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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

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

Rose Dabney Forbes and women’s suffrage (part 2 of 2)

In an earlier post I gave you a preview of the Rose Dabney Forbes papers. Her papers are one of seven collections that have been fully digitized and are now available on our website as part of an LSTA funded project that we are calling “Women in the Public Sphere.” These collections relate to women’s involvement in social issues of  the 19th and early 20th centuries- the suffrage and anti-suffrage movements, education, poverty, anti-slavery and pacifism.

The papers of Rose Dabney Forbes (1864-1947), the wife of businessman J. Malcolm Forbes (1847-1904), are mostly from her work in in the American peace movement of the early 20th century, but I also found some vivid descriptions of the excitement generated by the ratification of the nineteenth amendment in 1920 giving women the right to vote. In a typewritten draft of an address delivered to the League of Women Voters by Mrs. Forbes on 31 March 1921, she described,

that thrilling day in August when we knew with certainty that Tennessee had stepped forward and that political equality was at last in the grasp of the women of the United States. Our headquarters at Little Building held a continuous reception for several days…and all our members who were not too far off, came to talk over the wonderful news and to help Miss Luscomb and Mrs. Stantial put the final marks on the Suffrage map.

 She continued,

...following the proclamation of the nineteenth amendment by the Secretary of State, bells were rung in many churches all over the land, from the Pacific to the Atlantic, and from Maine to Florida. Five of us had the privilege of ringing the bells at the dear old North Church that Saturday noon, and never shall we forget the thrill of climbing those narrow dusty stairs up to the bell tower, nor of pulling on those big old ropes.

 

 

But Mrs. Forbes and her colleagues couldn’t get caught up in the excitement for long.

[A]s we all know voting is a serious business and as soon as our first rapture subsided we had to come down to earth. The work at our office grew more exacting up to the last date for registration in October. By day there were streams of would-be voters coming to the office, or ringing up by telephone, to find out about the mysteries of voting; and we kept open for five successive Monday evenings, in order to give this same opportunity to those women whose duties precluded their coming in the day time-and hundreds availed themselves of it.

 

It will be fascinating to compare these descriptions with materials from another collection we digitized for this project, one which has the rather unwieldy name of the  Massachusetts Association Opposed to the Extension of Further Suffrage of Women, 1895-1920. We hope that you will take advantage of these newly accessible collections and immerse yourself in the voices and the debates of their time.

 

Funding for the digitization of this collection and the creation of preservation microfilm 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: 0 | permalink | Published: Monday, 17 October, 2016, 12:00 AM

Rose Dabney Forbes and the American Peace Movement (part 1 of 2)

The Digital Projects team here at the MHS has spent much of the past two years working on an LSTA funded project that we are calling “Women in the Public Sphere.” This grant allowed us to fully digitize and make accessible seven collections related to women’s involvement in social issues of  the 19th and early 20th centuries, including the suffrage and anti-suffrage movements, education, poverty, anti-slavery and pacifism. 

The collections range in size from 11 items in the Juvenile Anti-Slavery Society records, 1837-1838 to more than 3000 items in the Rose Dabney Forbes papers, 1902-1935. In this post, I will take a closer look at the Forbes papers, which document the participation of Rose Dabney Forbes (1864-1947), the wife of businessman J. Malcolm Forbes (1847-1904), in the American peace movement of the early 20th century, as 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. The records of the organizations in which she was involved include governance documents, meeting minutes, and correspondence, as well as printed materials.

In a typescript draft of an address delivered to members of the “Thought Club” in Hyde Park, Mass., by Mrs. Forbes on 1 February 1916, she argues for  the “necessity of extending the reign of law out from the smaller circle of nationalism, to the larger circle of internationalism.” Forbes goes on to write that,

Irrespective of opinions as to the causes, and as to the consequences of this terrible  European war, thinking persons who stand for Twentieth Century ideals are passionately  exclaiming that this shall be the last war between civilized nations; that the world after   this shall not allow such a method for trying to settle international differences.

