17 of the Craziest Reasons for Denying Women’s Suffrage Throughout History
17 of the Craziest Reasons for Denying Women’s Suffrage Throughout History

17 of the Craziest Reasons for Denying Women’s Suffrage Throughout History

Trista - October 5, 2018

17 of the Craziest Reasons for Denying Women’s Suffrage Throughout History
Women’s Suffrage Parade in New York City, May 6, 1912. Harris & Ewing/Wikimedia Commons

9. Women Already Have Everything That They Need

Congressman William Mulkey testified to the United States Congress in 1915, the year that women were granted suffrage, that “The great cry is that woman should be allowed to vote to protect themselves. Against what? Do men oppress them? Do we act toward them as though they were not American citizens or entitled to the protection of our laws? On the contrary, we show them every consideration, provide for their safety, and protect their interest always and everywhere.” This quote comes from Congressional Record: The Proceedings and Debates, 1915.

After all, men were always voting with the best interests of women in mind. Beyond that, they were working outside the home so that they could provide their wives with shelter, food, and everything that they needed. In turn, they were able to do what they wanted to do (or were supposed to want to do): remain at home and raise their children. As a result, women should feel indebted to men, by principle, for meeting all of their needs and wants.

What men (and women) who used this argument didn’t realize is that they were refusing to grant what women wanted: equal participation as citizens by giving them the right to vote.

17 of the Craziest Reasons for Denying Women’s Suffrage Throughout History
Another women’s suffrage poster. The Development of Women’s Rights

10. Instead of Cooperating With Men, Women Would Be Competing With Them

Yes, this argument was a real one. It was published in a 1910 pamphlet that advocated against granting women the right to vote. At its heart lies the fallacy that women and men are innately and inherently in cooperation with one another, a myth that was already debunked with the idea that men always vote in the best interests of women. This logic is further challenged by the fact that in fighting for the right to vote against men who didn’t want them to have it, women and men were not cooperating with each other! They were neck deep in competition, and this competition was over a political matter. Oh, to be a man on the losing side of history.

The concern was that if this nonsense about women gaining suffrage didn’t die out and die out quickly, then women and men would begin to contend with each other, publicly and on political matters, on more and more topics. Instead of agreeing that women should remain at home and men cooperating by working and “taking care” of their wives, they might start to contest even this notion and want to start working! Heaven forbid that one day, women might want to join the military and also run for public office. Women and men might find themselves in a fierce competition should that occur.

17 of the Craziest Reasons for Denying Women’s Suffrage Throughout History
Suffrage flyer. MHS Collections, Missouri History Museum

11. If Women Vote, The Human Race Will End

The logic behind this statement actually makes sense, at least theoretically: If women get involved in politics and begin voting, they will get all kinds of ideas in their heads about working outside of the home and doing other things that are in the man’s realm of responsibility. Meanwhile, the things that are the woman’s responsibility such as having children and raising them will become neglected to the point that humanity will cease to exist.

Someone who held to the aforementioned sentiment might agree with the statement that the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. However, plenty of women have proven that they can work outside the home and have meaningful careers while raising their families. Additionally, plenty of men have stepped up and realized that they also have responsibilities in procreating and raising children. So from a theoretical perspective, this idea breaks down when you stop and realize that a woman’s role does lie outside of the home.

However, the proof is in the pudding on this one: over a century after women earned the right to vote, humanity is still kicking along. American women are having fewer children, but by and large, they are paying more attention to their children, while having careers and providing them with an unprecedented quality of life.

17 of the Craziest Reasons for Denying Women’s Suffrage Throughout History
Some of the picket line of Nov. 10, 1917. George Grantham Bain/Wikimedia Commons

12. Women Are Too High-Class and Sensitive To Participate In Politics

Some kind, caring, sensitive gentlemen fully believed that women were too high-class for banal and mundane politics; political participation and suffrage would not only not benefit them but would cause them to consort with immodest groups.

Charles Carter, a congressman from Oklahoma, told Congress, “Were it not for shattering an ideal, were it not for dethroning her from that high pedestal upon which we are accustomed to place her, and dragging her down to the level of us beastly men, I believe I might even today be willing to vote for universal woman suffrage.”

I’m not sure what “high pedestal” Congressman Carter was referring to; perhaps he had imagined a scenario in which he knew what was best for not only the women in his life but also for all women around the country. By treating them how he thought they should be addressed, rather than asking them how they want to be treated, he could easily imagine himself a savior to the female gender.

Heaven forbid that a woman’s modesty and sensitivities might be offended if she should stray into the vortex of politics. Perhaps men of that day (and of today, as well) might need to consider the possibility of behaving decently and in such a way that women don’t need to feel offended around them.

