Women’s Suffrage at Christmas
[Dakota Datebook: 100 Years of Women Voting is produced in cooperation with the North Dakota Woman Suffrage Centennial Committee.]
As suffragists worked for their right to vote, they used the holidays to show support for their communities, simultaneously raising awareness for the fight for women’s right to vote.
It was reported that in 1909 in New York, Mrs. Alva Belmont, a financial benefactress and leader of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage and the National Woman’s Party, gave two thousand dolls to poor children; and “each… wore a yellow ‘votes for women’ sash.” Newspapers editorialized, “there seems to be some hope for the cause if the coming generation is to be brought up with suffrage thrust at it from infancy.”
In 1912 in Maryland, a “convincing demonstration of the fact that Maryland women want to vote” was planned in December. Scores of suffragists would take their places in the shops and hotel lobbies to sell “Votes for Women Christmas seals and cards.” The Maryland Suffrage News prompted its readers to “Give one day to suffrage as a Christmas present and see how much worthier you feel of all the Christmas cheer when you have made this sacrifice.”
In 1917 in Fargo, many of the women in the local chapter of Votes for Women League had sons “serving in the army or other branches of the United States Service.” Wishing to support their soldiers, they sent $50 in funds to “help make Christmas bright for the ‘home’ boys at Camp Dodge” in Iowa. The majority of these funds came from a benefit tea party, a “charming social affair,” which the league had hosted in October. These League members would later organize as a Red Cross Auxiliary.
Of course, the greatest gift for supporters of suffrage would be for women to gain the right to vote. In Arizona, Hon. Frances Willard Munds, junior senator from Yavapai, spoke at a Chamber of Commerce meeting in Phoenix. A news report stated, “She compared suffrage for women to a Christmas present, [the governor] to Santa Claus… and the women to youngsters awaiting the happiness and the disappointments of opening their gift packages.” As Senator Munds said, “No one need think that just because Eve was made from one of Adam’s ribs, she has remained a ‘side issue.’”
Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker
Lexington Gazette, March 9, 1910, p3 / The Western News, April 20, 1910, p2 (report of 1909 Christmas in NY)
Maryland Suffrage News, November 23, 1912, p1
The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, December 1, 1917, p7
The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, October 20, 1917, p9
The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, January 7, 1918, p6
The Arizona Republican, January 19, 1915, p1 and 7