When the colony of New Jersey was founded the constitution granted to all inhabitants, under certain qualifications, the right of suffrage, irrespective of sex. This was a foregleam [sic] of the new day, but the clouds soon gathered and quenched the light. In 1807 the act was repealed.
The first convention for the consideration of Women’s Rights was held at Seneca Falls, N.Y., in 1848. A declaration of sentiments was adopted following exactly the form of the Declaration of Independence. “All Men” was substituted for “King George,” and in the several items “he” refers to a man instead of the king. We give you a few of the specifications:
“He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise.”
“He has compelled her to submit to laws in the formation of which she had no voice.”
“He has withheld from her rights which are given to the most ignorant and degraded from men — both natives and foreigners.”
“He has taken from her all right in property, even the wages she earns.”
“He has denied her the facilities for obtaining a thorough education, all colleges being closed against her.”
There were presented eighteen grievances, the same number as in the famous document which it followed.
Two years later a national convention was held at Worcester, Mass. For the next sixteen years, that is, until about two years after the war, no decisive action was taken. There was much discussion and woman during the war was finding and filling a larger place. She was also discovering and using new powers of organization and administration. In 1866 the American Equal Rights Association presented to Congress a petition for woman’s suffrage. Though denied, the work took on a more systematic and aggressive character. Mrs. Livermore and Lucy Stone were admitted to the Republican Convention of Massachusetts as regular delegates. During the next few years the indorsement [sic] of several state conventions was secured for woman’s suffrage. To Wyoming belongs the honor of being the first to grant full suffrage to woman. Limited suffrage has been granted in many states. In some, they may vote on school questions only, in other on questions of taxes, if they are tax-payers, in others on all municipal questions. In twenty-nine of the states of the Union women enjoy some for, of suffrage.
In 1870 the petit juries of Laramie, Wyoming, were composed of both men and women. It was a new departure and was watched with deep interest. Associate Justice Kingman put himself on record as follows: “For twenty-four years it has been an anxious study with me, both on the bench and at the bar, how are we to prevent jury trials from degenerating into a perfect burlesque; and it has remained for the Albany county to point out the remedy and demonstrate the cure for this evil.”
Chief Justice Howe paid his tribute to the jury: “In eighteen years’ experience, I have never had as far, candid, impartial, and able a jury in court as this term in Albany county.”
In 1893 the State Legislature of Wyoming adopted the following:
Resolved, that the possession and exercise of suffrage by the women in Wyoming, for the past quarter of a century, has wrought no harm and has done great good, in many ways; that it has largely aided in banishing crime, pauperism, and vice from this state; that it has secured peaceful and orderly elections, good government, and a remarkable degree of civilization and public order, and we point with pride to the fact that after nearly twenty-five years of woman suffrage, not one county in Wyoming has a poorhouse, that our jails are almost empty, and crime, except that committed by strangers in the state, is almost unknown, and as a result of the experience, we urge every civilized community on the earth to enfranchise its women without delay.
Resolved, That an authenticated copy of these resolutions be forwarded, by the governor of the state, to the legislatures of every state and territory in the country, and to every legislative body in the world; and that we request the press throughout the civilized world to call the attention of their readers to resolve these resolutions.
Status in Colorado
In Colorado, where women were granted the right of suffrage in 1893, they made their power felt in the purifying of municipal governments.
They have not sought office, but they gave the men who sought office to understand that they must break with the power of the saloon and gambling den element. They had talked and pleaded before; now they had votes, their words needed to be but few were heeded.
When Utah came to the Union as a state in 1896, the full franchise of woman was included in the constitution. The country will watch not with a little interest the working of this right in a state where the Mormon women are so completely subject to their husbands.
The general results of the fifty or more years of struggle for the enfranchisement of women is thus summed by Rachel Foster Avery:
“There has been a great improvement in the legal status of woman. There has been a marked change in morals looking toward the same standard for man and woman. She has been admitted to most of the great institutions of learning. The various professions and business enterprises are open to her. In many cases these advantages, where they involved legislation to bring them about, were given as compromises to women asking enfranchisement, by men unwilling to grant the demand for that right, which, once gained and exercised, will guarantee to its possessors all other rights which may come through law.”
Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.