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Anthony, Susan B.

Argument in Favor of Equal Suffrage Constitutional Amendment.


Annotated by Susan B. Anthony
[Anthony, Susan B., annotation] Laughlin, Gail. Argument in Favor of Equal Suffrage Constitutional Amendment…Oregon Equal Suffrage Association; n.d. [1906].
8vo.; two leaves, stapled to make eight pages including the cover; stapled; creased for mailing. In a specially made quarter-morocco slipcase.
Pamphlet issued by the Oregon Equal Suffrage Association following the defeat of the Suffrage amendment by a single vote. The typographic cover reads, simply:
Argument in favor of Equal Suffrage Constitutional Amendment. Official ballot numbers. For….302. Against….303. Issue by Oregon Equal Suffrage Association.
Anthony has written at the head of this page: This argument is sent to every voter in the state - by the Secretary of State - free of cost to our campaign committee - is out there circulating this good reason why every man should vote for the amendment - For … 302 - S.B.A.
The Argument, by made by Gail Laughlin, a prominent member of the Maine Legislature and, later, Vice President of the National Woman's Party, is divided into five sections: "What Equal Suffrage Means," "The Home and the Government," "The Wage-Earner's Need of the Ballot," "Results of Equal Suffrage," and "The Uplift to Civilization from Equal Suffrage." It is followed by four testimonials from two judges and two senators-all men-who live in states that already have equal suffrage. They support the amendment and provide examples of how women's vote has ushered in a change for the better. As the Hon. John L. Shafroth vouches, "Woman's presence in politics has introduced an independent element which compels better nominations and better officials" (7).
While championing equal suffrage, Laughlin categorizes men and women into separate spheres, in effect advocating that women's "private" space in the home be recognized as a public concern:  
"While banking and currency and tariff and other commercial questions specially touch man's side of life and need his brain and his interest and his vote for their solution, these other questions specially touch woman's side of life and need her brain and her interest and her vote for their best solution" (3).  Laughlin further argues that since some women have been "forced to earn a living," they should be allowed to vote in order to be regarded "as equals in industrial life" (4). She explains, "Never until women have, through the ballot, the power to affect economic conditions, will they be properly protected… [the American Federation of Labor] declared for equal suffrage as a 'measure of justice to women' and 'as a necessary step toward insuring and raising the scale of wages for all'" (4).
Laughlin also explains women's growing interest in passing a suffrage amendment: "Women have not banded together against men to oppose measures desired by men, but there has been a quickening of interest and a marked improvement along those lines which are especially the lines of life in which women are most interested and which they are most fitted to direct; and women themselves have become broader, finer women from their participation in a broader life" (5). She uses Wyoming as an exemplary model of a state in which their move toward equal suffrage was beneficial to everyone.
In the final section of her Argument, "The Uplift to Civilization from Equal Suffrage," the author Laughlin points out that in granting equal suffrage, states are simply fulfilling an obligation to their citizens stated in the Declaration of Independence. In the states that already have equal suffrage, "the first step to a higher plane of civic life has been taken" (6). In conclusion, she writes,
There is no force so potent for individual development as is individual liberty. As are the individuals, so the nation is. Therefore, where liberty is the greatest, there civilization is highest; and those states which give to women full political liberty will reap in full measure the glorious fruits of liberty, the liberty which knows no sex, the liberty which means not merely free men, not merely free women, but a free humanity. (7)
Laughlin (1868-1952) was born in Maine and educated at Wellesley and Cornell Law School. Her interests in women and her work in the law took her hop-scotching across the country. In 1899 she passed the bar in New York and opened her first law office in Manhattan. After an assignment for the United States Industrial Commission on domestic service - an organization that had appointed her an "expert agent" - she decided to work for the National American Woman Suffrage Association, of which she was a part between 1902 and 1906. Upon leaving NAWSA, she moved to Colorado, where she had passed the bar in 1908 and where women were enfranchised. She held various positions in this state - on the State Board of Pardons, Mayor's Advisory Council, and executive committee for the Progressive Party - with women's interests in mind. In 1914, Laughlin moved to San Francisco, where she opened another law office, served on the Republican State Central Committee, acted as a judge in police courts, founded and directed the National League for Women's Services, and joined the National Women's Party. By 1919 she was in St. Louis, where she founded, and acted as president of, the National Federation of Business and Professional Women. In 1924, she returned to her home state, where she opened another law office in Portland. Beginning in 1929, Laughlin served on the state legislature for three terms, and between 1935 and 1941 she served on the state senate. In that state, she lobbied for, and succeeded, in raising the age of consent from age 13 to 16; fought for medical exams of women whose husbands wanted to place them in mental institutions; encouraged the inclusion of women in juries; and organized the Maine Department of Health. In 1945 She became the first woman recorder of Supreme Court decisions. A minor stroke in 1948 forced her into semi-retirement; she died in Portland four years later.

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