New Rockford Transcript - Official Newspaper of Eddy County since 1883

Former "Transcript" publisher took a stand

In 1914, A.C. Olsen editorialized in support of women’s suffrage


August 24, 2020

In searching through the New Rockford Transcript archives from 1914 and 1920, I encountered far more than I was expecting when it comes to women’s suffrage.  

Some of the stories we informative reports of meetings among the Votes for the Women’s League as well as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.

At first glance, it was hard to tell if the Transcript writers had any opinion on the movement. The stories were straight forward. In the report on the organization of the North Dakota Votes for Women League, the Transcript stated, “Much interest is being manifested in this movement and a large number of men and women have already expressed sympathy with the cause, thru the purchase of buttons, but signing a declaration of principles or by enrolling as active members of the League.”

Mrs. Julia E. Kellington was elected president. Ellen Mattson Roach was elected secretary and Anna Hudson treasurer.

On Wednesday, July 18, 1914 the Transcript delivered a report that Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan ‘came out’ for woman suffrage.

He declared he would ask no political right for himself that he was not willing “to grant his wife,” and announced his intention of supporting the proposed state constitutional amendment extending the franchise to women to be voted upon in November.

Woman, Mr. Bryan said, has proved herself equal to every responsibility imposed on her, and would not fail society in this emergency. Above all other arguments in favor of giving her the ballot he places the right of the mother to a voice in the molding of the environment of her children.

“The mother,” the secretary said, can justly claim the right to employ every weapon which can be made effective for the protection of those interests she guards and the ballot will put within her reach all of the instrumentalities of government, including police power.

The Transcript went on to report on Bryan’s response to the opposition.

“The first objection which I remember to have heard was that as woman cannot bear arms she should not have a voice in deciding questions that might lead to war, or in enacting laws that might require an army for their enforcement. This argument is seldom offered now.

“It is urged by some that woman’s life is already full of care and that the addition of suffrage would either overburden her or turn her attention away from the duties of the home. The answer made to this is that the exercise of the franchise might result in a change of thought and occupation that would relieve the monotony.

“Many well-meaning mean and women affirm that suffrage would work harm to women by lessening the respect in which she is held. This argument would have more weight have it not been employed against every proposition advanced in favor of the enlargement of woman’s sphere. This objection was one raised to the higher education of woman, but it is no longer heard.

“Politics will not suffer by woman’s entrance into it. If the political world has grown more pure in spite of the evil influences that have operated to debase it, it will not be polluted by the presence and participation of woman.”

The running of the article on Bryan’s stance must have generated some interest in the coming weeks, because on Friday, August 7, 1914, the New Rockford Transcript editor A.C. Olsen published an article titled “Why shouldn’t women vote?”

At first glance, I didn’t know what to expect, but soon upon reading, it was apparent that Olsen was writing a direct response to anti-suffrage literature that had been submitted for publication.

The article begins, “We are receiving literature from a bureau opposed to women’s suffrage, containing lengthy arguments as to why the county will go to the demnition bow wows if National suffrage passes. We can hardly see why the women should not be allowed to vote, and we fail to see where the antis advance any real sound and logical arguments why they should not.”

Olsen continues to dismantle opposing arguments, one after another and with a touch of humor, “In one of their arguments they state that but a small minority of the women of the country desire the ballot, and that they will vote carelessly and recklessly if they do vote. Just like many of the men now do!”

In response to the frequent argument that the women have “too many responsibilities” and that suffrage “will impose a heavy burden upon a sex already sufficiently weighted with responsibilities” the Transcript editor asserted, “We have just enough faith in the gentler sex to believe that they will exercise good judgment in the use of their franchise and it will in no way interfere with their regular duties or avocation if they do not care to exercise their right to vote they will remain away from the polls much same as the men do now.”

Olsen didn’t even shy away from more sensitive oppositions which claimed “The suffrage movement is closely allied to Socialism” and that “the forces of evil are quick to organize their sort of women.”

To that, he replied, “That women have Socialistic tendencies may be admitted, but were are of the opinion that the majority of the women believe in law and order, and that the giving of the franchise will give the red flag of a still greater majority to overcome. The insinuations of the association that the “forces of evils” control the majority of the women of the nation is an insult to all womanhood, and shows to what depths the opposition will stop in the attempt to besmirch the character of the American women and mothers, as well as the women who earn their daily bread in many of the vocations, business and professional. The insinuation should make every man with a spark of manhood rise up in his might and smite the opposition. We have great faith in the purity of the American woman, and conscientiously believe that majority for good will be far greater than many now realize.” 


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