Story type: Essay
There have been many reasons given, first and last, why women should not vote, but I desire to say, in the full light of a ripe experience, that some of them are fallacious. I refer more particularly to the argument that it will degrade women to go to the polls and vote like a little man. While I am not and have never been a howler for female suffrage, I must admit that it is much more of a success than prohibition and speculative science.
My wife voted eight years with my full knowledge and consent, and to-day I cannot see but that she is as docile and as tractable as when she won my trusting heart.
Now those who know me best will admit that I am not a ladies’ man, and, therefore, what I may say here is not said to secure favor and grateful smiles. I am not attractive and I am not in politics. I believe that I am homelier this winter than usual. There are reasons why I believe that what I may say on this subject will be sincere and not sensational or selfish.
It has been urged that good women do not generally exercise the right of suffrage, when they have the opportunity, and that only those whose social record has been tarnished a good deal go to the polls. This is not true.
It is the truth that a good full vote always shows a list of the best women and the wives of the best men. A bright day makes a better showing of lady voters than a bad one, and the weather makes a more perceptible difference in the female vote than the male, but when things are exciting and the battle is red-hot, and the tocsin of war sounds anon, the wife and mother puts on her armor and her sealskin sacque and knocks things cross-eyed.
It is generally supposed that the female voter is a pantaloonatic, a half horse, half alligator kind of woman, who looks like Dr. Mary Walker and has the appearance of one who has risen hastily in the night at the alarm of fire and dressed herself partially in her own garments and partially in her husband’s. This is a popular error. In Wyoming, where female suffrage has raged for years, you meet quiet, courteous and gallant gentlemen, and fair, quiet, sensible women at the polls, where there isn’t a loud or profane word, and where it is an infinitely more proper place to send a young lady unescorted than to the postoffice in any city in the Union. You can readily see why this is so. The men about the polls are always candidates and their friends. That is the reason that neither party can afford to show the slightest rudeness toward a voter. The man who on Wednesday would tell her to go and soak her head, perhaps, would stand bareheaded to let her pass on Tuesday. While she holds a smashed ballot shoved under the palm of her gray kid glove she may walk over the candidate’s prostrate form with impunity and her overshoes if she chooses to.
Weeks and months before election in Wyoming, the party with the longest purse subsidizes the most livery stables and carriages. Then, on the eventful day, every conveyance available is decorated with a political placard and driven by a polite young man who is instructed to improve the time. Thus every woman in Wyoming has a chance to ride once a year, at least. Lately, however, many prefer to walk to the polls, and they go in pairs, trios and quartettes, voting their little sentiments and calmly returning to their cookies and crazy quilts as though politics didn’t jar their mental poise a minute.
It is possible, and even probable, that a man and his wife may disagree on politics as they might on religion. The husband may believe in Andrew Jackson and a relentless hell, while his wife may be a stalwart and rather liberal on the question of eternal punishment. If the husband manages his wife as he would a clothes-wringer, and turns her through life by a crank, he will, no doubt, work her politically; but if she has her own ideas about things, she will naturally act upon them, while the man who is henpecked in other matters till he can’t see out of his eyes, will be henpecked, no doubt, in the matter of national and local politics.
These are a few facts about the actual workings of female suffrage, and I do not tackle the great question of the ultimate results upon the political machinery if woman suffrage were to become general. I do not pretend to say as to that. I know a great deal, but I do not know that. There are millions of women, no doubt who are better qualified to vote, and yet cannot, than millions of alleged men who do vote; but no one can tell now what the ultimate effect of a change might be.
So far as Wyoming is concerned, the Territory is prosperous and happy. I see, also, that a murderer was hung by process of law there the other day. That looks like the onward march of reform, whether female suffrage had anything to do with it or not. And they’re going to hang another in March if the weather is favorable and executive clemency remains dormant, as I think it will.
All these things look hopeful. We can’t tell what the Territory would have been without female suffrage, but when they begin to hang men by law instead of by moonlight, the future begins to brighten up. When you have to get up in the night to hang a man every little while and don’t get any per diem for it, you feel as though you were a good way from home.
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