Early Attempts at Suffrage | Prairie Public Broadcasting

Early Attempts at Suffrage

Jan 23, 2020

[Dakota Datebook: 100 Years of Women Voting is produced in cooperation with the North Dakota Woman Suffrage Centennial Committee.]

The attempt to pass woman’s suffrage in the Dakota Territory was first made in 1868 and 1869 as one of the earliest of its kind in the United States. It passed the House but not the Council, was reworked, and passed the Council, but then the House did not pass it, so the bill failed. Yet the bill did receive much attention around the country, some accurate, some erroneous, and all marking the attitudes that were prevalent.

In Washington D.C., the National Republican reported on the vote, stating: “Women are scarce in Dakota, probably, and suffrage is held out as an inducement to female immigration.”

In Oregon, it was noted: “The upper branch of the Dakota Legislature has defeated the Woman Suffrage bill by one vote, but the friends of the measure have carried reconsideration and hope for final success. Governor Faulk will sign the bill if he has a chance.”

A newspaper in Portland, Maine, wrote, “By the terms of a bill that has just passed the Dakota Legislature unanimously, women may vote and hold office in that territory upon the same terms as men. It is strange how the older civilizations grow fossilized, while the younger commonwealths have a natural leaning toward the most liberal and advanced social and governmental policy.” They also indicated that “Maine influence may have had something to do with this progressive movement,” mentioning that Legislator W. W. Brookings who was part of the session was “a Maine man who was born in the town of Woolwich and formerly resided there.”

This first push for full suffrage for women in the Dakota Territory was followed soon by another attempt. This time, a bill was introduced that had wording similar to a successfully passed suffrage bill from 1867; in 1867, the word “white” was removed from the voting laws. In 1871, the bill was proposed to strike the word “male” from these laws. However, it never passed through the House and was not sent on to the Council.

Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker

Sources:

Council Journal Dakota 1868-9

House Journal Dakota 1868-9

Council Journal Dakota 1867-8

House Journal Dakota 1867-8

Dakota Legislature Council Journal 1870-71

Dakota Legislature House Journal 1870-71

Collections of the State Historical Society of North Dakota, vol. I, p350-354

General information file on Enos Stutsman, State Historical Society of North Dakota

American Citizen, January 30, 1869, p2 (Canton, Miss.)

The National Republican, January 12, 1869, p1 (Washington City [D.C.])

The Holt County Sentinel, February 26, 1869