The North Dakota Votes for Women League was organized in 1911. The organization was inspired by a visit from Sylvia Pankhurst, the noted English suffragette. On this date in 1912 the North Dakota Votes for Women League announced that their conference would be held at Fargo’s Civic Center on October 18. Every woman in the state was invited.
Women’s suffrage was a contentious issue. Some people argued that if women could vote they would strengthen prohibition laws, ban cigarettes, and extend suffrage to Indians. There was also the argument that women would simply vote as their husbands told them, so there was no need for them to have the vote.
Those in favor of suffrage argued that having the right to vote would make women better mothers and more interesting wives. They also said that women earned the right to vote by participating in organizations like the Red Cross and supporting the war effort during World War I.
The women’s suffrage movement was active prior to the formation of the North Dakota Votes for Women League. A women’s suffrage bill had been introduced in every North Dakota legislative session between 1901 and 1911. None were approved. The movement became more organized in 1911, but the road ahead remained rocky. A bill passed in 1913 that put it to a statewide vote the following year, but it failed. Another bill failed in 1915. But there was a shift in 1916. The NonPartisan League promised to support women’s suffrage, as did the Republican party. The NPL believed in the equality of women in farm families, so it made sense for them to support voting by women.
A 1917 bill was a partial victory. A law was passed allowing women to vote in most elections, but not for state legislators and members of Congress. In 1919 the US Congress passed a Constitutional Amendment to provide universal suffrage. It was approved by the states and women everywhere in the country could finally vote.
Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher
Hope Pioneer. “Votes for Women League. Hope ND. 9 October 1912. Page 1.
NDSU Archives. “Votes for Women League.” https://library.ndsu.edu/ir/handle/10365/340 Accessed 9/2/2019.
North Dakota Studies. “Women’s Suffrage.” https://www.ndstudies.gov/gr8/content/unit-iii-waves-development-1861-1920/lesson-4-alliances-and-conflicts/topic-8-suffrage/section-3-woman-suffrage-1912-1920 Accessed 9/2/2019.