The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Anti-suffrage Records Available Online

A few years from now, in 2020, the United States will recognize the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing women's voting rights across the country. Although some states and territories had granted women the right to vote in the last half of the nineteenth century (including many in the western part of the country), full suffrage for U.S. women took a long time. Many organizations pushed forward referenda at the state and national level.  An amendment to the U.S. Constitution was introduced in Congress in 1878 but stalled.   The 19th Amendment stating that no U.S. citizen shall be denied the right to vote "on account of sex" was similar to the 15th Amendment that granted African American men the right to vote.  The 19th Amendment passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in 1918, and by the U.S. Senate in 1919, was ratified by enough states by 20 August 1920 to be adopted.  

During the time when so many were working hard to gain voting rights for women, there were also those working against this movement. One such organization was based in Massachusetts (and has one of the longest names of any institution whose records are held within the Massachusetts Historical Society): the Massachusetts Association Opposed to the Further Extension of Suffrage to Women.

The records of this organization are now fully digitized and available on the web, thanks to a grant provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act grant as administered by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.

All pages of this manuscript collection have been digitized and they are presented as sequences of pages linked to the folders listed on the collection guide.  Website users may explore any or all administrative records, committee meeting minutes, typescripts of lectures and reports, and various printed items including by-laws,  and printed lists of standing committee members from all over the state.

The records date from 1894 to1920.  The Massachusetts Association Opposed to the Further Extension of Suffrage to Women was formally founded in 1895, but stemmed from a committee formed in 1882.  The Association actively recruited members, opposed legislation that would have granted voting rights to women in Massachusetts, and also held events and lectures promoting their cause. 

Women working so actively against voting rights for women seems curious and perhaps even incongruous.  Some of the reasoning and context for their motivation is found within the organization's own records. Within the Loose papers, Legislative history section, there is a typescript document of a speech given at a hearing before committee on constitutional amendments in Feb. 1905 which states four reasons for opposing woman suffrage:  many women in Massachusetts don't petition for it, Massachusetts wouldn't benefit from it; it is a "most inopportune" time to change the Constitution, and suffrage hasn't proven to be beneficial elsewhere.

Additional resources (beyond the organizational records) also provide perspectives on the context for anti-suffrage work:

The historian Francis Parkman (1823-1893) summarized the perspective of some within a pamphlet, Some of the Reasons Against Woman Suffrage [Boston?:  s.n., 1883?] by stating it would be too burdensome for women because women are delicate and not as robust as men. Parkman also advocates the position that women voting could potentially be disruptive to "civil harmony" if women were too sentimental or if women from different classes turned against each other and ended up being more "vehement" than men on opposite sides of an issue (page 13).  This pamphlet is available online from Harvard Library.

The Massachusetts Association Opposed to the Further Extension of Suffrage to Women published a newsletter, The Remonstrance.  One sample issue, from January 1908, is available as a digital presentation. An article on the first two pages covers various reasons against woman suffrage including the argument that not all women want the right to vote as evidenced by the fact that very few women who are eligible to vote in school committee elections actually do so.  Opponents also disputed the argument that voting rights would result in improving the condition of women because women already had an indirect influence on public affairs from their position of "moral influence."  Page 4 of the newsletter offers a synopsis of "Recent Defeats of Woman Suffrage" in various states.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Monday, 31 October, 2016, 12:00 AM

This Week @ MHs

Looking for a little history in your life? Here is what's on tap for public consumption at the Society this week...

- Tuesday, 1 November, 5:15PM : Join us for an Early American History seminar with John Wood Sweet of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "Rape, Recourse, and the Law of Seduction in the Early Republic" looks at the 1793 case of Henry Bedlow, tried but not convicted for the rape of Lanah Sawyer. The case offers a window into the use of civil law in sexual assault cases and prompts readers to consider how women struggling for recourse can become pawns in battles between men over money and masculine honor. Richard D. Brown, University of Connecticut, provides comment. Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP requiredSubscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers.

