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This is an excerpt from Jo Freeman's 2008 book "We Will Be Heard: Women's Struggles for Political Power in the United States"

I'd like to thank Amy Hackett and Kristie Miller for their useful suggestions to this paper. This article uses “Mrs.” and “Miss” because that is how women referred to themselves in 1912. “Afro-American” was also commonly used at that time.

The Rise of Political Woman in the Election of 1912
by Jo Freeman (2003)

  1912 Election Cartoon“ With a suddenness and force that have left observers gasping, women have injected themselves into the national campaign this year in a manner never before dreamed of in American politics.” New York Herald, Aug. 11, 1912

“Never before in the history of the United States have women taken a deeper interest in a presidential campaign than this year.” New Orleans Picayune, Aug. 19, 1912

“Unprecedented in this country is the prominent part which women are taking in the presidential campaign this year.” Calumet Michigan News, Aug 21, 1912

"Woman's Day in national politics seems to many an editorial observer to be now dawning." N.Y. Literary Digest, Aug. 31, 1912

The election of 1912 marked the take-off point for two progressiveWin with  Wilson movements -- that for woman suffrage and that of women into politics. Both movements had roots deep in the nineteenth century, both got a boost from the Populist Movement in the 1890s and both saw a decline in public interest in the early 1900s. During these decades they had moved on parallel tracks, each movement working to bring women into public life, but only occasionally borrowing from or working with each other. The election of 1912 put both on the national agenda. It expanded their ranks and increased public awareness of women's political work. And, while suffragists still proclaimed their nonpartisanship and party women kept their official distance from suffrage, the election of 1912 saw the beginning of mutual support. The best known party women -- the ones quoted in the newspapers -- admitted they favored woman suffrage even while they said it wasn't an issue in the campaign. In previous elections such women had refused to state their own attitude toward suffrage out of fear of alienating men. Before the 1912 election, only a few women were active both in suffrage and in political campaigns; afterwards, women working in politics saw the need for both.
What was different about 1912? Although individual women had been active in political campaigns for many decades, by 1912 there was a critical mass of women eager and willing to work for the presidential candidates of all political parties. They were energized by the issues raised by the Progressive Movement and saw the outcome of the 1912 election as crucial to the country’s future. In 1912 there were 1.3 million women of voting age in the six states where women had equal suffrage with men. When women were given the vote in Washington in 1910 and in California in 1911, the electoral college vote which women could affect more than doubled. The four states which had fully enfranchised women in the 19th Century -- Wyoming (1869), Utah (1870/96), Colorado (1893), Idaho (1896) -- had smaller populations.1 For the first time all presidential candidates treated women as important to victory.
The presidential campaign of 1912 promised to be a highly competitive race. Deep divisions within both the Democratic and Republican parties portended close contests for each party’s nomination, even for Republican incumbent William Howard Taft. An uncertain outcome gave all factions an incentive to look for new sources of support. Progressivism split the Republican Party. The new Progressive Party had the most to gain from spreading its net widely and made the biggest leap by endorsing woman suffrage in its platform. The suffrage movement had been slowly pushing votes for women onto the political agenda but it was acceptance by the Progressive Party that gave it legitimacy as a national issue. For the first time a major party candidate, Theodore Roosevelt, spoke in favor of woman suffrage as he campaigned.
Because of this split, 1912 was one of those rare elections in which there were three major candidates. As a former President, TR brought status and legitimacy to the Progressive Party that was created for his candidacy. As a reformer, he opened the door to new ideas. This combination made it possible for woman suffrage to move from being a state issue into the national debate. In turn, the sheer numbers of women working in the various campaigns demonstrated their value as a political resource and undermined the many objections to their voting as well as working for candidates.
The presidential campaigns had their headquarters in New York City, the political capitol of the country. It was common to have a second headquarters in Chicago to help with the Western campaign, and occasionally a third some place else. These headquarters housed different committees, which raised money, produced and distributed campaign literature, badges and posters directed at different groups of voters, sent out surrogate speakers and spoke to reporters. Presidential candidates relied on their friends to campaign for them in their home states. Some presidential candidates traveled to address mass audiences; others stayed at home and let their supporters visit them. In 1912, TR was a one-man locomotive until he was shot by a madman on October 14. Taft went on vacation, then returned to the White House, making a few speeches along the way. Wilson continued to govern New Jersey, making short trips to give carefully crafted speeches until he called a moratorium when TR was incapacitated by his wound.
All eyes were on California, where women would cast their third vote in a year in the November 5 general election. California was a progressive Republican state. Democratic candidates for president had won only four times since it joined the Union in 1850. Reformers and Suffragists had worked together to achieve equal suffrage along with several other progressive measures in a statewide referenda held on October 10, 1911. The Women’s Progressive League quickly organized a voter registration drive which helped over 70,000 women register to vote in time for the December 5 municipal elections in Los Angeles; 65,000 women actually voted — only a few thousand less than the number of men. California women were well organized and politically conscious; many quickly turned their attention to the presidential election. By the time California held its primary on May 14, women had organized for all the leading candidates. A greater proportion of eligible women registered and voted than men. (letter to New York Times, 5/17/12, 2:4) California women didn’t wait for the national committees and the national candidates to tell them what to do.
This article will describe what women did in that election and the consequences for enlarging women's public role. Since women who supported candidates for president worked through political parties, each of the major parties will be treated separately. California women will receive special emphasis because of their importance to this election.

