Secondary Source

Dissertation: The Other Woman’s Movement: Anti-suffrage Activism in New York State, 1865–1932

Susan Goodier. PhD Dissertation. State University of New York at Albany, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2007. 3270283.

Era: Post-Suffrage Era | Media: Academic Paper

This doctoral dissertation examines anti-suffrage activism in New York State.


New York State, the birthplace of the woman’s rights movement, was the arena of the most dynamic anti-suffrage and suffrage activity throughout the battle for women’s enfranchisement. This study develops an understanding of the suffrage movement from the viewpoint of the women who opposed enfranchisement. The reasons women opposed suffrage are complex, but were intimately connected with their view of themselves as females, rather than as citizens. Anti-suffrage women were proud of what they considered to be women’s unique importance to the polity; they did not want that uniqueness stifled by the addition of masculine political responsibilities. The anti-suffrage movement was a vibrant woman’s movement, for anti-suffragists were convinced that they, like the suffragists, were fighting for women’s rights. Anti-suffragists established organizations after 1895 in New York State. In their first foray into the masculine realm of political power, they let men speak for them, but soon they preferred to speak for themselves. Anti-suffragists fully believed in the advancement and progress of women, supporting their advanced education and appointments to public offices. They even appropriated the political techniques of suffragists to present their views to the broader public. Anti-suffragists easily won the 1915 New York State referendum on woman suffrage. But they lost the 1917 referendum, not just because of the well-documented shift of Tammany Hall, but more because the events of World War I so distracted anti-suffragists they neglected the campaign for the referendum. Gaining the right to vote in New York State resulted in a split in the anti-suffrage movement. One group moved to Washington, DC and became the Woman Patriot Publishing Corporation. It continued to fight woman suffrage until a Supreme Court decision in 1922 declared the Nineteenth Amendment to be constitutional. The corporation became a board of five women at the forefront of fighting radicalism. The majority of women who had once opposed woman suffrage, however, accepted women’s obligation to vote. With some pride, these women voted, joined the Republican Party, and replaced anti-suffrage activities with party politics. Both groups of former anti-suffrage women abandoned the private domestic sphere to enter the public realm of politics.

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