This testimony was delivered by Matilda Joslyn Gage in a special meeting of the committees of the Senate and House of Representatives on the District of Columbia on Friday, March 31, 1876.
Testimony by MATILDA JOSLYN GAGE, of New York:
On behalf of the National Association, which has its officers in every State and territory of the Union, and which numbers many thousands of members, and on behalf of the Woman’s Franchise Association of the District of Columbia, we appear before you, asking that the right of suffrage be secured equally to the men and women of this District.
Article I, Section 8, Clauses 17 and 18 of the Constitution of the United States reads:
Congress shall have power to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever over such district as may become the seat of government of the United States, … to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers.
Congress is therefore constitutionally the special guardian of the rights of the people of the District of Columbia. It possesses peculiar rights, peculiar duties, peculiar powers in regard to this District. At the present time the men and women are alike disfranchised. Our memorial asks that in forming a new government they may be alike enfranchised. It is often said as an argument against granting suffrage to women that they do not wish to vote; do not ask for the ballot. This association, numbering thousands in the United States, through its representatives, now asks you, in this memorial, for suffrage in this District. Petitions from every State in the Union have been sent to your honorable body. One of these, signed by thirty-five thousand women, was sent to congress in one large roll; but what is the value of a petition signed by even a million of an unrepresented class?
The city papers of the national capital, once bitterly opposed to all effort in this direction, now fully recognize the dignity of the demand, and have ceased to oppose it. One of these said, editorially, to-day, that the vast audiences assembling at our conventions, the large majority being women, and evidently in sympathy with the movement, were proof of the great interest women take in this subject, though many are too timid to openly make the demand. The woman’s temperance movement began two years ago as a crusade of prayer and song, and the women engaged therein have now resolved themselves into a national organization, whose second convention, held in October last, numbering delegates from twenty-two States, almost unanimously passed a resolution demanding the ballot to aid them in their temperance work. We who make our constant demand for suffrage, knew that these women were in process of education, and would soon be forced to ask for the key to all reform.