- Wednesday, 2 November, 12:00PM : Research fellow Franklin Sammons, University of California, Berkeley, offers new insights into the transformation of the Southeastern borderlands and emergence of the Cotton Kingdom with his current project. Come in to hear his Brown Bag talk, "The Long Life of Yazoo: Land Speculation, Finance, and Dispossession in the Southeastern Borderlands, 1789-1840," and learn more about his research. This talk is free and open to the public. 

- Thursday, 3 November, 6:30PM : "Why Do We Still Have the Electoral College?" With the current election cycle winding down, this is a question that many Americans find themselves asking. Join us for a talk by author and historian Alexander Keyssar, Harvard Kennedy School of Government, as he traces the origins of the Electoral College. This talk is open to the public but registration is required with a fee of $20 (no charge for MHS Fellows and Members). A pre-talk reception begins at 5:30PM and the event starts at 6:30PM. 

- Saturday, 5 November, 9:00AM : Calling all educators! Explore presidential campaign propaganda from our nation's first election all the way through to twentieth-century battles for the White House. "We Need Your Vote! Election Propaganda from Adams to Roosevelt" is a teacher workshop in which participants will examine documents and artifacts from three different centuries to discuss different strategies used to appeal to voter during specific campaigns. To register, complete this registration form or contact the MHS education department:; 617-646-0570.

- Saturday, 5 November, 1:00PM : Also on Saturday is another installment of Begin at the Beginning, this time looking at the "Lord of Misrule: Thomas Morton's Battle with Puritan New England." Writer/illustrator E.J. Barnes leads the discussion through exploration of her comic story of Morton's conflct with Massachusetts and Plimoth in Colonial Comics: New England, 1620-1750. This talk is free and open to the public, registration required. 

And as always, our current exhibition, Turning Points in American History, is open to the public free of charge. The galleries are open Monday-Saturday, 10:00AM-4:00PM. Come on in!


comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Sunday, 30 October, 2016, 12:00 AM

Margaret Russell’s Diary, October 1916

Today, we return to the line-a-day diary of Margaret Russell. You can read previous installments here:

January | February | March | April | May | June | July | August | September

October begins balmy, “really warm,” with lovely days on which to walk and drive. Margaret Russell takes several short motoring tours through Massachusetts, Vermont, and upstate New York, and also begins the relocation back to town for the winter. Columbus Day would not become a federal holiday until 1937, but was already celebrated in Boston for Margaret notes the day on October 12th. “Called at Endicotts & Appletons & Miss Rogers,” she observes. With the return to the city comes a more intense schedule of cultural events -- in the last ten days of the month, following the family’s return to town, Margaret attends five concerts which she notes in her diary.

While domestic and social events continue to dominate the chronicle, two political items of note appear in the October entries. On October 9th she writes that a “German submarine off Nantucket sinks nine ships,” one of the first direct mentions of the war now raging in Europe. It was an event that made national news although the Sacramento Union’s account puts the number of ships at six rather than nine. On the 25th of the month, Margaret attends an anti-suffrage (“Anti-S”) meeting -- a reminder that in the early decades of the twentieth century women as well as men were deeply invested on both sides of the fight over the “woman suffrage” question. Massachusetts was home to one of the most active anti-suffrage organizations, the Massachusetts Association Opposed to the Further Extension of Suffrage to Women, founded in 1895. While Margaret does not indicate what specific anti-suffrage meeting she attends it is likely that the meeting was an event organized by this group; their records have been recently digitized by the MHS and can be read online at the link above.

Without further ado, here is Margaret.

 * * *

October 1916*

1 Oct. Walked to church & home on State road. Family to dine. Lovely weather.

2 Oct. To town, errands, [illegible], lunch with Marian, to see aunt Emma at Cambridge. 

3 Oct. Started at 9.30 for Jaffrey arrived 1.10. The H.G. C’s not till 2. Started for Walpole at 3. Arrived at 4.45. Went to Cottage tea room. Walpole [illegible] full with people.

4 Oct. Started for Woodstock at 9.30. Got there 12.30. Lovely views. Took a short walk. Started at 2.15 via Rutland wonderful views. Arrived at 5.30 at Equinox.

5 Oct. Thursday - Took a walk with Miss A-- to a lake [illegible] of dead [illegible] & 7 live ones. Really warm. Lovely drive to Cambridge N.Y. in P.M. 2 1/2 hours.

