Suffrage

The Montana Suffrage Story

On November 3, 1914, Montana men voted 53 to 47 percent in favor of equal suffrage. That year Montana (and Nevada, which also passed a suffrage amendment in 1914) joined nine other western states in extending voting rights to non-Native women. (Indian women would have to wait until passage of the 1924 Indian Citizenship Act to gain access to the ballot.)

This cartoon from the "Daily Suffrage News" (September 26, 1914 ) depicts a female anti-suffragette sitting around a table with villainous figures such as the Food Doper, Special Privilege, Gang Politician, Saloon Keeper and the White Slave Dealer. The caption reads 'the Board of Strategy.' This cartoon showcases the social housekeeping agenda of some suffragists; by supporting suffrage, they argued, citizens also supported cleaning up corruption and vice. Click for a larger image!

A female anti-suffragist meets with villainous figures labeled the Food Doper, Special Privilege, Gang Politician, Saloon Keeper and the White Slave Dealer in this cartoon from the “Daily Suffrage News” (September 26, 1914 ). The caption reads ‘the Board of Strategy.’ The cartoon paints the opposition as opposing the “social housekeeping agenda” some suffragists hoped women would implement as voters. Click for a larger image!

The suffrage victory was the result of a sophisticated and multifaceted organizing campaign. Jeannette Rankin is undoubtedly Montana’ most famous suffragist, but the movement’s final triumph involved hundreds of women across the state. Belle Fligelman, of Helena, shocked her mother by speaking on street corners and in front of saloons. The Women’s Christian Temperance Union mobilized its 1,500 members to engage in a neighbor-to-neighbor campaign. Margaret Smith Hathaway, of Stevensville, traveled over 5,700 miles promoting the cause, earning the nickname “the whirlwind.” And local groups, like the Missoula Teachers’ Suffrage Committee, published and distributed 30,000 copies of their leaflet “Women Teachers of Montana Should Have the Vote.” Together, they created the momentum to see equal suffrage pass, twenty-five years after, at his wife Clara’s behest, Perry McAdow first proposed equal suffrage at Montana’s 1889 constitutional convention. Suffrage supporters rejoiced and followed up their victory in 1916 by electing Maggie Smith Hathaway (D) and Emma Ingalls (R) to the state legislature, Jeannette Rankin (R) to Congress, and May Trumper (R) as Superintendent of Public Instruction. Learn more about Montana’s suffrage story from the resources below.

 

1914 Suffrage Vote Map

This map shows which Montana counties supported--and opposed--women's suffrage during the 1914 vote.

This map shows which Montana counties supported–and opposed–women’s suffrage during the 1914 vote. Click on the image to view an interactive map that shows county level details (including actual vote tallies) when viewers click on a specific county. (Note that this map shows the counties as they existed in 1914. New counties were formed after 1914.) Map courtesy Montana Census and Economic Information Center.

Suffrage Bibliography

This bibliography includes nonfiction books, government documents (federal, tribal, state, county, and city), published reports, ephemera, theses and dissertations, unpublished manuscript collections, and other materials concerning Montana women’s suffrage. Download PDF List | View Online

Montana and National Women’s Suffrage

Montana women fought for national women’s suffrage as well.  Check out this video on Hazel Hunkins-Hallinan of Billings for more information!

Suffrage in the News

Looking back, we may be surprised that women in the United States were ever denied the right to vote. Examining news stories of the time period helps us understand why the proposal was controversial and how the arguments for and against played out—in print—in real time. By collecting in one location more than six million keyword-searchable newspaper pages from over 30 states, Chronicling America provides us an opportunity to uncover those varying opinions faster and more efficiently than ever before. Below are a sampling of articles from Montana papers—including the suffrage movement’s own newspaper, Suffrage Daily Newsthat the Montana Historical Society has digitized for Chronicling America. Looking for more stories—from Montana or nationally? The following search terms may help retrieve articles related to this topic: vote for woman, equal suffrage, universal suffrage, Susan B. Anthony, chivalry, universal emancipation, procession (i.e. a march), “separate spheres,” and “petticoat rule.”

Selected Clippings

"Ladies' Convention" details elected officers and goals as reported in The Anaconda Standard, November 20th, 1896, p. 6. Click image for full page.

“Ladies’ Convention” details elected officers and goals as reported in The Anaconda Standard, November 20th, 1896, p. 6. Click image for full page.

"A Bit of a Mistake," clarifies that the newspaper does not explicitly support women's suffrage. The Anaconda Standard, November 20, 1896, p. 6. Click image for full page.

