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November 3, 2020

Every Reason Why Women Should Not Vote, 1917

Despite its novelty angle, this pamphlet from 1917 entitled This Little Book Contains Every Reason Why Women Should Not Vote from the National Woman Suffrage Publishing Company (the publishing arm of the National Woman Suffrage Association) was born from a very serious place: the struggle to gain women the right to vote in the United States.

This Little Book Contains Every Reason Why Women Should Not Vote (New York: National Woman Suffrage Publishing Co., 1917).

Share by the Public Domain Review, perhaps unsurprisingly, all the book’s pages are entirely blank. Despite that, the book also found their way to specific targets. A copy was left on the desk of anti-women’s suffrage Rep. Sherman Berry who decried it as “another sample of … the detestable and cheap politics practiced in this State. Gentlemen, that little book carries no more weight with it than does the picketing of the White House in this time of crisis and peril to this nation and the heckling of our President...”

All the book’s pages are blank.

The legal right of women to vote was established in the United States over the course of more than half a century, first in various states and localities, sometimes on a limited basis, and then nationally in 1920.

The demand for women’s suffrage began to gather strength in the 1840s, emerging from the broader movement for women’s rights. In 1848, the Seneca Falls Convention, the first women’s rights convention, passed a resolution in favor of women’s suffrage despite opposition from some of its organizers, who believed the idea was too extreme. By the time of the first National Women’s Rights Convention in 1850, however, suffrage was becoming an increasingly important aspect of the movement’s activities.

Women’s suffragists parade in New York City in 1917, carrying placards with the signatures of more than a million women.

The first national suffrage organizations were established in 1869 when two competing organizations were formed, one led by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the other by Lucy Stone and Francis Ellen Watkins Harper. After years of rivalry, they merged in 1890 as the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) with Anthony as its leading force. The Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), which was the largest women's organization at that time, was established in 1873 and also pursued women's suffrage, giving a huge boost to the movement.

Hoping that the U.S. Supreme Court would rule that women had a constitutional right to vote, suffragists made several attempts to vote in the early 1870s and then filed lawsuits when they were turned away. Anthony actually succeeded in voting in 1872 but was arrested for that act and found guilty in a widely publicized trial that gave the movement fresh momentum. After the Supreme Court ruled against them in the 1875 case Minor v. Happersett, suffragists began the decades-long campaign for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would enfranchise women. Much of the movement’s energy, however, went toward working for suffrage on a state-by-state basis.

In 1916 Alice Paul formed the National Woman’s Party (NWP), a militant group focused on the passage of a national suffrage amendment. Over 200 NWP supporters, the Silent Sentinels, were arrested in 1917 while picketing the White House, some of whom went on hunger strike and endured forced feeding after being sent to prison. Under the leadership of Carrie Chapman Catt, the two-million-member NAWSA also made a national suffrage amendment its top priority. After a hard-fought series of votes in the U.S. Congress and in state legislatures, the Nineteenth Amendment became part of the U.S. Constitution on August 18, 1920. It states, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”




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