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World War I Fight for Woman Suffrage in New York Discussed in Global Context
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Men of New York State don’t wait until the war is over to admit the justice and necessity of woman suffrage here. For the sake of the strength it will add to the nation, vote for woman Suffrage November 6.

The New York State Woman Suffrage Party draws on international examples and women’s contributions to the war effort to urge New York men to vote for woman suffrage.

[WOMEN’S SUFFRAGE]. Printed Document. “Suffrage as a War Measure,” New York: National Woman Suffrage Publishing Co., October 1917. 4 pp.

Inventory #24174.03       Price: $200


Since the War Began Women Suffrage has been sweeping over the Civilized World.” (p1)

Women are now voters in Canada, in Russia, Norway, Finland and Denmark; they are about to become voters in Great Britain; all constitutional liabilities have been removed from them in Holland; and government bills to give municipal woman suffrage are under way in France and Italy.” (p1)

The Women of New York State have no less patriotism, courage or ability than the women of England, Russia or Canada.” (p1)

There are over 5,000 women officers in the New York Woman Suffrage Party who are giving most of their time to the work, and more than 500,000 women in the state are enrolled.” (p2)

During this time, with comparatively little effort.... In the midst of war, and with the votes of her soldiers, Canada has given votes to her women.... Since January of this year six new states have given presidential suffrage to women: Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota and Rhode Island, and Arkansas has given the vote to women in all primary elections.... The bill to give votes to 6,000,000 English women has passed its third reading in the House of Commons.” (p2)

Are New York Women going to be classed as the only among civilized nations unworthy of the vote?” (p3)

Give votes to women as part of the nation’s defense” (p4)

Men have denied women the right to vote because they said that women are not called on to serve the state…This war has proved that women must serve the state equally with men.... The government is calling on women to help in factories, in the production and conservation of food, to make munitions, and hardest of all, to give their sons to war.” (p4)

Historical Background

American involvement in World War I brought an evolving understanding of democracy and reenergized the woman suffrage movement. In February 1917, women confronted President Woodrow Wilson by protesting in front of the White House gates. The protest continued until November 1917; many women were arrested for their efforts. Word of their brutal treatment in jail brought sympathetic attention to the cause.

Carrie Chapman Catt founded the New York State Woman Suffrage Party in 1909 at the Convention of Disfranchised Women. African American and working class women were included, and the new organization’s literature was printed in English and foreign languages to reach Italian, Jewish, and Chinese women. By 1915, the party had 100,000 members, but 58% of the male voters in New York voted against giving women the right to vote.

Undaunted, the Woman Suffrage Party used the war as a reason that men should vote for suffrage, but opposed the confrontational protests outside the White House, believing that they tended to “harass the Government in this time of great stress.” In March 1917, the legislature granted the suffragists a second chance to submit their amendment to the voters.

On November 6, 1917, New York’s men returned to the polls to decide whether women should have the right to vote. Losing upstate by 1,570 votes, New York City approved it by a margin of 103,863, and this time the referendum passed, 703,129 (54%) to 600,776 (46%).

Catt later declared the campaign in New York State as the decisive battle of the American woman suffrage movement.

In his address to the U.S. Senate on September 30, 1918, President Wilson also used the war as a reason to support universal suffrage: “I regard the concurrence of the Senate in the constitutional amendment proposing the extension of the suffrage to women as vitally essential to the successful prosecution of the great war of humanity in which we are engaged.”

In May 1919, the New York Woman Suffrage Party became the New York branch of the League of Women Voters. A month later, Congress passed the Nineteenth Amendment and submitted it to the states for ratification. The proposed amendment prohibited the denial of the right to vote on the basis of sex. In August, 1920, the necessary three quarters of the states ratified the amendment, culminating the seventy-two years of effort on behalf of women’s suffrage.

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