“A Bit of a Mistake,” clarifies that the newspaper does not explicitly support women’s suffrage. Anaconda Daily News, December 12, 1896, p. 3. Click image for full page.

"A Glorious Opportunity" discusses socialist support for women's suffrage, Anaconda Daily News, December  12, 1896.

“A Glorious Opportunity” discusses socialist support for women’s suffrage, Montana News (Lewistown), October 19, 1911, p. 3. Click image for full page.

"Equal Rights" declares "the day of the woman has arrived." Daily Missoulian, September 11, 1914. Click image for full page.

“Equal Rights” declares “the day of the woman has arrived.” Daily Missoulian, September 11, 1914, p. 10. Click image for full page.

Berton Brayley's untitled poem strikes back at anti-suffrage claims that the vote will "unsex" women. Suffrage Daily News (Helena), September 25, 1914.

Berton Brayley’s untitled poem strikes back at anti-suffrage claims that the vote will “unsex” women. Suffrage Daily News (Helena), September 25, 1914, p.1. Click image for full page.

In "Sentiment vs. Sense," suffragists discuss and dismiss anti-suffrage tactics. Printed in the Daily Missoulian, October 15th, 1914. Click for full page.

In “Sentiment vs. Sense,” suffragists discuss and dismiss anti-suffrage tactics. Printed in the Daily Missoulian, October 15th, 1914. Click image for full page.

"The New Freedom" was printed days after the Montana Congress approved women's suffrage, The Daily Missoulian, November 6th, 1914.

“The New Freedom” was printed days after the Montana Congress approved women’s suffrage, The Daily Missoulian, November 6th, 1914. Click image for full page.

"What the Antis Say!" parodies the anti-suffrage activists. Published in the Suffrage Daily News (Helena), September 26th 1914.

“What the Antis Say!” parodies the anti-suffrage activists. Published in the Suffrage Daily News (Helena), September 26th 1914. Click image for full page.

Work Among Women Newspaper Article

“Work Among Women,” Montana News (Lewistown), October 19, 1911, p. 4.  A discussion of socialist support for women’s suffrage. Click  image for full page.

A Woman's Place

“A Woman’s Place,” from the Montana News (Lewistown), May 25, 1911, p. 4. Robert Howe discusses women’s role and the implications of suffrage. Click image for full page.

The Convention

“The Convention: Article on Rights of Suffrage Discussed in Committee of the Whole” discusses a variety of suffrage arguments in The Helena Independent, July 26, 1889, p. 4. Click image for full page.

The Suffrage Question

In “The Suffrage Question,” The Helena Independent ponders its position on women’s suffrage on July 19, 1889, p. 2. Click image for full page.

Women Socialists and Women Suffrage

“Women Socialists and Woman Suffrage” explains the similar interests between the two interest groups. From the Montana News (Lewistown), May 14, 1908, p. 1. Click image for full page.

Women's Clubs

“Women’s Clubs,” quotes from a Helena Independent article where the editor attacked women’s suffrage. From the Montana News (Lewistown), July 26, 1906, p. 3. Click image for full page.

3 thoughts on “Suffrage

  1. Hello! I am a shop owner in historical downtown great falls mt. I am helping a lady find a suffragette costume. I think they will be doing a parade and re enactment of sorts. I am doing research and need to know if mt had its own sash colors or other themes unique to Montana’s suffragettes. Thank you for your time! Serena webb

    • Hi Serena! Pulling together a suffrage costume sounds like a very fun project. Nationally suffragists wore purple, yellow, and white (which together made up the colors of the suffrage tri-color banners). The sunflower was also a symbol of the suffrage movement.

      More locally, we know that in 1914 there was a huge suffrage parade in Helena. This article from the Suffrage Daily News reported that all the suffragists wore yellow dresses and yellow headbands reading “VOTES FOR WOMEN.” Many parade marchers would have also worn sashes across the chest saying “VOTES FOR WOMEN.” This picture is from a national march, but it shows the great sashes! Suffragists also dressed up as famous female heroes from history, as you can see in this picture of Inez Milholland, who dressed up as Joan of Arc to lead the 1913 suffrage march in Washington, D.C.

      As an additional fun fact: the word “suffragette” was actually a derogatory term invented by the press and those who opposed the women’s suffrage movement. Activists like those who marched in the Helena parade would have preferred the term “suffragist,” which could include both male and female activists. Over time the difference between the two terms became obscured, so the nuance seems strange to us today.

      We wish you the best of luck in finding a costume, and please let us know if there’s anything else we can do to help!

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