Did All Women Support the Movement for Female Suffrage?

Unlike the suffragists pictured here, women in the anti-suffrage movement campaigned against extending the right to vote to members of their own sex.
Unlike the suffragists pictured here, women in the anti-suffrage movement campaigned against extending the right to vote to members of their own sex.

It was once argued that women shouldn't be allowed to vote because it would cause family rifts, damage their roles as wives and mothers, and even corrupt them. Those outdated arguments may not seem so surprising when you consider the historical context, but what is surprising is that some of those doing the arguing were women.

Few people these days are probably aware of the fact that before the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920, a considerable number of American women got together to oppose female suffrage.

One group, the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage, put out a pamphlet explaining some of their reasons. "Because it means competition of women with men instead of co-operation," it read. "Because 80% of the women eligible to vote are married and can only double or annul their husbands’ votes ... Because in some States more voting women than voting men will place the government under petticoat rule."

While those opposed to suffrage ended up on the losing side, some saw a way to keep on fighting: by joining. Many women began to run for office, figuring it was their best chance to get people to back their ideas regarding the importance of traditional female roles. For example, the first woman in Oklahoma to become a member of the U.S. Congress was Alice Mary Robertson, who only two years earlier had been a leader in the state's anti-suffrage association.

More about women's suffrage:

  • Fifty years before women were granted voting rights in the United States as a whole, the territory of Wyoming gave every woman age 21 and older the right to vote.

  • By the time the 19th Amendment was ratified, 20 other countries had already passed laws giving women the right to vote.

  • The right to vote was only one of 11 resolutions that women had agreed on when they gathered at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848; others included education and property equality.

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    • Unlike the suffragists pictured here, women in the anti-suffrage movement campaigned against extending the right to vote to members of their own sex.
      Unlike the suffragists pictured here, women in the anti-suffrage movement campaigned against extending the right to vote to members of their own sex.