The Republican Party

The Republican Party had controlled the federal government since 1896 but it was not a united party. When an increasingly conservative President William Howard Taft tried to purge progressives during the 1910 primaries they coalesced against him. That year the Democrats captured the House for the first time since 1892. Several prominent progressive Republicans asked former President Theodore Roosevelt to challenge President Taft’s renomination, and in February he announced that he would do so. By the time the Republican convention opened in Chicago on June 18, Roosevelt had won more of the popular votes in the fourteen states which held a primary, but Taft had more delegates. The turbulent convention was rife with controversy and heated by rhetoric, but was still controlled by the Taft forces, which won the nomination on the first ballot and wrote the party platform. Angry at the Taft steamroller, Roosevelt delegates bolted the convention to found a new Progressive Party. They included the only two women who were delegates, Florence C. Porter and Isabella W. Blaney, both from California.
Running the presidential campaign was the responsibility of the national committee. The Republican National Committee (RNC) lost no time in setting up headquarters in the Times Square Building in New York City. The Republican party had recognized the importance of women since 1888, when it asked J. Ellen Foster to form the Women's National Republican Association. Although she mounted a major appeal to women during the campaigns of the 1890s, her efforts in the elections of 1904 and 1908 were subdued. Foster died in 1910, and her place as head of the WNRA was taken by her protégée, Helen Varick Boswell. Thus it was only natural for the party to turn to Boswell to be director of women's work in 1912. In Chicago, the director of the western headquarters named Mrs. J.D. Whitmore as head of his women’s bureau. (Topeka Daily Capitol, 9/10/12, 1) Taft women had already organized in California under the leadership of Mrs. Abbie E. Krebs and were putting out their own literature. (San Francisco Call, 5/1/12, 5:1)
Boswell was given two rooms on the ninth floor of the campaign headquarters. She wanted her office to be in the Astor Hotel, where women often went for teas and lectures, but the campaign wanted it nearby so she “gracefully yielded... to the superior political wisdom of the men.” (New York Tribune, 8/14/12 [5], quote in The Sun, (New York) 8/18/12 [6]) For a few weeks Boswell worked there with a small staff, including her assistant, Miss Elizabeth Toombs, a press agent, Miss Mary C. Francis, an organizational secretary, Miss Mary Woods, and two stenographers. When her office staff grew to 35, an elaborate suite on the fourteenth floor was offered by a woman of means who was sailing for Europe. The Women’s Department quickly moved upstairs. (NY Tribune, 9/4/12 [32]) These rooms were so elegant that the men used them for special conferences, pushing the women out of sight when important visitors were present.
An experienced party worker with a network of Republican women to draw upon, Boswell immediately announced that “committees of women are being organized in the counties of all the States where women have the ballot” which will “work in harmony with the respective County Chairmen.” (New York Times, 8/20/12, 18:2) Mary Woods was put in charge of organization. She contacted every Republican County Chairman in the country, asking him to recommend women leaders. She also had “thousands of names of women given up by the women leaders.” More names were culled from letters written by Taft supporters to the campaign offices. All of these were filed on index cards. Each woman county leader was asked to send a report weekly, and each state leader daily. Speakers were constantly recruited, cleared with the campaign’s speaker’s bureau, and sent out to address meetings. Researchers prepared packets of information, and even entire speeches with “the facts, the fancies and the eloquence that we hope is going to make converts,” so that strict Republican doctrine would be adhered to. The woman’s department also recommended items to the publicity bureau, which telegraphed material around the country every day. The women spoke to visiting reporters “each day between three and four o’clock.” By the end of the campaign “there was a strong organization of women in almost every state, seconding the efforts of the men.” (National Republican, 3/8/19 8:5,6; 3/1/19, 7:3)
In 1912 Afro-American women were still loyal to the party of Lincoln. While some joined the progressive cause, most were turned-off by Roosevelt’s refusal to seat black-and-tan delegations from the Southern states at the Party convention, in preference to “lily white” ones. TR welcomed integrated delegations from northern states, but most Afro-Americans stayed away from his campaign, even when they agreed with his platform. Some supported Wilson, but TR’s “Southern strategy” and Wilson’s Southern sentiments gave scant reason to desert Taft. Boswell wrote later that “we were fortunate in finding some excellent leaders for that race, both in speaking and organizational work.” (National Republican, 3/1/19 7:3)
Mary Francis, an author of several books, wrote campaign literature while Boswell was one of the campaign’s top speakers. Boswell became the first woman to address the New York State Republican convention, and that of Maryland, her home state. She also visited many other states, speaking and checking up on the Taft women’s organization. She wrote later that “it became the fashion at every big dinner or large gathering to have women from the three parties” debate their choices. Most of the women who participated in these debates knew each other, having all been active in politics or women’s clubs for many years; some were personal friends. Because of this, Boswell wrote, there was no acrimony among the speakers as they explained their positions. This did not always hold for their partisan followers; Boswell never forgot the time she was hissed.

Women political activists

The Progressive Party

The new Progressive Party held its first national convention in Chicago in early August. It aimed to be a major party -- perhaps supplanting the Republican Party as the latter had the Whigs in the 1850s -- and therefore created a party structure as well as a campaign organization. It selected a national committee, state committees, held state conventions and ran candidates for state and local office. Western states in particular leaned to the Progressive Party. Women’s Roosevelt Leagues had helped TR win the California primary in May by two to one. (San Francisco Call, 3/17/12, 43:1; 3/26/12 2:6; 3/29/12, 7:3)
As is true of all new parties, the Progressive Party sought to expand its reach by appealing to new constituencies which the old parties had neglected. TR had long been receptive to women's greater participation in public life, which he saw as an expansion of women's natural maternal role, not a derogation of it. In 1880 he had written his senior thesis at Harvard on the "Practicability of Equalizing Men and Women before the Law," in which he was favorable if somewhat skeptical that it could be done. He voted for a woman suffrage bill while serving in the New York State Assembly (1881-5) and urged the gradual expansion of suffrage for women in his speech to the Legislature after election as Governor in 1898. (IV HWS, 1902, 1075). However, TR did not think that women voters would change electoral outcomes so he did nothing while President. Out of office he was more outspoken. In 1910, he told a meeting of Colorado women that “I am in favor of woman’s suffrage.” But, he added, “I think there are many more important questions to be settled. I am much more interested in the economic questions that effect the women than in those purely political.” (Rocky Mountain News, 8/30/10, 10) A year later he wrote a suffrage opponent that “I am rather in favor of the suffrage, but very tepidly.” (Morison, 1954, 7:240)
TR changed his mind late in the Spring of 1912. Right before the Republican convention, Judge “Ben” Lindsey of Denver, a progressive Democrat, persuaded him that a strong stand in favor of woman suffrage would benefit his campaign. Lindsey had been organizing Woodrow Wilson clubs until TR announced his candidacy in February. He subsequently became one of TR’s closest advisors, mentioned as a possible running-mate before the Progressive convention. Realizing “the advantage of enlisting the help of women who through their large organizations had become a strong factor in public life,” (V HWS, 1922, 706) TR authorized Judge Lindsey to announce that there would be a woman suffrage plank in his platform. (The New York Times, 6/13/12 1:4; The Evening Star, 6/13/12 9:4) His conversion from passive to active supporter may have been prompted by the intention of Wisconsin Senator Robert M. LaFollette, one of his rivals for progressive support in the Republican primaries, to propose his own platform containing a strong suffrage plank (V HWS, 1922, 705).
Women were quite visible both at the Progressive Party convention and during the campaign. Reporting on the first day of the new party’s convention, The New York Times described it as “a convention managed by women and has-beens.... Everybody who is not an ex is a woman.” (The New York Times, 8/5/12/, 1:1) When Jane Addams, the most prominent American woman of her time, seconded TR’s nomination, the press loudly but wrongly proclaimed her the first woman to have such an honor. It also noted that women wrote, or helped write, important planks in the platform. Between 20 and 40 women were official delegates, compared to two each at the Democratic and Republican conventions. Nineteen women from seven states signed a call “From the Women Delegates to the National Convention of The Progressive Party to the Women of the United States.” Four women sat on the national committee and many others on state and local committees, though only one headed a county committee (Park County, Wyoming). One fourth of the delegates to the New York State convention were women, where four women were chosen to be delegates to the national convention. (The New York Times, 8/4/12, 4:1) A third of those at ward meetings of the Progressive Party in Chicago were women. (Chicago Daily Tribune, 9/3/12, 5:6)
TR greatly admired Addams and women like her. As was true of most progressives, he wanted to believe that women would add a finer, nobler, element to the coarse world of party politics. On August 8 he telegraphed Addams to thank her for seconding his nomination at the Progressive Party convention and reiterate his commitment to women’s full inclusion in the new party.

