The History of Woman Suffrage Volume III Part 94

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At the annual convention of 1874, at Des Moines, Bishop Gilbert Haven of the Methodist Episcopal Church, a clear and liberal thinker, made a very impressive speech on the power woman could wield with the ballot in her own hand in making our towns and cities safe for our sons and daughters to live in. This year, the Des Moines annual conference of the M. E. Church pa.s.sed resolutions advocating woman suffrage as a great moral reform; while the State convention of the Universalist a.s.sociation in its resolution said: "This convention recognizes that women are ent.i.tled to all the social, religious, and political rights which men enjoy."

At the Diocesan Convention held at Davenport May 1881, the Episcopal Church took a step forward by striking the word male out of a canon, thus enabling women to vote for vestrymen, a right hitherto withheld. It is but a straw in the right direction, but "straws show which way the wind blows," and we may hope for more good things to follow.

The Republican party, in convention a.s.sembled, at Des Moines, July 1, 1874, inserted the following, as the tenth plank of its platform:

_Resolved_, That since the people may be entrusted with all questions of governmental reform, we favor the final submission to them of the question of amending the const.i.tution so as to extend the right of suffrage to women, pursuant to the action of the fifteenth General a.s.sembly.

The reading of the resolution called forth cheers of approval, and was adopted without a dissenting vote, Mrs. Elizabeth Boynton Harbert is ent.i.tled to great credit for this "woman's plank," she having gone before the committee on resolutions and made an earnest appeal for woman's recognition by the Republican party.

The _State Record_ said:

When the Republicans, in national convention, recognized woman, and gave her a plank in the platform of the party, it reflected back a spirit of justice and progress which is looked for in vain in the party opposing, of whatever name.

But when the Republicans of Iowa gave to a woman the privilege of bringing in a plank of her own production, and that plank was added to the State platform without a dissenting voice, it placed Iowa, men and women alike, in the vanguard of the world's onward march to a more rational life, more even justice, and purer government.

In the Republican State platform of Iowa is the first real and purely woman's plank that ever entered into any political platform--because it originated in the brain of woman. It was by a woman carried to the committee, and in response to an able, dignified, and true womanly appeal, it was accepted, and by the convention incorporated into the platform of the party. It may seem to be a small plank, but it has strength and durability. It is the live oak of a living principle, that will remain sound while other planks of greater bulk around it will have served their purpose and wasted away.

It argues thus: if woman is competent to present a political issue, clothed in her own language, with a dignity and modesty that silence opposition, is she not competent to exercise with prudence and intelligence the elective franchise? and would she not, if entrusted with it, exercise it for the elevation of a common humanity? The _Record_ tenders hearty congratulations not only to Mrs. Harbert, who we know will bear the honors modestly, but also to those who by their presence in the convention gave encouragement to greater respect for woman's wishes, and by whose work is demonstrated woman's fitness to be in truth a helpmeet for man. We had a mother, and have sisters, wife, and daughter, and that is why we would have woman enjoy every privilege and opportunity to be useful to herself and her country that we claim for ourself.

At the annual meeting of 1875, held at Oskaloosa, the following letter from the governor of the State was received:


Mrs. R. G. ORWIG, _Cor. Sec. I. W. S. S.--Dear Madam_: I have your letter inviting me to be present at your annual meeting. Thanking you and the a.s.sociation for the consideration implied, I have to express my regrets that business of an official character will prevent me from coming. I hope your proceedings may be characterized by such wisdom, moderation, and sincerity as to advance the cause to which your efforts are given. I have never been able to discover any argument to sustain my own right to vote that does not equally apply to woman. Whether my right is founded upon the interest I have, in common with my fellows, in the preservation of the free inst.i.tutions of my country; or upon the protection of my personal interests as a citizen; or upon my right to a voice in the creation of laws to which I am held amenable; or upon my right to influence by a vote the direction given to revenues which I am taxed to help supply; or upon any other right, personal, political or moral, I have never been able to see why the reasons which make the vote valuable to me do not apply with equal force to woman. You doubtless think your efforts are comparatively fruitless; but I need not tell you that while your agitation has failed, so far, to bring you the ballot, it has ameliorated the condition of woman in very many particulars.

Her property rights are better protected; her sphere of activity has been enlarged, and her influence for good is more widely recognized. So I wish you well. Yours truly,


This year women were members of a lay delegation in the Methodist conference, and also lay delegates to the Presbyterian synod. And in two or three instances women have been invited to address these bodies, and have received a vote of thanks. Many of the orthodox clergy are openly advocating our cause, and in some instances women have been invited by them to occupy their desks on Sunday to preach the Gospel to the people. This is a wonderful advance in sentiment since 1852, when in New York the clergy would not permit women to speak, even on temperance in a public hall.

