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Male Anti-Suffragist Ridicules “Taxation without Representation” Argument of Suffragists
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New York attorney Frederick Dwight insists in this brief pamphlet that women’s inability to vote bears no parallel to the American colonists’ protest of “taxation without representation.”

[WOMEN’S SUFFRAGE]. FREDERICK DWIGHT. Pamphlet. “Taxation and Suffrage,” New York: New York State Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage, ca. 1915-1917. 4 pp., 6 x 9 in.

Inventory #24174.06       Price: $75

Excerpts:

Those who advocate woman suffrage are fond of quoting the colonial dictum that taxation without representation is tyranny, and declare that this, one of ‘the fundamental principles upon which the country was founded,’ is shamefully violated under present circumstances as far as women are concerned.

Any one who has examined the ‘argument’ critically, and realizes what a total lack of connection there is between the dictum and the interpretation put upon it, is inclined to smile at the display of logic and dismiss the whole matter as nonsense.

The colonists declared that taxation without representation was tyrannical—which is one thing. The suffragists pretend they said that taxation without votes was tyrannical—which is quite another thing.... Thousands upon thousands of men, as well as women, in this country are taxed without being able to vote. That is the condition of the residents of the District of Columbia. The property of minors is taxed, yet they have no votes. A man may own property in a dozen different states and yet can vote in only one. Finally the tariff is a tax upon every man, woman and child, citizen and alien alike, in the country.

The truth is, that the phrase ‘taxation without representation’ did not refer to individuals at all, but to the dealings of one commonwealth with another. It did not mean that neither this man nor that woman should be taxed unless he or she were personally represented in government. The slightest reflection will show the absurdity of such a construction.

Historical Background

Carrie Chapman Catt founded the New York State Woman Suffrage Party in 1909 at the Convention of Disfranchised Women. By 1915, the Woman Suffrage Party had 100,000 members, but a referendum in October 1915 lost when 58 percent of the male voters in New York rejected suffrage for women.

Undaunted, the Woman Suffrage Party used American participation in World War I as a reason that men should vote for suffrage, but the Woman Suffrage Party 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.

The Woman Suffrage Party raised more than $400,000 for the 1917 referendum, calling on very wealthy families to donate. In 1895, female anti-suffragists had formed the New York State Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage, which opposed the removal of “male” from the description of voters in the new New York state constitution. Twenty years later, the organization distributed literature like this pamphlet in opposition to women’s suffrage in both the 1915 and 1917 referenda. Male anti-suffragists founded the Men’s League Opposed to Woman Suffrage.

Other anti-suffragists, like Mrs. William A. Putnam, also attacked the suffragists’ use of the phrase “taxation without representation is tyranny.” Putnam declared “This is one of the phrases one hears continually from suffrage speakers and never was a more specious epigram coined.”[1]

On November 6, 1917, men in New York went to the polls to decide whether women should have the right to vote. The referendum passed by a vote of 703,129 to 600,776 (54 to 46 percent). Although the referendum failed upstate by 1,570 votes, New York City approved it by a margin of 103,863. Catt later declared the campaign in New York State as the decisive battle of the American woman suffrage movement, leading to the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Frederick A. Dwight (1873-1958) was born in Brooklyn Heights, New York, and graduated from Yale College in 1894 and Columbia Law School. He was admitted to the New York bar in 1897 and worked in law firms and a trust company until 1904, when he resigned and took a trip abroad for a year. In 1905, he began a new law partnership with successive partners until 1920, when he began to practice alone. He described himself in politics as “an independent Democrat with Republican leanings, if that means anything.” In 1911, he married Elizabeth King Wakeman (1871-1921), and after her death, he married Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Davis Monod (1875-1943) in 1922. He was a member of many organizations and involved in settlement work. He published a number of brief articles in legal and other periodicals and a pamphlet history of the 7th Regiment of the New York National Guard, of which he was a member from 1900 to 1909.


[1] Mrs. William A. Putnam, “The Anti-Suffrage Viewpoint,” Brooklyn Life, July 24, 1915, 15:2.


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