... In this great National Convention, starting the new party, women have thereby been shown to have their place to fill precisely as men have, and on an absolute equality. It is idle now to argue whether women can play their part in politics because in this convention we saw the accomplished fact, and moreover, the women who have actively participated in this work of launching the new party represent all that we are most proud to associate with American womanhood. (Morison, 1954, 7:594-5)

Like Taft and Wilson, Roosevelt believed that woman’s place was to care for home and family. Unlike them, he did not believe that this responsibility excluded participation in public life, or that suffrage unsexed or masculinized women. In a speech in Vermont later that month TR declared that “I have said not once but a score of times, that I put the domestic life above every other kind of life, and I honor the good wife and mother as I honor no other woman and no man.... Real issues affect women precisely as much as men. The women who bear children and attend to their own homes have precisely the same right to speak in politics that their husbands have who are the fathers of their children and who work to keep up their homes... I do not believe that there is identity in functions between men and women, but I do believe that there should be equality of rights.” (The New York Times, 8/31/12, 2:4-6)
Within the Democratic and Republican parties women automatically organized themselves into separate sections and held separate meetings specifically for women. Because the Progressive Party had called for women to fully partake in the organization and management of the new party, women were urged to join regular party organizations and sit on state and local committees, in preference to forming auxiliaries or separate clubs. Some did. Most did not. In 1912 women were used to having their own organizations and their own meetings, where they specialized in appealing to women and did not have to defer to men. Women’s Roosevelt Leagues and Clubs proliferated. A separate Women’s National Finance Committee, headed by Mrs. Kellogg Fairbank in Chicago, focused on raising money. It “sold Bull Moose stamps in drugstores and started a People’s Dollar Campaign,” while staffing “Bull Moose stores in Chicago and New York [which] marketed TR badges, stuffed moose, bronze lapel pins, and red silk bandannas with the Colonel’s face imprinted on them.” (Dalton, 2002, 399)
The Progressive Party attracted to it many women who had made their reputations and spent their careers working for reform. In addition to Jane Addams, these women included Lillian Wald, Frances Kellor, Alice Carpenter, Katherine Phillips Edson, Margaret Dreier Robbins and her sister Mary Dreier. Most, though not all, of these women were Republicans. Only a few, such as Ruth Hanna McCormick of Illinois, had been active Republicans. Although these women supported woman suffrage, those women whose primary work had been in the suffrage movement were less active. Journalist and suffragist Ida Husted Harper wrote that while there were many women at the Progressive Convention, there were only a few suffragists. (The New York Times, 8/10/12, 6:7)
When the new party set up its headquarters at the Manhattan Hotel, Alice Carpenter was initially put in charge of women. She soon left to go on the stump and Frances Kellor took over responsibility for organization. She wrote numerous letters looking for women ready to work for Roosevelt and the Progressive Party. She asked the national committeemen and the state and county chairmen to appoint women to their respective organizations whom she could aid to do “women’s part of the work” of electing TR. She also wrote suffragists, extolling the opportunity the campaign presented as “an unparalleled training school for women who have not participated in political affairs.” She urged them to “work for suffrage within party lines.” To other women’s clubs she asked the help of “every earnest and able woman in the work of promoting interest in suffrage and the protection of working women and children.” (Jane Addams Papers, Reel 7:0023-30)
Under her direction, 250 female orators were deployed throughout the east coast. Instructions to women speakers told them not to attack the other parties except on the issue of suffrage. The Progressive Party’s first women’s rally in New York City’s Union Square featured two war horses of reform: Mary Dreier and Mary Ellen Lease. (The Evening Star, 8/24/12, 2:6) The former was president of the New York Women’s Trade Union League. The latter had made a national name for herself as a Kansas agitator in the 1880s and a Populist speaker in the election of 1892. Progressives made the most of Jane Addams support. In Los Angeles, a Woman’s Rally Committee wrote campaign songs for a “Jane Addams Chorus” which debuted on August 26. The songs, and the chorus, soon spread throughout the country.

