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Special Session Woes, Part 1


After the passage of the Federal Suffrage Amendment through the U.S. House and Senate on June 4th, 1919, Carrie Chapman Catt, president of the National Woman Suffrage Association, sent out a multitude of requests for governors to call special sessions for the purpose of ratifying the amendment.


Governor Lynn J. Frazier of North Dakota was adamant that this wasn’t necessary, and in fact would be an unnecessary and expensive cost—although he did also note that if a special session was called, the amendment would be “among the first matters brought up and that he was confident of its almost unanimous ratification.”


Though he did not show any desire to call a special session, it was tentatively considered a possibility since the 16th legislative assembly had adjourned in March. Even in February, the Bismarck Tribune reported that some thought had been put into this likelihood, as the assembly kept to a schedule that allowed them to end earlier than necessary, so that they could retain days for a special session “which Governor Frazier [had] declared necessary.”


One of these necessary reasons may have resulted from a referendum election that was set up following the session. At this point, the governor, the attorney general, and many in the state legislature were members of the Nonpartisan League. During the session, Nonpartisan leaguers had passed many of their party’s bills, including the industrial commission bill, which enacted that an industrial commission hold and operate all public utilities in North Dakota, including elevators, warehouses, flour mills, the Bank of North Dakota, the Home Building Association, coal mines, and any other utilities which any future legislature may decide upon. The Grand Forks Herald said, “The [NPL] gang [is] now conspiring to get control of our state—government, resources, public press, schools, money, and industry.”


The Bismarck Tribune noted that If the bill failed in the referendum election, the state would be left with a Mill and Elevator Association without any machinery for its operation. The Tribune said, “While the governor has made no statement on the subject, it is a foregone conclusion that such a contingency would result in the immediate reassembling of the 16th legislature in extraordinary session.”


Governor Frazier set the referendum election for June 26th, earlier than expected and creating difficulties for those who opposed those bills, though the debating and persuading was active that June. Despite pressure to squash this and other related bills, they did pass the Referendum election—meaning no special session  was yet required, and the 19th Amendment would have to wait for another opportunity.


Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker



The Bismarck Tribune, February 19, 1919, p1

The Bismarck Tribune, June 7, 1919, p1, 4

Grand Forks Herald, May 9, 1919, p1

The nonpartisan leader, Feb 3, 1919, p4

The Bismarck Tribune, Monday, June 30, 1919, p1

The Bismarck Tribune, May 9, 1919, p1

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