Anti-Suffragists America First and Always

Anti-Suffragists: America First and Always

The Remonstrance was the official publication of the Massachusetts Association Opposed to the Further Extension of Suffrage to Women. It provided a forum for women who opposed the expansion of voting rights to women.

Scholarship has focused largely on the historical developments of the suffrage movement, with the presence of female opponents of suffrage and anti-suffragist organizations receiving less attention. These anti-suffragists were vocal in their opposition to the suffragists who represented a threat to their ideal of womanhood. While female suffragists largely ignored them at that time, it is important to acknowledge their presence in American history.

This unsigned essay painting the suffragists as disloyal and un-American appeared during the ramp up to American engagement in the first World War.

America First and Always

(The Remonstrance, July 1917) This is the motto of anti-suffragists. During the great struggle into which the United States has been forced, they will give the first place, in their thoughts and activities, to their country. In every possible way, through their own organizations, through the National League for Woman’s Service, through the Red Cross, through other organizations and individually, they will contribute unsparingly to the triumph of the national cause and the supplying of the national needs. The promises of service which they have made to the President of the United States, to the Governors of the several states and to municipal authorities will be kept, in spirit and in letter.

This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s Women’s Suffrage Collection. We can provide access to fully searchable newspapers by and for women including The Lily (1849-1856), National Citizen and Ballot Box (1878-1881), The Revolution (1868-1872), The New Citizen (1909-1912), The Western Woman Voter (1911-1913), and the antisuffrage newspaper, The Remonstrance (1890-1913).

It is deplorable that the suffragists are not pursuing a similar course. In this time of national stress, when the country is involved in the greatest war in the history of the world, they might well have declared a truce in their agitation. Even the Pankhursts, in England, did this after a fashion, and have kept it, to some extent. But American suffragists hold to their slogan, “Suffrage First”; and, at a time when Congress is beset with urgent war questions and the attention of the country is concentrated upon the needs of the hour, they persist in pressing their issue more strenuously than ever.

The temper in which they are doing this is indicated in this declaration which their National President, Mrs. Catt, made before the Senate Committee at Washington, on the 20th of April:

“Today we stand upon the verge of what may prove the greatest test of endurance yet put upon our Republic. Women, the greatest force our nation possesses for the creation of public sentiment, are asked to mobilize their forces in aid of a government which has wronged them.”

No one has empowered Mrs. Catt to speak for the women of the United States. She represents only a small minority of them. The great majority of American women are taking up their new duties not grudgingly, not with a sense that the Government has “wronged” them, but enthusiastically, and with the feeling that it is the best Government on the face of the earth, and that they owe to it most of the things that make life worth living.

Because they believe that the suffrage movement is a more serious menace than ever under present conditions, anti-suffragists regard it as a patriotic duty, and, in a large sense, a measure of national defense, to oppose it with all their strength. But they will not allow this duty to interfere in any way with their cardinal principle—“America first—and always.”

All images included in blog posts are from either Accessible Archives collections or out of copyright public sources unless otherwise noted. Common sources include the Library of Congress, The Flickr Commons, Wikimedia Commons, and other public archives.

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