National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage

NAOWS 1911—1920

Men in Front of Antisuffrage Headquarters, ca. 1915

Harris & Ewing, Inc./Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG/Getty Images

At the end of the nineteenth century, Massachusetts was one of the most populous states and was from the beginning of the woman suffrage movement a center of activity for pro-suffrage activism. In the 1880s, activists opposed to women voting organized, and formed the Massachusetts Association Opposed to the Further Extension of Suffrage to Women. This was the beginning of the fight against a woman's right to vote.

From State Groups to a National Association

The National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage (NAOWS) evolved from many state anti-suffrage organizations. In 1911, they met at a convention in New York and created this national organization to be active on both a state and federal level. Arthur (Josephine) Dodge was the first president and is often considered the founder. (Dodge had formerly worked to establish day care centers for working mothers.)

The organization was heavily funded by brewers and distillers (who assumed that if women got the vote, temperance laws would be passed). The organization was also supported by Southern politicians, nervous that African American women would also get the vote, and by big-city machine politicians. Both men and women belonged to and were active in the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage.

State chapters grew and expanded. In Georgia, a state chapter was founded in 1895 and in three months had 10 branches and 2,000 members. Rebecca Latimer Felton was among those who spoke against suffrage in the state legislature, resulting in the defeat of a suffrage resolution by five to two. In 1922, two years after the woman suffrage amendment to the Constitution was ratified, Rebecca Latimer Felton became the first woman Senator in the United States Congress, appointed briefly as a courtesy appointment.

After the Nineteenth Amendment

In 1918, the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage moved to Washington, DC, in order to focus on opposition to the national suffrage amendment.

The organization disbanded after the Nineteenth Amendment, given women an equal right to vote, passed in 1920. Despite the victory for women, the NAOWS official newspaper, Woman Patriot (formerly known as Woman's Protest), continued into the 1920s, taking positions against women's rights.

Various NAOWS Arguments Against Woman Sufferage

Arguments used against the vote for women included:

  • Women didn't want to vote.
  • The public sphere was not the right place for women.
  • Women voting wouldn't add anything of value since it would simply double the number of voters but not substantively change the outcome of elections — so adding women to the voting roles would "waste time, energy and money, without result."
  • Women didn't have time to vote or engage in politics.
  • Women didn't have the mental aptitude to form informed political opinions.
  • Women would be even more susceptible to pressure from emotional please.
  • Women voting would overturn the "proper" power relationship between men and women.
  • Women voting would corrupt women by their involvement in politics.
  • States where women had already gained the vote had shown no increase in morality in politics.
  • Women had an influence on the vote through raising their sons to vote.
  • Women gaining the vote in the South would put more pressure on states to permit African American women to vote, and might lead to demolishing such rules as literacy tests, property qualifications, and poll taxes which kept most African American men from voting.

    Pamphlet Against Woman Suffrage

    An early pamphlet listed these reasons to oppose woman suffrage:

    • BECAUSE 90% of the women either do not want it, or do not care.
    • BECAUSE it means competition of women with men instead of co-operation.
    • BECAUSE 80% of the women eligible to vote are married and can only double or annul their husband's votes.
    • BECAUSE it can be of no benefit commensurate with the additional expense involved.
    • BECAUSE in some States more voting women than voting men will place the Government under petticoat rule.
    • BECAUSE it is unwise to risk the good we already have for the evil which may occur.

    The pamphlet also advised women on housekeeping tips and cleaning methods, and included the advice that "you do not need a ballot to clean out your sink spout" and "good cooking lessens alcoholic craving quicker than a vote."

    In a satirical response to these sentiments, Alice Duer Miller wrote Our Own Twelve Anti-suffragist Reasons (circa 1915).