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Pembina Bill and Suffrage in 1874


In 1874, the Pembina Bill was proposed to the territorial legislature. This bill would carve a new Territory out of Dakota Territory called Pembina. Senator Sargent offered an amendment to that bill that would allow women the right to vote at the formation of the new territory. Newspapers reported that Sargent offered this because he believed granting women the right to vote would "purify society and open wider avenues to them." 


He also felt it would follow through on the Republican party's 1872 platform promise to work for suffrage. Other pro-suffrage legislators noted that it could be useful to experiment with women's suffrage in this new territory; that women's presence at the polls would cause men to abstain from "rowdyism of any kind." One said this was "in accordance with the Declaration of Independence," and that “women had the same natural right in this Government as a man.”


The Chicago Daily Tribune reported that after considerable debate, the suffrage amendment was voted down in May, 27 to 19, and the Pembina Bill was defeated in early June—though it wasn’t dead, with its originator, Senator Ramsey, carrying it forward and hoping that it could pass at the next session.


On this date, one other outspoken voice was sharing her feelings on the matter. This was Linda Slaughter. Her lengthy treatise favored the new territory, but was rather outspokenly anti-suffrage, stating: “The ‘wives, mothers and daughters,’ the real representative womanhood of the land, don’t want the right of suffrage. …Senator Stewart said ten years from now, there would not be a man in the Senate opposed to female suffrage. We beg leave to differ…I prophesy that there will not be found, in the Senate, or out of it, one single man, willing to admit, that he ever seriously favored it. …Rather than submit to this absurd amendment, as the humiliating condition of our admission, we prefer to stay out in the cold, forever!”


However, within a few years, Slaughter would have a different opinion on suffrage, as she would become one of only two women involved in the National Woman Suffrage Association in Dakota. 


Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker



Chicago Daily Tribune, May 29, 1874, p1

The Superior Times, June 6, 1874, p2

The Charlotte Democrat, June 1, 1874, p3

The Bismarck Tribune, June 3, 1874, p1; June 10, 1874, p2; June 17, 1874, p3; November 18, 1874, p2; December 30, 1874, p1

State Historical Society of North Dakota MSS 10003 Box 1 folder 3

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