Pittsburgh Suffragists Eye State Takeover
Pittsburgh Suffragists Plan Takeover of the State Organization
In February, 1912, the Pittsburgh Press ran a two page spread announcing, "Pittsburg Suffragists Present Brilliant Array of Arguments" and containing articles written by an array of Pittsburgh and National suffrage supports.
Articles noted that "several years ago the cause was ridiculed but now it is an all-absorbing topic, discussed by intelligent liberal minded progressive and public spirited men and women with serious consideration and deep concern."
“We have been at work for years to get a health department at Washington so that our American babies would be given as much attention as American pigs.” Dr. Amelia Dranga.
“One well-known Pittsburg man very strikingly said to me not long ago, “it is not we men who are keeping the ballot from you women. We would give it to you, but it is the political machines. From long experience they know they can manage the men, but they also know they never could control the women against their consciences.”
An article by Hannah Jane Patterson focused on an argument that paralleled the Declaration of Independence. "The fundamental principle announced to the world in the Declaration of Independence was that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. This may be treated as the established doctrine of this country. But even in the freest nations the consent of the entire body of the people has never before been expressly obtained. The people comprehended all the men, women and children of every age and class. To eliminate any class from participation in government without sufficient reason is autocratic and inconsistent with the principles of a democracy.
"In discussing this question the fact that manhood suffrage was not universal at the time our government was established is generally overlooked. In the early colonial days a certain number of men assembled to act in the name of all the community.
"The extension of suffrage in the past has been largely a matter of expediency. And to thinking – that is reasoning and unprejudiced – people today the question of including woman in the electorate is one of expediency.
"In considering the possible effect of her vote one must not forget one of the main aspects of the women’s movement. Manmade laws down the ages have been framed to protect property, including woman herself as a chattel; the modern woman wants them framed to protect life, to protect children in the schools and from factories, to raise the age of consent, to give us food free from adulteration, and to care for the ignorant and feeble-minded. From woman’s character and her known interests, therefore we may draw our own conclusion as the her possible part in legislation, but to base an argument of her right to vote upon such inference would be futile even through, in countries where she has that right, there is ample proof that such inference is justified.
"The great importance of this question lies in the fact that, deprived of the vote, women are cut off from the most important field of human activity.
"While her natural sphere is the home, her chief interest the care, protection and education of the child, yet in our modern civilization she must take part in affairs of government if she is to occupy her natural sphere with credit to herself – to her children and to the state."
Suffragists used a combination of arguments in support of Women's Suffrage - first, as a matter of rights and justice, and second, as a practical matter of woman's role in protecting the home and the family, and by extension, the community.
"The six Pittsburgh women talking at the Vaudeville theater (Grand Opera House) showing pictures of the awful working conditions and child labor. Life of children working in the mines, factories and mills of all kinds was shown with sickening truth and distinctness. Some of the lectures have been along the lines of the work of the Consumers’ League, and organization which is making a fight to have the women of the country buy only from those dealers who treat their employees fairly, have clean and sanitary establishments and pay a living wage."
“The women in the federation are splendidly enthusiastic about “the Cause” and courageous in the face of any defeat or discouragement which comes to them. But of late they meet very few of these. The hardest thing they have to fight now is apathy. A great number of women profess to want the ballot but do not care to work for it. They still have the feminine shrinking from politics of all kinds, although they would be glad to give their vote toward reforms and cleaner political conditions. But so far as that is concerned there is great difficulty in getting all ment to vote. Before every election of any sort notices and notices are sent out to male voters to be sure the register to support their party to uphold their country’s laws. And then when the votes come in there is a disgraceful discrepancy between the figure showing the number of voters in the community and the total number of votes cast."
Anna Howard Shaw wrote, "Since 5,000,000 American women are employed in gainful occupation every principle of justice known to a republic demands that these 5,000,000 toilers be enfranchised in order that they may be able to obtain and enforce legislation for their own protection."
Patterson gave a speech at the Grand Opera House in the campaign made by the Equal Franchise Federation of Western Pennsylvania, explaining why women could not depend on men to represent their interests.
“A man is by nature too different from a woman to be able to represent her. They are totally unlike. Whatever his good will, he cannot fully put himself in a woman’s place and look at things exactly from her point of view. To say this is no more a reflection upon his mental or moral ability than it would be a reflection upon his musical ability to declare that he cannot sing both bass and soprano. Unless men and women should ever become just alike, which would be regrettable and monotonous, women must either go unrepresented or represent themselves.”
