Immigrant Women and the Vote


Antisuffragists also tried to horrify their white, middle-class audience with the notion that the suffrage would extend to all women, not just to the educated, white, and refined women. In the second issue of the antisuffrage newspaper, The Woman's Protest, the following article appeared, entitled "Immigrant Woman and The Vote."


    IN considering "votes for women" it is impossible to ignore the factor of the immigrant woman. In regard to naturalization she stands on an entirely different basis from her male counterpart. The male immigrant must take out two sets of papers. In the first he must signify his intention of becoming a citizen, in the second he must abjure his former citizenship and swear fully to the government of the United States. All this it a matter of some time. We may think the time should be longer, but that is neither here nor there. It is a question of months and years before the newly arrived man can become a voter. During this time even the stupid usually acquire a smattering of English and some faint glimmerings of what our government is, and perhaps even what our political parties stand for. The case of the woman is, however, this.

    A man comes to this country leaving wife and daughters in the old. He prospers and becomes a citizen. Just before an election he sends for his family. If the women had votes it would be only needful for these women to arrive in time to register to vote at the election. No need for them to be in the country years, months or even weeks, as the natural citizenship of the man makes the women of his family citizens. The Suffragists realize that this is a dangerous argument against their cause and try to meet it by saying that that there have been rulings in the courts on this question. The fact it there hat never been any ruling from a high Federal Court. All we can go by is precedent. Take Massachusetts, for example. In that State women vote in school elections. The vote of the women is usually very light, few registering and lets voting. Occasionally some question, usually of race or religion calls forth an unusual degree of interest; in that case the citizenship of the women on the basis of the husband's or father's naturalization is accepted without demur.

    During the last session of the Assembly a bill was introduced which, while it advocated the franchise for women, no attempt was made to meet this particular objection. It is a question if such a bill can ever pass until some definite legal ruling has been made by the Supreme Court, and our Suffrage friends do not appear at all anxious to put up a test case.

    To point out the dangers involved in thus introducing at one stroke an enormous body of voters ignorant of our government and of our language into our political life, would seem to be an insult to the intelligence of the average citizen, who, however, should not fail to weigh this matter in considering the claims of women, whose desire to vote appears to be stronger than their patriotism.

For more information about the antisuffrage campaign, see the pages on the perceived differences between the sexes and on the argument that women didn't want the vote. You can also examine the issue of woman suffrage in the political process and the prosuffrage arguments used in 1912 by following these links.

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