Document 4: A. L. Washburn, “Minority Report of Committee on Woman Suffrage,” reprinted in Albina L. Washburn, “The Grangers on Woman Suffrage,” Woman’s Journal, 8 (1 September 1877), p. 280.
Albina L. Washburn, of the Colorado Woman Suffrage Association, also was a member of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, or Grange, founded in 1867. An umbrella organization for farm cooperatives that sold crops and bought supplies, the Grange aimed to improve the situation of farmers (or “grangers”) vis-à-vis railroads and other corporations. Washburn attended the Grange’s national convention in Chicago in 1877 as a delegate from Colorado. As chair of the Committee on Woman Suffrage, she urged the organization to endorse a resolution in favor of woman suffrage: “Resolved, That justice to Woman demands and the exigencies of the times require that women be allowed to vote in all elections subject to the same restrictions and qualifications as other voters.” Despite the Grange’s commitment to equality between the sexes, the delegates in attendance voted to postpone discussion of the subject indefinitely.
Washburn expressed anger and dismay over the organization’s unwillingness to commit to suffrage reform. In the following report, presented at the convention, she used arguments both from equality and difference as well as the Grange’s anti-monopoly rhetoric.
MINORITY REPORT OF COMMITTEE ON WOMAN SUFFRAGE.
The chairman of your committee on the Woman Suffrage resolution which declared that “justice to women demands, and the exigencies of the times require,” that Woman be admitted to the ballot, would ask permission to submit a minority report.
* * *
I believe I am not alone in the opinion that this National Grange should concur in the propositions of that resolution, and that only a lack of moral courage and perhaps a thoughtless disregard of the rights of a respectable minority prevents the question, which as been ruled allowable, from coming before the house.
To this may be added a long-lived prejudice and a narrow conservatism induced by ignorance of the merits of this question, and a premeditated avoidance of its candid consideration which in the future even the mantle of charity can scarcely cover. For the principles of universal liberty and justice are rapidly supplanting in the minds of the people the selfishness and intolerance of past ages; and he who rides not triumphantly in the car of progress must stand aside, or be crushed by its steadily moving wheels.
Our “Declaration of Purposes” distinctly declares one of the objects of this Order to be an effort to do away with all monopolies. If any of my brothers know of a more extensive monopoly than the monopoly of the elective franchise by the men of this country, I do not; and I hold that the present corruption, dishonesty and selfishness which all acknowledge taint every avenue of public trust and tend to demoralize every holder of public office, are largely due to the exclusive man-power which has, through long years, been strengthening and fortifying itself among the people.
Not that the founders of our government ever made it an exclusive one of one sex;--they have not the constitution to uphold them--for not a word in that noble instrument can possibly be construed to mean that men alone shall rule. On the contrary there is evidently a most scrupulous avoidance of any such idea, the words “person” and “citizen” being used whenever practicable, and the masculine pronoun, whenever used for convenience, is always construed in law to mean also women. Women are held responsible for all infringement of the laws which men make under this provision. They are taxed without representation, their children are taken from them by masculine courts, their husbands and sons are ruined by liquor sold under masculine license, their hours of labor and the wages for the labor are controlled entirely by masculine legislation. Moreover women alone are punished for social crimes[A] in which men are equal, and generally far more guilty partners. Public opinion following the laws which men have made for their own benefit, ostracises the weaker party, and over breaking hearts and desolated homes builds a monument to the greatest wrong of modern times.
I ask you Worthy Master,--Brothers and Sisters--is this right? Is this just? Is it not in conflict with the general tenets of our Order and with the most advanced opinions of the age? Is it fair that sex, an insurmountable obstacle, should be the test of political qualifications? Does not Woman need the more, because of the acknowledged and inherited weakness which in all society elicits the gallantry and superficial subservience of men, the strong weapon of the ballot to protect herself and her children from injustice?
And, further, do not all departments of public business and of government suffer from the withholding of the voice and the conscience of Woman? Is not the tender heart of the wife, the long-suffering and wise patience of the mother accustomed to govern her diverse family,--the loyal affection and patronism of the daughter needed in the affairs of government to-day? Does not Woman need the ballot as an educator, that she may turn from the follies and assume some of the responsibilities of this nation? For there are women (as well as men) who do not know even the plan of our government, nor do they care.
There are other women who, with beating hearts and anxious eyes, are watching the drift of public sentiment, feeling that the future welfare of their country depends on the immediate return to the simplicity and honesty of the foundation of our republic, and who long to add their voice and influence to that of their brothers for right, for justice and equality. In conclusion, the question is: Shall we shrink from our duty in this matter, so vital to the interests of one-half the human family? Shall we ignore the fact that thousands of the most intelligent, thoughtful and conscientious women of our country are demanding, not only equal opportunity in all the avenues of education and of trade, but the ballot by which to defend rights? Or shall we come squarely to the front, and, fully recognizing the demands of the age and the advanced position of our beloved Order before the world, lend our hearty sanction to the resolution before the House, and recommend that Woman be accorded those rights outside which she now enjoys in the Grange?
A.L. WASHBURN, Chairman.
A.This referred to prostitution.
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