Though women had sought the vote for more than a century, the
progressivism of the early 20th century lent new urgency to the womenís
suffrage movement. By 1910 four states Wyoming, Colorado, Utah
and Idaho had granted suffrage to women, and progressives sought
to extend this throughout the nation. In 1920 the United States adopted
the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, guaranteeing women the right
to vote. In this speech, Senator Robert Owen of Oklahoma offers a
series of arguments supporting womenís suffrage. As you read, think
about in what sense Owenís arguments reflect the influence of progressive
Women compose one-half of the human race. In the last forty years, women in gradually increasing numbers have been compelled to leave the home and enter the factory.... A careful study... has demonstrated that these working women receive a smaller wage for equal work than men do, and that the smaller wage and harder conditions imposed on the woman worker are due to the lack of the ballot.
Many women have a very hard time, and if the ballot would help them, even a little, I should like to see them have it.... Equal pay for equal work is the first great reason justifying [womenís suffrage]....
The man is usually better informed with regard to state government, but women are better informed about house government, and she can learn state government with as much facility as he can learn how to instruct children, properly feed and clothe the household, care for the sick, play on the piano, or make a house beautiful....
The woman ballot will not revolutionize the world. Its results in Colorado, for example, might have been anticipated. First, it did give women better wages for equal work; second, it led immediately to a number of laws that women wanted, and the first laws they demanded were laws for the protection of the children of the state, making it a misdemeanor to contribute to the delinquency of a child; laws for improved care of defective children; also the Juvenile Court, for the conservation of wayward boys and girls; the better care of the insane.... the curfew bell to keep children off the streets at night; raising the age of consent for girls.... improving the sanitary laws affecting the health of the homes of the state.... Above all, there resulted laws for improving the school system.
Several important results followed. Both political parties were induced to put up cleaner, better men, for the women would not stand a notoriously corrupt or unclean candidate. The headquarters of political parties became more decent, and the polling places became respectable....Every evil prophecy against granting [women] suffrage has failed. The public men of Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and Idaho give it cordial support....
It has not made women mannish; they still love their homes and children, just the same as ever, and are better able to protect themselves and their children because of the ballot....
They have not become office-seekers, nor pothouse politicians. The have not become swaggerers and insolent on the streets. They still teach good manners to men, as they always have done. [The vote] has women broader and greatly increased the understanding of the community at large of the problems of good government; of proper sanitation, of pure food, or clean water, and all such matters in which intelligent women would naturally take an interest....
It has elevated the moral standard of the suffrage....
The great doctrine of the American Republic that "all governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed" justifies the plea of one-half of the people, the women, to exercise the suffrage. The doctrine of the American Revolutionary War that taxation without representation is unendurable justifies women in exercising the suffrage.
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