100 Years Ago: Poems and Prose Of Women’s Suffrage

The desire to vote was a passionate topic among women for many decades. It was not a surprise to discover that volumes of poetry and prose were composed with suffrage as the theme. For this article, I have selected a variety of poetry, from more than one artist, along with an interesting article of newspaper headlines, pre-suffrage, during suffrage and post-suffrage (today).

–WOMEN IN THE HEADLINES–
by Haryot Holt Dey

__BEFORE THE WAR__
Women take men’s jobs away.
Suffragettes arrested again.
Forcible feeding of suffragettes.
Suffragettes destroy works of art.
Club women have hair pulling.
Womanhood degenerating.
Policement use clubs on suffragette.
Woman neglects child to vote.
Women to blame for war in Colorado.
The great feminine intrusion.
Unsexed women demand ballot.
Husband divorces suffragist wife.
Hysteria and votes for women.
The invasion of petticoat government.
Equal suffrage means sex war.
Suffrage wife deserts her home.
Feminist principles unsound.
Anti-Suffrage means home protection.

__DURING THE WAR__
Belgian women play big part.
Women help feed state army.
Women provide for war orphans.
Women dry tears and take arms.
France calls women to harvest crops.
Paris women must take men’s jobs.
Women replace men in factories.
Women aviators serve as scouts.
Women serve as war nurses.
Women join Red Cross.
Women meet to repudiate war.
Mounted corps of women nurses.
Women of 26 nations sue for peace.
Women parade for peace.
300 women street sweepers in Budapest.
Women must do jury duty.
A mother gives her six sons to the war.
Women have no time to weep.
Women serve on the police force.
Women place man on military dress.

__AFTER THE WAR__
(Eventually)
California women put polite in politics
Ella Flagg Young returns vacation money
Suffrage Cause emerges from battle smoke.
Women decide wars must cease.
Women refuse to bear sons for war.
Women patch up poor old war wrecks.
Father-mother government endorsed.
All states give ballot to their women.
Tammany goes in for suffrage.
Elihu Root a convert.
Anti suffragist takes lessons in voting.
Great Britain elects women to parliament.
The empire state goes strong for suffrage.
The Kaiser withdraws the three K’s.
The Czar command Russian Women to vote.
48 women senators in Washington
Women on all juries in the United States.
Women abolish white slavery.
New York gets mother’s and children’s pensions.
Women insist that all men vote.
— originally Collier’s Weekly, pub. in The Selma Mirror, Selma Alabama, 19 March 1915

Editor’s Note: Haryot Holt Dey was the wife of Frederick Van Rensselaer Dey, a lawyer who wrote 1,000 of the Nick Carter stories for the dime novel precursors of today’s comic books. She was editor of The Women’s Clubs Magazine the official organ of the General Federation of Woman’s Clubs, and a suffragist.

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Poem: THE CRY OF THE WOMEN
by Berton Braley

— THE WIVES —
We have borne you sons and daughters
And suffered in joy our pain:
In war with its myriad slaughters
We have cared for wounded and slain;
We have shared your dream of tomorrow
We have shared your work of to day,
We have comforted you in sorrow,
We have smiled when the skies were gray.
We are fit for wives and mothers, in palace or tiny cote:
We are fit for the fret and trouble, but we are not fit to vote!

— THE TOILERS —
We have worked in the sweatshop reeking,
We have toiled in the roaring mill;
When yuu in your need came seeking
We gave you our strength and skill;
We have battled against temptations
And we skimped and starved the while;
We have face the situation
With a brave and dauntless smile
We are fit to fight for a living, to take the world by the throat;
We are fit to share the labor, but we are not fit to vote.
—– The Journal and Tribune (Knoxville, Tennessee) 9 Nov 1913, Sunday, page 9

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Suffrage song
by Miss Alice C. Dickerson of Asbury Park NJ later Tampa Bay FL.
Tune–Battle Hymn of the Republic

“Look up and see the women of this great and glorious land;
They have formed themselves into an earnest, strong, undaunted band.
The trumpet sound is calling them the tide of fate to stem
For equal rights with men.

Oh, let the wives and daughters of this rich, broad commonwealth
Help guard their children’s interests and conserve the public health.
We want to make our land a better, broader, purer place
To shield the coming race,

No more we’re going to play the role of useless clinging vine;
Our brains and hands are ready for life’s active firing line;
We want to stand on equal footing with our brother man
The laws we obey, to plan.

We want to help the men to make a better code of laws;
We’ll stand by every righteous, just, and world uplifting cause
We’ll vote down liquor, trusts, and every kind of graft and greed
Tis women’s votes we need.

