Women Who Opposed Suffrage

Anti-suffragists argued that women could serve society better by operating outside of the political system.

Not all women believed in equal suffrage. Minnesota was among twenty states that had an organized anti-suffrage movement.

There were two anti-suffrage organizations based in Hennepin County -- the Minnesota Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage and the Minneapolis Association Opposed to the Future Extension of Suffrage to Women.

The former made its headquarters in this building, the Meyers Arcade, right down the street from the suffrage headquarters.

Anti-suffragists did not believe women's vote would improve society or their role within it. Instead, they argued that women could serve society better by operating outside of the political system. Many anti-suffragists championed moral reform work such as temperance and children’s welfare. At the same time, they argued that partisanship in politics would corrupt their ability to fix societal wrongs, due to party allegiances and rivalries. They also believed that women and men had different but equally essential roles to fulfill; women entering politics would upset these traditional roles.

Anti-suffrage organizations functioned similarly to their pro-suffrage counterparts. They hosted events and speakers, participated in local debates, attended legislative sessions about suffrage, and published pamphlets spreading their message.

Once the vote was won, the League of Women Voters moved into this building, maintaining an office at 321 Meyers Arcade.

Images

Meyers Arcade, 920 Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis

Meyers Arcade, 920 Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis

Located just several blocks from suffrage headquarters, the Meyers Arcade housed the anti-suffrage organizations. | Source: Minnesota Historical Society. Photograph Collection Location no. MH5.9 MP3.1M p291 | Creator: Photographed by Charles J. Hibbard (-1924). View File Details Page

Anti-Suffrage postcard

Anti-Suffrage postcard

Source: Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

Anti-Suffrage Pamphlet, June 12, 1917

Anti-Suffrage Pamphlet, June 12, 1917

Published amidst World War I, this pamphlet from the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association argues that woman suffrage would undermine the war effort. It warns that women suffrage would "increase the power of the socialists and pacifists who are opposing the draft and doing everything in their power to make our country weak and ineffective." It also asserts that Germany financed the suffrage movement in England as a way to weaken its enemies. It played upon fears that women's influence on the government would weaken the military through their promotion of pacifist ideas. | Source: Minnesota Historical Society "Collections Up Close" blog, June 12, 2017 View File Details Page

Hannah Lavina Lavinia Gilfillan (1862-1937)

Hannah Lavina Lavinia Gilfillan (1862-1937)

Lavinia Gilfillan was a modern woman. She was also the state™s leading anti-suffragist. To many people today, anti-suffragists appear to be a bundle of contradictions. Lavinia Gilfillan (Hannah Lavinia Coppock) was the wife of John B. Gilfillan, a Minnesota politician. Before marriage, she taught in Washington D.C. Lavinia was an active member of her community, leading charitable causes and reform efforts. A supporter of women™s education, Gilfillan petitioned the University of Minnesota™s Board of Regents in 1902 to allow her to raise funds for a campus building dedicated to women students. Much of her work focused on improving the lives of women and children. Gilfillan also participated in various organizations around the Twin Cities, including the Peripatetics (a women™s study club) and the Society of Fine Arts. A patron of the arts, Lavinia hosted musical programs for the Thursday Musical, as well as art auctions at her home, 222 Clifton Avenue in Minneapolis. In most respects, she was indistinguishable from the Minnesota suffrage leaders fighting for the ballot. The disagreement between these like-minded women was over how they could best achieve their desired reforms. For the suffragists, the answer lay in securing the ballot. For Lavinia Gilfillan and the anti-suffragists, it lay in remaining outside the political fray. | Creator: Hannah Dyson View File Details Page

Street Address:

Meyers Arcade -- 920 Nicollet Ave. [map]

Cite this Page:

Hannah Dyson and Jacqueline deVries, “Women Who Opposed Suffrage,” Augsburg Digi-Tours, accessed October 31, 2020, http://digitours.augsburg.edu/items/show/68.
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