Against the Grain-The Antisuffragists

Every political issue is divisive. The notion of equal rights between men and women and securing women’s rights to vote constituted no exception. The idea of suffrage for women divided households, families, organizations, and leadership. For individuals such as Horace Bushnell, suffrage was a “reform against nature.” According to statesman Elihu Root, suffrage represented “an injury to the state” and a “loss to all women.” Suffragists represented a threat to traditional values and gender roles.

Antisuffragists created cartoons that mocked suffragists. In 1890, the Massachusetts Association Opposed to the Further Extension of Suffrage to Women launched The Remonstrance as a digest of anti-suffrage news and strategic planning. Articles appearing in countless national and regional papers attacked women who took part in public life. Antisuffragists distributed pins, buttons, pamphlets and postcards encouraging legislators and political figures. Somewhat ironically, these antisuffragists were politically active while advocating to limit women’s roles in the political sphere.

Both men and women organized against suffrage. In 1911, the National Association Opposed to Women Suffrage (NAOWS) was founded in the United States by women opposed to the suffrage movement. Those opposed to suffrage argued that most women did not want to vote, that women’s place was in the home, where they took care of the children. Others claimed that women lacked the expertise or mental capacity to offer a useful opinion about political issues.

The songs, speeches, and texts in this section express some of the arguments and fears of the antisuffragist movement and highlight the diversity of those opposed to universal suffrage. Women in these materials are portrayed and mocked as masculine and ugly and often angry. The conflict inherent in all social justice movements is evidenced by these items.

Womans Rights A Right Good Ballad

Womans Rights A Right Good Ballad.

Kate Horn

Womans Rights A Right Good Ballad.

Boston: G.P. Reed, 1853.

Written and composed by Kate Horn in opposition to the Women’s Suffrage Movement, the song included lyrics such as, “Tis ‘Woman’s right’ as Wife to act/ Alone to Legislators, / But ‘not her right’ to mount the stand/ And speak as commentators.”

DeGolyer Library, Danny O. Crew Sheet Music Collection

Women's suffrage: the reform against nature

Women's suffrage: the reform against nature.

Horace Bushnell (1802-1876)

Women's suffrage: the reform against nature.

New York: C. Scribner, 1869.

Horace Bushnell opposed woman’s suffrage because he thought of politics as a kind of necessary evil. Chapters include: Women not created or called to govern / Scripture doctrine coincides / Subtle mistakes of feeling and argument / The report of history / Probable effects / Prospects and possibilities of women.

DeGolyer Library, General Collection, JK1901 .B96 1869

Gift of Hervey Priddy, 2019.

Everybody Works But Mother: She’s a Suffragette [Postcard]

Everybody Works But Mother: She’s a Suffragette [Postcard].

Everybody Works But Mother: She’s a Suffragette [Postcard].

New York: Dunston-Weiler Lithograph Co., 1909.

Part of a twelve-card series of full-color lithographic postcards opposing woman suffrage. This card, labeled Suffragette Series No. 11, features an illustration of a man doing laundry. Next to him on the floor are a child and a cat. A sign in the corner reads: "Everybody works but mother: she's a suffragette." Postcard is addressed to Miss Theresa Krifer, and message reads: “This is the forerunner of married life.”

From the collection of Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner

Everybody Works But Ma (She’s an Advocate of Woman’s Rights)

Everybody Works But Ma (She’s an Advocate of Woman’s Rights).

Grace Heller, composer, lyricist.

Everybody Works But Ma (She’s an Advocate of Woman’s Rights).

Columbia, Pennsylvania: Columbia Music Co., 1913.

Ralph Heller Beittel (1884-1971) was an American composer. His early works were published under the pseudonym Grace Heller (his wife’s first name and his middle name). He self-published under his own company Columbia Music Co. Lyrics in this song include: “Have you heard why mother and father cant agree; poor old pa must stay at home while ma goes on a spree. She joined the woman’s movement, and wears a bloomer skirt; now father has to cook and do the work.”

DeGolyer Library, Danny O. Crew Sheet Music Collection

Woman’s Rights [Postcard]

Woman’s Rights [Postcard].

Woman’s Rights [Postcard].

New York: F.G. Henry & Company, 1910.

Black and white photograph of homely woman with a big smile removing bills from her husband pants pocket. Caption: “Woman’s Rights.”

From the collection of Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner

I’m on My Way to Reno

I’m on My Way to Reno.

William Jerome, music by Jean Schwartz

I’m on My Way to Reno.

New York: Jerome H. Remick & Co., 1910.

Written by William Jerome in opposition to the Women’s Suffrage Movement. The song describes a husband leaving his wife because she is now a suffragette. The song states, “Reno life is simply great; they grant divorces while you wait.”

DeGolyer Library, Danny O. Crew Sheet Music Collection

National Anti-Suffrage Association [Photograph reproduction].

National Anti-Suffrage Association [Photograph reproduction].

National Anti-Suffrage Association [Photograph reproduction].

Harris & Ewing, photographer, [1911].

Photograph shows men looking at material posted in the window of the National Anti-Suffrage Association headquarters; sign in window reads "Headquarters National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage".

From the collection of Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner

Against the Grain-The Antisuffragists