The Democratic Party

Wilson Campaign Photo The Democratic Party had the most traditional attitude toward woman’s place and was the least responsive to pleas for woman suffrage. While Democratic women had organized local campaign clubs during elections for decades, these were notencouraged or endorsed by the national party, and were sometimes actively discouraged. Only in states where women could vote were direct appeals made to women to support the party’s candidates. The election of 1912 was the first time that the Democratic National Committee authorized and supported an appeal to women.
The opening move to organize Democratic women nationally was made by backers of Champ Clark, who had represented Missouri in Congress since the 1890s. When the Democrats gained a majority of House seats in 1910, he was elected Speaker. With a campaign based “mainly in Congress” (Goldman, 1990, 224), Clark was the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination at the beginning of 1912. His sister, Mrs. Annie Pitzer of Colorado, would become one of the two women delegates to the Democratic National Convention in June. He had long supported William Jennings Bryan, who headed the Party’s ticket in 1896, 1900 and 1908. However, Bryan’s radical populism alienated many voters, especially in the east, and he had always lost by substantial margins. Although many felt the Democratic Party had become more conservative and less receptive to “Bryanism” over time, division in the Republican party created a window of opportunity which others thought Bryan might use to advance his own candidacy one more time. This explained why Bryan had not declared his personal support for Clark even though he headed the Nebraska delegation to the national convention, which was pledged to Clark.
On February 28, 1912 The Evening Star in Washington, D.C. announced that “Wives of Prominent Democrats to have Harmony Feast” — “Just Like the Men.” The occasion would be a Dolly Madison Breakfast to be held on May 20th with Mrs. Clark presiding. The wives of prominent Democrats were invited to what was intended to be an annual event. Several hundred guests, mostly “wives, daughters and descendants of democratic statesmen” heard numerous orations and toasts. Two of these were given by the wives who sat on either side of Mrs. Clark: Mrs. William Jennings Bryan and Mrs. Judson Harmon, wife of the Ohio governor and dark horse presidential candidate. At the end it was announced that a meeting would be held in a few days to form a permanent organization of Democratic women. (The Evening Star, 2/28/12 7:5; quote in 5/20/12 1:8)
One of those attending the breakfast was Nellie Fassett (Mrs. John Sherwin) Crosby of New York City. She was not a political wife, but a political organizer and the personal friend of William Jennings Bryan. Mrs. Crosby had been organizing and presiding over women’s political clubs since the 1890s. She had founded the Woman’s Democratic Club of New York City in 1905 — “the only organization of Democratic women [in New York] to outlive its birth year” — and was still its only president (Philadelphia Telegraph, 9/25/12 [48]). She had long wanted to head a national organization; the election of 1912 gave her the opportunity to do so. It’s possible that Bryan or his wife had asked her to take control from Clark’s wife and supporters, who did not have her organizational or political experience. It’s also possible that her mentor was fellow New Yorker Norman Mack, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Mack was the publisher and editor of the Buffalo Daily Times and a “regular” Democrat. In spite of the traditional alliance between New York and Southern Democrats, Mack was neutral in the presidential contest.
The organizing meeting of the Woman’s National Democratic League (WNDL) was held on June 2 at Washington’s Willard Hotel with 50 charter members. Mrs. Crosby was elected President. All of the officers and many members soon departed for the Democratic convention in Baltimore where the WNDL “made its real debut” (Hopkins, 1912). The fact that most of them were married to Members of Congress who were convention delegates made this easy. At the first meeting of the WNDL Executive Board, held on July 3, the day after the convention ended, the wives of the presidential and vice presidential nominees were promptly made the WNDL’s honorary President and Vice-President. Its business completed, Mrs. Crosby returned to New York and incorporated the WNDL in New York state on June 27, 1912.
The women named in the newspapers as the new officers and directors of the WNDL did not include any of the women named as organizers of the Dolly Madison Breakfast, but at least five were wives and two were widows of Members of Congress. Among the latter was Phoebe Apperson Hearst, who was also the mother of prominent newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst. Hearst was a major Clark supporter, and quite antagonistic to the man who finally won the Democratic nomination on the 46th ballot at the Baltimore convention — Woodrow Wilson. (The New York Times, 6/1/12 4:2; 6/28/12, 7:12; The Evening Star, 6/2/12 16:6)
These connections may explain why the Wilson campaign didn’t want the WNDL to be Wilson’s representative to women. Wilson was a political neophyte, having held no public office other than governor of New Jersey, and that only for a year and a half. Nor did he rise as a Democratic Party activist; indeed he often turned against the party bosses who helped elect him. Most likely he did not know, or did not trust, the men behind the WNDL. Instead, Wilson aide Archie Alexander decided that there needed to be a separate Women’s National Wilson and Marshall Association. His mother and her friend, society matron Florence J. Harriman, officially Mrs. J. Borden Harriman, called "Daisy" by her many friends, drew it “up on paper” but couldn’t find a prominent woman to head it. “All our birds had gone to perch on the suffrage plank” of the Progressive Party, Daisy wrote later (Harriman, 1923, 111-112). In the end, Daisy agreed to be its head.
The new organization was announced in the press with the publication of a letter written on August 5, to Harriman from William F. McCombs, the new Chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Thanking her for her July 31st letter asking the DNC’s approval of a Woman's National Wilson and Marshall Organization, McCombs assured her that “We welcome the support and aid of your organization.” Within two days Harriman had issued a press release and settled herself to the task of mobilizing women to help elect Wilson. One of her first acts was to hire a professional clipping service to fill a scrapbook with newspaper stories about her activities.
Harriman claimed that her organization was non-partisan -- hence the lack of “Democrat” in its name -- and that she was an “independent.” She said that her “husband is a Republican, but he’s going to vote for Wilson.... I believe in getting the best man for the place, whatever his party.” Despite this disclaimer, the WNW&M organization operated under the auspices of the DNC, which provided space in its campaign headquarters at 200 Fifth Avenue (The New York Times, 8/7/12, 4:3).
The Wilson campaign didn’t completely ignore the WNDL while it was arranging for its own women’s group. Mrs. Wilson officially invited the WNDL officers to attend the traditional notification ceremony on August 7 at the Wilson summer cottage in Sea Girt, New Jersey. (The Evening Star, 8/4/12 2:4; The New York Times, 8/4/12, 5:3). There the WNDL executive board elected Mrs. Harriman to the League’s Board of Directors.
The WNDL opened its headquarters at 1123 Broadway in New York City, two blocks away from DNC headquarters. The WNDL’s Corresponding Secretary, Mrs. Steven B. Ayres, wife of a Bronx Congressman, ran the office (Iowa City Press, 10/7/12 [54]). She immediately created a National Wilson-Marshall Women’s League, through which little girls could recruit paying members to the WNDL. (New York Evening Sun, 10/18/12 [86])
Rather than explain why her group was not part of the official campaign, Mrs. Crosby bragged that “our work... is carried on without any expense to the men in the campaign work.” She planned to raise money through teas and bridge parties, and use it to mail literature “full of good Democratic doctrines.” (Philadelphia Telegraph, 9/25/12 [48]). The WNDL still had the support of Norman Mack, even though he was no longer DNC Chairman. His wife was named Vice President for New York, and his magazine, the National Monthly, proclaimed itself “the official organ of the League.” A column on the work of the WNDL appeared every month during the rest of 1912.
