Professional Development

Suffragists Change Tactics in Fight for Equal Suffrage (Transcript)

Professor SARAH E. CHINN (Hunter College): This generation of women, women again who are born in the 1860s and '70s, these “New Women,” this first generation of what we call “New Women” used, again different tactics. Whereas the early Suffrage movement had used moral arguments as much as anything else and had said, "When women get the vote we will purify politics. We will take the corruption out of politics. We will bring women's moral superiority with us into the political realm.

Frances Willard, who was one of the leaders of the Women's Christian Temperance Movement, said, "We will make the world home-like." So that was the concept for these earlier women.

Later women were more involved in the political process, Harriot Stanton Blatch being a great example. She lived in New York. And she worked on getting a referendum in New York State so that people could vote on women's suffrage. And she was willing to roll up her sleeves and go into those smoke filled rooms and really tussle with these machine politicians.

There was a more pragmatic sense of how to go about it. Rather than using moral suasion to change the mind of the nation, the strategy was state by state. Either state constitutions or state referenda. By 1900, a number of western states already had the vote.

In fact that was not a successful strategy. And between 1913, which was when the New York State referendum activism was at its height, until 1920, when a federal amendment actually got ratified, no other state individually got the vote for women.

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