Sunday, November 1, 2015

Election Day 1915

A hundred years ago, Election Day was on Tuesday, November 2. On the ballot that year was a referendum to amend the New York State Constitution to allow women to vote. On the eve of the election in 1915, this item appeared in the Hudson Evening Register.

Why They Will Vote for Suffrage.
Prominent New York men have issued the following statement:
"On Tuesday, November 2nd, the legally qualified voters of New York will decide whether or not the constitution of the State is to be so changed as to allow women to vote on the same terms as men.
"The questions are essentially those which have arisen whenever suffrage has been granted to any group of people. The world has tried various forms of exclusive government for a long time, and is trying some of them still, but the march is rapid toward universal freedom, and toward the participation in government of all intelligent adults. In the United States that belief in liberty has always been strong, and it is stronger to-day than ever before.
"The emancipation of women is feared by some because they think it threatens the home and those virtues which center around it. When woman asks the vote, she merely asks to keep up with her own work after it has left the house and gone into the community. She gladly admits that her place is in the home, and adds that the home is everywhere.
"In twelve American states women have been voting for periods ranging from one [Montana and Nevada] to forty-six years [Wyoming]. Everywhere the gain has been appreciable. The opinion of enlightened businessmen, statesmen, editors and careful women is overwhelming. And in foreign countries, in many of which the experiment has been fully tried, there is the same preponderance of opinion. No homes are broken up, no reckless legislation is passed, no women desert cradles in order to become politicians. But on the other hand there is a general toning up and liberalizing of life, an improvement in women themselves, and a distinct gain in legislation along such lines as especially affect children, women in industry, morals and municipal efficiency.
"We, the signers of this statement, declaring our intention to vote for the amendment, belong to various political parties, but we are united in our desire to have our state true to the fundamental principle of democracy. We believe that a people is greater when it follows gladly and bravely its underlying convictions than when its political life is inertia and causeless timidity. We believe it is bad for democracy to put a check on the aspirations of a large portion of its citizens. We believe that women should vote, and that the community will derive an appreciable advantage when they do vote."
The statement was signed by Jacob Gould Schurman, the president of Cornell University; Adolph Lewisohn, an investment banker, mining magnate, and philanthropist; Herbert Parsons, a former Republican congressman from New York; Charles L. Guy, a lawyer and justice of the New York Supreme Court; William A. Prendergast, comptroller of the City of New York; John Mitchell; Egburt E. Woodbury, New York attorney general; John K. Sague, delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1916; Robert Adamson, New York City fire commissioner; Samuel Untermyer, lawyer, civic leader, and millionaire who established Untermyer Park in Yonkers; Frederick M. Davenport, Progressive candidate for governor in 1914; Dudley Field Malone, collector of the Port of New York; Norman Hapgood, writer, journalist, editor, and critic; William G. Willcox, president of the New York City Board of Education; Samuel McCune Lindsay, president of the Academy of Political Science at Columbia University; James Lees Laidlaw, president of the Men's League; Ogden M. Reid, owner of the New York Herald Tribune; Frederic C. Howe, commissioner of immigration for the Port of New York; George A. McAneny, newspaperman and president of the New York City Board of Aldermen; Charles A. Beard, historian and chair of politics and government at Columbia University.

The amendment failed in 1915, but it succeeded two years later, in 1917, making New York one of the fifteen states that already had full suffrage when the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed in 1920.

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