The Case Against Male Suffrage

In 1915, five years before women won the right to vote, a group of suffragettes published an Onion-worthy pamphlet.

Women, many news outlets have told us, are stars in today's elections. Female voters "could decide a number of important state races across the country." Democrats are hoping for a high turnout of women today; so, it seems, are Republicans.

Given all this emphasis on the 2014 ladyvoter, it's easy to forget that, for much of the U.S.'s existence, many women's relationship with voting involved simply hoping to do it one day. The 19th Amendment wasn't ratified until August 1920; that was accomplished only after a long fight—by women, and also by men—to get the vote.

There were also women who argued against suffrage, on grounds of both bureaucratic efficiency and morality. One of them was Josephine Dodge, the head of the National Association Opposed to Women’s Suffrage. (This is the group that, as Feministing points out, once warned that giving women the vote would put the government under "petticoat rule.") In 1894, the NAOWS put out a pamphlet with the sober title "Some Reasons Why We Oppose Votes for Women": an 11-point treatise making its case against female suffrage.

It looked like this:

Library of Congress

From today's perspective, the pamphlet's logic is absurd. And to many at the time, as well, women opposing their own enfranchisement was ripe for the mocking. Which was why, in 1915, the suffragette Alice Duer Miller wrote a response to it. She called her own treatise "Why We Oppose Votes for Men."

The tract is pictured above; it read like this:

1. Because man’s place is in the army.

2. Because no really manly man wants to settle any question otherwise than by fighting about it.

3. Because if men should adopt peacable [sic] methods women will no longer look up to them.

4. Because men will lose their charm if they step out of their natural sphere and interest themselves in other matters than feats of arms, uniforms and drums.

5. Because men are too emotional to vote. Their conduct at baseball games and political conventions shows this, while their innate tendency to appeal to force renders them particularly unfit for the task of government.

It's great satire, and also a timely reminder: Voting may be a right, but it is also a privilege. The "I Voted" sticker being displayed around the country today may be simple and selfie-friendly; it's also something that women—and, of course, many others—fought for. With violence, with patience, and, occasionally, with wit.