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What Use is the Constitution for Female Citizens?

The Remonstrance was the official publication of the Massachusetts Association Opposed to the Further Extension of Suffrage to Women. First published annually and later quarterly in Boston from February, 1890 until April 1919, it provided a forum for women who opposed the expansion of voting rights to women.

WHAT IS THE USE OF A CONSTITUTION?

A certain New York politician, to whom it was once objected that the thing which he wished to do was unconstitutional, answered gaily, “What is the Constitution between friends?” He thereby gained a reputation of a sort and contributed to the public amusement.

The National Woman Suffrage Association, at its meeting in Nashville last November, appears to have been influenced by a similar sentiment. It went on record, without a dissenting vote, in favor of working for a bill in Congress, giving women the vote for Congressmen and United States Senators. The proposed bill is intended to enable women to vote for United States Senators and Representatives, as The Woman’s Journal explains it, “without the elaborate procedure required to pass and ratify a National Constitutional Amendment.” This “elaborate procedure” has bothered the suffragists a good deal for a long period of years, and it is easy to believe the statement of The Woman’s Journal that the proposal “aroused a great deal of enthusiasm.”

This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s Newspapers Collection. We can provide access to fully searchable newspapers by and for women including The Lily, The Revolution, and the National Citizen and Ballot Box.

Looked at in the calm light of the express provisions of the Federal Constitution, there may be found some reason for abatement of enthusiasm. The second section of Article I of the Constitution provides “The House of Representatives shall be composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the several states, and the electors in each state shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State Legislatures.”

Under Article XVII of the Amendments to the Federal Constitution which went into effect last November, it is provided that “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state elected by the people thereof for six years and each senator shall have one vote. The electors in each state shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State Legislatures.”

It will be noticed that the requirement in each case is identical, that the choice shall be made by electors who possess the qualifications necessary for electors of the most numerous branch of the State Legislatures.

Now in every state in the Union, with the exception of the suffrage states, the prime qualification for electors of the most numerous branch of the State Legislatures is that they shall be “male” citizens.

The idea that these provisions of the Federal Constitution can be swept away by a single bill enacted by a single Congress, “without the elaborate procedure required to pass and ratify a National Constitutional Amendment” is an “iridescent dream.”

Source: “What is the Use of a Constitution?” in The Remonstrance, January 1915

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