WOMAN SUFFRAGE IN MANISTEE
HISTORY OF MANISTEE COUNTY, MICHIGAN
With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches
of Some of Its Men and Pioneers.
Published 1882 by H.R. Page & Co., Chicago
At the time of the temperance crusade in 1873-'74, Mrs. Fowler, wife of Hon. S.W. Fowler, editor of the Times and Standard - in an editorial headed "the Woman's Crusade," said: - "As this innovation receives sanction and support of the highly respectable of both sexes in society, we hope that they will be so well satisfied with the experiment that they will not fear contamination if some of their wives and sisters suggest the practicability of placing the ballot in the hands of women as a means of protection from the evils this movement is intended to mitigate, and to further the cause of moral reform in general....Let us suppose that the army of praying women, who are now besieging the saloons of cities, were invested with the rights of citizenship....They would have the majesty and power of the law to protect them, and having a voice in the making of those laws, would not detract from their purity and influence. True it is, that the elective franchise is one of the greatest bulwarks of liberty, and therefore it is consistent with the principles on which our government is founded, that there should be no class distinctions in the exercise of its rights."
March 16, 1874, the Legislature of Michigan by a decisive majority, voted to submit a woman suffrage amendment to be voted on separately, at the November election. The State Suffrage Association appointed a committee of three, of which Hon. S.W. Fowler was one, and who did much effective work in the northern towns of the county during the Fall campaign, as the result of the election showed these towns to be largely in favor of the amendment. In an editorial, just after the election, Mrs. Fowler said:
"The combined forces of ignorance, vice, and prejudice have blocked the wheels of advancing civilization, and Michigan, once the proudest of the sisterhood states, has lost the opportunity of inaugurating a reform....Now let the women of Michigan organize for a final onset. Through your woman suffrage associations and temperance leagues, by every honorable resource open to you, fight out this battle with a zeal that shall know no discouragement, a courage, that shall never tire....This question must be decided by the whole people before we will bow to any adjustment contrary to the consent of the governed."
From 1874 no suffrage work was publicly done, except an occasional editorial upon the subject in the Times and Standard until December 3, 1879, when that grand apostle of the cause, Susan B. Anthony, was induced to stop over in Manistee on her way from Traverse City to Ludington, and gave her great lecture, "Bread, not the Ballot." She was the guest of Mr. and Mrs. Fowler, and it was thought her influence at that time that a suffrage association was eventually formed. A "Woman's Department" had in the meantime been added to the Times and Standard, which is still a feature of that journal. The following year a similar column was for a few months published in the Manistee Times under the able editorial management of Mrs. S.M. Barnes, who was also secretary of the M.W.S.A., in 1881.
In April, 1880, Elizabeth Cady Stanton gave her lecture, "Our Girls" and speeches before the temperance association, and mothers of the city, which added courage and enthusiasm to the hearts of the few suffragists who were considering the feasibility of organization.
A call was published, signed by Mrs. Fannie H. Fowler, Mrs. O.C. Hawley, and Mrs. Anna Chandler, requesting "women who desire the ballot to meet in Good Templar's Hall, to consider the grave question of the hour." Twenty-three women responded and the "manistee Woman Suffrage Association" was formed June 8, 1880, adopting the constitution of the National Woman Suffrage Association, and electing officers as follows: President, Mrs. O.C. Hawley; vice president, Mrs. Fannie H. Fowler; secretary, Miss A. M. Golden; treasurer, Mrs. L.T. Stansell.
Mrs. Sarah Kies and Miss A.M. Golden were chosen as delegates to the convention of the N.W.S.A., held at Grand Rapids the ensuing week.
An active canvassing of the city, by committees of the association, resulted in securing the attendance of tax-paying women at the school-meeting in September, when the first woman vote was cast in Manistee County and has been followed at each successive school meeting with an increased number.
The following Spring (1881) a pamphlet was published by the Manistee Woman Suffrage Association and sent broadcast throughout the state, stating its objects and containing its constitution, by-laws and epitome of their work.
In August of that year, Mrs. Mary Wright Sewell, of Indiana, was engaged by the M.W.S.A. to deliver two educational lectures, which were free to the public, her expenses being defrayed by the association. In February, 1882, a social celebrating Miss Anthony's birthday was given under their auspices, at the residence of Hon. S.W. Fowler, and was voted a grand success.
Through the untiring energy of the president, Mrs. L.T. Stansell, who was also one of the Ladies' Lever Lecture League, Mrs. Elizabeth Boynton Harbert, of Evanston, Ill., was induced to give a Manistee audience a rare treat in her "Homes of Representative Women," April 20, 1882, and a public "conversation," which elicited much interest in woman suffrage.
The M.W.S.A. have done much quiet work in distributing suffrage literature, and are now canvassing the state with petitions for equal and municipal suffrage, which are to be presented to the Legislature of 1883. They are also helping Nebraska in her struggle to secure a woman suffrage amendment, having forwarded funds for that purpose. The officers of the M.W.S.A. for the year ending June, 1883, are as follows: President, Mrs. L.T. Stansell; vice president, Mrs. Fannie Holden Fowler; corresponding secretary, Mrs. Fannie Holden Fowler; recording secretary, Miss Nellie Walker; treasurer, Mrs. Susan Seymour.