17 of the Craziest Reasons for Denying Women’s Suffrage Throughout History
“We Can Do It!” by J. Howard Miller was made as an inspirational image to boost worker morale known as Rosie the Riveter. Wikipedia

13. Ballots Aren’t Necessary For Cleaning Sink Drains

Yes, this was a real argument for denying women the right to vote. After all, they were put on God’s green earth for one purpose and one purpose only: to take care of their husbands, children, and home. The right to vote was not just immoral, evil, and unethical; it just wasn’t necessary. Women did not need to vote, as all of their duties could easily be performed at home. Anything done outside the home might, heaven forbid, detract from their domestic chores.

I’m sure that the current and the next generation of men, who were shipped off to fight in World War I and World War II, were grateful for the women who could vote and work outside the home. As Rosie the Riveter showed, the strength of women in the public sphere was heavily relied on in holding the nation together while so many young men were overseas fighting. Good thing that the suffragettes had already paved the way for women to begin moving into essential positions.

After all, cleaning sink drains isn’t a necessary skill when your nation needs you to be building fighter planes.

17 of the Craziest Reasons for Denying Women’s Suffrage Throughout History
Official portrait of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Wikipedia

14. Women’s Suffrage Defies the Natural Order

This argument brings us around full circle, back to the “anti-feminism” surrounding the followers of Trump. Many people did not vote for Hillary Clinton, not because they didn’t agree with her policies, but because they just believed that there was a natural order, created by God, and according to that natural order, women need to remain at home. Hillary had violated that natural law; after all, her husband was known to have affairs and some believed he would have been faithful if she had been a good wife. Along with this same thinking, people feel Donald Trump should be supported, entirely regardless of his misogyny and emotional impulsivity, because men belong in politics and women belong at home.

Sadly, the concept of the “natural order” is one that generations of suffragettes and women’s rights advocates will have to fight in the future. It is one argument that will not go away. It finds its basis in different theologies that advocate patriarchy, in social theories that insist on the primacy of men, and even in biological sciences. The battle continues, not for the right to vote, but for the right for women to have equal rights, both at home and in the public sphere.

17 of the Craziest Reasons for Denying Women’s Suffrage Throughout History
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, women’s suffrage activist. Wikipedia

15. “Petticoat Rule” Will Dominate The Government

In the year 1910, when suffragettes were beginning to win the fight for the vote, Baroness Orczy, the author of The Scarlet Pimpernel, wrote a book entitled Petticoat Government. Like The Scarlet Pimpernel, Petticoat Government was about the French Revolution, the abuses of the aristocracy, and the ordinary people. Rather than critiquing the guillotine, however, it looked at the massive influence that Madame de Pompadour, a mistress of King Louis XV, held over the French government. This critique of women in government — written by a woman — did not concern the dealings of an elected official but rather someone that many considered to be a prostitute.

One concern about giving women the right to vote was that the government would fall under “petticoat rule,” meaning that it would come to be run entirely by women. Considering that women were not viewed as being competent in their own right but instead were expected to stand beside their husbands, this ideal was seen quite negatively. Today, though, there are entire cities that are run exclusively by women, and some countries are contemplating what the repercussions of a solely female government might be.

Perhaps there is something to this argument, after all. Also, maybe a “petticoat government” wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

17 of the Craziest Reasons for Denying Women’s Suffrage Throughout History
Public relations portrait of Susan B. Anthony as used in the History of Woman Suffrage by Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Volume I, published in 1881. Wikipedia

16. The Evil Women May Incur Is Worse Than The Good They Already Have

Like plenty of the previous arguments given against women’s suffrage, this one contains several rather obvious false assumptions. The first false assumption is that the government, as it currently existed, was excellent. However, the era of the women’s suffrage movement came to be known as “the gilded age,” because though it looked clean and pleasant on the outside, the government was rife with corruption, infighting, and greed. Trusts and monopolies had become even more powerful than the government, and the progress of building the American railroad was destroying the environment. The men’s government, which did not allow women to vote, was sorely lacking in morality and foresight for the future.

The second false assumption is that evil will be the result of women getting the right to vote. There would not only be uneducated, emotional women finding themselves exposed and torn apart at the voting booths, but the very fabric of society — concerning the separate roles of men and women — would be torn asunder. The result could only be complete social decay.

However, what did women voting bring about? Social progress and reform, leading up to the rights of African Americans to vote and today fighting against gender discrimination and harassment.


Where Did We Find Our Stuff? Here Are Our Sources!

“The Anti-Suffrage Movement” by Julia Blush, from The British Library online collections. March 5, 2018.

“Women’s Suffrage: 10 Reasons Why Men Opposed Votes For Women” by Francesca Gillett. BBC News, April 29, 2018.

Congressional Record: The Proceedings and Debates, 1915.

“A Suffragette’s Work Is Never Done” by Ross Coggins, The Washington Post, August 21, 1994.