The Part of the St. Louis Equal Suffrage League in the Campaign for Equal Suffrage.
by Althea Somerville Grossman (Mrs. E. M. Grossman)  

Missouri Historical Review, volume XIV, nos. 3-4, pp. 306-320    


The St. Louis Suffrage Organization, formed in 1910, had grown by 1911 until it had two subsidiary groups, one called Crunden Center under the chairmanship of Miss Cecilia Razovsky, and one called the Barr Center with Mrs. Atlanta Hecker as chairman.  Mrs. David N. O'Neil was the president of the St. Louis Equal Suffrage League, which held monthly meetings at the Cabanne Branch Library to which the Crunden Center and Barr Center sent representatives.

In 1911 the St. Louis Organization, together with what suffrage strength existed in the state backed a Constitutional Amendment, introduced into the State Legislature of that year.  This resolution was very carefully drawn, the best legal service existing in the state was given us gratis, but when we have acknowledged the strength of this measure, in the eyes of the law, we have described all the strength it had.  I look back in astonishment at our surprise because the measure died in the Senate Committee.  So far as St. Louis went our suffrage league's membership was so small that in publishing our year book we printed our list of members, and it was a very short list!  The importance of this measure was that it formed, after many sleeping years, the rebirth of political activity to obtain the franchise for Missouri, and following its failure women began a systematic campaign for signers to a petition to the Legislature to submit an amendment to popular vote under the Initiative and Referendum law.  In this same year the first suffrage league headquarters were opened in St. Louis.  The first parade took place during this year, and the first street speaking was done.

Be it said to the credit of hard work, we secured 6,000 signatures from St. Louis petitioning the 1913 General Assembly to submit to the voters of the state the question of the political enfranchisement of women.  We did not think that we were strong enough to ask the Legislature to enact a suffrage law, but we did think that a petition signed by a large number of their constituents simply asking them to submit to the voters of the state the question of political enfranchisement of women might pass.  We wrote to the members of the Legislature telling them that their support of this resolution would not mean that they favored suffrage or would it bind them in any fashion to vote for the same at the general election in 1914.  Following this letter we received a few favorable replies, but most of the politicians in those days would answer, saying that the matter would receive their consideration, or more commonly still, they would not answer at all.  Nevertheless 6,000 names from St. Louis and 14,000 all together from the state seemed like an over-powering number of names to use and we were certain of favorable action.

During the second week of the session the resolution was introduced in the House by Mr. Roney of Jasper County, and in the Senate by Senator Craig of Nodaway.  It was, of course, referred to the respective House and Senate committees on Constitutional Amendments and a joint hearing for both House and Senate Committees was set for February 6th.  An unbelievable number of women from all over the state appeared before these committees.  The result was a unanimous and enthusiastic report from the Senate Committee and just one vote against a favorable report from the House Committee.  Only a week later this resolution was engrossed in both houses.  In the Senate there were five dissenting votes, in the House the "ayes" were overwhelming.  According to regular routine the suffrage measure was now ready to be passed or killed.  For about a month the suffrage resolution rested quietly, moving a little closer to the top of the calendar each day.  Then on the 13th of March the motion was made that the Senate reconsider its action of weeks before in endorsing the suffrage resolution.  This motion carried.  It was then moved that the resolution be sent back to the Committee.  There was then only one week of the Legislature session left.  Those of us who were in Jefferson City returned home a sadder, but wiser crowd.

Immediately after our defeat the suffragist exhibited a trait of character that has remained by them all these years and instead of maligning our enemies we gathered together around our St. Louis president, Mrs. David N. O'Neil , and our state president, Mrs. Walter McNab Miller, outside the Senate Chamber and made immediate plans for collecting 23,000 names on Initiative petitions to submit tot he people in 1914 the question of woman suffrage.

During that summer of 1913 a good deal of work was done in St. Louis, the newspapers for the first time giving us regular space and, although suffrage press work often had to be camouflaged and sandwiched in between recipes and fashions, nevertheless, through constant efforts of Miss Clara Somerville, the question of suffrage in general and our Initiative Petitions in particular were kept before the public.

In October of that fall Mrs. John Livingston Lowes was was elected president of the St. Louis Equal Suffrage League.  Mrs. O'Neil had given up the presidency from sheer exhaustion and by January of 1914 Mrs. Lowes had impaired her health and asked for a leave of absence from the duties of president.  At the time of Mrs. Lowes' election as president, Miss Florence Wyman Richardson, now Mrs. Roland Usher, was elected secretary and Mrs. Geo. Gellhorn held her accustomed position as chairman of finance.

