The 1912 Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet “For” and “Against” Arguments for the Woman Suffrage Ballot Measure
The Oregon Voter Pamphlet for the November 5, 1912 election is an informative primary source document. It presents the specific arguments supporters and opponents gave to male voters to try to persuade them to vote either for or against the ballot measure.
To analyze these “for” and “against” sections in the Voters’ Pamphlet it is important to consider who wrote each section, what their purpose was in writing it and their intended audience, the evidence they provided, and their language, style, and conclusions. It is also important to consider what each side left out in their arguments.
Members of the Oregon State Equal Suffrage Association submitted the argument supporting the woman suffrage ballot measure. Their main themes included the idea that Oregon was surrounded by states where women could vote and needed to catch up to be part of the progress of the region. They also emphasized that voting was a duty in a democracy and women must be included as voters to have a true democracy. They argued that all liberty-loving men would extend the privilege of voting to women. Supporters also affirmed that to deny women the vote was to use the same arguments as those who supported slavery and serfdom in the past, “to clog the progress of human liberty throughout the ages.” OSESA members asserted that women would improve their communities by using the vote wisely for good government.
Members of the Oregon State Association Opposed to the Extension of Suffrage to Women submitted the argument against the woman suffrage ballot measure. They argued the measure had been defeated many times in the past and that most Oregon men and women did not want it to pass. They emphasized that women and men had different roles, or “circles” of labor and influence: men acted in the world of work and politics and women acted in the home and with children. They insisted that it was not proper for women to leave their circle to participate in politics; they should influence their families for good by working within the home. A woman’s vote, they wrote, would just double the vote of her husband. It was a “burdensome” duty that would “deprive woman of special privileges hitherto accorded to her by the law.”
The members of the Oregon State Association Opposed to the Extension of Suffrage to Women included quotes from two prominent women. Ida Tarbell was an investigative journalist best known for her reporting on the corruption of the Standard Oil Company. Marie Corelli was a British novelist.
What follows are page by page images of the “for” and “against” arguments for the woman suffrage ballot measure in the Oregon 1912 Voters’ Pamphlet and then a complete transcript of that section of the Voters’ Pamphlet. As you analyze this primary source document, consider the following:
Each group chose a different tone and style for their argument. How might this have affected the way male voters read and understood their major points?
Given that only men could vote, why do you think the members of the Oregon State Association Opposed to the Extension of Suffrage to Women argued that defeats in previous elections proved that “woman suffrage is not wanted in Oregon, either by the women or by the men”? What do you think they meant when referring to “the women who are doing women’s work in the world” on page 6?
What do you think the members of the Oregon State Association Opposed to the Extension of Suffrage to Women meant by their assertion that “the vast majority of women are represented by household suffrage” in their point number 5? Do you agree with their next point that “the women not so represented suffer no practical injustice which giving the suffrage will remedy”?
How did both sides define women’s roles within a democracy?
Why do you think the members of the Oregon State Equal Suffrage Association concluded by writing, “In the hope that we shall not be compelled again to make this expensive and laborious struggle for equality of rights as voters, we respectfully request you to vote “YES” for the EQUAL SUFFRAGE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT”?
Members of Professor Kimberly Jensen’s Gender Issues in History course in Winter 2012 at Western Oregon University participated in discussions and wrote about the 1912 Voters’ Pamphlet. Their work led to this introduction and they also transcribed the document. The students who participated are Stephen Baker, Allison Barker, Meagan Beisley, Gabriela Cervantes-Penunuri, Josephine Colburn, Will Crook, Amanda Cross, Nancy Doll, Chris Freeman, Zach Jones, Jaden Kaufman, Josiah Leidke, Susan Mancke, Colin McHill, Chandler Miranda, Alyssa Penn, Sean Wasson, Alexandria Westlund.
Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet 1912 Page 1
Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet 1912 Page 2
Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet 1912 Page 3
Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet 1912 Page 4
Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet 1912 Page 5
Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet 1912 Page 6
Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet 1912 Page 7
Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet 1912 Page 8
Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet 1912 Page 9