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The Story of a Pioneer
President of "The National"


In 1900 Miss Anthony, then over eighty, decided that she must resign the presidency of our National Association, and the question of the successor she would choose became an important one.  It was conceded that there were only two candidates in her mind--Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt and myself--and for several months we gave the suffrage world the unusual spectacle of rivals vigorously pushing each other's claims.  Miss Anthony was devoted to us both, and I think the choice was a hard one for her to make.  On the one hand, I had been vice-president at large and her almost constant companion for twelve years, and she had grown accustomed to think of me as her successor.  On the other hand, Mrs. Catt had been chairman of the organization committee, and through her splendid executive ability had built up our organization in many states.  From Miss Anthony down, we all recognized her steadily growing powers; she had, moreover, abundant means, which I had not. In my mind there was no question of her superior qualification for the presidency.  She seemed to me the logical and indeed the only possible successor to Miss Anthony; and I told "Aunt Susan'' so with all the eloquence I could command, while simultaneously Mrs. Catt was pouring into Miss Anthony's other ear a series of impassioned tributes to me.  It was an unusual situation and a very pleasant one, and it had two excellent results: it simplified "Aunt Susan's'' problem by eliminating the element of personal ambition, and it led to her eventual choice of Mrs. Catt as her successor.

I will admit here for the first time that in urging Mrs. Catt's fitness for the office I made the greatest sacrifice of my life.  My highest ambition had been to succeed Miss Anthony, for no one who knew her as I did could underestimate the honor of being chosen by her to carry on her work. At the convention in Washington that year she formally refused the nomination for re-election, as we had all expected, and then, on being urged to choose her own successor, she stepped forward to do so.  It was a difficult hour, for her fiery soul resented the limitations imposed by her worn-out body, and to such a worker the most poignant experience in life is to be forced to lay down one's work at the command of old age.  On this she touched briefly, but in a trembling voice; and then, in furtherance of the understanding between the three of us, she presented the name of Mrs. Catt to the convention with all the pride and hope a mother could feel in the presentation of a daughter. Her faith was fully justified.  Mrs. Catt made an admirable president, and during every moment of the four years she held the office she had Miss Anthony's whole-hearted and enthusiastic support, while I, too, in my continued office of vice-president, did my utmost to help her in every way.  In 1904, however, Mrs. Catt was elected president of the International Suffrage Alliance, as I have mentioned before, and that same year she resigned the presidency of our National Association, as her health was not equal to the strain of carrying the two offices.

Miss Anthony immediately urged me to accept the presidency of the National Association, which I was now most unwilling to do; I had lost my ambition to be president, and there were other reasons, into which I need not go again, why I felt that I could not accept the post.  At last, however, Miss Anthony actually commanded me to take the place, and there was nothing to do but obey her.  She was then eighty-four, and, as it proved, within two years of her death.  It was no time for me to rebel against her wishes; but I yielded with the heaviest heart I have ever carried, and after my election to the presidency at the national convention in Washington I left the stage, went into a dark corner of the wings, and for the first time since my girlhood "cried myself sick.''

In the work I now took up I found myself much alone.  Mrs. Catt was really ill, and the strength of "Aunt Susan'' must be saved in every way. Neither could give me much help, though each did all she should have done, and more.  Mrs. Catt, whose husband had recently died, was in a deeply despondent frame of mind, and seemed to feel that the future was hopelessly dark.  My own panacea for grief is work, and it seemed to me that both physically and mentally she would be helped by a wise combination of travel and effort.  During my lifetime I have cherished two ambitions, and only two: the first, as I have already confessed, had been to succeed Miss Anthony as president of our association; the second was to go around the world, carrying the woman-suffrage ideal to every country, and starting in each a suffrage society.

