Arguments for and Against Suffrage

A pair of documents that present competing arguments for and against women gaining the right to vote.

A broadside produced by the New York State Woman Suffrage Association titled “Women in the Home” that advocates for suffrage.
Women in the Home

New York State Woman Suffrage Association, Women in the Home, n.d. New-York Historical Society Library.

An image of an anti-suffrage essay written by Alice Hill Chittenden, the president of the New York State Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage. Her essay is titled “Ballot Not a Panacea For Existing Evils.”
Ballot not a Panacea for Existing Evil

Alice Hill Chittenden, Ballot not a Panacea for Existing Evil, 1913. New-York Historical Society Library.

Document Text


By Alice Hill Chittenden.
President of the New York State Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage.
The right to vote is not a cure all for society.
There can be no doubt that many earnest, sincere women declare they want to vote because they wish to take a hand in what they call municipal housecleaning. More schools are needed, more parks and playgrounds; better tenements and cleaner streets. Give us the ballot, they argue, and all these things shall come to pass. But these enthusiastic would-be housecleaners fail to take one point into consideration, which is, that the ballot does not clean streets, nor provide more seats in schoolhouses, nor lighten dark tenements, nor furnish pure milk, nor stop child labor, nor administer justice. Women claim they want the vote so they can make society better. But the vote does not clean streets, expand schools, improve tenements, or ensure healthy food.
The advocates of woman suffrage who cling to this idea, which was prevalent at the time of the French Revolution, and even half a century ago, that the ballot in itself is a panacea for all existing evils and a short cut to the solution of government problems, are not progressive, but are in reality behind the times as students of government. Suffrage isn’t a remedial agent in government, but is merely a means of keeping the wheels of government in motion.  Suffragists support an old-fashioned belief that the vote will solve everything.
Men who are interested in social reforms—and their number is legion—have found they could not bring about these essential reforms by merely voting on Election Day, and that is the reason they have organized all kinds of commissions and committees to consider the question of child labor, the care of dependent children and kindred subjects, from an economic and humanitarian point of view in order to educate and stimulate public opinion to a more intelligent and comprehensive understanding of these questions. Even men, who can vote, know that they cannot make changes through voting. Instead, they have created organizations and committees to addr