Speaking as a representative of the Woman’s Peace Party, Forbes asked why the peace movement “is still imperfectly understood even by many persons who are distinctly in sympathy with its fundamental object.” Was it because the war is happening overseas, leading to what she called “[m]ental inertia”? Was it because of a “[l]ack of literature giving authoritative and complete statement of what a great body of leading internationalists believe,” or because, as she suggested, the press ridiculed the ideas as well as the movement? 

She addressed what she calls a misconception that “when we work to banish the war system from earth, we are lowering the heroic ideals of manhood- that we are training our boys to be timid and slothful-to be ‘molly-coddled. No indeed” she exclaimed, “we train our boys to be ready to die for their country, by serving humanity, not by destroying their human brothers.” Lastly she asked whether it could be that the very name of the movement had held it back. “The word Peace,” she wrote, “stands for the result of justice and righteousness; peace is an effect, not a method of working force. Only in a restricted sense of the word is peace simply cessation of war.”

As part of her call to action, Forbes quoted Phillips Brooks, Ralph Waldo Emerson and William Ellery Channing, and she summed up her argument by insisting that

The truth is that the war against war is and has long been an aggressive campaign of  education. The Peace Movement is a determined onslaught on the old and barbarous  system of war, and a persistent pointing of the way to constructive international peace.  The Peace worker must summon all the logic and clearness of thought that he can  command and he must needs stand firm in his faith, not heeding either the ridicule or the sneers of the unconverted.

How do peace movements of today articulate their hopes and strategies? We encourage you to look through these newly digitized collections and make your own comparisons and discoveries.

For more of the story, check out part 2 of Rose Dabney Forbes and the American Peace Movement

 

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Funding for the digitization of this collection and the creation of preservation microfilm 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: 0 | permalink | Published: Monday, 10 October, 2016, 12:00 AM

Fully-Digitized Manuscript Collections Now Available

The Massachusetts Historical Society is pleased to announce that seven collections relating to women in the public sphere have been digitized thanks to funding from 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.  The grant allowed us to create high resolution images that are accessible at the MHS website, as well as preservation microfilm created from the digital files.


The seven collections range from small (one thin folder of documents kept by the Juvenile Anti-Slavery Society records) to large (7,534 images of records kept by the Woman's Education Association) and date from 1827 (Society for the Employment of the Female Poor Trustees' reports) to the 1930s (Rose Dabney Forbes papers as well as the Woman's Education Association records).

These collections contain records of organizations primarily run by women concerned with social issues--anti-slavery, women's education, the peace movement, treatment of the poor, and anti-suffrage.  A total of 16,003 digital images depict all the pages of these seven collections and are available as sequences of images linked to manuscript collection guides.

Juvenile Anti-Slavery Society records, 1837-1838
http://www.masshist.org/collection-guides/view/fa0427

Massachusetts Association Opposed to the Further Extension of Suffrage to Women, 1895-1920
http://www.masshist.org/collection-guides/view/fa0121

New England Freedmen's Aid Society records, 1862-1878
http://www.masshist.org/collection-guides/view/fa0423

Rose Dabney Forbes papers, 1902-1932
http://www.masshist.org/collection-guides/view/fa0212

Society for the Employment of the Female Poor trustees' reports, 1827-1834
http://www.masshist.org/collection-guides/view/fa0428

Twentieth Century Medical Club records, 1897-1911
http://www.masshist.org/collection-guides/view/fa0411

Woman's Education Association (Boston, Mass.) records, 1871-1935
http://www.masshist.org/collection-guides/view/fa0393

The work for the grant included the detailed review of all the documents in the collections, preparation for digitization and the creation of metadata for the master images.  The majority of the high-quality uncompressed master digital images were created at MHS with some images created by the Northeast Document Conservation Center.  The production steps required for the web presentation were completed by MHS staff.

Please explore these new collections!   

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Monday, 3 October, 2016, 3:35 PM

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