Thursday, August 27, 2009

One Step Closer to Equal Rights Under Law August 26th, 1920

Colby Proclaims Woman Suffrage
Signs Certificate of Ratification at His Home Without Women Witnesses

Militants Vexed at Privacy
Wanted Movies of Ceremony but Both Factions Are Elated -- Wilson Sends Message


The signing of the proclamation took place at that hour at Secretary Colby's residence, 1507 K Street Northwest, without ceremony of any kind, and the issuance of the proclamation was unaccompanied by the taking of movies or other pictures, despite the fact that the National Woman's Party, or militant branch of the general suffrage movement, had been anxious to be represented by a delegation of women and to have the historic event filmed for public display and permanent record.Washington, Aug. 26 -- The half-century struggle for woman suffrage in the United States reached its climax at 8 o'clock this morning, when Bainbridge Colby, as Secretary of State, issued his proclamation announcing that the Nineteenth Amendment had become a part of the Constitution of the United States.

Secretary Colby did not act with undue haste in signing the proclamation, but only after he had given careful study to the packet which arrived by mail during the early morning hours containing the certificate of the Governor of Tennessee that that State's Legislature had ratified the Congressional resolution submitting the amendment to the States for action.

No Suffrage Leaders See Signing
None of the leaders of the woman suffrage movement was present when the proclamation was signed.

"It was quite tragic," declared Mrs. Abby Scott Baker of the National Woman's Party. "This was the final culmination of the women's fight, and, women, irrespective of factions, should have been allowed to be present when the proclamation was signed. However the women of America have fought a big fight and nothing can take from them their triumph."

Leaders of both branches of the woman's movement- the militants, headed by Miss Alice Paul, and the conservatives, led by Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt -- some of whom had been on watch nearly all night for the arrival of the Tennessee Governor's certification, visited the State Department, and the militants sought to have Secretary Colby go through a duplication of the signing scene in the presence of movie cameras. This Mr. Colby declined to do, on the ground that it was not necessary to detract from the dignity and importance of the signing of the proclamation by staging a scene in imitation of the actual signing of the proclamation.

In informal conversation with newspaper men late into this afternoon Secretary Colby said that "effectuating suffrage through proclamation of its ratification by the necessary thirty-six States was more important than feeding the movie cameras."

At the same time Mr. Colby congratulated the women of the country on the successful culmination of their efforts in the face of discouragements, and declared the day "marks the opening of a great and new era in the political life of the nation."

"I confidently believe," said the Secretary, "that every salutary, forward and upward force in our public life will receive fresh vigor and reinforcement from the enfranchisement of the women of America. To the leaders of this great movement I tender my sincere congratulations. To every one, from the president, who uttered the call to duty, whenever the cause seemed to falter, to the humblest worker in this great reform, the praise not only of this generation but of posterity will be freely given."

Reads Message from President
Speaking tonight at the woman's suffrage meeting in Poll's Theatre, Secretary Colby made the following references to President Wilson:

"There never was a man more deeply or profoundly convinced of the justice of the suffrage cause than Woodrow Wilson. And there never was a party leader who held his party with more stern, austere and unbending insistence to the performance of a duty dictated by high principle:

"The President called me on the telephone this morning. It is a private wire that connects the office of the Secretary of State with the library of the President. And he asked me if I had been invited to address this meeting tonight. He expressed his pleasure when I told him that I had, and said: 'I hope you will let nothing interfere with your attendance.' He said:

"'Will you take the opportunity to say to my fellow citizens that I deem it one of the greatest honors of my life that this great event, the ratification of this amendment, should have occurred during the period of my administration.'

"'And he said, further:

"'Please say also that nothing has given me more pleasure than the privilege that has been mine to do what I could to advance the cause of ratification, and to hasten the day when the womanhood of America would be recognized by the nation on the equal footing of citizenship that it deserves.'"

