Banner for Massachusetts Debates a Woman’s Right to Vote

Massachusetts Debates a Woman’s Right to Vote

Campaigning against Suffrage

In 1895, Massachusetts held a non-binding referendum to determine whether women should vote in municipal elections. Anyone registered to vote in school elections, including women, could cast a ballot. In response, women founded the Massachusetts Association Opposed to the Further Extension of Suffrage to Women, the nation’s first organization to oppose women’s votes. They argued that “the great majority” of women did not want to vote.

Massachusetts anti-suffragists held conventions, wore red roses and “anti” lapel pins, and distributed political cartoons such as “Her Mother’s Voice”, which features a young girl and her father who are shocked at the sight of a woman, the girl’s mother, rushing off to a suffrage protest. The mother runs wildly past the window wielding a hatchet and a “Votes for Women” pennant. A band around her head holds a feather, associating her behavior with racist stereotypes of “Indian savagery” and suggesting that suffragists were “uncivilized” threats to the established order.

"Her Mother's Voice"
Cartoon by Harold Bird, January 1912

Anti-suffragists also published The Remonstrance to urge women to avoid the polls.They wanted women “to use their influence” to win men to their side. As they hoped, the turnout of women voters was low. While 96% of female voters supported suffrage, only 32% of men did.

The Remonstrance
January 1908
Anti-Suffrage Calendar, 1917
Anti-suffrage calendar-1916. Including page for January and February.

The anti-suffrage rose
Words and music by Phil Hanna
Shall the Tail Wag the Dog?
Count the Cost
Circular by the Women's Anti-Suffrage Association of Massachusetts

In the anti-suffrage illustration shown below, a woman holds her ballot in her arms and rocks it. Entitled “Hugging a Delusion,” the cartoon suggests both that the ballot will not solve all of women’s problems and that voting would not be as satisfying as motherhood. Anti-suffragists could not envision a world where women could participate in politics and be good mothers. In the 1910s, artist Laura Foster designed illustrations for and against women’s suffrage. As a professional artist, she produced work to support herself regardless of her own viewpoint.

Hugging a Delusion
Postcard by Laura E. Foster, 1915