Unlike the WNW&M organization, the WNDL was intended to be a permanent organization for Democratic women. Mrs. Crosby began appointing state vice presidents who are “carrying on the work of organizing permanent state and county organizations." Sometimes she appointed women known for their political work to head a state organization; other times she asked a prominent local politician to do so. By October there were eight state vice presidents, including Wyoming and Washington where women could vote for president. (National Monthly, October 1912, 123) Leading political women in a dozen other states announced the formation of state-wide Democratic Leagues without the formality of official affiliation with the WNDL.
One of these was in Los Angeles, where the L.A.County Women’s Democratic League set up headquarters on the 3rd floor of the Alexandria hotel. From there they organized mass meetings in halls and hotels and sent out speakers to address workers at factory gates, shops and railroad yards. Women were asked to make their automobiles available on election day to bring voters to the polls. (Los Angeles Times, 10/20/12 [98])
Ten days after accepting the nomination, Woodrow Wilson welcomed women into “the field of politics.” In a brief, impromptu speech to several hundred women who came to participate in “New Jersey Day” at Sea Girt, he said that “when the women come into politics they come in to show us all those little contacts between life and politics, on account of which I for myself rejoice that they have come to our assistance; they will be as indispensable as they are delightful.” (quote in The Evening Star, 8/18/12, 1:1, The New York Times, 8/18/12, 4:3) After listening to Wilson, women flocked to the booth of the WW&M Club of New Jersey to hear Daisy speak and to sign up to help out in the campaign. (New York World, 8/18/12 [9])
Harriman set up her campaign office in Room 1058 of the Fifth Avenue Building. Aided by a group of society women, she gathered a mailing list of 50,000 women from all over the country, especially those in women’s clubs and professional positions. Harriman planned to send them a circular every week, discussing issues and explaining why women should use their indirect influence to get the men in their families to vote for Wilson, or vote for him themselves in the six states where they could do so. (New York Globe, 8/12/12 [4], The Evening World, 8/8/12 [18]) First the Wilson women prepared an 8 page document describing the work Governor Wilson had done for women, children, and working men in New Jersey. (The New York Times 8/9/12 2:4). This was sent out two weeks later with a letter importuning women to join and make a small contribution. (Trenton N.J. Times, 8/24/12 [6])
Next the WNW&MO organized mass meetings for women throughout New York City. Harriman was often surprised to find that more men than women came to her meetings. At her first mass meeting on August 20th in Union Square, Harriman found herself addressing a crowd of 388 men and boys, but only 12 women. She asked the men to pass on her remarks to their wives, overlooking the fact that New York women were being appealed to solely so they could influence their husbands’ votes. All went smoothly until Harriman and her band pulled out campaign buttons and started to toss them to the crowd. In the men’s rush to grab the trinkets, the rally almost became a riot, and the police had to be called in. (New York Post, 8/20/12 [12], New York World, New York Herald, 8/21/12 [14], New York Globe, 8/21/12 [16]). This got more press coverage than anything the women had to say.
Nonetheless, Harriman kept trying to reach housewives. She called for a housewives meeting in Union Square on Sept. 13, where she spoke to 500 men and several dozen women. (New York Globe, 9/13/12 [42]) A leaflet for a “Monster Mass-Meeting” in Brownsville declared that “THIS IS A WOMAN’S MEETING.” “Women should come and be told the reason that they be in politics and for WILSON this year.” Women did turn out, but not as many as men. (Brooklyn Eagle, 9/10/12 [38]). This pattern prevailed even outside New York. Men outnumbered women in a luncheon at Chicago’s Iroquois Club on September 17 called to organize a local Women’s Wilson & Marshall Club. They applauded loudly when Harriman, the first woman to ever address the Iroquois Club, told her audience that “Party alignments are rapidly disintegrating.... [I]t is our opportunity, as loyal women, to turn [men] to the Democratic Party.” (Inter-Ocean, 9/18/12 [39]) The WNDL apparently was more successful at appealing to housewives, which it claimed were 90 percent of its membership. It told them that “housewives know that the Republican Presidents and the Republican Congresses have proved bad housekeepers” (Ayres, 1912, 146)
When Harrriman went to Chicago, she bypassed the men in the western Wilson headquarters and the local Democratic Party to seek the help of another society woman, Ruth Hanna McCormick. Unlike Daisy, Ruth was experienced in and knowledgeable of politics. A supporter of Roosevelt and a Republican by birth, her husband was running the Progressive Party’s Chicago campaign office while also running for the Illinois legislature on its ticket. Ruth gave Daisy many names and lots of advice. (Harriman 1923, 112) A month later Mrs. E.S. Borneman, became Western director, after forming the Chicago Women’s Wilson League. (Chicago American, 10/19/12 [90])
Daisy was soon sidelined by illness and spent the rest of the campaign directing her organization from her bed. This did not inhibit action because women in the states did not wait to be told what to do. All over the country they organized Women’s Wilson and Marshall clubs, woman’s Democratic Leagues, and just plain women’s Democratic clubs. They set up meetings for local notables and local candidates to speak on behalf of the presidential candidates. Some women running for local office found audiences at these meetings larger than they could get on their own.
In Seattle, Washington, where women could vote, the local WNW&MO had a heated debate over whether to admit men to its big women’s rally. According to the local newspapers, “It had been planned at first to exclude men entirely, but the fear was expressed that some of the men might refuse to let their wives go out in the evening, if they would have to stay at home. So the ban was lifted.” Officially, “men would be tolerated” but not encouraged to attend, even in the audience. Presiding was Mrs. May Arkwright Hutton of Spokane, a mine owner known as “the richest woman in the West.” As one of the two women delegates to the Democratic National Convention, “she came to fight for Clark; but she stays in the campaign to fight for Wilson.” The featured speakers were Democratic candidates for the state legislature, superintendent of public instruction, and clerk of King Co. -- all women. (Seattle, Wash. Intelligence and Times, 10/10/12 [59], Dallas, TX Herald, 10/13/12 [70])
California organized its Woman’s Woodrow Wilson League soon after the Democratic convention (San Francisco Call, 7/5/12 5:3). Progressives in California were strong enough to put TR on the ballot as both the Republican and Progressive Party nominee, but he still attracted almost as much anger as adoration. One of the best known women in that state was novelist Gertrude Atherton, who scathingly denounced Roosevelt in her effort to secure women’s vote for Wilson. In her first campaign speech at San Francisco’s Palace Hotel, she called him “a colossal bluffer, absolutely selfish.” (San Francisco Examiner, 8/16/12 ) In the next two months she made 30 speeches for Wilson up and down the state; later confessing that she converted numerous Republican women but only three “Moosettes.” (Letter to The New York Times, 11/20/12 14:7)
Not all Democratic women were welcome as speakers. The Ohio state committee rejected Dr. Mary Walker, famed Civil War surgeon, made even more famous for her insistence on wearing men’s clothes. The state party chairman said he’d rather have a two-headed calf. (Butler, Tenn. Herald, 10/11/12 [61])

