Alice Stone Blackwell, Answering Objections to Women’s Suffrage (1917)
Alice Stone Blackwell was a feminist activist and writer. In an edited volume published in 1917, Blackwell responded to popular anti-women’s-suffrage arguments.
Why Should Women Vote?
The reasons why women should vote are the same as the reasons why men should vote are the same as the reasons for having a republic rather than a monarchy. It is fair and right that the people who must obey the laws should have a voice in choosing the law-makers, and that those who must pay the taxes should have a voice as to the amount of the tax, and the way in which the money shall be spent.
Roughly stated, the fundamental principle of a republic is this: In deciding what is to be done, we take everybody’s opinion, and then go according to the wish of the majority. As we cannot suit everybody, we do what will suit the greatest number. That seems to be, on the whole, the fairest way. A vote is simply a written expression of opinion.
In thus taking a vote to get at the wish of the majority, certain classes of persons are passed over, whose opinions for one reason or another are thought not to be worth counting. In most of our states, these classes are children, aliens, idiots, lunatics, criminals and women. There are good and obvious reasons for making all these exceptions but the last. Of course no account ought to be taken of the opinions of children, insane persons, or criminals. Is there any equally good reason why no account should be taken of the opinions of women? Let us consider the reasons commonly given, and see if they are sound.
The Question of Chivalry
It will destroy chivalry.
Justice would be worth more to women than chivalry, if they could not have both. A working girl put the case in a nutshell when she said: “I would gladly stand for twenty minutes in the street car going home if by doing so I could get the same pay that a man would have had for doing my day’s work.” But women do not have to stand in the street cars half as often in Denver as in Boston or in New York. Justice and chivalry are not in the least incompatible. Women have more freedom and equality in America than in Europe, yet American men are the most chivalrous in the world.
Women are too emotional and sentimental to be trusted with the ballot.
Mrs. E. T. Brown, at a meeting of the Georgia State Federation of Women’s Clubs, read a paper, in which she said:
“You tell us that women are not fitted for dealing with the problems of government, being too visionary and too much controlled by sentiment.
“Now it is very true of women that they are largely controlled by sentiment, and, as a matter of fact, men are largely controlled by sentiment also, in spite of their protesting blushes. Was it logic that swept like a wave over this country and sent our army to protect the Cubans when their suffering grew too intense to be endured even in the hearing? Is it shrewd business calculation that sends thousands of dollars out of this country to feed a starving people during the ever-recurring famines in unhappy India? Was it hard common sense that sent thousands of American soldiers into what looked like the death-trap of China in the almost baseless hope of rescuing a few hundred American citizens? Do not men like Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson and Lee live in the hearts of American men, not alone for what they did, but still more for what they dreamed of? The man who is not controlled by sentiment betrays his friends, sells his vote, is a traitor to his country, or wrecks himself, body and soul, with immoralities; for nothing but sentiment prevents any of these things. The sense of honor is pure sentiment. The sentiment of loyalty is the only thing that makes truth and honesty desirable, or a vote a non-salable commodity.
“Government would be a poor affair without sentiment, and is not likely to be damaged by a slightly increased supply.”
Would Unsex Women
It will turn women into men.
The differences between men and women are natural; they are not the result of disfranchisement. The fact that all men have equal rights before the law does not wipe out natural differences of character and temperament between man and man. Why should it wipe out the natural differences between men and women? The women of England, Scotland, Canada, Yucatan, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, the Scandinavian countries and our own equal suffrage States are not perceptibly different in looks or manners from women elsewhere, although they have been voting for years.
Suffrage and Feminism
Suffrage is a branch of Feminism and Feminism includes free love.
Feminism merely means the general movement for woman’s rights. The word is used in this sense in England and Europe, and is coming into use in America. There is no more authority for saying that Feminism means free love than that the woman’s rights movement means free love —an accusation often made against it without warrant. Mrs. Beatrice Forbes Robertson Hale (a strong opponent of free love) says in her book, “What Women Want”: ’
“Feminism is that part of the progress of democratic freedom which applies to women. It is a century-old struggle conducted by large groups of people in different parts of the world to bring about the removal of all artificial barriers to the physical, mental, moral and economic development of the female half of the race.”
In this sense the woman suffrage movement, of course, is a part of it.
Suffrage and Marriage
Suffragists and Feminists are the enemies of marriage and the home.
The National American Woman Suffrage Association at its annual convention in Washington in December, 1915, passed the following resolution by a unanimous vote:
“That we believe the home is the foundation of the State; we believe in the sanctity of the marriage relation; and, furthermore, we believe that woman’s ballot will strengthen the power of the home, and sustain the dignity and sacredness of marriage; and we denounce as a gross slander the charges made by opponents of equal suffrage that its advocates as a class entertain opinions to the contrary.”
Source: Alice Stone Blackwell, “Answering Objections,” in “The Blue Book”: Woman Suffrage, History, Arguments and Results, edited by Frances Maule and Annie Gertrude Porritt (New York: National Woman Suffrage Publishing Company, 1917), 144-145, 168-170, 185-186, 188.