Male Involvement in Women’s Suffrage
Did all men oppose Women's Suffrage?
The answer to this is No. While it is obvious that mostly men would be the opposers of the Women’s Suffrage movement, we found that as the movie focused on Alice Paul and the women behind the Suffrage movement, an important aspect not really highlighted in the movie is that of the male support groups that existed. It is important to note that there were many male sponsored Women’s Suffrage support groups. Also, many states had already favored and passed legislation that gave women the right to vote even before the 19th Amendment passed in 1920.
The Parade: One in Twenty Were Men.
On March 3, 1913 an estimated half million onlookers watched the parade instead of greeting the President-elect, not all were supporters of woman suffrage. Many were angry opponents of suffrage, or were upset at the march's timing. Some hurled insults; others hurled lighted cigar butts. Some spit at the women marchers; others slapped them, mobbed them, or beat them. The next day, the inauguration proceeded. But public outcry against the police and their failure resulted in an investigation by the District of Columbia Commissioners and the ousting of the police chief.
More than that, the sympathy generated even more support for the cause of woman suffrage and women's rights. In New York, the annual woman suffrage parade in 1913 drew 10,000 marchers, one in twenty of whom were men. Between 150,000 and 500,000 watched the parade down Fifth Avenue. This is according to an article written by Jone Johnson Lewis.
So as parades and the movement grew, many men began to sympathize with Women’s Suffrage and started to organize leagues.
A Letter to the Editor of the NY Times: Supported by Husbands, brothers, fathers, and sons.
An article written by Elizabeth Newport Hepburn to the editor of the New York Times demonstrates the fact that many men were behind the movement. The Men Marchers article praises the men who marched in the parade…who supported their wives and the women they love. She said that “possibly the best feature of all that great procession was the inward consciousness of many of us that were not only marching shoulder to shoulder with our own sex but that we were backed by our own men as well, approved, viewed with pride, even admiration by our own husbands and brothers and fathers and sons!”
Max Eastman: Confession of a Suffrage Orator
Max Forrester Eastman (January 4, 1883 – March 25, 1969) was an American writer on literature, politics and society...he was a prominent voice and supporter of women's right to vote. Max Eastman was an early editor of the periodical entitled The Masses and was considered quite outspoken in his articles.
Here is an excerpt from one of his articles:
Published: The Masses, November 1915
Transcribed:Sally Ryan for marxists.org in 2000
Transcribed:Sally Ryan for marxists.org in 2000
It was never a question of making people believe in the benefits of women’s freedom, it was a question of making them like the idea. And all the abstract arguments in the world furnished merely a sort of auction ground upon which the kindly beauties of the thing could be exhibited. Aristotle, in his hopeful way, defined man as a “reasonable animal,” and the schools have been laboring under that delusion ever since. But man is a voluntary animal, and he knows what he likes and what he dislikes, and that is the greater part of his knowledge. Especially is this true of his opinion upon questions involving sex, because in these matters his native taste is so strong. He will have a multitude of theories and abstract reasons surrounding it, but these are merely put on for the sake of gentility, the way clothes are. Most cultivated people think there is something indecent about a naked preference. I believe, however, that propagandists would fare better, if they were boldly aware that they are always moulding wishes rather than opinions.
There is something almost ludicrous about the attitude of a professional propagandist to his kit of arguments—and in the suffrage movement especially, because the arguments are so many and so old, and so classed and codified, and many of them so false and foolish too. I remember that during the palmiest days of the abstract argument (before California came in and spoiled everything with a big concrete example) I was engaged in teaching, or endeavoring to teach, Logic to a division of Sophomores at Columbia. And there was brought to my attention at that time a book published for use in classes like mine, which contained a codification in logical categories of all the suffrage arguments, both pro and con, and a priori and a posteriori, and per accidens and per definitionem, that had ever been advanced since Socrates first advocated the strong-minded woman as a form of moral discipline for her husband. I never found in all my platform wanderings but one suffrage argument that was not in this book, and that I discovered on the lips of an historical native of Troy, New York. It was a woman, she said, who first invented the detachable linen collar, that well-known device for saving a man the trouble of changing his shirt, and though that particular woman is probably dead, her sex remains with its pristine enthusiasm for culture and progress.
But the day of the captious logician, like the day of the roaring orator, is past. What our times respond to is the propagandist who knows how to respect the wishes of other people, and yet show them in a sympathetic way that there is more fun for them, as well as for humanity in general, in the new direction. Give them an hour’s exercise in liking something else—that is worth all the proofs and refutations in the world. Take that famous proposition that “womans sphere is the home.” A canvass was made at a women’s college a while ago to learn the reasons for opposing woman suffrage, and no new ones were found, but among them all this dear old saying had such an overwhelming majority that it amounted to a discovery. It is the eternal type. And how easy to answer, if you grab it crudely with your intellect, imagining it to be an opinion.
The rest of the article can be found at: http://www.marxists.org/archive/eastman/index.htm
There were other men such as Floyd Dell and William Lloyd Garrison, Jr. who also actively voiced support in favor of Women's Suffrage. And these are just single men who were involved! Their efforts helped raise public awareness in many large cities, like in New York.
What about the Leagues?
According to a book entitled, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Vol. 56, Women in Public Life (Nov., 1914), pp. 156:
"Men have always staunch supporters of the suffrage movement, all the regular organizations having many men members. To emphasize their determination and to assist especially with legislative work, men's leagues for woman suffrage have been formed in a number of cities, Philadelphia, Lansdowne, and Pittsburgh having the largest leagues. One effort of the suffragists has been to secure action within the men's various political parties."
While there was truly an opposition...a lot of it from men, we hope that this page has shed some positive light on the fact that many men supported the women in their lives. That support transpired into leagues, articles written by journalists/editors/writers, and a myriad of other male-sponsored forms of upheaval that helped to penetrate through the barrier that had barred women from their rights to vote and voice their intellectual ideas to transform and shape public policy. This is a brief view into male involvement in women's suffrage.