In 1876 the society secured the services of Matilda Hindman, of Pittsburg, Pa., who traveled over the greater part of the State, lecturing and organizing societies, and was everywhere spoken of as an eloquent and logical speaker. She was followed by Margaret W. Campbell, and those who know her feel that the State gained in her a valuable friend in everything pertaining to the interests of woman. What is said of Miss Hindman as a speaker may also be said of Mrs. Campbell.

The first governor of Iowa to officially recognize woman's right to the ballot was the Hon. C. C. Carpenter, who in his message to the General a.s.sembly of 1876, said:

The proposed amendment to the const.i.tution, adopted by your predecessors, and which requires your sanction before being submitted to the voters of the State, will come before you.

I venture to suggest, that the uniform expression in Wyoming Territory, where woman suffrage is a fact, is favorable to its continuance, and that wherever in Europe and America women have voted for school or minor officers the influence of their suffrage has been beneficent; and in view of the peculiar appropriateness of submitting this question in this year, 1876, when all America is celebrating achievements which were inspired by the doctrine that taxation and representation are of right inseparable, it is recommended that you give the people of Iowa an opportunity to express their judgment upon the proposed amendment at the ballot-box.

At the request of the State a.s.sociation, Miss Matilda Hindman was granted a hearing before the legislature, and most respectful attention was accorded to her able address. Miss Anthony was also invited, and, at the suggestion of Mrs. Savery, she engaged the opera-house. The seats reserved for the members were all filled, and every part of the house occupied. The day following, the vote in the House was taken, and carried by 54 to 40. After a careful canva.s.s of the Senate, it was found that there were ten votes to spare; but alas! when the day for final action came the amendment was lost by one vote.[410]

In 1880 Senator g.a.y.l.o.r.d of Floyd county made a speech, giving twenty-one reasons why he voted against the submission of the proposition for the enfranchis.e.m.e.nt of women, which was published in full in the Des Moines _Register_, and thus sent broadcast over the State. Mrs. Bloomer replied to Mr. Floyd through the same paper, meeting and refuting every objection, thus in a measure antidoting the poisonous influence of the senator's p.r.o.nunciamento.

In the spring of this year Dr. Harriette Bottsford and Mrs. Jane C. McKinney were appointed by a caucus of Republican women, to the Powesheik county convention, to choose delegates to the State convention. They presented their credentials to the committee, and the chairman reported them as delegates. On motion, they were accepted--but some men soon bethought them that this was establis.h.i.+ng a bad precedent, and began maneuvering to get rid of them. This was finally done by declaring the delegation full without them--two men having been quietly appointed to fill vacancies after the ladies had presented their credentials. Mrs.

McKinney made a spicy speech, saying they did not expect to be received as delegates, but wished to remind the men that women were citizens, tax-payers and Republicans, but unrepresented.

At the Greenback State convention of 1881, Mrs. Mary E. Nash was nominated as the candidate of that party for State superintendent of schools. Mrs. Nash declined the honor intended, and said that her political flag, if it were to float at all, would be found in another camp. She would not desert her colors for office. In 1884 Mrs. H. J. Bellangee and Mrs. A. M. Swain were regularly accredited delegates to the National Greenback convention, held at Indianapolis, Ind., to nominate a candidate for the presidency, where they were received with the greatest courtesy.

The annual meeting of 1882, at Des Moines, was remarkable for the number of clergymen, representing nearly all the different denominations, who took part in its proceedings, each of the nine seeming to vie with the others in expressing his belief that the ballot for woman, as for man, was a right, not a privilege.

Bishop Hurst of the M. E. Church, made an able speech. The executive committee sent a memorial to the Republican convention, held in June for the nomination of State officers, asking a plank in their platform favoring the submission of the woman suffrage amendment. The request was not granted. Leading politicians who professed to believe in equality of rights for women feared that to do so would make too heavy a weight for the party to carry, it having already incorporated a prohibition plank in its platform.

The committee also interviewed 500 editors, asking them to open the columns of their papers to the advocacy of woman suffrage.

One hundred and twenty replied favorably, while many were courteous and others brusque in their refusals.

A committee on legislation (Mrs. Narcissa T. Bemis, chairman) did good work during this session of the legislature, and also published a tract composed of contributions from twelve leading ministers of the State, called "The Clergymen's Tract." This was sent broadcast. Nine hundred of the clergy were favored with a copy. The Ministerial a.s.sociation, held in Des Moines, pa.s.sed the following:

_Resolved_, That we are heartily in favor of woman suffrage as advocated by your a.s.sociation, and regard the same as a proper subject for pulpit-teaching, and, as opportunity offers of furthering said cause in our pulpit ministry, we will avail ourselves of the same.

