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The Story of a Pioneer

In looking back over the ten years of my administration as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, there can be no feeling but gratitude and elation over the growth of the work.  Our membership has grown from 17,000 women to more than 200,000, and the number of auxiliary societies has increased in proportion.

Instead of the old-time experience of one campaign in ten years, we now have from five to ten campaigns each year.  From an original yearly expenditure of $14,000 or $15,000 in our campaign work, we now expend from $40,000 to $50,000.  In New York, in 1915, we have already received pledges of $150,000 for the New York State campaign alone, while Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New Jersey have made pledges in proportion.

In 1906 full suffrage prevailed in four states; we now have it in twelve.  Our movement has advanced from its academic stage until it has become a vital political factor; no reform in the country is more heralded by the press or receives more attention from the public.  It has become an issue which engages the attention of the entire nation--and toward this result every woman working for the Cause has contributed to an inspiring degree.  Splendid team-work, and that alone, has made our present success possible and our eventual triumph in every state inevitable.  Every officer in our organization, every leader in our campaigns, every speaker, every worker in the ranks, however humble, has done her share.

I do not claim anything so fantastic and Utopian as universal harmony among us.  We have had our troubles and our differences.  I have had mine. At every annual convention since the one at Washington in 1910 there has been an effort to depose me from the presidency.  There have been some splendid fighters among my opponents--fine and high-minded women who sincerely believe that at sixty-eight I am getting too old for my big job. Possibly I am.  Certainly I shall resign it with alacrity when the majority of women in the organization wish me to do so.  At present a large majority proves annually that it still has faith in my leadership, and with this assurance I am content to work on.

Looking back over the period covered by these reminiscences, I realize that there is truth in the grave charge that I am no longer young; and this truth was once voiced by one of my little nieces in a way that brought it strongly home to me.  She and her small sister of six had declared themselves suffragettes, and as the first result of their conversion to the Cause both had been laughed at by their schoolmates.  The younger child came home after this tragic experience, weeping bitterly and declaring that she did not wish to be a suffragette any more--an exhibition of apostasy for which her wise sister of eight took her roundly to task.

"Aren't you ashamed of yourself,'' she demanded, "to stop just because you have been laughed at once?  Look at Aunt Anna!  SHE has been laughed at for hundreds of years!''

I sometimes feel that it has indeed been hundreds of years since my work began; and then again it seems so brief a time that, by listening for a moment, I fancy I can hear the echo of my childish-voice preaching to the trees in the Michigan woods.

But long or short, the one sure thing is that, taking it all in all, the struggles, the discouragements, the failures, and the little victories, the fight has been, as Susan B. Anthony said in her last hours, "worth while.''  Nothing bigger can come to a human being than to love a great Cause more than life itself, and to have the privilege throughout life of working for that Cause.

As for life's other gifts, I have had some of them, too.  I have made many friendships; I have looked upon the beauty of many lands; I have the assurance of the respect and affection of thousands of men and women I have never even met.  Though I have given all I had, I have received a thousand times more than I have given.  Neither the world nor my Cause is indebted to me but from the depths of a full and very grateful heart I acknowledge my lasting indebtedness to them both.

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