Our Reasons to Vote, 1880

In 1880, forty years before the passing of the 19th Amendment, suffragists were fighting for the right of women to vote. One of the “reasons” given by their opponents was that women don’t WANT to vote. Matilda Joslyn Gage, wasn’t buying into that. As owner and editor of the pro-woman suffrage newspaper, The National Citizen and Ballot Box she was in a position to not only ask women, but to publish their responses.

She asked.

She was overwhelmed with responses.

She printed select ones. 136 years later, the folks from Words from Us organized a project to reprint them. We are proud to show you some of the responses from Kansas and Missouri–the states we call home. Individually these voices from the past are touching, all together they are a loud, powerful, collective voice from the past. Please visit Words From Friends to find links to the state you call home, or to the entire country.

women-vote-aper-ksuseThe work of reading these thousands of postals and letters and selecting from among them for publication, has required the labor of two persons over two weeks, and a portion of this time three persons were engaged upon it. Although but comparatively a small portion of them has been given, they form a very remarkable, unique, instructive and valuable addition to the literature and history of woman suffrage.

They not only show the growth of liberty in the hearts of women, but they point out the causes of this growth. Each letter, each postal, carries its own tale of tyrannous oppression, and each woman who reads, will find her courage and her convictions strengthened. Let every woman who receives this paper religiously preserve it for future reference. Let those who say that women do not want to vote, look at the unanimity with which women in each and every state, declare that they do wish to vote,—that they are oppressed because they cannot vote—that they deem themselves capable of making the laws by which they are governed, and of ruling themselves in every way.

These letters are warm from the heart, but they tell tales of injustice and wrong that chill the reader’s blood. They show a growing tendency among women to right their own wrongs, as women have ofttimes in ages before chosen their own ways to do. Greece with its tales of Medea and Clytemnestra; Rome and the remembrance of Tofania and her famous water; southern France of more modern times all carry warning to legal domestic tyrants.


Matilda Joslyn Gage


Most certainly I wish to vote . I have been a tax-payer in a small way for years, and living as I do, in a small whiskey village, how gladly would I lend my aid to put down vice and ignorance.—Mrs. M. Wheeler Radway Silver Lake

We, the undersigned, wish to vote thinking it will be for the benefit of mankind and womankind,—Mrs. F. Johnmiller, Miss E. Johnmiller.— Centralia

Lincoln which has a flourishing woman suffrage society, reports quite fully, though but few cards can find room and most of those must be abreviated.

Yes I want to vote . I am a school teacher, am teaching now. My reasons for desiring to vote are several, 1st, I am taxed but unpresented. 2d, I want to vote for prohibition. Many more would send postals but they do not know of it, few of the papers edited by men will publish the call.—Edith Shoemaker

I have been taught to believe that the right of self-government is the birthright of every American citizen and that to be deprived of that right constitutes political slavery. Being an American citizen and having no part or lot in the government to whose laws I am subject, except that if I trespass I am tried and punished by them, to which women must contribute their full share in taxes. I therefore most earnestly desire the right of suffrage for myself and all other women.—Sarah D. Mathews

Susan E. Wattles says, “ I want the right to vote . I want the Republicans to be the party that shows justice to woman.”

Because I am taxed without my consent on property earned by myself, to support a government which I have no voice in making or administering; taxed to defray the expenses for crimes caused by intemperance and other vices, which women with the ballot could and would prevent and because I am not satisfied to be classed with criminals, paupers, idiots and lunatics. And for every reason for which men prize the ballot do I prize and desire the enfranchisement of myself and all other women, citizens of the United States, and for this I shall petition and pray till it is accomplished. —Anna C. Waite

You ask me, you ask all women who want to vote so say so. I answer yes, I am the mother of boys and girls and I desire and ask that my daughters may share the same privileges and protection that my sons enjoy. As they never can while women are disfranchised I ask the ballot for myself and all other women citizens.—Mary E. Runnals

Yes, I do want to vote as any sane woman in Kansas does, for we could carry the State for prohibition this fall.—Eliza Miller

I send this card stating the reasons why I wish to vote . That I may assist in doing away with intemperance and other evils that must be legislated away. To assist in sending men and women to Congress that cannot be bought, that will work for the interest of humanity at large.—Mrs. Eliza J. Christie

Every woman in Kansas who knows what she is about wants to vote for the constitutional amendment this fall and put all intoxicating liquors so far out of our State that the liquor dealers, “will fold their tents and steal silently away.” Try and do work enough for those of us who cannot be present. God grant that you may influence Republicans to do justice to women. —Sarah M. Long

Yes, I want to vote , and doubly so shall this fall as we could carry the State of Kansas for prohibition. The temperance men of this State would vote for woman suffrage almost to a man, they realize that what God said when he created woman is no less true now than it was then, “It is not good for man to be alone.—Emily J. Biggs