Newspaper coverage frequently noted the role of suffragists in working for the betterment of their communities. "Miss Patterson is a member of the Civic Club, president of the Wilson College Alumni Association, first VP of the Consumers’ League and director of the Soho and Peoples Baths".
“Miss Patterson, more than any other speaker during the week, entered into the complexity of the relation between men and women and gave logical reasons why men, because of their temperament, of women because of theirs, could not wholly represent each other.”
The Pittsburgh Press gave the parade line-up for the 4th of July Celebration at Arsenal Park. "Included chorus of 200 school children. Reading of the Declaration of Independence. Mayor and councilmen. Fort Pitt Military Band Star Spangled Banner."
"Miss Hannah J. Patterson assigned to speak on “Women and the Declaration of Independence” will be the only woman orator in Pittsburgh tomorrow. The following women have been named as aides to Miss Patterson and will sit on the speakers’ platform with her" and the paper listed a dozen names.
The Pennsylvania Woman Suffrage Party Gets a Boost
Officially, Pennsylvania had a branch of the Woman Suffrage Party, but there was little activity. In October, Hannah J. Patterson formed a new branch of the party in Allegheny County. This decision fit with the strategy that the Pittsburgh suffragists had in taking over the Pennsylvania suffrage association. It was to become the political wing of the movement for a state amendment.
"In October, a mass meeting of suffragists that packed Old City Hall to its back stairs called into being last night the Allegheny County Committee of the Woman Suffrage Party, with a chairman, a secretary, a treasurer and the right to call a convention on or before December 1, 1913.
"This new political power that was born in the flag-draped hall in Market St. sprang into existence, militant for the common good and the better government of the nation so its organizers enthusiastically said. Miss Hannah J. Patterson is the first committee chairman; Miss Clarissa Moffett its secretary and Mrs. William Walters the first treasurer.
"The formation of the committee followed fast on the heels of a declaration of principles, a confession of faith, in reality, but more nearly a modernized Declaration of Independence. The “Declaration of Principles” was the declaration of the tenets of woman’s suffrage. The committee formation was its results.
"The formation came at the end of considerable oratory by friends of suffrage who were asked to tell their reasons for support. This number included William Flinn, the Rev. Dr. J. Leonard Levy, Mrs. Jean Nelson Penfield and some others.
"When they started, Mrs. McCutcheon and her young women ushers had filled the auditorium. These mostly society girls of Pittsburgh, toiled with the shop-girl and the lesser-favored of life, in the cause of suffrage.
"Miss Patterson opened the meeting and conducted the nominations for temporary chairman and secretary. The chair was given to Miss Mary Bakewell of Sewickley and Mrs. Frank Roessing was made temporary secretary. Miss Bakewell paraphrased Dante in her speech of acceptance: 'All who enter here leave political bias behind and become suffragists'.
"George Briggs, a prohibitionist, twitted the Progressive party for its claim to progressiveness because it embodies a plank in its platform favoring woman suffrage. Mr. Briggs assured the suffragists that the Prohibitionist Party had favored suffrage for 30 years.
"William Flinn was called upon for an expression of principles. Mr. Flinn assumed a defiant attitude at the edge of the platform and announced he was for suffrage because he believed in it and that no five-minute speech was necessary for him to say so. But Mr. Flinn said more.
“There are some affairs,” he observed, “that women can work out better than men. No man will dispute the benefit of a good woman. But it is well known that 50 per cent of the working women of the country are working for $6 a week and often less. Therefore, we need a minimum wage measure; we need other reforms that women’s suffrage can bring about. But I wish to state that the supremacy of the Progressive party is the surest and quickest road to the supremacy of women’s suffrage.”
"After Mr. Flinn, an earnest Socialist, Dr. Leon Wilcox, took up the burden of proof. He showed that during Allegheny county’s most prosperous years, 18 out of every 20 people were dying intestate. “We must emancipate women,” he said, “who are working for the $6 a week wage, and less, as Mr. Flinn has said.”
“And I dare say,” continued Dr. Wilcox, “that Mr. Flinn is reaping dividends from just some such corporation which is working its women and child employees for $6 a week”. Flinn glared and then he was forced to smile, for the audience appreciated how blunt the remark had been.