Present Memorial to Wilson
Late this afternoon Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt, head of the National American Suffrage Association, and Mrs. Helen H. Gardiner, another active worker in that organization, were received at the White House by President and Mrs. Wilson. The National Woman's Party, known as the militants and a rival organization to that headed by Mrs. Catt, was not represented.
Mrs. Catt and Mrs. Gardiner presented to the President a memorial of appreciation in the form of a bound volume, a page coming from each State, for the work he did for suffrage. They had expected to receive from the Presidency a written message to be read tonight at the big mass meeting and jubilee at Poll's Theatre over the ratification of the amendment, but the President informed them he had handed it to Secretary Colby and that the latter would include it in his remarks to the women at the mass meeting.

One page of the volume presented to the President is taken up with the tribute from the New York organization, the first paragraph of which reads:

"Dear Mr. President: The women of this organization of a million and a quarter enrolled members have a special reason for loyalty and gratitude. Your stalwart advocacy of our campaign last year contributed materially to our victory in New York State."

This is signed:
"New York State Woman Suffrage Party, Harriet Burton Laidlaw, Mary Garret Hay, Laura J. Starko Belknap, Narcissa Cox Vanderlip, Muriel Rosalie Edge, Katrina Ely Tiffany."

The mass meeting was attended by women from every section of the country and a number of officials of the administration, including members of the Cabinet, were present.

Factions Dispute Over Ceremony
Differences between the rival organizations of suffragists as to who should be present at the signing of the proclamation developed yesterday, and as no agreement could be brought about between them, it is believed that Secretary Colby decided to sign the proclamation in his own home to avoid a clash at his office.

"It was decided," said the Secretary in a statement this afternoon, "not to accompany this simple ministerial action on my part with any ceremony or setting. This secondary aspect of the subject has regretfully been the source of considerable contention as to who shall participate in it and who shall not. Inasmuch as I am not interested in the aftermath of any of the friction or collisions which may have been developed in the long struggle for the ratification of the amendment, I have contented myself with the performance in the simplest manner of the duty devolving upon me under the law."

Representatives of both factions visited the State Department this morning. Mrs. Catt and members of her party were photographed by movie operators as they left the State Department. Miss Alice Paul and her associates of the militant wing of the suffragists waited in the corridor of the State Department to be seen by the Secretary of State, who sent word he would receive them, but at this moment the Spanish Ambassador arrived and took precedence over the delegation of militants.

As time wore on the militant delegation thinned and finally left the department without having an audience with the Secretary of State.

Secretary Colby late this afternoon was asked by newspaper men to picture the scene that took place at his home when the final chapter of the story of ratification was reached.

Colby Describes the Signing
"The package containing the certified record of the action of the Legislature of the State of Tennessee," said Mr. Colby, "came in on a train which reached Washington some time during the early morning hours. I was awakened by Charles L. Cooke of the State Department at about a quarter to 4 o'clock this morning, who said that the packet from the Governor of Tennessee had arrived. I told him to bring it to me."

Secretary Colby was then asked whether Mr. Cooke brought the packet to him forthwith.
"He brought it to me in about ten minutes," replied the Secretary. "There were some legal matters connected with the ratification that I wished to have examined by the chief law officer of the State Department with instructions to bring the papers to me at my home at 8 o'clock this morning.

"I had received a large number of messages asking me to act on the amendment with insistent promptitude. Fear was strong in some minds that the 'antis' would effect some sort of injunction from the courts to interfere with my proclamation of the completion of the act of ratification. While it was not my own opinion that it would be becoming for me to resort to undue eagerness to avoid an opportunity for judicial interferences, I saw no reason whatever why I should conspicuously loiter.

"I confess to a disinclination to signing it in the wee morning hours of the night, believing that would not be conducive to a dignified function of so important a character, and thought that 8 o'clock in the morning would be a fair hour for action in the matter."

Secretary Colby was asked whether he had eaten breakfast before he signed the proclamation.