During this year the State Society contributed liberally to the Nebraska campaign. Mrs. Nancy R. Allen and Mrs. Mary B. Lee each left a small legacy to the a.s.sociation.

Of the annual meeting of 1883,[411] held at Ottumwa, the local papers gave full and fair reports; while 200 papers of the State published a condensed statement prepared by the secretary. Miss Hindman and Mrs. Campbell were again invited to the State. No grander work than theirs was ever done in Iowa. There is scarcely a county which they have not canva.s.sed; holding meetings, forming a.s.sociations, circulating pet.i.tions, distributing tracts, preaching on Sundays in the churches, traveling, often for months at a time, without a pledge of pecuniary aid, depending for their expenses wholly on funds contributed at their meetings.

The State convention of 1884 met at the Christian Church at Des Moines; Mrs. Nacissa T. Bemis presided. Mrs. Helen M. Gougar of Indiana was one of the speakers. A committee, of which Mrs.

Martha C. Callanan was chairman, interviewed the governor, asking a recognition of woman's right of suffrage, and were told it should receive consideration. Accordingly, in his message to the legislature, Governor Sherman said:

Your attention is respectfully directed to the question of impartial suffrage, in respect to which the nineteenth General a.s.sembly proposed an amendment to the const.i.tution.

Should this meet your approval, as preliminary to taking the judgment of the voters, I recommend that it be submitted at a special election, in order that it may be freed from the influence of partisan politics, and thus receive an unprejudiced vote of our citizens. Not caring to here express an opinion upon the question itself, it is sufficient to say that now, as heretofore, I am in favor of the submission of any question which is of importance and general interest.

Governor Sherman also gave it as his opinion that a good woman should be placed on the board of trustees of every public inst.i.tution. This was the second time that an Iowa governor had referred to this great political question in his message to the General a.s.sembly, Governor Carpenter having heartily indorsed the measure in 1876. It is said, however, that Governor Newbold had written a clause on the subject in his message in 1878, but that it was suppressed by the careful counsel of some guardian angel of his party.

Previous to the a.s.sembling of this legislature, pet.i.tions had been widely circulated,[412] praying for the submission of the amendment. Over 6,000 signatures were obtained. Each pet.i.tion was placed in the hands of a senator or member from the county in which the names were gathered, for presentation in the respective Houses.

For fifteen consecutive years the State Society has met annually, made reports, pa.s.sed resolutions, elected officers, listened to speeches and transacted what other business has come before it.

Though its anniversaries have usually been held at Des Moines, its influence through the press has pervaded the whole State.

Since 1875, the annual meetings have been held in different cities[413] outside the capital, thus giving the people of all sections of the State an opportunity to partic.i.p.ate in the deliberations. Pet.i.tions to the legislature and to congress have been circulated by the society, delegates sent to the conventions of the National and American Suffrage a.s.sociations,[414] and letters addressed to the delegates of the State and National nominating conventions of the political parties, asking for a recognition of woman's right to the ballot in their platforms.

A brief recital of the proceedings of the Iowa legislature will show that a large majority of the Representatives have been in favor of submitting the question of woman suffrage to a direct vote of the men of the State. The proposition was first presented in the House by Hon. John P. Irish, in 1870. The resolution pa.s.sed both Houses with very little debate, was approved by the governor, and submitted to the next General a.s.sembly. In the session of 1872 it was discussed in both Houses at considerable length, and again pa.s.sed in the Lower House by the strong vote of 58 ayes to 39 nays; while in the Senate it was lost by only two majority. The House has never failed at any session since that time, until 1884, to give a majority in its favor; but the Senate has not made for itself so good a record. In 1872 the vote in the Senate stood: ayes, 22; nays, 24. In 1876 it was lost by one vote; and in 1880 lost on engrossment. In 1884 the tables were turned; when the amendment came up in the twentieth General a.s.sembly for ratification, the Senate pa.s.sed the bill, while the House, for the first time, defeated it by a small majority.

By the const.i.tution of Iowa an amendment must be approved by two consecutive legislatures, convened in regular session. When so approved it is then submitted to the popular vote of the electors. As in this State the legislature meets but once in two years, the reader can see how easily a bill pa.s.sed at one session may, two years later, be defeated by the election of new members who are opposed to it. And thus through all these years those who claim the ballot for woman in this State have been elated or depressed by the action of each succeeding legislature.