The Prohibition and Socialist Parties

The usual plethora of minor parties ran candidates in the 1912 election. Some had put woman suffrage in their platforms and women candidates on their slates for decades. The Prohibition Party had supported woman suffrage since its founding in 1872. Its 1912 Platform said “We favor suffrage for women on the same terms as men.” Although the party had declined considerably by 1912, women were integral; a woman defeated an incumbent man for election as secretary of its national committee. (The Washington D.C. Evening Star 7/13/12, 7:6)
The Socialist Party, with Eugene Debs as its perennial presidential standard bearer, had also supported woman suffrage since its founding in 1901. Its 1912 Platform declared that “We demand unrestricted and equal suffrage for men and women” and it ran women for office in several states, including governor of Washington. (Bedford Mass. Standard, 9/1/12 [31]). About ten percent of the delegates to its 1912 convention were women; two women sat on its national committee and one on the executive committee.

The Issues

Wilson Campaign Cartoon Regardless of what was in the party platforms, the actual issues of the campaign were chosen by the candidates and their campaign committees. They reflected a combination of the personal preferences of each candidate and what each committee thought would win the most votes. Some issues, such as the tariff and what to do about the trusts, were addressed by all three candidates, but on others they spoke past each other. The national Democratic and Republican parties had been fighting about the tariff for half a century. The Republican party favored protective tariffs which the Democrats denounced as special privileges. While not quite committed to free trade, Democrats argued that tariffs should only be high enough to generate necessary revenue. Taft and Wilson took the traditional position of their respective parties. Roosevelt disagreed with both on how to control the trusts, but on the tariff he was still a Republican. The parties also disagreed on how to achieve their goals. The Democrats were the party of states’ rights and limited government. The Progressives favored strong national regulation, especially of corporations. Republicans were not opposed to national regulation, but thought it should be done lightly and not be destructive of business.
Wilson announced his themes in his speech accepting the nomination, at Sea Girt on August 7. From this Democratic campaign managers chose two issues “by which they hope to make a bid for the feminine vote in the six woman suffrage states.” (The Evening Star, 8/12/12, 2:1) They were: 1) The high cost of living, which would be aided through reduction of the tariff. 2) Social legislation, in particular laws bettering the condition of women and children through protective labor laws. A postcard poll several weeks later, asking women what they considered the vital issues of the campaign, found that 40 percent identified the first issue and 30 percent the second as the most important. (Sacramento Sun, 10/1/12 [48])
At Sea Girt, Wilson had said that women should participate in politics because “Nobody certainly is more directly in contact with the cost of living than the women are.” (quote in The Evening Star, 8/18/12 1:1) To demonstrate the importance of the tariff to women, Harriman’s group calculated how it affected the cost of items women purchased for their homes and families. A letter sent out by the Wilson women claimed that the tariff cost each family $125 a year. It asked housewives how they managed to pay for commodities which had increased in price by 61 percent between 1896 and 1910, when wages had only gone up by 20 percent. (Los Angeles Examiner, 8/21/12 [22])
On September 9 the Democrats opened a Tariff "Chamber of Horrors" exhibit at 29 Union Square West in New York City to illustrate the effects of protection on prices. A booth aimed at housewives had a fully furnished three room flat with tags on each item giving the cost at home and abroad. For example, a sewing machine cost $30 in New York and $24.83 in England; frying pans cost $.95 at home and $.64 abroad. Another “horror” was that the tariff reduced the amount of sugar that a dollar could buy from 25 to 16 pounds. (Brooklyn Eagle, 9/8/12, New York Telegram, 9/13/12 [37]). Deemed a rousing success, this exhibit was replicated elsewhere. (New York Globe, 9/13/12 [41]) The WNW&MO and the WNDL shared responsibility for this exhibit on alternate Fridays.
The Republicans countered with a doll, known as the Protective Tariff Lady. The brainchild of Mary Francis, she was dressed as the wife of a man of modest means might wish to dress, with prices labeling all items of her attire. The purpose was to show that an American woman could dress well for between $22 and $25 dollars, even though every item she wore was made in America. Women did not need the lower priced goods of Europe, made by men paid half what their husbands received for the same work. This doll was part of the Republicans’ Dollar Wage Show, strategically placed near the Democratic exhibit. (New York Telegraph, "Tariff Doll is Terror to Foes," 10/19/12 [89]; New York Times, 10/11/12, 1:2) While Republicans admitted that the cost of living was high, the official position -- repeated frequently by Boswell in the tripartite debates -- was that this was not caused by the protective tariff. The states took a somewhat different position on the tariff. California Taft women argued that “we have the best tariff schedule for California products in the history of the state.” (San Francisco Call, 5/5/12, 40:2)
Unlike the tariff, the parties did not disagree on the desirability of protecting women, children and workers. They competed on how much protection was desirable and who passed what laws first. Harriman’s letter on all the “progressive and humanitarian” legislation enacted in New Jersey while Wilson was governor was quickly objected to by the Chairman of the Republican State Committee, Edmund W. Wakelee. The credit, he insisted in a very lengthy letter to newspaper editors, belonged to the Republican-run legislature. (Henderson N.Y. Gleaner, 9/12/12 [35], Millville, N.J. Republican, 9/12/12 [43], New York Tribune, 9/14/12 [38]) Mary Woods, Secretary for Women’s Work for the RNC, wrote a letter to the New York Times claiming the “honor... [for] the clubwomen of New Jersey, who side by side have worked and at least succeeded in obtaining the passage of laws to ameliorate the conditions of women and children.” (New York Times, 9/9/12, 8:5)
Progressive women claimed such “social legislation” as their mantra, highlighting the many planks in the Progressive Party platform for “the protection of home life against the hazards of sickness, irregular employment and old age through the adoption of a system of social insurance.” They spoke about suffrage, but it was not the main topic on their agenda. Indeed Jane Addams would speak on suffrage only in those states where the men were to vote on it in a November referendum. Progressive women thought that trusts and tariffs were as important to women as to men, but did not emphasize these concerns in literature aimed at women. Literature aimed at women, mostly written by Frances Kellor, based its appeal on the need for “humanitarian measures” such as the prohibition of child labor, the ”protection of the home”, and “betterment of industrial conditions” and the role women played in achieving these.
There was another “women’s issue,” raised largely as part of the personal crusade of Dr. Harvey W. Wiley. He had been a chemist in the Federal Bureau of Pure Food, where he felt his efforts to curb food adulteration had been thwarted by both the Roosevelt and Taft administrations in deference to “special interests.” He joined the Wilson campaign, and as a result the WNW&M organization published a booklet documenting his charges called The War of Wealth Against Health. In it Harriman appealed “to the patriotic women of America for their active participation ... in behalf of these measures.” She argued that “No function is so essentially the women’s function as the protection of the food supply.” (Omaha, Neb. World Herald, 10/9/12 [58]) Only Wilson campaigned on this issue; both TR’s and Taft’s campaign ignored these charges. (The New York Times, 9/18/12, 3:4)
Although women were not an important constituency to the Democrats, Woodrow Wilson specifically addressed the women of the country in a widely reprinted article published in Woman’s Home Companion. The “new meaning of government” he said, was that “those who exercise its authority must ‘keep house’ for the whole people.” One example was pure food laws, properly administrated. Another was “conservation of our natural resources.” He concluded by explaining why government had a “direct and manifest” interest “in high prices and an excessive cost of living.” In effect, the Governor was explaining that women should be interested in who governed because government was responsible for concerns within the realm of women.
It was harder for Republican women to find a theme because the Taft campaign wasn’t doing much campaigning. Nonetheless Boswell declared that her purpose was to “show the women voters of the country why they must vote for President Taft in the interest of their homes, State and Union.” (The New York Times, 8/20/12, 18:2)

