“Why American Mothers Fail,” by Anna A. Rogers
Rogers focused her case against suffrage entirely on the value of motherhood and the argument that granting women the right to vote would compromise that value. The work of mothers, she contended, was both removed from the realm of politics and essential to it. “A successful mother … is a more important factor in a municipality than any merely successful man in it,” she wrote, because mothers were responsible for raising and educating all the municipality’s citizens. In that way, she argued, mothers shaped the votes of the sons, brothers, and friends they cared for. If they strayed from their roles as caretakers by searching for some other pursuit or purpose, they could contribute to the very social ills they imagined their votes would correct.
“What It Means to Be an Enfranchised Woman,” by Ellis Meredith
In a rebuke to the arguments against suffrage that preceded her, Meredith laid out a stirring case for women’s right to vote. She observed that critics held enfranchised women to an impossible standard, saying they were neglectful of their families when they engaged in politics and “unfit for the ballot” when they didn’t. “Nobody,” she pointed out, “questions the fitness of those who, having voted for a hundred and twenty-five years, have made reforms necessary in every state of the Union.” She argued that the only difference between men and women that was relevant to the discussion of suffrage was that men had been able to vote for much longer.
Two years after this article was published, Meredith became the first woman elected into political office in Denver, Colorado.
“The Woman’s War,” by Mary Johnston
“The Woman’s Movement did not begin to-day, or last night, or yesterday, or the day before yesterday,” Johnston wrote. “It began an uncertain number of millions of years ago. It began when first a primitive, asexual organism slipped almost unawares into a sexual method of reproduction.” The fight for women’s rights, in other words, was as old as women themselves. In an impassioned style reminiscent of her best-selling historical novels, Johnston made the case for female equality and laid out counterarguments for some of the common criticisms of the movement. She pointed out that women had made “able sovereigns” in the past, from Aspasia to Queen Elizabeth I to Catherine the Great, so “there is really no reason to suppose that in a democracy a woman would not do well as a town-councilor, as a member of the board of health, or even, at a pinch, as a mayor.” The “Woman’s War,” she wrote, would be long and difficult—but the ballot, and the political power that came with it, would be a valuable weapon.
“Feminist Intentions,” by W. L. George
“The following article was written in response to a request made by the Atlantic to Mr. George, a prominent spokesman of the Feminist movement in England, its storm-centre,” the magazine’s editors said in introducing this article in 1913, “to state quite clearly the terms upon which leaders of his party will be willing to negotiate for a lasting peace.” That framing, which presented feminists as combatants whom governments would have to reach a settlement with, echoed the tone of George’s own thoughts on “his party.” George described feminists as “promoters of a sex war” trying to fundamentally change attitudes toward women through a revolution. “While the Suffragists are content to attain immediate ends,” he wrote, “the Feminists are aiming at ultimate ends. They contend that it is unhealthy for the race that man should not recognize woman as his equal; that this makes him intolerant, brutal, selfish, and sentimentally insincere.” They would continue to appear before men as a “rival and a foe,” he wrote, until men stopped insisting that “women are inherently inferior to them” and started granting them equal opportunities “in every field of human activity.”