Archive for Saturday, November 3, 2012

100 years of women voting

State approved civil right eight years before nation did

Suffragettes in Governor Walter Roscoe Stubb's automobile, going after the vote in Topeka, Kansas. The women are identified as: (l to r) Laura Clay, President of Kentucky Equal Rights Association; Lucy B. Johnston; Sarah A. Thurston; Helen Eacker; and Stella H. Stubbs. They were all members of the Kansas Equal Suffrage Association.

Suffragettes in Governor Walter Roscoe Stubb's automobile, going after the vote in Topeka, Kansas. The women are identified as: (l to r) Laura Clay, President of Kentucky Equal Rights Association; Lucy B. Johnston; Sarah A. Thurston; Helen Eacker; and Stella H. Stubbs. They were all members of the Kansas Equal Suffrage Association.

November 3, 2012


While modern-day politicians angle for the women’s vote, 100 years ago, after much struggle, women in Kansas won equal voting rights.

“When I read back through the history and the stories, it makes me feel really proud,” said Melinda Henderson, president of the League of Women Voters of Lawrence-Douglas County. “Kansas was really a hotbed of the suffrage movement.”

On Nov. 5, 1912, Kansas voters — all of them men — approved a state constitutional amendment by a count of 175,246 votes for and 159,197 against. That was eight years before ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gave women the right to vote nationwide.

The fight in Kansas was an exhaustive effort that spanned generations and brought national attention to the state.

Kansas suffragettes had little monetary resources and battled against a history of major defeats; two earlier equal voting rights amendments in 1867 and 1894 failed at the polls.

But in a 1911 letter, Lucy Browne Johnston, president of the Kansas Equal Suffrage Association, kept victory in sight. She reviewed what would be the winning strategy (“membership extension, education and press”) to suffrage association county presidents, and then urged her colleagues with a simple statement, “The world makes way for people who are working for a worthy object and have confidence in their own efforts.”

The debate in the Kansas House in 1911 on the proposed state constitutional amendment outlined the arguments of the time.

Clement Wilson of Greeley voted no. In his explanation of vote recorded in the House Journal, Wilson said not “one lady” in his district had asked him to vote for the amendment. He said that was because “they (women) believe that the protection of morals of a community rightfully rests upon the stronger sex, especially as to making and enforcing the rules and laws looking to the protection of the women of Kansas, and that they believe that this responsibility should remain so.”

W.T. Watson noted that he voted against the amendment two years ago but was now voting for it “out of deference to the wishes of the best woman in Kansas,” his wife.

J.H. Mercer voted against it, saying that giving women the right to vote would burden them and disturb the home.

But J.T. Lacey said, “I believe in a square deal for my fellow men, and see no reason why I should not give women the same fair treatment, and I vote Aye.”

Even with the prior setbacks, Kansas had been seen as a progressive state.

Women won the right to vote in school elections from the start of statehood in 1861 and municipal elections in 1887.

“We were on the forefront of voting rights,” said Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew. “Kansas was seen as kind of an experiment,” he said.

In 1887, Susanna Salter was elected mayor of Argonia, Kan., becoming the first female mayor in the country.

“I’m really proud that Kansas was one of the states that passed women suffrage before the nation did,” said Sarah St. John, who compiles the Old Home Town feature for the Lawrence Journal-World. “We were a little ahead of the game.”

St. John found this nugget from the Journal-World about two weeks before the 1912 election. The newspaper invited people to come to the Journal-World office to receive a free book listing all the reasons to oppose equal voting rights for women. When people arrived, they received a book with eight blank pages. “While the matter was a joke and those who called took it in good part, yet there were some who honestly expected to receive a statement of the other side of the question and were disappointed,” the newspaper reported.

By 1912, a progressive movement was sweeping the nation. Western states were seen as key in the march toward universal suffrage.

The day after Kansas became the seventh state in the nation to give women equal voting rights, telegrams poured in to Johnston.

Anna Shaw, president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association in New York, told Johnston, “the national welcomes the seventh star.” And Ada James, president of the Political Equality League of Wisconsin, congratulated Kansas. “Your victory is our victory,” she said.

In Douglas County, the amendment passed 2,331 to 1,989 and is recorded beside the script-written notation “Equal S” in the official abstract of the vote in the Douglas County Courthouse.

Thinking about the difficult work it took to get the amendment approved, Henderson, president of the local League of Women Voters, said, it makes her sad to hear people say they aren’t voting or that their vote doesn’t matter.

“Every woman in the state of Kansas should get out and vote in celebration,” of the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in Kansas, she said.


Cynthia Schott 5 years, 7 months ago

Wow. So Kansas was at one time progressive.

chootspa 5 years, 7 months ago

Yes. Kansas used to have a reputation for being quite liberal. My, times have changed.

Cynthia Walker 5 years, 7 months ago

Note to the editor: Sarah St. John's first name is spelled with a final "h".

