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September 23: 1919 Special Session

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The year 1919 saw a lot of turbulence, in many ongoing matters, and especially politically in North Dakota. The North Dakota governor was Lynn Frazier, the Nonpartisan League was a major player in politics, and World War I had recently ended.

Within the state, there was a lot of talk of holding--or not holding--a special session in 1919. There had been hints during the regular session that a special session would be needed, and by the end of August it was decided that the legislature would reconvene in late November to address a number of bills including ratification of the women’s suffrage amendment, and amending a law that limited a woman’s work day, allowing them to work ten hours with time-and-a-half for overtime. Another amendment would prohibit the public display of any flags other than those for the state of North Dakota, the national colors, and “those of friendly nations.”

One legislator who voted against that bill noted, “I am not ashamed to go on record as against such a bill. The record of North Dakota in the Red Cross and Liberty Loan drives refutes the accusation that the inhabitants are disloyal. …I do not need to wave a U. S. flag to establish my Americanism. My conduct with and toward my fellow man is sufficient.” Another legislator stated he thought the bill had been introduced by people against the Nonpartisan League, to try to paint the party as 'disloyal' and that it is anarchistic and all that sort of dope. …. We are not anarchistic or revolutionary, and therefore I vote no, because I don’t consider it is worthwhile….”

But perhaps one of the more bizarre reports prior to the special session came in late September. On this date, people were talking about an ordinary traveling man who had “spilled the beans.” Apparently, for quite some time, the State of North Dakota had placed a large order for “individual waste-baskets, scissors, and desk supplies of all kind” for the members of the legislature. And the man had already placed an order—for 150 waste baskets and 150 pairs of scissors.

“Where are last year’s?” The Hope Pioneer newspaper asked, before concluding: “Oh, the legislators always send that stuff home after the session.”

Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker

Sources:

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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