One of the very most difficult tasks that we had was to secure sufficient funds to keep our organization alive.  The minutes of October 9th, 1913. show a report by the treasurer, Miss Leona Robinson, now Mrs. Herbert Morgan, of a balance of $1.26.  The dues in those days were 50¢ worth of energy was spent in collecting each membership fee.  Beside the question of money raising, we were then discussing at each meeting reports of progress in different Congressional Districts of the state and often Mrs. Walter McNab Miller would be in the city and would give us her reports of the constantly increasing suffrage sentiment over the state.  It was about this time that we had our first suffrage booth at a show, at the "Made in St. Louis Show" at the Coliseum, and we were vastly pleased to be recognized as an element of the public life of the city.

Our down-town office work was mostly done by volunteers.  we discussed often whether or not we could afford one-halt time of a stenographer.  On October 27th, 1913, the treasurer's report showed a balance of 6¢ and a motion made by Mrs. E. W. Stix at that same meeting ran to the effect that "we accept Mr. O'Dell's offer to speak and get a hall for nothing."  By December of that year we had gathered 6,000 names and the subject constantly up for discussion was whether or not we should ally ourselves with either of the political parties.  Several of our hardest working member left the organization when it was decided that we would adopt a non-partisan policy.

Early in 1914 there began to be serious discussion as to whether or not we were ready for ward and precinct organization.  During this period we grew very rapidly.  The reports of the treasurer showed a much bigger income than formerly and an equally unusual outgo and a deficit for the first time in our history.  Another material indication of our increasing size was found in the fact that in February of that year we took yup to the Secretary of State at Jefferson City from St. Louis, petitions signed by 10,000 St. Louisans in the needed district apportionment.  Only 8,000 names were necessary, but with great labor we had secured 2,000 additional.  From then on until the vote on November 3rd we campaigned for "Suffrage in Missouri in 1914."  In the spring of that year the Times newspaper gave us a special edition entirely devoted to suffrage news and propaganda.  All of us worked hard for that edition.

At the same time there was a great deal of work being done by the National Suffrage Organization toward the passage of the Susan B. Anthony Amendment.  May 2nd was set as National Suffrage Day and 1,000 cities and towns over the United States passed a resolution to be sent to President Wilson and Congress to pass the Federal Amendment.  We had a big parade with speeches at the four corners of the Court House, and in front of the Jefferson Memorial.  Mrs. W. W. Boyd, Jr., was the manager of this celebration, and for the first time moving pictures were made of the suffragists.  A little later on in that same year Inez Milholland Boissevain, the "Suffrage Beauty," who later gave up her life to the cause came to St. Louis and made street speeches and had an Odeon meeting - from which we derived a profit - to help us in our campaign.



[Photo copied from website: My Hero Project
article: Freedom Hero: Inez Milholland Boissevain
by:       Jennifer Beck Phemister
Found at http://www.myhero.com/myhero/hero.asp?hero=im_boissevain
on January 14, 2004]

We were being constantly urged on by Mrs. Wm. C. Fordyce to make every effort to organize St. Louis on a ward and precinct basis and a list of the ward chairmen for that June shows what Mrs. Fordyce's hard work had accomplished.  We were beginning to make progress.  One fine indication of our progress was the formation of a Men's League that fall, and also the fact that the National Association thought that we were sufficiently important to spare to St. Louis and Missouri for three days the wonderful eloquence of Dr. Anna Howard Shaw.  By the month previous to the election we had gathered sufficient money and strength to open ground headquarters which were located on the southeast corner of 8th and Locust Streets.  We tacked across the windows of our headquarters big yellow streamers having printed on them in bold black letters the command "Vote for Constitutional Amendment No. 13."  Ours looked like a very busy place with Miss Charlotte Rumbold, director of publicity department, Miss Genevieve Tierney, assisted by Mrs. R. L. Sanford, in charge of the business end of the campaign, and Mrs. Alice Curtice Moyer-Wing in charge of the speaker's bureau.  this was in the early days of the European war and in order to prevent a slump in the cotton market the slogan of "Buy a Bale" was adopted, and we suffragists as always taking advantage of our opportunity, bought a bale and used it to speak from in front of our headquarters.

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