The Songs of Suffrage

Although “music has charms to soothe a savage breast,” it can also elicit a call to action. From hymns to anthems, to ballads and marches, music always played a role in political movements in American history, including woman’s suffrage. Songs brought women together and delivered their messages in verse. Notable tunes carried their voices from sewing circles to large rallies in the streets. The songs of the suffrage movement not only inspired many to join or support their cause, their lyrics often carried words of hope and of promise of a better future. Both suffragists and anti-suffragists utilized the power of music throughout their campaigns. Through the use of imagery, irony, and sarcasm, anti-suffragists exposed deeply seated beliefs about the role and responsibilities of women, and widely held anxieties and fears of men during the movement.

The Danny O. Crew historical sheet music collection at the DeGolyer Library consists of thousands of pieces of sheet music published in the United States from the late 18th century to 1921, the year after the adoption of the 19th amendment to the Constitution. Included are early music of a rebellious nature, music surrounding the early woman's rights conventions, and pro and anti-woman’s rights and suffrage pieces.

These songbooks, leaflets, marches, ballads, and Broadway tunes provide a glimpse into the suffrage movement through the lens of music, musicians, lyricists, and composers. They represent only a small sample of the Crew collection.

I’ll Be No Submissive Wife

I’ll Be No Submissive Wife.

Alex Lee

I’ll Be No Submissive Wife.

New York: William Hall & Son, 1838.

Written by Alexander Lee in New York in support of women’s rights. Lee wrote, “I’ll not be a slave for life—not I love, honor, and obey.”

DeGolyer Library, Danny O. Crew Sheet Music Collection

Woman Suffrage Campaign Songbook

Woman Suffrage Campaign Songbook.

Ada M. Bittenbender, arranger.

Woman Suffrage Campaign Songbook.

Lincoln: Tribune Printing Co., 1882.

A joint resolution was adopted by the legislature of Nebraska in February, 1881, proposing an amendment to the constitution of the state, so as to drop the word “male” out of the suffrage qualifications, thereby conferring upon the women of Nebraska the right to vote, at all elections.

Song book includes:  Taxation without representation / Unite for liberty / The woman’s cause is right / God speed the right / Ring the bells of freedom / Hail! Nebraska / On to Victory / Keep Woman in Her Sphere / Woman Suffrage Jubilee / Then and Now / Rally for the Right / Equality Before the Law / Yankee Doodle Revised / New Battle Hymn of the Republic / Vote it Right Along / The Near By and By.

DeGolyer Library, Danny O. Crew Sheet Music Collection

Give Us the Ballot Song and Ladies Quartet Chorus

Give Us the Ballot Song and Ladies Quartet Chorus.

Lilla C. Bliven

Give Us the Ballot Song and Ladies Quartet Chorus.

Emmettsburg, Iowa: J.S. Atkinson, 1897.

Published in Emmetsburg, Iowa, and dedicated to the Political Equality Club in the same city. The Political Equality Clubs were spread around the country by Susan B. Anthony as a way to educate both men and women about women’s rights issues.

DeGolyer Library, Danny O. Crew Sheet Music Collection

Song Leaflet

Song Leaflet.

Woman Suffrage Songs.

Song Leaflet.

Warren, Ohio: National American Woman Suffrage Association, n.d.

Leaflet consists of lyrics for eight suffrage songs including: Battle Hymn of the Republic / Columbia’s Daughters / Woman’s Crusade / The Taxation Tyranny / The Breaking Day / New Columbia / Give the Ballot to the Motes / New America. Produced by the National American Woman Suffrage Association in Ohio.

DeGolyer Library, Danny O. Crew Sheet Music Collection

The Militant Suffrage Song

The Militant Suffrage Song.

Charles Dillingham

The Militant Suffrage Song.

Witmark & Sons, 1909.

Published by The World, January 23, 1910, "As sung in Charles Dillingham's Musical Comedy Success 'The Old Town'... Now appearing at the Globe Theatre 46th St. and Broadway..."

“Tho’ once a little household pet, I’m now a fighting suffragette. “

DeGolyer Library, Danny O. Crew Sheet Music Collection

Is It Right?

Is It Right?

W.G. Fortney

Is It Right?

San Francisco: Macdonald Music Co., 1911.

Written by W.G Fortney in San Francisco by the Macdonald Music Co., displays suffragists troubled with the fact that other races could vote, and women could not. The song targets other races in the second verse stating, “Is it right for the Negro, the Jap, and the Chink /The tramp and the old whiskey bloat, to be hauled in a taxicab down to the polls / And there be told how they must vote?”

DeGolyer Library, Danny O. Crew Sheet Music Collection

Oh! You Suffragettes

Oh! You Suffragettes.

J.J. Gallagher, Music by B.A. Koellhoffer

Oh! You Suffragettes.

Irvington, N.J.: B.A. Koellhoffer, 1912.     

Introduced by Helen Knowles. J.J. Gallagher and B.A. Koellhoffer portray women in marches and throwing bricks on its cover. The story is told from an English immigrant viewpoint, where he was attacked in Hyde Park by suffragists who thought he was a member of Parliament. He describes them as wearing “Men’s collars and shirt fronts,” looking to obtain men’s votes, notes, and trousers, painting the stereotype that suffragettes really want to be men.

DeGolyer Library, Danny O. Crew Sheet Music Collection