Editor’s note: This summer and fall, Capitol Report is dipping into the Minnesota Historical Society’s political archives and scooping out documents and artifacts exploring the state’s rich record of voting reforms, colorful politicians, contested elections, curious facial hair and more.
In the mid-1910s — a century before this week’s historic nomination of a woman for president — the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association had been lobbying the state’s Legislature for the right to vote for more than three decades. It had little to show for its efforts.
Year after year, bills to remove the word “male” from Minnesota’s voting requirement would die in committee or on the floor. The most recent tangible step forward for female voters — the right to vote in school board elections — had come in 1875 and now seemed slight.
Discouraged by repeated failures and hoping to surmount infighting over tactics, the MWSA redirected its energies toward amending the U.S. Constitution. United by a common goal of national suffrage, the Minnesota women’s voting rights movement gathered momentum, and its members’ efforts were eventually rewarded by the passage of the 19th Amendment.
Educational literature played a prominent role in spreading the message and was distributed by suffragists at expositions, including the Minnesota State Fair, and parades, including a 2,000-woman march through Minneapolis and St. Paul in May 1914.
An artifact of Minnesota’s anti-suffrage movement, this undated booklet was published by the Minneapolis Association Opposed to the Further Extension of Suffrage to Women. “I believe the most important factors of the State are the wives and mothers who make men good citizens, to govern and protect the state,” Mrs. Edmund Pennington writes. “Let us unite to save the true nature of womanhood — the dignity of motherhood, the unity of the family and the influence of home.” (Submitted image: Minnesota Historical Society)
On another page of the pamphlet, a cartoon satirizes how little women had in common with other non-voters (their “peculiar political peers”); women are shown peaceably reading and baby dandling, surrounded by unsavory personifications of disenfranchised cliques — the “convict,” the “insane man,” the “boodler” (a trafficker in stolen goods).(Submitted image: Minnesota Historical Society)
A third page illustrates the bliss of voting: A neoclassical drawing, labeled “Woman sees the Dawn of Reason,” depicts a young lady in a billowy white dress gazing yearningly at a manicured, sun-drenched garden. (Submitted image: Minnesota Historical Society)