Woman Suffrage and the Darwinian Theory

Woman Suffrage and the Darwinian Theory (1878)

DEAR BALLOT BOX: Do you know that this interminable drudgery imposed on American mothers of petitioning—petitioning for the ballot—this humiliation of forever praying to their own sons to be allowed to enjoy their birthright with the men born of them, furnishes me with stronger evidence of the Darwinian theory than anything I am able to find elsewhere. Were it not for this relic which has no parallel in the history left us of the dark ages—of the long ago buried past, there would be little proof of such an age having once enshrouded the earth.

The brutish vulgarity which we see cropping out in men who ignorantly disgrace themselves by ignoring their own mothers, is conclusive evidence to me that the race must have come up through the long line of animal ancestry to the “man in the dugout,” and from thence to the men in our present Congress, some of whom still seem inclined to root, and grunt, and squeal, if others assert rights equal to their own: lest the visual line of their own pen be the world’s extent, and, if others should be allowed to enjoy like blessings, they would be crowded, off the stage of action. While there are other men on the same floor, who, I am proud to say, are infinitely in advance of all this, which is a promise and prophecy of the oncoming of those others, for which I thank God and take courage; and love to accept this theory because it gives us a better outlook—this law of eternal progress must in cycles of years lift the most sordid to a higher plane of nobler action.

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).

I say, but for this, I could find no way to account for this unaccountable stupidity, this lack of power to comprehend the plainest possible expressions in the English language. For instance, look here:


July 28th, 1868.

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States, nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law, nor deny to any person, within its Jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Can language be framed more explicit, or better defined than the above?

What idiocy to pretend that such language needs any intepretation, that it can be tortured in into any other meaning than just what it says. If our national Constitution does not mean just what it says, it is worthless and means nothing. for none can tell what it means.

Just look again:

Article 4th, Section 2. The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States.

Same Article, Section 4. The United States shall guarantee to every State in the Union a republican form of government.

Can language be plainer? Somewhere in sacred anthology I have read the following words: “Man that is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble.”

Now, I should just as soon think of our would be representatives misinterpreting the language above quoted and insisting on spending their time and the people’s money in legislating for this noble class of men who were born full of day and without trouble, as the language might imply, according to their interpretation of the United States Constitution and its amendments, and confer favors, privileges and preferment on this class of men who knew better than to obey the universal law of being born of woman, lest their days be few and full of trouble.

Now, it would be just as sound sense to admit this interpretation of the text quoted, as to accept the fourteenth amendment, and then withhold the suffrage from one-half of the citizens of the United States.

For many years I was simple enough to believe that it was the selfishness, the willfulness, the love of authority, that prompted men to withhold from women their birthright. But since I have grown older and looked deeper into the causes of things and their effects, I am ready to accept the persistent assertion of our undeveloped members in our legislative halls, since the action of a majority of our present Congress confirms it beyond all doubt, that they are telling us the truth when they admit and assert that they cannot comprehend what the language in the United States Constitution means. And yet it is ever the folly of the ignorant, the selfish, to crowd themselves into a place where their ignorance will be most conspicuous, proving the saying true that, “ignorance is bold where wisdom hesitates.” Yet, notwithstanding all this, we know that these evils will be all remedied, since these men cannot hold their places long; their constituents will call them home to find employment better suited to their ability, and fill their places with men of more unfolded intellect, broader comprehension, with less of the animal and more of the human heart, selected from among the intelligent, honest, working classes—for honesty is clear-sighted, while duplicity is ever a turbid stream.

Men who have not the power to give their own children brains enough to last them while they are outgrowing the nursing bottle, cannot be expected to appreciate woman, to say nothing of helping to lift the world onto a higher plane of justice, equality, and right.

L. C. Smith
Rochester, N. Y.

Source: National Citizen and Ballot Box – March 1878

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