Long before the inception of the International Suffrage Alliance I had dreamed this dream; and, though it had receded as I followed it through life, I had never wholly lost sight of it.  Now I realized that for me it could never be more than a dream. I could never hope to have enough money at my disposal to carry it out, and it occurred to me that if Mrs. Catt undertook it as president of the International Suffrage Alliance the results would be of the greatest benefit to the Cause and to her. In my first visit to her after her husband's death I suggested this plan, but she replied that it was impossible for her to consider it.  I did not lose thought of it, however, and at the next International Conference, held in Copenhagen in 1907, I suggested to some of the delegates that we introduce the matter as a resolution, asking Mrs. Catt to go around the world in behalf of woman suffrage.  They approved the suggestion so heartily that I followed it up with a speech setting forth the whole plan and Mrs. Catt's peculiar fitness for the work.  Several months later Mrs. Catt and Dr. Aletta Jacobs, president of the Holland Suffrage Association, started on their world tour; and not until after they had gone did I fully realize that the two great personal ambitions of my life had been realized, not by me, but by another, and in each case with my enthusiastic co-operation.

In 1904, following my election to the presidency, a strong appeal came from the Board of Managers of the exposition to be held in Portland, Oregon, urging us to hold our next annual convention there during the exposition.  It was the first time an important body of men had recognized us in this manner, and we gladly responded.  So strong a political factor did the men of Oregon recognize us to be that every political party in the state asked to be represented on our platform; and one entire evening of the convention was given over to the representatives chosen by the various parties to indorse the suffrage movement.  Thus we began in Oregon the good work we continued in 1906, and of which we reaped the harvest in 1912.

Next to "Suffrage Night,'' the most interesting feature of the exposition to us was the unveiling of the statue of Saccawagea, the young Indian girl who led the Lewis and Clark expedition through the dangerous passes of the mountain ranges of the Northwest until they reached the Pacific coast. This statue, presented to the exposition by the women of Oregon, is the belated tribute of the state to its most dauntless pioneer; and no one can look upon the noble face of the young squaw, whose outstretched hand points to the ocean, without marveling over the ingratitude of the nation that ignored her supreme service.  To Saccawagea is due the opening up of the entire western country.  There was no one to guide Lewis and Clark except this Indian, who alone knew the way; and she led the whole party, carrying her papoose on her back. She was only sixteen, but she brought every man safely through an experience of almost unparalleled hardship and danger, nursing them in sickness and setting them an example of unfaltering courage and endurance, until she stood at last on the Pacific coast, where her statue stands now, pointing to the wide sweep of the Columbia River as it flows into the sea.

This recognition by women is the only recognition she ever received.  Both Lewis and Clark were sincerely grateful to her and warmly recommended her to the government for reward; but the government allowed her absolutely nothing, though each man in the party she had led was given a large tract of land.  Tradition says that she was bitterly disappointed, as well she might have been, and her Indian brain must have been sadly puzzled.  But she was treated little worse than thousands of the white pioneer women who have followed her; and standing: there to-day on the bank of her river, she still seems sorrowfully reflective over the strange ways of the nation she so nobly served.

The Oregon campaign of 1906 was the carrying out of one of Miss Anthony's dearest wishes, and we who loved her set about this work soon after her death.  In the autumn preceding her passing, headquarters had been established in Oregon, and Miss Laura Gregg had been placed in charge, with Miss Gale Laughlin as her associate.  As the money for this effort was raised by the National Association, it was decided, after some discussion, to let the National Association develop the work in Oregon, which was admittedly a hard state to carry and full of possible difficulties which soon became actual ones.

As a beginning, the Legislature had failed to submit an amendment; but as the initiative and referendum was the law in Oregon, the amendment was submitted through initiative patent.  The task of securing the necessary signatures was not an easy one, but at last a sufficient number of signatures were secured and verified, and the authorities issued the necessary proclamation for the vote, which was to take place at a special election held on the 5th of June.  Our campaign work had been carried on as extensively as possible, but the distances were great and the workers few, and as a result of the strain upon her Miss Gregg's health soon failed alarmingly.

All this was happening during Miss Anthony's last illness, and it added greatly to our anxieties. She instructed me to go to Oregon immediately after her death and to take her sister Mary and her niece Lucy with me, and we followed these orders within a week of her funeral, arriving in Portland on the third day of April.  I had attempted too much, however, and I proved it by fainting as I got off the train, to the horror of the friendly delegation waiting to receive us.  The Portland women took very tender care of me, and in a few days I was ready for work, but we found conditions even worse than we had expected. Miss Gregg had collapsed utterly and was unable to give us any information as to what had been done or planned, and we had to make a new foundation. Miss Laura Clay, who had been in the Portland work for a few weeks, proved a tower of strength, and we were soon aided further by Ida Porter Boyer, who came on to take charge of the publicity department.