"Breakfast is an unimportant function with me," replied the Secretary with a smile. "I may say that I had time to partake of about one and one-half cups of coffee before I signed the proclamation."

"Then," the Secretary continued, "that about concludes the odyssey of the morning's proceedings."

Paraphrases Dewey at Manila
"You remember," he continued, "the simple way in which the late Admiral Dewey went about the opening of his battle at Manila Bay, how he waited until morning to enter Manila Bay, went up on deck, wiped the egg stains of breakfast from his moustache, observed the disposition of the enemy's ships and of his own, which had crossed the mines during the night, and then taking out a cigar, turned to one of his Captains and said, 'When you are ready, you may fire, Gridley.' So I turn to the women of America and say: 'You may now fire when you are ready. You have been enfranchised.'"

Secretary Colby in response to other questions said that he had used no golden pen prepared for the occasion, but an ordinary steel pen, in signing the proclamation. It was one of his regular pens, he explains, and when asked to whom it would be given, replied: "I have promised it to dozens of persons."

Asked whether he would give the pen to the National American Women's Suffrage Association, the National Woman's Party, or send it to the Smithsonian Institution, Secretary Colby said with a smile, "I should not be surprised if it found its way there."

Immediately after the announcement that Secretary Colby had signed the proclamation. Alice Paul said:

"August 26th will be remembered as one of the great days in the history of the women of the world and in the history of this republic.

"All women must feel a great sense of triumph and of unmeasurable relief at the successful conclusion of a long and exhausting struggle.

"The suffrage amendment is now safe beyond all reasonable expectation of legal attack. This opinion was secured from high legal authorities by officers of the National Woman's Party, who devoted their efforts after the signing of the ratification proclamation to discover what further steps, if any, would be necessary to protest the Amendment. "Pending injunction cases were automatically thrown out of court by the signing of the proclamation according to the consensus of legal opinion. The only possible legal attack is now through a taxpayers' suit to prevent the women in an individual State from voting."

National headquarters of the Woman's Party will be maintained. A national convention of its members will be called to decide upon the party's future policy. Alice Paul will go to New York probably on Saturday to hold a meeting of the Executive Committee to discuss plans and a date for the convention, it was said.

McAdoo Sends Congratulations
William G. McAdoo was one of the first to congratulate the Woman's Party on the signing of the proclamation in a message to Mrs. Abby Scott Baker, political Chairman of the party. He said:

"I know how justly elated you and all the splendid women who have been working so devotedly with you are today over the consummation of the great thing for which you and they have fought. You have had a conspicuously influential part in the triumphs of woman's suffrage. I know with what intelligence and courage you have gone at the task. I am rejoiced not alone for you, but for all the women of America, at this colossal achievement for humanity and civilization."

Francis J. Heney of Los Angeles wired Mrs. Abby Scott Baker:

"Hearty congratulations on success which is yours. The victory is due to the unconquerable fighting spirit of your little band of irreconcilables. More power to all of you."

"There is absolutely nothing that can be done now to upset or nullify the gratification of suffrage by the Tennessee Legislature," said Mrs. Harriet Taylor Upton. Vice Chairman of the Republican National Executive Committee, and President of the Ohio Suffrage Association. "I regard the suffrage victory in Tennessee as perfectly safe right now and nothing can undo it. Otherwise Mrs. Catt and I would never have left Nashville and come to Washington.

"And right here I want to publicly give credit to those stalwart mountaineer Republicans of the Tennessee Legislature who stood pat on suffrage from start to finish and who made suffrage possible. Had it not been for their faithfulness and their devotion to what they believed was right, suffrage would never have won out in Tennessee. You can quote me on that and make it as I really believe."

Mrs. Upton, accompanied by Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt, President of the International Suffrage Association, confer with Secretary Colby and with officials of the Department of Justice and also to attend the suffrage jubilee held here tonight.

No comments: