fact, almost every avenue is open to them.
Of Fort Dodge, Mrs. Haviland writes: "The subject has never been much agitated here. I have stood almost alone these long years, watching the work done by my sisters in other parts of the State, and hoping the time would soon come when some move could be made in this place. Last spring the annual meeting of our State Society was held here, but it was with difficulty that I found places where the few who came could be entertained, people were so afraid of woman's rights. After the refusal of the other churches, the Baptists opened theirs; the crowd of curious ones looked on and seemed surprised when they failed to discover the 'horns.'" Mrs. A.M. Swain also writes: "Miss Anthony came here first in June, 1871, and has been here twice since. Mrs.
Swisshelm was here in 1874. Both were my guests when no other doors were open to the advocates of woman suffrage. The late convention of the State Society held here was a decided success; the best cla.s.s of ladies attended; the dignity and ability shown in the management, and the many interesting and logical papers read disarmed all criticism and awakened genuine interest. I have handed in my ballot for several years, but it has never been received or counted."
Societies were organized in 1869 and 1870, in Independence and Monticello. Humboldt, Nevada, West Union, Corning, Osceola, Muscatine, Sigourney, Garden Grove, Decorah, Hamburg, and scores of other towns have their local societies. At West Liberty Mrs.
Mary V. Cowgill and her good husband are liberal contributors to the work, both State and National.
At a convention held at Mt. Pleasant, June 17, 18, 1870, different sections of the State being well represented, the Iowa Woman Suffrage Society was formed. Belle Mansfield, president, Frank Hatton, editor of the Mt. Pleasant _Journal_, secretary. W.R. Cole opened the convention with prayer. After many able addresses from various speakers, in response to an invitation from the president, Judge Palmer in a somewhat excited manner stated his objections to woman's voting.
He wanted some guarantee that good would result from giving her the ballot. He thought "she did not understand driving, and would upset the sleigh. Men had always rowed the boat, and therefore always should. Men had more force and muscle than women, and therefore should have all the power in their hands." He spoke of himself as the guardian of his wife, and said she did not want to vote. After talking an hour in this style, he took his seat, greatly to the relief of his hearers. Mrs. Cutler, in her calm, dignified, deliberate manner, answered his arguments. She proved conclusively that muscular force was not the power most needed in our government. If it were, all the little, weak men and women, no matter how intellectual must stand aside, and let only the strong, muscular do the voting and governing. In clearness of perception, and readiness of debate, she distanced her opponent altogether in the opinion of the convention.
The first annual meeting of the State Society was held at Des Moines, October 19, 1871. Mrs. Bloomer presided in the absence of the president, Gen. O'Connor. Speakers had been engaged for this convention, a good representation secured, and every arrangement made for a successful meeting. And such it was, barring a difference of opinion among the friends of the movement as to what questions should properly come before a society whose only object, as declared in its const.i.tution, was to secure suffrage for women. The following letters were received:
IOWA CITY, October 11, 1871.
Mrs. ANNIE SAVERY--_Dear Madam_: Your kind and very flattering invitation to address the Woman's State Suffrage Convention, in Des Moines, reached me just prior to my departure for this city, and I avail myself of my first leisure to respond. It would not only give me great pleasure, but I should esteem it among my higher duties to accept your invitation, and give my emphatic endors.e.m.e.nt to the great reform movement represented by the woman suffrage convention, were it at all practicable. But I have just reached my new charge, and can not dispose of immediate pressing claims upon my time and effort here. Please accept my apology for declining, and believe me, ever yours for woman's enfranchis.e.m.e.nt.
C. R. POMEROY.
INDIANOLA, Sept. 30, 1871.
Mrs. ANNIE SAVERY--_Madam_: I am in receipt of your letter, asking me to take part in your annual convention. I thank you for the honor, as I expect from such a convention results the most salutary, not only to the condition of woman, but also to the progress of our young and vigorous commonwealth. I have read carefully the circular enclosed in your letter, and consider the logic irrefutable, and its suggestions well worthy the attention of all who desire the complete enfranchis.e.m.e.nt of woman. I fear that I shall not be able to attend, but if I am, I shall be with you, should I do no more than say "Amen" to the words of my eloquent countryman, O'Connor, whom I learn you have honored with the presidency of your a.s.sociation. Wis.h.i.+ng for your cause the fullest success, I subscribe myself--one for the enfranchis.e.m.e.nt of woman.
A letter was also received from Bishop Matthew Simpson, of the Methodist church, who was always ready to declare his adherence to this great reform:
OWATOMA, Oct. 2, 1871.
Hon. J. HARLAN--_Dear Senator_: Yours, inclosing Mrs.
Savery's kind invitation, was received before I left Mankota. I would be pleased to comply with her invitation, joined as it is with your earnest solicitation. But I am under bonds--if not to keep the peace, at least to keep silence--so far as either sermons or public addresses are concerned, until the full restoration of my health. I am glad to say my health is improving. I have presided at five conferences this fall--two still await me. But I have not ventured any extra labor, nor dare I for some time to come.
Please convey to Mrs. Savery my thanks for her kind invitation, and say to her that I sympathize fully with the suffrage a.s.sociation in its desire to attain for women the ballot.
A series of resolutions was discussed, other letters read, and a large number of new converts joined the a.s.sociation. The _State Register_ spoke in a very complimentary manner of the deliberations of this convention:
It is but just, perhaps, that we should say, in general terms, of the State woman suffrage convention, in session in Des Moines the past week, that its proceedings were characterized with good sense, dignity, and the best of order. The world has had an impression for five or six thousand years that women cannot talk without wrangling, counsel without confusion. Again, many are so unjust as to imagine that a convention composed of ladies, a.s.sembled to discuss serious subjects, can be nothing more than a quilting party or tattlers' club enlarged and let loose.
We have never seen a convention conducted with more decorum, or a greater degree of intelligent accord exhibited in the routine of proceedings, than was noticeable in this first annual gathering of the friends of suffrage in Iowa. A majority of the members were women. They opened the convention and conducted the discussions with a spirit and in a manner after which men might well pattern. In some respects, the ladies who took the lead, showed themselves better posted in general information, in all matters of deliberation, than men.
We would not endorse all that was done at the convention, but we would be fair enough to give to it the meed of having been, in all respects, well conducted. The convention strengthened those in whose name it met, not only among themselves, but with the public. All who attended it were impressed with the conviction that its members were earnest and honest, and could see that they were intelligent and well armed. Whatever it may have done directly, and that we know was much, it accomplished more good for its cause by impressing the public mind that its adherents in Iowa are banded together in union, and bound to make every honorable effort for success.
In January, 1872, I received a letter from a very prominent member of the legislature, from which the following is an extract:
After consultation I believe the House would resolve itself into committee of the whole (when senators would be likely also to come in), and hear you on the question of woman suffrage. Should you desire to press it to vote this session, I should advise that course. As to the time of your hearing, it should be in the day, and appointed soon after the recess. We meet again on February 13. I think it could be arranged for Friday, the 16th, if agreeable to you. With kind regards,
JOHN A. Ka.s.sON.
Notwithstanding this kind proposal of Mr. Ka.s.son, I did not act upon his suggestion. But Mrs. Harbert and Mrs. Savery, feeling that something must be done, had the courage and the conscience, on their individual responsibility, to call a ma.s.s-meeting at the capitol on the evening previous to the day appointed for the vote on the amendment in the House. Mrs. Harbert presided and opened the meeting with an earnest appeal; Mrs. Savery, Mr. C.P. Holmes, Senator Converse, and Governor Carpenter, made eloquent speeches.
The governor, in opening his address said he voted to strike "black" from the const.i.tution sixteen years ago, and would then, as now, had the opportunity been presented, have voted to strike out "male."
On the following day when the amendment came up in the House for the final vote, it was carried by 58 to 39. In the Senate there was a spirited discussion, Hon. Charles Beardsley making an earnest speech in favor of the resolution. The vote on engrossing the bill for the third reading stood 26 ayes to 20 nays. Hope ran high with the friends; but alas! on a final vote, taken but a few minutes later, the bill was lost by 24 nays to 22 ayes.
The general sentiment was well stated by the Iowa _State Register_:
The Senate disposed of the woman suffrage question yesterday by voting it down. We think it made a mistake. Certainly there was, at the lowest count, thirty out of every hundred voters in the State who desired to have this legislature ratify the action of the last a.s.sembly, and submit the question at the polls this fall. The Republican party has its own record to meet here. The first time the negro suffrage question was submitted to the people of Iowa, it was submitted by a Republican legislature, and the submission was made when not over one voter in a hundred desired it done. This latter thing was a plain proposition, a most justly preferred pet.i.tion. The people who were anxious to have the question submitted, are, it is confidently claimed, in majority. We think their wishes might well and fitly have been granted. Even those who were opposed to them must see that the advocates of the reform will now have a chance to claim that the opponents of it are afraid to go with them to the people. This is not merely a defeat for the present year, but practically for four years.
Our State const.i.tution can be amended only after two legislatures have acted upon the amendment, and the people have voted upon it. The legislature of two years ago pa.s.sed the resolution voted down yesterday. Now, we presume, it will have to take another start. Four years of waiting and working before the friends of the reform can be given a chance to get a verdict from the people, is a long and painful ordeal. It will not be endured with patience. It would be asking too much of human nature to expect that.
The History of Woman Suffrage Volume III Part 93
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