"The Rev. Charles E. Snyder, who made the opening prayer, spoke of placing the responsibility of their own good on the women and how the women should do their share for good government.
"Julian Kennedy, who said he was asked to speak because he was formerly president of the Equal Suffrage League, said they turned the hose on suffrage speakers in South Carolina; in Pennsylvania they clubbed them with black-horse cavalry, and he would like to see a few women on the bench and some more in the police department, for New York was not the only city where the police were a menace to safety." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Oct 19, 1912.
Strides Made by Women in Suffrage Campaign
The Pittsburgh Press reported on the progress on November 20, 1912. "The organization of the Woman Suffrage Party of Allegheny County with its slogan, “Victory in 1913” is the most notable of the special efforts made by the federation, which sought and procured the co-operation of all of the other suffrage organizations.
"The committees reporting the annual meeting yesterday showed that 57,000 pamphlets on woman suffrage were distributed the last year, while the printing committee had 81,445 pieces of printed matter.
"Six public meetings were held during the year, which were addressed by Earl Barnes, Senator Robert La Follette, Mrs. Frances Pitter, Miss Lavinia Dock, Newton D. Baker, mayor of Cleveland, Ohio who delivered an address at a special luncheon in the Fort Pitt Hotel, Mrs. Rachel Foster Avery and Mrs. Ida Porter Boyer.
"One of the most stirring meetings of the National American Woman Suffrage Association convention which begins tomorrow at Philadelphia will be the out of door meeting in Independence Square tomorrow at noon. In the shadow of the old state house five stands will be erected and here speakers who have aroused their own legislatures to action and enthusiasm for the cause in the hearts of their followers will deliver addresses. Dr. Anna Howard Shaw; Dean M. Carey Thomas, president of Bryn Mawr college; Miss Mary E. Bakewell, president of the Equal Franchise Federation of Western PA will be among the speakers.
Among the Pittsburgh delegates to the state convention of the Woman Suffrage association meeting were Mary Bakewell, Jennie Bradley Roessing, Hannah Patterson, Lucy Kennedy Miller, Mary Flinn, and Julian Kennedy.
Pittsburghers Lead Suffragists
The leaders of the Pittsburgh suffrage movement were successful in taking over the state organization at the annual convention in Philadelphia on November 27, 1912. The Philadelphia Gazette Times reported, "Mrs. Frank Roessing of Pittsburg today was elected president of the Pennsylvania Suffrage Association to succeed Mrs. Ellen Price of this city, who declined to stand for re-election. Mrs. Roessing defeated Miss Lida Stokes Adams, also of this city, by a vote of 71 to 46. The annual state convention is held in Westminster Hall, Witherspoon Building."
Others elected to leadership positions included Mary Bakewell Western region VP; Mary Norcross of Carlisle recording secretary; Lucy Kennedy Miller corresponding secretary; and Hannah Patterson, auditor.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported on November 28:
"The removal of the state headquarters from this city (Philly) to Harrisburg was ordered almost unanimously yesterday. Few delegates seemed opposed after Mrs. Price had spoken in favor of it. She pointed out that the association could keep watch on the Legislature much better in Harrisburg than at Philadelphia, that women from the Western end of the state could visit headquarters more often and that sectional feeling would be eliminated.
"The election of Mrs. Roessing as president proved the dominancy of the Western element. Miss Campbell prior to the casting of the ballot declared other sections of the state were entitled to consideration because Philadelphia had had the presidency since the association was organized. The slate agreed upon by the Western delegates at a caucus last night was put through without a hitch.
"Mrs. Frank Roessing who has been elected president of the Pennsylvania State Woman Suffrage Association has always been deeply interested in social and civic work and has held a number of positions of prominence. Her best-known civic work has been in connection with the Pittsburgh Playground Association, of which she has been an active member since 1902. In 1903 she was elected secretary of the joint committee which then had charge of the work continuing in this position for three years. Upon resigning this office she was elected one of the vice-presidents and continued to hold this position until she undertook the duties of the treasurer, which she has carried since 1908. Mrs. Roessing for years acted as the volunteer supervisor of one department examining and engaging teachers and conducting weekly conferences for departmental teachers. She trice conducted the annual teachers’ institute when the president of the association had been temporarily crippled, and attended many meetings of local school boards in the interest of the work."