Why women shouldn't be "burdened" with the vote: 1915

This 1915 Boston Journal ad warning against the dangers of women's suffrage lays all manner of dangers at the feet of "burdening" women with the vote, including increased taxes and divorce. It warns that extending the vote to women is a joint plot of the anarchist Industrial Workers of the World, socialists, and Mormons. Good to know that we've come so far in our political rhetoric.

1915 - Suffrage


  1. NICE…
    Do Xeni and Maggie know that voting “injures Women”?

    But… that’s less than a hundred years ago… yikes!

    1. It should be added that since that time we have improved the general level of education and generally gotten over that particular sort appeal up here. We even had a Mormon Governor sorta recently.

    1. I know. Mormons and their love of universal healthcare, right?

      But more seriously, this proves how little things have changed in polotics looking at how many of these sorts of arguments are still made today.

  2. I had no idea that the Mormon church was involved in the Women’s suffrage movement. Too bad their track record wasn’t so shining for racial equality and gay rights.

    1. I don’t recall that they were.

      But you know everything that’s bad has to be favored by socialists, wobblies and Mormons!

      We haven’t really come all that far, I guess.

  3. That street address on the bottom of the ad is near my office. I should walk out there one day and see what’s there now…

    …probably a Starbucks.

    1. Looks like a pretty ugly 10 story office building with a Bank of America and Morton’s of Chicago in the bottom…..

      There’s Dunkin’ Donuts a building or two up the street tho’…

      1. It’s right across the street from the back end of the BPL. And definitely ugly. How could they allow such a hideous building so close to Copley Square?

  4. I wouldn’t describe the mormon religion as progressive on issues today — which this ad seems to say it was in 1915 with its support for suffrage. Did LDS really support women’s suffrage 100 years ago? Or was this ad just using Mormons as a scaring bogeyman totem?

  5. Hiya,

    Quick comment – The IWW wasn’t just an anarchist union, although its modus operandi was very influenced by anarchism. It was founded by a conference of anarchists, other socialists and fellow travellers. It did of course, support equality among the sexes and ethnicities. From Wiki:

    “The IWW was founded in Chicago in June 1905 at a convention of two hundred socialists, anarchists, and radical trade unionists from all over the United States (mainly the Western Federation of Miners) who were opposed to the policies of the American Federation of Labor (AFL).”


      1. 1984, Liechtenstein? WTF?

        I guess they were worried the electoral system couldn’t handle the sudden influx of 27 new voters.

  6. . . . wait, Mormons???

    I pray to god it has something to do with all the “extra” votes a Mormon family would get.

  7. Early 20th Century: “Why do women need to vote when their husbands can vote for them?!?”

    Early 21st Century: “Why do women need to vote when their corporate employers can vote for them?!?”

    Early 22nd Century: “Wie is womens need fur vote wen ther lolcats runz the wurld?!?”

      1. Information is good.

        Divorce rates:


        While the divorce rate did go up after it got easier to get a divorce (in the 70s), it’s currently down from that peak.

        Tax rates:


        Taxes across the board have been getting lower since the 1960s. Income tax was pretty new in 1915, however, and rates were a lot lower (the highest tax bracket was 7%).

        So: are taxes and divorce higher than a century ago? Yes. Than a decade ago? No.

    1. Taxes and divorce are way up since suffrage. Of course, so is life expectancy, average income, literacy, consumption of frito-lays.

      Correlation is not causation. Obviously. Though I suspect there is a little bit of a link (except for the fritos)

  8. This got me to look up some history to figure out what the role of Mormons was in getting women’s suffrage.

    Here’s a good overview from the state of Utah. It’s actually rather complicated. In a nutshell, the LDS church supported the right of women to vote in the late 1800s as a pro-polygamy thing — to prove that women weren’t oppressed in polygamous marriages, and in an effort to stop anti-polygamy legislation. LDS and non-LDS women in Utah took up the cause of women’s suffrage, not necessarily for the same reasons as the church did — but the Mormon church supported them. Since it was the main political force in Utah, this made a big difference.

    An interesting story, and one I didn’t know.

  9. Dumbass New Jersey men like me should lose the vote.

    On an interesting note, New Jersey was the first state to allow women to vote in federal elections way back in the 1790s. They were also the first state to take it away again way back in the 1790s!

  10. I found this interesting:


    Women’s Suffrage–the right of women to vote–was won twice in Utah. It was granted first in 1870 by the territorial legislature but revoked by Congress in 1887 as part of a national effort to rid the territory of polygamy. It was restored in 1895, when the right to vote and hold office was written into the constitution of the new state.