6 Oct. Started at 9. Stopped at Williamstown for lunch & walk. On at 1.30 over Mohawk to Greenfield & to Deerfield. Weldon hotel at 4.30. Lovely day.

7 Oct. Saturday. Started at 9.30. Lovely day. Got to Groton at 12.30 and lunched & home by Harvard & Concord. Home at 4.30. Perfect trip, no tire troubles & fine weather.

8 Oct. Sunday - Walked to church & back. Family to dine.

9 Oct. Monday - To town for errands, Mary & lunch with Marian. To see aunt Emma. German submarine off Nantucket sinks nine ships.

10 Oct. Tuesday - Walked over Nahant beach. [illegible] cold & windy. To town for an errand in the P.M.

11 Oct. Wednesday - Went to Rowley in the P.M. to get things at Fairview.

12 Oct. Columbus Day - Walked in A.M. Called at Endicotts & Appletons & Miss Rogers.

13 Oct. Friday - First concert. Perfectly delightful to hear the orchestra. Miss A-- went. Lunched at Somerset with Edith.

14 Oct. Saturday - Met H.G.C. & A. at N. Andover. Cold but lovely.

15 Oct. [no entry made]

16 Oct. Monday - Took Miss A-- to town & said good-by. Back early.

17 Oct. Tuesday - Packing. Bad gale so did not go out in motor.

18 Oct. Wednesday - Lovely clear & cold. Packing.

19 Oct. Thursday - Packing. To Nahant to see F. P. who had gone to town. Drove to Beverly in P.M.

20 Oct. Friday - Unpacking. Had Edith & Eleanor [illegible] & Mrs. Sears to lunch at Chilton & go to concert. Went to see F. Prince to hear about Norman’s death.

21 Oct. Saturday - Passed the day at Norfolk. E. Walcott & Susy B. - also there for lunch. Lovely weather. Concert in the evening.

22 Oct. Sunday - Went to Cathedral. Lunched at Walcotts’s & went to see Sara Jordan on the way home.

23 Oct. Monday - Dentist, Mary, lunch with Marian. Out to Gray Herbarium with specimens.

24 Oct. Tuesday - Walked all the morning for errands. Went to Milton to pay calls & found everybody in.

25 Oct. Wednesday - Anti S- meeting, lunched at Mayflower, dentist, & then to Swampscott to see Edith & the baby.

26 Oct. Thursday - to hospital & then to lunch at Parkman’s with Mrs. James Parker. Lovely warm day.

27 Oct. Friday. Mrs. Ruelkes lunched & went to concert with [sic]. Edith prevented by changes of [illegible].

28 Oct. Lovely warm day. Met the H.G.C’s at Groton for lunch. Home by Harvard. Splendid concert with Gadeski.

29 Oct. Errands & Mary. Lunched at Mrs. Bell’s with an attractive Mrs. Reed from Charleston. To see aunt Emma & the Greenoughs.

30 Oct. Monday - Lunched at Mrs. Bell’s with Mrs. F. Dexter & Mrs. Reed from the South.

31 Oct. Tuesday - Went to [illegible] concert with Mrs. Reed.

* * *

If you are interested in viewing the diary in person in our library or have other questions about the collection, please visit the library or contact a member of the library staff for further assistance.


*Please note that the diary transcription is a rough-and-ready version, not an authoritative transcript. Researchers wishing to use the diary in the course of their own work should verify the version found here with the manuscript original.



comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 26 October, 2016, 10:24 AM

Three Fully Digitized Collections

In 2014, the MHS made available nine fully digitized collections relating to the Civil War. Since that time, we have been at work digitizing more full collections, this time under the topic of "Women in the Public Sphere." There have been two posts on the Rose Dabney Forbes papers and her involvement in the American peace movement of the early 20th century. Forbes was an officer of the Massachusetts Peace Society, the American Peace Society, the Massachusetts branch of the Woman's Peace Party, and the World Peace Foundation. Read the first one here and the second one here. The Forbes collection guide is online.

Continuing our review and promotion of these fascinating collections, this third blog post will discuss briefly some of the smaller digitized collections.  


