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Remember the Ladies


In 1776, Abigail Adams wrote to her husband John, urging him to “remember the ladies” when writing the laws of the new United States. Her words went unheeded. Women would have to wait for over one hundred years before achieving universal suffrage. The territory of Wyoming opened the door when it passed women’s suffrage in 1869, but other states and territories were slow to join the movement. That included the state of North Dakota.

The North Dakota Constitutional Convention convened on July 4, 1889. The convention considered a document drawn up by Professor James Thayer of Harvard Law School. Henry Villard was an influential figure in the process. Villard was chairman of the board of the Northern Pacific Railroad, and railroad opposed both prohibition and women’s suffrage. Villard was present at the convention to represent the interests of the railroad. Women’s suffrage was hotly debated. But women won a very small victory. It was agreed that women would be able to vote on school issues. That was the extent of their voting rights. Villard wielded his influence to block further extension of women’s suffrage.

Linda Warfel Slaughter of Bismarck led the women’s suffrage movement in North Dakota, but she did not have a great deal of support. Women’s suffrage was not a widely popular cause in the state. Elizabeth Preston Anderson was elected president of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union shortly after statehood. She understood that women’s suffrage and prohibition were closely connected, and the WCTU pressed for the vote for women, but still, there was little progress.

On this date in 1920, the 19thAmendment was added to the Constitution of the United States. Full suffrage was finally extended to the women of North Dakota along with the rest of the country. Citizens of North Dakota were never enthusiastic about women’s suffrage, but Women in the state were finally able to vote thanks to the amendment to the national constitution.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher

State Historical Society of North Dakota. "http://www.history.nd.gov/textbook/unit4_1_suffrage_intro.html%20Accessed%206/10/14" http://www.history.nd.gov/textbook/unit4_1_suffrage_intro.html Accessed 6/10/14 .

National Women’s History Museum. "http://www.nwhm.org/online-exhibits/legislators/North_Dakota.html" http://www.nwhm.org/online-exhibits/legislators/North_Dakota.html Accessed 6/10/14.