I want to vote . I am a free born American citizen, and have always been a law abiding citizen, but have never had the privilege of a citizen. I have seen it stated that there are fifteen millions American citizens now deprived of the right of franchise, and for what ? Simply because we are called women. I wish we could have been called by some other name so we could have the same rights that others enjoy. Yours for equal rights.—J. E. Wilson, Odell

I want you to tell the world that there are women here in Kansas who earn money, pay taxes and claim the right to vote which inheres in the citizen.—Mattie Snodgrass

We wish to vote , and we wish it because we believe it to be right.—Mayard Hill, Sallie Hill, Alice Hill, Morehead

We, realizing the need our country has for woman’s judgment and help, unite our voices with the many others working for the ballot. Mrs. Lizzie Nealy, Miss G. F. Stickney, P. M., Collyer

Our government will utterly perish in its own corruption, unless women are allowed to vote and in that way come to its rescue.—H. E. Frost, La Cygne

I am with you heart and soul. When, oh! when will government learn to be just ? I am taxed to help support that government in which I am allowed no voice, for no other reason only because I chance to be a woman. It is tyranny, nothing more and nothing less. I demand my right to the ballot as a citizen of the United States, and a tax payer for the last forty years of my life. And the churches, what can be said of them! I have been a member of the church for over forty years and I think have done as much, according to my means, to support the church as any one. They are building a church in our place; they called on me for help. I told them the church had got the last dollar out of me they ever would, until they learned there was neither Jew nor Greek, neither bond or free, neither male or female, but all were on equality. Yours in the cause of justice.—Leonora Bigelow Van Brunt, Westmoreland

Would to God all women could have the right of suffrage, there would be less frand in these United States if they could. Mrs. S. J. Kellogg, Wichita 



Missouri with its test woman suffrage case of Mrs. Minor, showing the rank injustice of the Republican party to woman and its falsehood to its own principles of nationality sent many names to the Mass Meeting, of women desiring to vote , some three hundred or more coming from St. Louis.

Oregon, Holt County, possesses an active woman suffrage society, as the following six selections show.

I do know that I want to vote and that I believe I am born the equal of man in every respect, and if so am certainly entitled to all his privileges, so here is my protest against a one-sided government.— Lucy S. Kancher, Oregon

Taxation without representation is oppression; nothing short of equal rights will satisfy Kate G. Holtz, Oregon

American liberty is a farce while half the American citizens are yet in bondage. —Stella M. Goslin.— Oregon

To the Womans Mass Meeting: I want to vote on educational and temperance questions and for the President of the United States and all other officers. Being a native American, over twenty-one years of age. I want all the civil and political rights that any male citizen exercises in order to protect myself from unequal, unjust laws and my property from illegal taxation. May your efforts be crowned with success.—A. K. Irvine

Yes, but I do want to vote , I am of age, am a widow and have to pay heavy taxes every year. I don’t believe in taxation without representation. Its a little too thin for my children to represent their mother, they will have quite enough to do, if they take care of and represent themselves. I wish to vote on all questions that the male citizens have the privilege of voting upon, or if I am no citizen I wish to be released from paying any more taxes.—Kate Schatz

I wish to vote because I am a free born American citizen, a tax-payer without representation which is tyranny.—Sarah Q. Goslin, Oregon

My sympathies are in every movement for the up-building of woman’s rights and for the destruction of all institutions, whether human or divine, in its attempt to underrate or degrade our sex more. The subjugation by the politician or religionist should be met with an increasing warfare. Hannah Z. Brown, Shelbina

May the God of battles unite you in one solid phalanx against tryanny.—Rebecca S. O. Hunnicutt, Lee Summit

In the spirit of my forefathers who rebelled against taxation without representation, I too, claim a voice in the selection of the a national, State, municipal councils.— Elizabeth S. Sanderson.— Sulphur Springs

Man legislates and licenses until we are fast becoming a nation of drunkards, and thinking people are beginning to see if this hydra-headed demon of intemperance is ever subdued, woman must have a voice in legislation. Women are beginning to see that trying to pray the evil away, while men slip around and vote for license is not quite consistent. God speed the day when woman’s right to the ballot will be acknowledged and until that day let us never cease our remonstrances. Never ! never! never ! Mrs. Josephine B. Humphrey, Breckenridge

I do most earnestly desire the right of franchise, not alone for my own personal satisfaction but because I believe it necessary for the safely and prosperity of our government that women be allowed to exercise the privilege which rightfully belongs to her.—Mrs. Ida F. Burr. The following wish their names added, Miss Jennie Burrows, Mrs. Wm. Limms, Mrs. Mattie Bearden, Princeton

Matilda Joslyn Gage

Matilda Joslyn Gage

To learn more about Matilda Joslyn Gage (other than she was L. Frank Baum’s mother-in-law, we told you that already in the Wizard of Oz episode) head over to the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation.

ONE MORE TIME! To see responses from all across the US, visit Words From Us for links