Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Local Support for an Unpopular Cause in 1874

When 19th-century women's rights activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton gave a pro-suffrage speaking tour in Michigan in 1874, the year the state voted on the issue, reactions ranged from warm support to derision. The divided reactions are seen in miniature by reactions within our own town in June of 1874. Ypsilanti's Sentinel newspaper, headed by Charles Woodruff, published anti-suffrage editorials against the movement, some quite scathing. At the Commercial, editor C. R. Pattison spoke out strongly in favor of suffrage, as in the editorial below. In it he criticizes the Detroit Post for its stance against Ms. Stanton [paragraph breaks added for readability].

"The Detroit Post is in tantrums about Mrs. Stanton’s canvass of the State.

"It copies every miserable, slimy slander in regard to her speeches. Mrs. Stanton’s speech in this city was entirely unexceptionable. It was very far from denunciatory; it was mild, persuasive, eloquent, argumentative, and convincing. The bitterest opponents of women suffrage were compelled to admit that her address was eminently adapted to win votes. We believe that this is the case wherever she speaks.

"The fact is, the Post and kindred sheets fear the powerful blows she is striking against the remains of feudalism and prescription of sex. Not possessing the manliness to come out and oppose it in an open above board manner, the Post and a few papers of its class seek to prejudice voters by side issues, and especially exciting prejudice against the ablest canvassers. This attempt will prove an utter failure.

"Wherever Mrs. Stanton speaks the hearers will be watching for the evidence of the slanderous cricicisms heaped upon her, and will be agreeably surprised to find that they are most unjust aspersions, and thus they will the more easily be persuaded to take the right side. So keep on your villianous, insidious, covert slanders. The rebound will make the cause a host of votes.

"Common sensed men will reason that a cause that can only be met by innuendo and misrepresentations must be based on the rock and worthy of their confidence."

Stanton image used under fair use provisos, from

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