Woman Suffrage

Suffrage Cartoon

Only the Progressive Party saw woman suffrage as an issue in the 1912 campaign. The Democratic and Republican Parties continued to ignore it as they had in the past. The Socialist and Prohibition Parties supported woman suffrage, but it was not a priority. The women in charge of women at the Democratic and Republican campaign headquarters personally favored woman suffrage, but, since their candidates did not, none thought it should be a campaign issue.
Wilson was personally opposed to suffrage but officially "on the fence." Harriman did not see it as her task to push him over. (New York Times, 8/18/12 II:4:3) From the beginning she emphasized that “We don’t want the idea of suffrage to enter the work of this committee at all.” (New York Tribune, 8/7/12 [2]) While she did encourage women who wanted suffrage to join the campaign, she only wanted those “who are willing to leave the suffrage issue temporarily in abeyance.” (New York Herald, 8/18/12 2:1 [7]) In a letter to the New York Times she explained that while she endorsed suffrage “There are ... communities in this country where equal suffrage is not understood.... [where] there are women who can and will help women without regard to whether they vote or do not vote." (9/7/12, 10:7)
The WNDL admitted that it attracted few suffragists to its ranks. Nonetheless, suffrage crept in. As Mrs. Crosby told the New York Evening Sun “We are not working at suffrage over the campaign season, but we can't keep it out. None of us means to drag it in, but it crops up on every occasion. At our latest meeting Mrs. Stephen B. Ayres and Mrs. Eva MacDonald Valesh, neither of whom is an avowed suffragist, found themselves talking about suffrage.” (9/26/12 [35])
Taft avoided suffrage, but since he did little campaigning, that was not hard to do. His public position had been stated earlier when he said he was willing to wait for “a substantial call from that sex before the suffrage is extended.” (V HWS 1922, 708) Boswell personally believed in suffrage as a right and a duty of all citizens, but followed the path laid out by her mentor, J. Ellen Foster, to keep politics and suffrage quite separate. In the Republican clubs that she organized as well as in the campaign, she welcomed both those who opposed and those who favored woman suffrage. Whether addressing men or women, Boswell always gave “straight political” speeches without mentioning woman suffrage or women’s rights. She firmly believed that “the way to demonstrate one’s fitness for the suffrage was to be intelligent on political matters, and be not only able but willing to do some party work.” (National Republican, 3/1/19, 7:1)
TR’s own position on suffrage had moved considerably since he became a candidate. In February he had written an editorial in The Outlook, the progressive magazine where he was a contributing editor, proposing a special election at which only women would vote on the question of woman suffrage. “Where they do not want it the suffrage should not be forced upon them.... [W]here the vote is so light, those not voting should be held to have voted no.” (Roosevelt, 1912, 262). This was also the plank he intended to propose to the Progressive convention. However, the members of the Resolutions Committee made sure that this did not happen. The platform pledged the party “to the task of securing equal suffrage to men and women alike.” In his keynote speech former Senator Beveridge (R. IN) dwelt on it at length, declaring suffrage both a “matter of natural right” and a “matter of political wisdom.” TR followed his August 8 telegram to Addams with a second one: "Did I put into telegram the flat-footed statement without qualification or equivocation that I was for woman suffrage, the Progressive Party is for woman suffrage, and that I believe within half a dozen years we shall have no one in the United States against it." (Morison, 1954, 7:595)
TR explained his own conversion as a result of associating with women like Addams, Frances Kellor and Florence Kelly, — all women who had devoted their lives to bettering the conditions of workers, the poor and immigrants. In a speech given on August 30 he explained that “I grew to believe in woman suffrage not because of associating with women whose chief interest was in woman suffrage, but because of finding out that the women from whom I received most aid in endeavoring to grapple with the social and industrial problems of the day were themselves believers in woman suffrage.” This, he added, was reinforced by what women did with the vote where they had it. (The New York Times, 8/31/12, 2:4-6)
TR articulated the position “that women should have the same right to vote as men have” as though it had been his from the beginning. He maintained that “I see no reason why voting should interfere with woman’s home life any more than it interferes with the everyday work of the man which enable him to support the home.” (The New York Times, 8/31/12, 2:4-6) Several states were holding referendums on woman suffrage that fall. Campaigning in Oregon, TR urged it to “follow the example of other western states in giving women the right to vote.” (The Evening Star 9/12/12, 2:1) Even if he had embraced equal suffrage for political reasons at first, by late summer he was a believer.
This conversion was not accepted by suffrage leaders. The National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) was officially nonpartisan. The fact that one party and its candidates supported suffrage while the others ignored it put the organization in an awkward position. Many criticized Jane Addams, a NAWSA vice president, for violating the tradition of nonpartisanship. Although Addams generated much publicity for suffrage, no other national NAWSA officers and few state officers followed her lead into active partisanship. NAWSA’s president, the Rev. Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, said “I have no use for Theodore Roosevelt.” In a speech to the Detroit Equal Suffrage societies she denounced TR for supporting woman suffrage only when it was politically expedient to do so. (The New York Times, 9/6/12, 1:6) Harriet Stanton Blatch of the Woman’s Political Union publicly criticized Roosevelt and the Progressive Party for not actively supporting the Ohio suffrage referendum on Sept. 3 - the only proposed amendment to the state constitution that lost. (New York Times, 9/4/12, 1:3; 9/5/12, 6:1; 9/6/12, 3:6) Ida Husted Harper published several letters to the editor attacking TR for “insincerity” and “political dishonesty.” (The New York Times, 8/10/12, 6:7; quotes in 8/22/12, 8:7)
While NAWSA officers stayed out of the partisan fray, not all suffragists stayed away from the candidates. Maud Malone made it a point to go to every speech given by a presidential candidate in New York City and yell out "What about woman suffrage?" from the audience. Malone heckled TR in March and Wilson in October. The male audience was hostile, demanding that she be thrown out, while the candidate insisted that she be allowed to stay. Malone persisted with her questions until physically carried from the scene. After heckling Wilson at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, she spent the night in jail. (The Evening Star, 3/26/12, 10:2, 10/20/12, 2:7; Pueblo Co. Chieftain, 10/6/12 [54], New York Times, 3/26/12, 1:2, 10/20/12, II:4:4) The men she heckled did not ignore her question, but neither did they answer it. Roosevelt said he was in favor of woman suffrage if the women voted to have it — his standard position before the Progressive Party convention. Wilson insisted that suffrage was a state, not a national, matter and that he was “only here as a representative of the national party.” (The New York Times, 6/13/12, 1:4, The Evening Star, 10/20/12, 2:7) Taft escaped being heckled by not speaking in New York, so he didn’t need a reply.


While opposed to woman suffrage, the “antis” were not opposed to women helping in the presidential campaigns. Indeed Ida Tarbell, a well known journalist who thought women didn’t need to vote, was even offered the presidency of the WNW&MO. She demurred, saying she “could be more useful writing about the tariff.” (Kansas City Star 8/20/12 [23]) Quite a few female “antis” were caught up by the campaign. At a Woman’s Day held at the Democratic “Chamber of Tariff Horrors” suffragists and anti-suffragists sat side by side on the platform listening to speeches in support of Wilson. (New York Herald, 9/14/12 [38])
Nor did all progressives support suffrage. One reason the woman suffrage referendum lost so badly in Ohio was that the head of the Progressive Party was an ardent “anti,” while the head of the Taft Republicans in that state was an outspoken suffragist.
Nonetheless, some women’s groups found it hard to maintain their opposition to woman suffrage while actively participating in the campaign. The League for Civic Education of women sponsored a debate between women supporting the three contenders. Its president, Mrs. John Jerome Rooney, explained that her League had abandoned active opposition to suffrage in favor of concentrating on civic education. Previously the League had sponsored lectures on eugenics, and discourses by physicians on the "probable effects of political excitement" to discourage support for woman suffrage. Helen Varick Boswell told the League that “having spent many years in political service, she could offer personal testimony that it in no wise affected the health.” (New Brunswick, N.J. News, 10/19/12 [89])

The Outcome

Wilson won with only 42 percent of the popular vote but 435 votes in the electoral college. Roosevelt came in second with 27 percent of the national vote, but only 88 electoral college votes. Taft, the incumbent, ran a very poor third with 23 percent of the popular vote. His plurality in Utah and Vermont gave him 8 votes in the electoral college. Socialist Eugene Debs made the best showing of his political career, getting 6 percent of the popular vote. The Prohibition Party got 1.4 percent. Nationally, fewer people voted for Wilson in 1912 than had voted for Bryan in 1896, 1900 or 1908, while the overall distribution of the Democratic vote remained the same. It appears that many Taft supporters, especially in states where he wasn’t on the ballot, simply stayed home. This helped the Democrats increase their control in the House to over two-thirds and to capture a majority in the Senate for the first time in 20 years. In the six states where women could vote for president, Roosevelt won California and Washington; Taft took Utah; and Wilson won Colorado, Idaho and Wyoming. There is no way of knowing how women voted, though most speculation was that women were more likely than men to favor Roosevelt. Estimates of how many women voted ranged from one-fifth to one-third of the total voters in those states. (New York Journal, 11/6/12, 10:3) The Registrar in Los Angeles reported that 80 percent of all registered women went to the polls. Roosevelt won California (where Taft was not on the ballot) by only 174 votes. It’s quite possible that women gave him that margin of victory. The day after the election the New York Times reported that

Women played even a more important part in California than was expected.... From all the large cities come reports of the great activity of women in bringing voters of their own sex to the polls and in doing effective work against such vicious measure as that which sought to reopen race tracks throughout the State.
In Los Angeles many women who own autos used them to gather aged and infirm voters and carry them to the polls, as well as workers in shops and stores who had limited time. Many of the women workers in this city who were ardent Progressives appeared at the opening of the polls, at 6 o’clock, and remained throughout the day. (New York Times, 11/6/12 13:4)

Everyone involved believed that the suffrage cause had been helped considerably by the election of 1912. Referenda in Kansas, Oregon and Arizona gave women equal suffrage -- the most states to so in a single year. Women came very close to winning in Michigan, though suffrage lost decisively in Wisconsin and Ohio. Jane Addams reported to NAWSA that,

„ ...on the Progressive platform I had the best chance to talk woman suffrage that I ever had in my life. I talked it to vast audiences of men who would not have come to a suffrage meeting or to a social reform meeting, but they would come to a political meeting, and there they had it driven into them night after night and day after day. (The Woman's Journal, 12/14/12, 400).