During the final six weeks of the campaign Alice Stone Blackwell, of Boston, was also with us, while Kate Gordon took under her special charge the organization of the city of Portland and the parlormeeting work.  Miss Clay went into the state, where Emma Smith DeVoe and other speakers were also working, and I spent my time between the office headquarters and "the road,'' often working at my desk until it was time to rush off and take a train for some town where I was to hold a night meeting.

Miss Mary and Miss Lucy Anthony confined themselves to office-work in the Portland headquarters, where they gave us very valuable assistance.  I have always believed that we would have carried Oregon that year if the disaster of the California earthquake had not occurred to divert the minds of Western men from interest in anything save that great catastrophe. On election day it seemed as if the heavens had opened to pour floods upon us.  Never before or since have I seen such incessant, relentless rain. Nevertheless, the women of Portland turned out in force, led by Mrs. Sarah Evans, president of the Oregon State Federation of Women's Clubs, while all day long Dr. Pohl took me in her automobile from one polling-place to another.  At each we found representative women patiently enduring the drenching rain while they tried to persuade men to vote for us.  We distributed sandwiches, courage, and inspiration among them, and tried to cheer in the same way the women watchers, whose appointment we had secured that year for the first time.  Two women had been admitted to every polling-place--but the way in which we had been able to secure their presence throws a high-light on the difficulties we were meeting.  We had to persuade men candidates to select these women as watchers; and the only men who allowed themselves to be persuaded were those running on minority tickets and hopeless of election --the prohibitionists, the socialists, and the candidates of the labor party. The result of the election taught us several things. We had been told that all the prohibitionists and socialists would vote for us.  Instead, we discovered that the percentage of votes for woman suffrage was about the same in every party, and that whenever the voter had cast a straight vote, without independence enough to "scratch'' his ticket, that vote was usually against us.  On the other hand, when the ticket was "scratched'' the vote was usually in our favor, whatever political party the man belonged to.

Another interesting discovery was that the early morning vote was favorable to our Cause the vote cast by working-men on their way to their employment.  During the middle of the forenoon and afternoon, when the idle class was at the polls, the vote ran against us.  The late vote, cast as men were returning from their work, was again largely in our favor--and we drew some conclusions from this. Also, for the first time in the history of any campaign, the anti-suffragists had organized against us. Portland held a small body of women with anti- suffrage sentiments, and there were others in the state who formed themselves into an anti-suffrage society and carried on a more or less active warfare. In this campaign, for the first time, obscene cards directed against the suffragists were circulated at the polls; and while I certainly do not accuse the Oregon anti-suffragists of circulating them, it is a fact that the cards were distributed as coming from the anti-suffragists--undoubtedly by some vicious element among the men which had its own good reason for opposing us.  The "antis'' also suffered in this campaign from the "pernicious activity'' of their spokesman--a lawyer with an unenviable reputation.  After the campaign was over this man declared that it had cost the opponents of our measure $300,000.In 1907 Mrs. O. H. P. Belmont began to show an interest in suffrage work, and through the influence of several leaders in the movement, notably that of Mrs. Ida Husted Harper, she decided to assist in the establishment of national headquarters in the State of New York.  For a long time the association's headquarters had been in Warren, Ohio, the home of Mrs. Harriet Taylor Upton, then national treasurer, and it was felt that their removal to a larger city would have a great influence in developing the work.  In 1909 Mrs. Belmont attended as a delegate the meeting of the International Suffrage Alliance in London, and her interest in the Cause deepened.  She became convinced that the headquarters of the association should be in New York City, and at our Seattle convention that same year I presented to the delegates her generous offer to pay the rent and maintain a press department for two years, on condition that our national headquarters were established in New York. This proposition was most gratefully accepted, and we promptly secured headquarters in one of the most desirable buildings on Fifth Avenue.  The wisdom of the change was demonstrated at once by the extraordinary growth of the work.  During our last year in Warren, for example, the proceeds from the sale of our literature were between $1,200 and $1,300.  During the first year in New York our returns from such sales were between $13,000 and $14,000, and an equal growth was evident in our other departments. At the end of two years Mrs. Belmont ceased to support the press department or to pay the rent, but her timely aid had put us on our feet, and we were able to continue our splendid progress and to meet our expenses.

