Anti-Suffrage Women Fought Against the Vote

Cristen Conger

It might sound nice to portray suffrage as a universal sisterhood movement in which women everywhere were battling arm-in-arm for the vote. But during those Victorian era years that extolled female piety and the "cult of motherhood", plenty of women opposed the voting initiative and even rallied against it through anti-suffrage groups.

In 1911, state anti-suffrage organizations came together to form the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage (NAOW). Although this photo taken at the headquarters in New York makes it look like men were the ones fueling this anti-women voting initiative, a woman was actually responsible for starting the NAOW. The Library of Congress says that a wealthy married woman, Mrs. Arthur Dodge, rallied together Catholic clergymen, alcohol distillers and brewers, Southern politicians and businessmen to the anti-voting cause. In its recruitment literature (such as its ironically titled official magazine, The Women's Protest) , the NAOW justified its stance with "the belief that women can be more useful to the community without the ballot than if affiliated with and influenced by party politics." The organization seemed to reach its peak in 1916 with 25 state organizations, also started by women "antis", huddled under its anti-suffrage umbrella.

Why did these women oppose getting the right to vote? From a NAOW circular called "Household Hints":

  • Because 90 percent of women either do not want it or do not care.
  • Because it means competition instead of co-operation.
  • Because 80 percent 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 put the Government under petticoat rule.
  • Because it is unwise to risk the good we already have for the evil which may occur.

In 1919, the U.S. Congress passed the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote. By August 1920, all existing state legislatures had ratified it accordingly, signaling the end of the NAOW.

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