THE LIZ LIBRARY: Women's Movement Documents Section

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"The only question left
to be settled now is: Are women persons?"

On Woman's Right to Suffrage
by Susan B. Anthony

[Susan B. Anthony (b. 02-15-1820) was noted for her speeches in support of abolition and women's suffrage. This speech On Woman's Right to Suffrage was delivered in 1873. SBA had exercised what she saw as her right to vote and been arrested since women were specifically forbidden the vote. She was fined, refused to pay the fine, and the judge never held her in contempt of court. The matter was ignored by the judicial system but women (other than in some states for local elections) were forbidden the vote. Women were finally guaranteed the right to vote in all elections by an amendment to the U.S. constitution that was ratified 08-26-1920.]

        "Friends and fellow citizens, I stand before you tonight under indictment for the alleged crime of having voted at the last presidential election, without having a lawful right to vote.
        "It shall be my work this evening to prove to you that in thus voting, I not only committed no crime, but, instead, simply exercised my citizen's rights, guaranteed to me and all United States citizens by the National Constitution, beyond the power of any State to deny.
        "The preamble of the Federal Constitution says:

        We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

"It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union.

"And we formed it, not to give the blessings of liberty, but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and the half of our posterity, but to the whole people women as well as men.

"And it is a downright mockery to talk women of their enjoyment of the blessings of liberty while they are denied the use of the only means of securing them provided by this democratic-republican government the ballot.

"For any State to make sex a qualification that must ever result in the disfranchisement of one entire half of the people is to pass a bill of attainder, or an ex post facto law, and is therefore a violation of the supreme law of the land.
        By it the blessings of liberty are for ever withheld from women and their female posterity. To them this government has no just powers derived from the consent of the governed.
        To them this government is not a democracy. It is not a republic. It is an odious aristocracy; a hateful oligarchy of sex; the most hateful aristocracy ever established on the face of the globe; an oligarchy of wealth, where the rich govern the poor.
        An oligarchy of learning, where the educated govern the ignorant, or even an oligarchy of race, where the Saxon rules the African, might be endured; but this oligarchy of sex, which makes father, brothers, husband, sons, the oligarchs over the mother and sisters, the wife and daughters of every household which ordains all men sovereigns, all women subjects, carries dissension, discord and rebellion into every home of the nation.

"Webster, Worcester and Bouvier all define a citizen to be a person in the United States, entitled to vote and hold office.

"The only question left to be settled now is: Are women persons? And I hardly believe any of our opponents will have the hardihood to say they are not.
        Being persons, then, women are citizens; and no State has a right to make any law, or to enforce any old law, that shall abridge their privileges or immunities.

"Hence, every discrimination against women in the constitutions and laws of the several States is to-day null and void, precisely as in every one against negroes."




© 1990-2006 Irene Stuber, Hot Springs National Park, AR 71902. Originally web-published at
We are indebted to Irene Stuber for compiling this collection and for granting us permission to make it available again.
The text of the documents in the women's history library may be freely copied for nonprofit educational use.

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