StirrrThePot 5 years, 7 months ago

I love the irony. Now there's plenty of people who would rather women didn't have the vote.

Catalano 5 years, 7 months ago

Seriously. Did you see this from "On the Street" today? (I fear if I try to link to it, it won't work.) Question: Are there any advancements you’d like to see the country make in the next century? “ I think women suffrage and feminism has moved too far and now emasculates men, and that’s wrong. Less freedom for women would not be a bad thing. That sounds odd coming from a woman.” — Karen Corl, nanny, Gardner

StirrrThePot 5 years, 7 months ago

Well, if she wants to go ahead and give up her freedom, I say let her. There's several countries in the middle east that would oblige her.

tomatogrower 5 years, 7 months ago

Yes, Kansas was founded as a progressive state. Many settlers came here to be a part of the fight against slavery and keep Kansas a free state. Granted there were many who believed that the slaves were inferior to whites, but they still fought against 1 man owning another, pretty radical stuff in those days. At that time, this effort was led by the Republican party of long ago. That's why there are so many generational Republicans, and the slave states were mostly Democrats.

As both parties evolved and the Democrats became progressive, wanting to extend our constitutional rights to everyone, the Republicans became more and more Repubican. This especially started when Lyndon Johnson supported civil rights. He knew he would lose the support of the southern states. Now most southern states are Republican.

In Kansas we have a lot of people whose ancestors were Republican, so they continue to be Republican. Many of the ones I know will believe anything the Republican party tells them, because it came from that party, so it can't be a lie. We have gone from a state who promoted rights to one who wants to prevent other groups from getting those rights. We went from being a state of moderates who worked together to, "I hate you because you don't fit my idea of a 'real' American - white, Christian, healthy, and preferably male."

kernal 5 years, 7 months ago

Actually, women in some Kansas towns were allowed to vote as early as 1887, when the first woman mayor of the United States was elected Mayor of Argonia, KS.

Pastor_Bedtime 5 years, 7 months ago

And yet we find ourselves in an age where some still judge women solely on whether they are "attractive" and capable of producing their offspring, as that is their only value to the men who lord over them. To these (Republican) Kansans, women are incapable of functioning on their own and need to have their most private decisions monitored and controlled by the powerful and affluent.

kernal 5 years, 7 months ago

Politics only has only has so much to do with that, PB. I know men on both sides of the political spectrum who appreciate women who can function on their own when the men need to be away, such as wives of the U.S. military.

Katara 5 years, 7 months ago

No one is asking for free birth control. I really wish folks such as yourself would stop spreading that lie.

Women would like their birth control to be covered under their insurance just as all other prescriptions (such as Viagra and Cialis) are.

Pastor_Bedtime 5 years, 7 months ago

Actually, Midwest, you've gotten it quite wrong. You are ignoring the fact that some Republicans are fighting to deny women the choice of contraception in most forms ~ whether they pay for it or not, as their faith dictates forced-birth upon all women.

But birth control is simply not your call, even if your Bible sez so. Neither is abortion.

And the entitled overclass will sneer at the underlings before mounting their $70k tax-deduction dancing horses while paying a lesser tax rate than the common man. Your men on white horses riding in to save the economic day by "getting people working" have only proven to get more Chinese people working, all the while protecting their freedom to dictate their morals upon the nation. And considering the tone of your assment of the situation, free-thinking men and women alike had best fight as hard as they can to put your nanny-state control-freak movement at bay before you and your cohorts take away their right to vote.

Seth Peterson 5 years, 7 months ago

Ah, I love it when someone like Midwest_Muser posts, they're so easy to respond to:

Ignorance and misinformation! Moving on.

Centerville 5 years, 7 months ago

Uh, hate bust your sad little bubble, but the people who opposed the Civil Rights Act were Democrats. And maybe you need to get to know a few more people.

tomatogrower 5 years, 7 months ago

Southern Democrats. Study details when you study history.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 7 months ago

Southern Democrats who have almost all become Republicans, starting with Nixon's "southern strategy."

beatrice 5 years, 7 months ago

Dixiecrats, who would become Southern Republicans of today.

Pesky facts.

Pastor_Bedtime 5 years, 7 months ago

Great hats indeed! I'm shocked the usual suspects haven't taken the time to deride these groundbreaking women for ~ using their terms and standards ~ not being "attractive" enough, like they've deemed Rachel Maddow.

hedshrinker 5 years, 7 months ago

"GAVE"?????? Women worked hard, faced unbelievable opposition, paid high costs, so 100 years later, neanderthals could still deride them and many would feel either so disempowered, cynical or too oblivious to their impending enslavement that can't be bothered to utilize this precious activity of voting.

James Minor 5 years, 7 months ago

The reason why the unemployment rate is high is because women can vote and be independent. On Tuesday vote for the Republicans so we can turn the clock back and return women to housewives and making children.

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