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Epigraphs: “The Vote: Women’s Fierce Fight, Part V, Chapter 14

This statement by William “Bill” Martz is the epigraph for The Vote: Women’s Fierce Fight, Chapter 14, Tireless Struggles: January-April 1917—I vote ‘Aye’, and I can’t explain my vote.

Suffragists were doggedly determined to win the right to vote, even if it meant just partial suffrage such as the right to vote on school matters, tax and bond issues, or in municipal and presidential elections. (Kentucky became the first state to grant partial suffrage to women, albeit for a very select group of women and a tidbit of suffrage: On February 6, 1838, the General Assembly granted school suffrage to property-owning widows and unmarried women, over the age of twenty one, who lived in a school district.) By 1916, persistent, politically savvy suffragists had persuaded legislatures in twenty-seven states, out of forty-eight, to grant women some form of partial suffrage.

Between January and April 1917, suffragists conducted a record number of eleven partial suffrage campaigns. Ten campaigns sought presidential and municipal suffrage. In Arkansas, suffragists and the newly elected pro-suffrage governor, Charles Hillman Brough, urged legislators to grant women primary suffrage. (A one-party state, whoever won a primary in Arkansas was sure

to win the election.) The first image is a victory celebration on the steps of the Capitol in Little Rock. Brough, wearing a white shirt, suit and shoes, and a black bow tie, is standing on the third step, slightly right of center.

In the Michigan House of Representatives, on April 18, 1917, William “Bill” Martz of Detroit, known for the “tremendous power of his booming voice, roared, “I vote ‘Aye’ and I can’t explain my vote.” Martz was voting on a presidential suffrage bill. Stunned silence greeted his announcement, then applause, for Martz was an avowed foe of woman suffrage—unless, it turned out, his wife was sitting about three feet away from him and “happily smiling.” The bill that had already been passed in the Senate passed by a majority 84 votes: 135 yeas, 51 nays. Margaret Whittemore, a NWP organizer whose Quaker grandmother was a pioneering suffragist in Michigan, was elated by the news. “It is with a new sense of political power that I continue my work in organizing women for national suffrage.”

Anna Dallas Dudley, considered a “legendary beauty,” led a spirited campaign in Tennessee.  President of the Tennessee state suffrage association, Dudley pitched her appeals to men in the South, where the notion of chivalry still held sway: “I don’t want to

usurp your place in government, but it is time I had my own,” she sweetly assured them. When the legislature defeated the presidential and municipal suffrage bill, Dudley said—”We are not crybabies . . . .We will simply work harder for suffrage in Tennessee.” The second image is Anna Dallas Dudley with her children who led parades with her.

Of the eleven vigorous, all-consuming partial-suffrage campaigns, there were eight victories: North

Dakota, Ohio, Indiana, Arkansas, Rhode Island, Vermont, Nebraska, and Michigan. The third image is a bust of Elizabeth Buffum Chace, a co-founder and president of the Rhode Island Woman Suffrage Association.  On one of my many women history road trips, I stopped at the Rhode Island State House in Providence to visit and photograph the bust of Chace, known as “the Conscience of Rhode Island.” (Click on images to enlarge them.)

As they always did, opponents contested every victory. Two were overturned: in Ohio by another referendum and in Indiana by a court ruling. In Nebraska, the victory was suspended due to litigation. Subtracting Ohio, Indiana, and Nebraska from the eight victories and adding them to the three losses (Tennessee, New Hampshire, Maryland) adds up to more defeats (six) than victories (five)—a fierce fight, indeed!

The Vote: Women’s Fierce Fight, adult nonfiction, 444 pages, 35 images, Author’s Note, epilogue, bibliography, notes, index, is widely available in trade paperback and eBook.

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