Women were seen as somehow too fragile and too powerful at the same time, liable to burst into hysterics or upend the entire family unit just by casting a ballot. Here are a few examples of these arguments, from the absurd to the downright depressing.
Argument: Eve ate the apple which made women unequal to men and, sorry, voting won’t change that
“If we give to woman the ballot, shall the equality which woman lost, when she ate of the forbidden fruit, be restored, and shall she be made again the equal of man?”
Unsurprisingly, his conclusion is … no.
Argument: Women don’t actually want to vote, they just think it would be fun to try
Argument: Women could cancel out their husbands’ votes
This pamphlet, published by the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage encourages women to vote (lol) “no” on women’s suffrage because, among other things, married women can “only double or annul their husband’s votes.” And if that wasn’t bad enough, “in some states more voting women than voting men will place the Government under petticoat rule.”
Argument: Voting won’t help women cook and clean, so what’s the point?
“You do not need a ballot to clean out your sink spout. A handful of potash and some boiling water is quicker and cheaper.”
“Why vote for pure food laws, when your husband does that, while you can purify your ice-box with saleratus water?”
“Butter on a fresh burn takes out the sting. But what removes the sting of political defeat?”
Argument: Voting will lead women away from love and children and toward loneliness and anxiety
At the bottom is love, marriage, children and home, which are all fine. But then things get dark, and the children are left behind as she ascends to ambition, social achievement, admiration, and then, suddenly, flattery and disappointment on her way to suffrage.
But alas, the fated journey has not yet ended. Once the vote is secured, she keeps ascending to strife, anxiety and loneliness, pausing to tear her gaze away from the laurels of fame toward the precious children she left behind about a dozen steps before.
Argument: Women can get whatever they want anyway
“It is exactly because the suffragist has found it easy to get whatever she wants from men outside of the lawmaking body, that she comes so confidently to you to-day,” it reads.
In fact, to these anti-suffragists, it’s not enough that women don’t need the vote to get what they want — voting could actually take away a woman’s power!
“We believe that woman’s non-partisan attitude gives her the opportunity for influence in the community which the suffrage would divert and curtail,” the arguments go on.
Argument: Pregnant women could get too excited when they vote, and that will turn their babies into ugly idiots
Pregnant women and others in a delicate way, please look away lest you injure yourselves in rage. This book, written by Benjamin Vestal Hubbard around 1915 comes out swinging from the title: “Socialism, feminism, and suffragism : the Terrible Triplets.”
“Many women, at the time of holding primary elections, will be in a delicate condition, and to expose herself to excitement will jeopardize the physical and mental well-being of the child that is to be,” he writes. “Better to let the government go to smash than bear a physically imperfect or idiot child.”
Hubbard goes on to apply the same argument to such blasphemies as women jurors and politicians, who he claims couldn’t do their jobs because they wouldn’t know where to put their babies.
Finally, another cross-stitch sampler from his screed: “If you know the physical life of a woman, you know until she is 50 she has moods and tenses.” What happens after 50? Who knows, but it apparently doesn’t have to do with voting.
Argument: Women will abandon their husbands, cruelly leaving them alone with their own children, in order to vote
It’s clear a lot of anti-suffrage arguments used a woman’s role as mother to both dissuade them from voting and convince everyone else that women’s suffrage would lead to a total breakdown in the family structure and destroy the next generation of Americans.
A ballot on the lower right corner reveals the members of the “Hen Party:” Mrs. Henry Peck (get it? Henpeck) for president and Mrs. Wm. Nagg for vice president.
Argument: Women are sweet, weak and gentle and voting will make them hard and harsh like men
“Woman rules today by the sweet and noble influence of her character. Put woman into the arena of conflict and she abandons these great weapons which control the world and she takes into her hands, feeble and nerveless for strife, weapons with which she is unfamiliar and which she is unable to wield,” he writes. “Woman in strife becomes hard, harsh, unlovable, repulsive …”
Argument: Women will vote to punish the men who have done nothing but give them everything they want
There are innumerable examples of ridiculous arguments made against women’s suffrage, but how many of them are immortalized in four-part harmony?
“My husband gives me but once a week, a hundred dollar bil to spend. Of such cruelty I’ll no farther speak, but won’t stand it long, depend …” one verse goes. In another verse, a woman “leads a wretched life, she seems sad all the while; It’s true she rides in her carriage fine, and buys six dresses every week … But of trifles we’ll not speak. ”
Then, of course, the chorus, in which these silly pampered suffragists vow to “Fix these ‘dreadful men'” who have given them money, status and children but not their constitutionally enshrined right to a say in what happens in their government.
All together now!