The thirteenth General a.s.sembly not only earned a good name for enlightened statesmans.h.i.+p by pa.s.sing the const.i.tutional amendment in favor of woman suffrage, but it also, by chapter 21, approved March 8, 1870, pa.s.sed an act admitting women to the practice of law. It was under this that Judith Ellen Foster--so widely known as an eloquent lecturer and able lawyer--Annie C. Savery, Mrs.

Emma Haddock, Louisa H. Albert, Jessie M. Johnson, and several others have pa.s.sed the necessary examination and been admitted to practice as attorneys and counselors in all the courts of the State. Mrs. Arabella Mansfield was admitted to the bar in 1869, just a year previous to the enactment of the law.

Miss Linda M. Ramsey, now Mrs. Hartzell, was employed as a clerk by Adjutant-General Baker in 1864, and held the office for some time after the war closed. The _Record_ says she was the first woman regularly employed and paid by the State for clerical services. Miss Augusta Matthews served as military secretary for Governor Stone during the war under pay of the State.

It was the thirteenth General a.s.sembly, 1870, that first elected a woman, Miss Mary E. Spencer, to the office of engrossing clerk; and upon her it devolved to convey the message from the House to the Senate, announcing the pa.s.sage of the woman suffrage amendment. In 1872 each House elected one woman among its officers; and each succeeding General a.s.sembly since that time has elected from three to six women. The office of postmaster has been filled by women for the last ten years, and is now held by the venerable widow of General N. A. Baker, for many years the popular adjutant-general of the State. The office of State librarian was filled by Mrs. Ada North for seven years, and is now held by Mrs. S. B. Maxwell. Mrs. North is (1885) librarian of the State University at Iowa City.

The State insane hospitals are inspected by a visiting commission, one of whom is a woman. Several of the city hospitals are managed by women of the Catholic orders. The reform schools have a woman on their board of trustees, of whom Governor Sherman was graciously pleased to say that "she discovered more of the true inwardness of the inst.i.tution in three days than her honorable colleague had done in three years."

In 1876 Governor Kirkwood appointed Mrs. Nancy R. Allen notary public. He also appointed Mrs. Merrill as teacher and chaplain at the State penitentiary, Miss McCowen as physician of the State insane asylum, and Dr. Sara A. Pangborn, one of the staff of physicians of the insane hospital at Independence.

In 1874 Governor Carpenter appointed Mrs. Deborah Cattell a commissioner to investigate the alleged cruelty in the State Reform School at Eldora; and for this service she was paid the same as men who served on the same commission. Governor Gear appointed Dr. Abbie M. Cleaves delegate from Iowa to the National Conference of Charities and Correction, and to the National a.s.sociation for the Protection of the Insane and the Prevention of Insanity, which was held in Cleveland, Ohio, July, 1880. Mrs.

Mary Wright and Dr. Abbie Cleaves were commissioned to the conference of the same a.s.sociations at Louisville, Ky., in 1883.

The legislature of 1880 appointed Jane C. McKinney one of the trustees of the Hospital for the Insane, at Independence.

The eighteenth General a.s.sembly, 1880, pa.s.sed an act to extend to women the right to hold the office of county recorder. A bill giving them the right to hold the office of county auditor pa.s.sed the House, but was lost in the Senate. Under the above law Miss Addie Hayden was elected recorder of Warren county by a majority of 397 votes. She ran on an independent ticket. Mrs. C. J. Hill was chosen recorder of Osceola county at the same election.

The instruction of the youth of Iowa has fallen largely into the hands of women. During the year 1879 the number of women employed as teachers was 13,579, while the number of men was 7,573. In the larger towns and cities women are almost exclusively engaged as teachers. Miss Phebe Ludlow, after having for several years acceptably discharged the duties of city superintendent of schools at Davenport, was elected professor of English language and literature in the State University at Iowa City. The chair is still occupied by a woman, as is that of instructor of mathematics and several other branches in that inst.i.tution, which, to the honor of Iowa be it said, always opened its doors to both s.e.xes alike.

The question of the eligibility of women to the office of county superintendent of public schools having arisen by the election of Miss Julia C. Addington in the autumn of 1869, the matter was referred to the attorney-general by the State superintendent of public instruction, and the following was his reply:

_Hon. A. S. Kissell, Superintendent of Public Instruction:_

DEAR SIR: Rights and privileges of persons (citizens) are frequently extended but never abridged by implication. The soundness and wisdom of this rule of construction is, I believe, universally conceded. Two clauses of the const.i.tution, only, contain express provisions excluding women from the rights and privileges in said provisions.

The History of Woman Suffrage Volume III Part 94

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