CHORUS
Votes for women — Votes for women
O’er our Country hear it ringing
From GOld Gate across to Bunker Hill
Vote we must and will.
—– Tampa Bay TImes (St Petersburg FL) 18 May 1917, Sun, page 15

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Poem
by Gladys Hinckley

“Dream no more of Guinevere,
Or Lady Alice Vere de Vere.
Times have changed, and now the women
Militant rise, demanding rights.
Man is not on the defensive,
For the force has, and might makes right.”
—– The Tuscaloosa News, Tuscaloosa Alabama 23 March 1913, p 7

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THE WAIL OF THE REMONSTRANTS
by S.S., in the Woman’s Journal

Legislators, honored legislators,
List, O listen to our tale of woe!
Hark, O hearken, and redress our grievance,
To the polls we do not want to go.
‘Tis not true that we desire the ballot,
As those horrid suffragists declare;
For ’twill only add unto our burdens.
Crush us ‘neath an awful load of care.
We have all the rights which we are wishin’
As is writ within these parchment scrolls,
When respectfully we do petition,
Do not–do not drag us to the polls!

SECOND REMONSTANT.
Legislators, righteous legislators;–
We have no desire for to mix
(As these women suffragists would have us)
In the filthy pool of politics.
We don’t mind if we are disfranchised
On that lofty pedestal we’ll stay
Where your homage places us, beside those
Other idiots, et cet eray
For we’re satisfied with our condition,
We have signed our names unto the rolls,
Stating that we hereby do petition,
That you do not drag us to the polls.

THIRD REMONSTRANT.
Legislators, august legislators,
Much we fear it will contaminate
Our weak sex to go and cast a ballot,
And in government participate.
Drunkenness and vice we do encounter,
It is true when on the streets we go
To our shopping, visiting, amusements;
But that’s very different, don’t you know.
For these things are sanctioned by tradition
Which our earthy destiny controls;
And most earnestly we do petition
Do not, do not drag us to the polls!

FOURTH REMONSTANT
We have not the brains wherewith to grapple
with those mighty questions of the state
To take part in Caucus or Convention,
Or assist in “making up a slate.”
With the Tariff or the Silver Question
Why should our feeble brains perplex?
We do favor, to be sure, Protection,
But we’ve always had it, from your sex.
We prefer our honored woman’s mission,
That, dear sirs, of saving all your souls,
Surely we’d go with you to perdition,
If we voted with you at the polls!

GRAND CHORUS OF REMONSTRANTS.
Yes, what’s to become of our mission,–
Our much-prized and time-honored mission
That sanctioned by hoary tradition,–
Of saving your masculine souls?
We enjoy all the rights we are wishin’,
We’re satisfied with our condition.
It never will be our ambition,
To act aught but our feminine roles.
And so with your gracious permission,
And the exercise of our volution,
We’ll keep far away from the polls.
O grant this, our humble petition,
And drag us not forth to the polls!

—– The Butler County Democrat (El Dorado, KS) 2 April 1896 page 1 //
Woman’s Department by Mrs. H.R. Stockeye

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HER PET
by Minna Irving

The elephant he waves his trunk
And trumpets for the old
Republicans who still refuse
To leave the party fold.
The donkey for the Democrats
Lifts up his voice and heels,
And kicks the platform in his joy,
And wags his ears, and squeals.

The bull moose with the Roosevelt clan
Is marking now, you bet.
And everybody has a pet
Except the suffragette.
She, too, when she goes forth to vote,
Will want a mascot, maybe,
SO get the baby carriage out
And let her take the baby.
—— The New York Times (NY< NY) 10 Aug 1912, page 6

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BALLOT SONG OF AMERICAN WOMEN
Copyright Woman’s Suffrage Party 1911

Once more awakes the spirit of the just,
And a world-wide flame is kindled from the dust
Women, for the right we know,
For the duty that we owe,
For all souls now here and coming, vote we must.

CHORUS
We, the people! All the people! How it rings!
Justice broad and free, the living hear of all things?
Sisters working for the light,
Brothers striving for the right.

We, the people! All the people! How it rings!
Our voice is for the wisdom of the free.
Ever growing since our parents crossed the sea.
Silence in the court of wrong
To the weakling must belong
Let our spirits, strong and earnest, speak and see.

We are walking where the heroes all have trod,
A weary way, where we can only plod;
but we’re tolling in the space
Where the martyrs took their place,
And our mighty should is risen to our God.

Ye powers of evil, earth is not your own!
Women helping, you shall yet be overthrown.
And a better life shall rise
That has gladdened human eyes,
And true peace shall blend the nations into one.

Let us stand together, women, hard and fast!
Let us vow to keep the faith until the last!
By the trust the world has learned,
By the falsehood it has spurned.
We will vote and rise above the vanished past
— orig. in New York Herald,  published in The Oshkosh Northwestern (Oshkosh< Wisconsin) 22 Sep 1911, Page 8

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