    In sharp contrast to the long fight for women’s suffrage nationally, the vote came to Utah women in 1870 without any effort on their part. It had been promoted by a group of men who had left the Mormon church, the Godbeites, in their Utah Magazine, but to no immediate effect. At the same time, an unsuccessful effort to gain the vote for women in Utah territory had been launched in the East by antipolygamy forces; they were convinced that Utah women would vote to end plural marriage if given the chance. Brigham Young and others realized that giving Utah women the vote would not mean the end of polygamy, but it could change the predominant national image of Utah women as downtrodden and oppressed and could help to stem a tide of antipolygamy legislation by Congress.

    TL;DR: Utah women got the vote in an effort to both strengthen and weaken Mormonism.

  11. Yeah, everyone beat me to the punch while I was wrestling with the login. The Mormons were the boogeyman par excellence of late 19th century American politics. Scary, weird, heterodox, true-believers lurking on the fringes of our nation, scheming to infect our precious bodily fluids by gaining statehood, etc. etc.

    So you want your mother to have the vote, huh? What are you, some kinda socialist negro Mormon potato-eating spaghetti-bending atheist Jew anarchist?

  12. Since the ad said that “women’s suffrage is a women’s issue,” I was interested to see who the president and secretary were:

    John Balsh and Charles P. Strong

    …then I noticed it was Mrs. John Balsh and Mrs. Charles P. Strong. Sigh.

  13. What are you, some kinda socialist negro Mormon potato-eating spaghetti-bending atheist Jew anarchist?

    Late, maybe, but I think you win anyway, semiotix!

  14. Was this some weird meaning of the word suffrage, where those with the vote would be compelled by law to use it?

  15. No no no…about “suffrage”.

    It use arises from the fact that the Office holder, or Official, only holds power so long as the electors suffer her to so.

    This “suffrage” is evidenced by the occasional casting and counting of ballots.

  16. Where have I seen this rhetoric before?

    – You will be forced to do something you don’t want to do;

    – it goes against family values and our Christian nation;

    – only a tiny extremist minority wants it anyway;

    – the moral majority will protect you from the dangers of greater freedom and public engagement.

  17. I can’t believe no one has posted links to these videos:

    Ending Women’s Suffrage






    and even more out there…

  18. It is amazing how little political argumentation has changed. And, unfortunately, how it still manages to fool the suckers.

      1. In the United States, the 2008, voting eligible population was 213,231,835. There were 132,645,504 valid ballots counted in the finally tally. The result is 61.6% of eligible voters voted in the 2008 Election, a bit more than half and is considered a high turn-out. http://elections.gmu.edu/Turnout_2008G.html

        Assuming those who didn’t vote were more or less evenly divided between men and women that would mean about 40,000,000 women didn’t bother voting. To put that number into perspective, that would like everyone in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma not voting (2010 population, Wikipedia).

  19. Mormons weren’t always like they are today.

    In the 1820s to the early 20th century, they were comparatively liberal. This is unsurprising, given that the primary mission of the Mormon church was to spiritualize the American ethic of technological and social progress. (Take a look at the Journal of Discourses, Volume 13, pg. 270-272, for a weird example of this.)

    Their record on racial equality was awful at the beginning of the 20th century. However, because of their focus on social progress, were consistently ahead of the curve on issues such as abolitionism, women’s education, and suffrage. One of the most prominent suffragists of the 1800s and the early 20th century was also the head of the Women’s Relief Society: a position which could only be occupied by an entirely orthodox Mormon. Suffragism wasn’t an idiosyncratic view held by heterodox Mormons. It was the official position of the Mormon church.

    It’s only since the LDS church decided to join the mainstream — probably during the David McKay presidency — that the Church has become a wholly-owned subsidiary of the conservative movement. You still see, in areas with strong Mormon traditions, people who are both devout Mormons and principled progressives. That’s the tradition that Harry Reid (whatever weak-sauce he may be as a politician) comes out of. It’s the tradition that the LDS church’s active support of anti-discrimination laws in Utah comes out of, even amidst their inexcusable backing of Prop 8.

    I don’t mean by this to diminish the polygamy and violence that surrounded the church at its beginnings: it was there, and it was precipitated by the same people that saw the injustices of the 1800s and wanted to fix them. You’ll find that amongst all utopians. But even amidst all that, there’s always been something admirable in the idealism hidden in the LDS church.

    Maybe it’ll be back someday. Maybe it won’t.

  20. “Are we to assume that the poison already inherent in politics will be decreased, if women were to enter the political arena? The most ardent suffragists would hardly maintain such a folly.”


    Emma Goldman is a good example of the opposition to suffrage that came from the left. She is a little more coherent (and long-winded) in her argument than the text above, but as we’re seeing greater numbers of female candidates running for office, I think it’s helpful to consider her words.

    “She [Woman] can give suffrage or the ballot no new quality, nor can she receive anything from it that will enhance her own quality. Her development, her freedom, her independence, must come from and through herself. First, by asserting herself as a personality, and not as a sex commodity. Second, by refusing the right to anyone over her body; by refusing to bear children, unless she wants them; by refusing to be a servant to God, the State, society, the husband, the family, etc.”

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