The Twentieth Century Medical Club records, 1897-1914 contain 270 images of meeting minutes of the Twentieth Century Medical Club. Interestingly, at the club's first meeting, the intention was "to organize a womans club. Its object, mutual improvement and the study of Parlimentary [sic.] Law." Later in this first meeting, which was attended by thirty-two women, a committee was organized to come up with a name. The minutes discuss business matters, finances, and other special occurrences such as the giving of papers on topics ranging from Placenta Praevia by Dr. Stella Perkins, The Importance of Remedies in Chronic Cases by Dr. Clara E. Gary, and Sexual Hygiene by several speakers.


The Society for the Employment of the Female Poor  provided employment in Boston for poor women. Work duties included washing, ironing, and sewing in addition to the operation of a schoolroom. Early in the volume it is noted that "The business of our Institution continues to prosper and has hitherto more than answered our largest expectations." Other recorded information concerns funds received and distributed and tracking new employees. Reports on individual cases are also recorded, such as the hiring of Mrs. Dow, Mrs. Ward, and Mrs. Monteith. Dow was "a widow with 4 children, she has washed & ironed here with tolerable success –." Mrs. Ward they found "difficult to afford aid; she is very poor & sick, but so miserable a seamstress that little work can be trusted to her." Mrs. Monteith "can do just plain sewing tolerably, her capacity & her circumstances are both moderate." Troublesome employees are also discussed.

The Juvenile Anti-Slavery Society records, 1837-1838 represent the smallest organization in this digitization project at just eleven images. The monthly meeting minutes and member lists offer vital information concerning society business.


Funding for the digitization of these collections and the creation of preservation microfilms was provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act grant as administered by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.


comments: 1 | permalink | Published: Monday, 24 October, 2016, 12:00 AM

This Week @ MHS

It's another active week here at the Society, chock full of programs to take in. Here is what we have on tap:

- Tuesday, 25 October, 5:15PM : Drawn from his forthcoming book, Welcome to Fairyland, Julio Capó of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, presents "'A Shiftless, Undesirable Class': The Sexual Policing of Miami's Bahamian Community in the Early Twentieth Century." This Modern American Society and Culture Seminar traces how urban authorities policied the perceived "suspect" sexualities of Miami's temporary and permanent settlers from the Bahamas. Michael Bronski of Harvard University provides comment. Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP requiredSubscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers.

- Wednesday, 26 October, 12:00PM : Stop by for a Brown Bag lunch talk, this time Ross Nedervelt of Florida International University. His talk, titled "The Pull of a Revolutionary America: The British Atlantic Island in the American Revolution" focuses on a research project that examines the political, economic, and social influence the revolutionary American colonies had on the British Atlantic island of Bermuda and the Bahamas from 1763 through the 1780s. This talk is free and open to the public so pack a lunch and come on in!

- Wednesday, 26 October, 6:30PM : The Merriam-Webster Thesaurus lists “prudish,” “straightlaced,” and “puritanical” as synonyms. But historical records challenge the stereotype of Puritans’ repressive views and behaviors. In "Ravishing Affection: Myths and Realities About Puritans and Sex," author Francis J. Bremer attemps to dispel the myth and set the record straight. This program will take place at the Old South Meeting House, 310 Washington St, Boston. The program is open to the public, free of charge, but registraiton is required. 

- Thursday, 27 October, 6:00PM : Author, historian, and national speaker Jacquline Berger goes behind the scenes with pictures and stories that bring history to life and uncover a remarkable "sorority of women": First Ladies. This talk is open to the public and registration is required for a fee or $10 (no charge for MHS Members and Fellows). A pre-talk reception begins at 5:30PM and the program beings at 6:00PM. 

- Friday, 28 October, 12:00PM : The second Brown Bag talk this week is presented by Jessica Farrell of the University of Minnesota. "From 'Indespensible' to 'Demoralizing and Obstructive': Education as a Critical Site for the Assertion and Contestation of American Empire in 19th-Century Liberia" stems from a larger dissertation project which investigates what was at stake in the contestations between LIberian sovereignty and America imperial fomations in Liberia and the United States during the nineteenth century. This talk is free and open to the public. 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Sunday, 23 October, 2016, 12:00 AM

older posts