National magazines described how woman suffrage worked in California and Washington. The issue was publicized in several journals which had heretofore ignored it; the National Monthly published several articles, pro and con while The Crisis published a special symposia in September. The following year a record number of suffrage bills were introduced into state legislatures, setting the stage for more referenda asking men to give women the vote. In 1916 both the Republican and the Democratic Platforms included support of woman suffrage by state, following rancorous debate and despite much opposition.
Although TR lost decisively, the Progressive Party made a better showing in 1912 than the Republican Party had in its first national campaign in 1856. It elected 13 new Members of Congress and 260 state legislators. The latter were a sufficiently important block in the Illinois legislature for it to pass a law enfranchising women for all matters except those specifically mentioned in the Illinois constitution (which would have required a referendum); this included voting for president in 1916. To keep progressive ideas before the people, the Party set up a Progressive Service Bureau headed by Frances Kellor. However, the times were not auspicious and the party did not thrive. It lost in state and local elections in 1913 and 1914. In 1916 both the Republican Party and the Progressive Party held their conventions during the second week in June in Chicago. The former nominated Supreme Court Justice and former New York Governor Charles Evans Hughes as its candidate. The latter nominated TR. When TR refused to accept the nomination so that Hughes could beat Wilson, the Progressive Party died. TR put in one last blow for suffrage by convincing Hughes to come out for a federal amendment even though the Republican Party platform only supported suffrage by state. (New York Times, 8/2/16, 1:2)
Harriman’s Women’s National Wilson and Marshall Organization folded after the election, though Democratic women continued to organize locally. The WNDL did survive, until at least 1918, but as a Washington, D.C. club rather than a national one. The Women’s National Republican Association, which was more of a shell than an organization, faded from view. In 1916 both the Democratic and Republican National Committees would organize women for the presidential campaigns from scratch, with new women at their head; they would have a large number of state women’s party organizations to work with. The one holdover from the election of 1912 was Frances Kellor, who organized Progressive Party women into the Women’s Committee of the Hughes Alliance. In the election of 1916 its work received more press — not always favorable — than all the other women’s campaign organizations combined.


The primary sources for this article are newspaper stories, which are referenced internally. Most of these were collected for Daisy Harriman by a professional clipping service and pasted into a scrapbook, which is now in the possession of the Woman’s National Democratic Club in Washington, D.C.. The Club graciously allowed me to spend time in its archives going through that scrapbook in the summers of 1999 and 2000 and the winter of 2002. I found other relevant stories from the indexes of the New York Times, The (Washington, D.C.) Evening Star, The New York Herald, and The San Francisco Call, and read them on microfilm mostly in Howard University and New York Public Library. Clippings from the scrapbook are cited with a date and the page number from the scrapbook in brackets []. Stories that I read on microfilm are cited by page and column number.

Dorothy Harriman Scrapbook

A page from the Daisy Harriman scrapbook

In addition I relied on the following secondary sources for background, but only cited them if quoted.

Addams, Jane, “Why I Seconded Roosevelt’s Nomination,” The Woman’s Journal, August 17, 1912, p. 257.

______, “My Experience as a Progressive Delegate,” McClure’s Magazine, November 1912, pp. 12-14.

Ayres, Mrs. Steven B., “Woman’s National Democratic League,” National Monthly, November 1912, pp. 146, 151.

Boswell, Helen V., "A Republican Woman in Politics" Parts XIII and XIV, in The National Republican, Vol. 5, Nos. 47 and 48, March 1 and 8, 1919.

_____, "Political Episodes" Chapter XII, in Woman Republican, May 1936, Vol. 13, No. 5 p. 9.

Dalton, Kathleen, Theodore Roosevelt: A Strenuous Life, New York: Knopf, 2002.

Freeman, Jo, A Room at a Time: How Women Entered Party Politics. Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 2000.

Goldman, Ralph, The National Party Chairmen and Committees: Factionalism at the Top, Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 1990.

Guiterman, Arthur, "Women of the Campaign," Woman's Home Companion, November 1912, p.22.

Gustafson, Melanie S., Women and the Republican Party, 1854-1924, Urbana: U. Illinois Press, 2001, 288 pages.

Harper, Ida Husted, ed. “Woman Suffrage in National Presidential Conventions,” Chapter XXIII of The History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. V, 1900-1920, National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922, pp. 702-719,

Harriman, Mrs. J. Borden, “‘Enter Politics’ Mrs. J. Borden Harriman’s Message to American Women.” New York Herald, August 18, 1912, p. 2.

______,“Why Women Should Aid Wilson,” National Monthly, September 1912, p. 97.

______, From Pinafores to Politics, New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1923, Chapter VI, “The Democrats Come Back,” pp. 98-116.

Harrison, Patricia Greenwood, Connecting Links: The British and American Woman Suffrage Movements, 1900-1914, Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2000.

Hopkins, Grace Porter, “Woman’s National Democratic League,” National Monthly, August 1912, p. 78.

Miller, Kristie "Eager and Anxious to Work: Daisy Harriman and the Presidential Election of 1912," in Melanie Gustafson, Kristie Miller and Elisabeth I. Perry, eds., We Have Come to Stay: American Women and Political Parties 1880-1960, Albuquerque: U. New Mexico Press, 1999, pp. 65-76.

Morison, Elting E., The Letters of Theodore Roosevelt, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1954, eight volumes.

Mowry, George E., “Election of 1912" in Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., general editor, History of American Presidential Elections 1789-1968, New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1971, Vol. III, pp. 2135-2166.

Roosevelt, Theodore, “Women’s Rights and the Duties of Both Men and Women,” The Outlook, February 3, 1912, 100:262-6.

Wilson, Woodrow, “The New Meaning of Government,”39 Woman’s Home Companion, November 1912, 3pp.: 3-4.

"Women as a Factor in the Political Campaign," New York Times, Sept. 1, 1912. Reprinted in Women: their Changing Roles, New York: Arno Press, 1973, pp. 83-86.

“Women in Politics,” 102 The Outlook, September 28, 1912, pp. 162-4.

“Women in the Thick of Political Fight” New York Tribune, August 14, 1912.

“Women Leap Suddenly Into Political Favor, Now Courted by All Parties” New York Herald, August 11, 1912, p. III:2:1.

"Women's Work in the Campaign," 45 Literary Digest, August 31, 1912, pp. 324-326.

1 The electoral college votes were: California, 13; Colorado, 7; Idaho, 4; Utah, 4; Washington, 7; Wyoming, 3. Total: 38 out of 531.

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