Woman Suffrage, as a distinct movement, began in Kansas in 1859, when Mrs. C. H. I. Nichols, Mother Armstrong and Mary Tenney Gray sat in the Wyandotte convention, unelected and uninvited, with their knitting in their hands, to listen to the deliberations of that body and try to have the word "male" left out of the franchise clause. The word "male" was put in the Wyandotte constitution and ever since that time the efforts of the best and most intelligent women of Kansas have been directed toward having it stricken out. A limited school suffrage was extended the women in 1861. In 1867 the legislature submitted a constitutional amendment for full suffrage for women. It had to divide honors with an amendment for negro suffrage and the Impartial Suffrage Association was formed at Topeka on April 3, 1867, with some prominent persons as leaders. Gov. S. J. Crawford was president; Lieut.-Gov. Nehemiah Green, vice president; Samuel N. Wood, corresponding secretary; Miss Minnie Otis, recording secretary; and John Ritchie, treasurer. Lucy Stone Blackwell, Henry B. Blackwell and Mrs. C. H. I. Nichols made speeches. The organization declared for both amendments. Mr. and Mrs. Blackwell, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Olympia Brown and George Francis Train were among the outside enthusiasts who labored in Kansas during a hotly contested campaign. Had they given their attention wholly to the woman suffrage amendment it might have won, but the double load proved too heavy and both amendments lost, woman suffrage being defeated by a vote of 19,857 to 9,070.
The first strictly woman suffrage convention on record was held at Topeka on Feb. 4, 1869, and an effort was made to revive the cause. But the women were disheartened and all organized effort died out for nearly ten years. In 1874 the prohibition party declared for suffrage. The first organization preparatory for the second campaign was formed at Lincoln, Lincoln county. It was called the Equal Suffrage Association and began in 1879 with 3 members, Mrs. Anna C. Wait, Mrs. Emily J. Biggs and Mrs. Sarah E. Lutes. Mrs. Wait, who was elected in 1911 president of the Sixth district Equal Suffrage Association, is probably the oldest continuous worker in the cause, having been actively engaged in suffrage work in Kansas since 1867. In 1884 the Lincoln county organization sent Helen M. Gougar to Washington, D. C., as a delegate from Kansas to work for the 16th amendment to the Federal constitution to allow women the ballot, the negroes having had their inning.
The newspapers and histories record that a state woman suffrage association was formed on June 25, 1884. The women named it the "Equal Suffrage Association;" Mrs. Hetta P. Mansfield was made president, and Mrs. Anna C. Wait, vice-president at large. The Greenback party endorsed woman suffrage that year. In 1885 a bill was introduced into the legislature to grant municipal suffrage. The women sent in petitions containing about 7,000 names, but the bill was defeated. The second annual convention of the Equal Suffrage Association was held in October of that year and Mrs. Anna C. Wait was elected president. The State Grange endorsed suffrage that year. Miss Bertha Ellsworth of Lincoln county was made state organizer and preparation was made for another attempt to secure municipal suffrage which was successful in 1887. At the next annual convention Laura M. Johns was elected president of the association and held office until after the campaigns of 1893 and 1894.
The suffrage amendment was submitted for the second time by the legislature of 1893 and came up for a vote at the general election in 1894, when Populism was at its zenith in the state. Susan B. Anthony, Anna Shaw, Rachel Childs, Carrie Chapman Catt, Elizabeth Yates, Mary Ellen Lease, Mrs. Anna Diggs, Dr. Eva Harding, Laura M. Johns, and Mrs. Anna C. Wait were among the leaders of the campaign. On a threat of withdrawing their aid from the state, Miss Anthony and Mrs. Shaw forced the Kansas women against their own judgment to take the fatal step of asking the endorsement of the political parties. The Populist women secured the endorsement of their party in its convention, but the Republican party refused. The fate of the amendment then depended on the fortunes of the Populist party. The Republican women formed a Republican club and seemed to be more interested in that party than in their own measure. A paper was published by them, a copy of which is in the historical collections, and it contains not a single word on the suffrage question. Some of these women were officers of the Equal Suffrage Association and it was charged that they turned a part of the suffrage equipment, and even suffrage funds; over to Republican propaganda work. The amendment was lost by a vote of 130,139 to 95,302.
Following the defeat Mrs. Kate Addison was elected president and took up the task of reconstructing the association and planning educational work on suffrage. For a long time the outlook was discouraging. The women did not believe it expedient to ask for an amendment soon again but scarcely a legislature met without some sort of suffrage bill being introduced. In 1900 a delegation comprised of Mrs. Anna Diggs, Dr. Eva Harding and Mrs. Frank Doster were sent to Washington, D. C., to assist in lobbying for a 16th amendment to the national constitution. In 1902 the Kansas suffrage forces came under the leadership of a young and enthusiastic woman in the person of Helen Kimber. She was a woman of ideas, but was unable to arouse the women of the state to the point of carrying them out, and all that was accomplished during her administration was purely educational and preparatory. In 1905 Sadie P. Gresham was elected president. The presidential suffrage bill was defeated in the legislature of that year, also in 1907 and at the special session of 1908, when Mrs. Lilla Day Monroe was president of the association, and again in 1909.
It was then decided again to introduce a bill to submit the suffrage amendment for the third time and preparation was begun months in advance. Catherine Hoffman of Enterprise called a meeting of the executive board in Dec., 1909, to make plans for the work in the legislature. The suffrage headquarters in the state house were opened with Lilla Day Monroe chairman of the campaign committee, and the campaign was launched through the columns of the Club Member which was the official organ of the Equal Suffrage Association. This paper was published each week and during the legislative session as much oftener as the exigencies of the campaign required. Through the efforts of the suffrage women over the state and the Women's Christian Temperance Union organization over one hundred petitions aggregating not less than 25,000 names were sent to the legislature of 1911. The amendment passed the house by a majority of 94 to 28, and received the required two-thirds vote in the senate. The presidential suffrage bill was defeated. The amendment will be passed upon by the voters in 1912.Pages 927-929 from volume II of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed July 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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