The special event of 1908 was the successful completion of the fund President M. Carey Thomas of Bryn Mawr and Miss Mary Garrett had promised in 1906 to raise for the Cause.  For some time after Miss Anthony's death nothing more was said of this, but I knew those two indefatigable friends were not idle, and "Aunt Susan'' had died in the blessed conviction that their success was certain.  In 1907 I received a letter from Miss Thomas telling me that the project was progressing; and later she sent an outline of her plan, which was to ask a certain number of wealthy persons to give five hundred dollars a year each for a term of years.  In all, a fund of $60,000 was to be raised, of which we were to have $12,000 a year for five years; $4,500 of the $12,000 was to be paid in salaries to three active officers, and the remaining $7,500 was to go toward the work of the association.  The entire fund was to be raised by May 1, 1908, she added, or the plan would be dropped.

I was on a lecture tour in Ohio in April, 1908, when one night, as I was starting for the hall where the lecture was to be given, my telephone bell rang. "Long distance wants you,'' the operator said, and the next minute a voice I recognized as that of Miss Thomas was offering congratulations.  "The last dollar of the $60,000,'' she added, "was pledged at four o'clock this afternoon.'' I was so overcome by the news that I dropped the receiver and shook in a violent nervous attack, and this trembling continued throughout my lecture. It had not seemed possible that such a burden could be lifted from my shoulders; $7,500 a year would greatly aid our work, and $4,500 a year, even though divided among three officers, would be a most welcome help to each.  As subsequently arranged, the salaries did not come to us through the National Association treasury; they were paid directly by Miss Thomas and Miss Garrett as custodians of the fund.  So it is quite correct to say that no salaries have ever been paid by the National Association to its officers.

Three years later, in 1911, another glorious surprise came to me in a very innocent-looking letter. It was one of many in a heavy mail, and I opened it absent-mindedly, for the day had been problem-filled. The writer stated very simply that she wished to put a large amount into my hands to invest, to draw on, and to use for the Cause as I saw fit. The matter was to be a secret between us, and she wished no subsequent accounting, as she had entire faith in my ability to put the money to the best possible use. The proposition rather dazed me, but I rallied my forces and replied that I was infinitely grateful, but that the amount she mentioned was a large one and I would much prefer to share the responsibility of disbursing it.  Could she not select one more person, at least, to share the secret and act with me?  She replied, telling me to make the selection, if I insisted on having a confidante, and I sent her the names of Miss Thomas and Miss Garrett, suggesting that as Miss Thomas had done so much of the work in connection with the $60,000 fund, Miss Garrett might be willing to accept the detail work of this fund. My friend replied that either of these ladies would be perfectly satisfactory to her.  She knew them both, she said, and I was to arrange the matter as I chose, as it rested wholly in my hands. I used this money in subsequent state campaigns, and I am very sure that to it was largely due the winning of Arizona, Kansas, and Oregon in 1912, and of Montana and Nevada in 1914.  It enabled us for the first time to establish headquarters, secure an office force, and engage campaign speakers. I also spent some of it in the states we lost then but will win later--Ohio, Wisconsin, and Michigan-- using in all more than fifteen thousand dollars.  In September, 1913, I received another check from the same friend, showing that she at least was satisfied with the results we had achieved.

"It goes to you with my love,'' she wrote, "and my earnest hopes for further success--not the least of this a crowning of your faithful, earnest, splendid work for our beloved Cause.  How blessed it is that you are our president and leader!'' I had talked to this woman only twice in my life, and I had not seen her for years when her first check came; so her confidence in me was an even greater gift than her royal donation toward our Cause.


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