9 J. Soc. & Soc. Welfare 463 (1982)
Our Own Worst Enemies: Women Opposed to Woman Suffrage

handle is hein.journals/jrlsasw9 and id is 471 raw text is: OUR OWN WORST ENEMES: WOMEN OPPOSED TO WOMAN SUFFRAGE

Jeanne Howard
Illinois State University
Opposition by women to a movement which identifies itself as for women is not
new. In the late 19th and early 20th century female anti-suffragists organized to
oppose the burden of the ballot. The writings of the antis (as the female anti
suffragists became known) demonstrate an allegiance to class over gender, a sense of
powerlessness beyond traditional roles and a fear of change. Exploring this early
anti movement may give us a better understanding of the women opposed to the con-
temporary woman's movement.
Can any reasonable man or woman deny that there is some impell-
ing reason for the fact that woman suffrage is the only woman's
movement that has ever been opposed by women organized for that
purpose? (Mrs. A. J. George, 1915).
A significant obstacle to the progress of the contemporary women's movement is
conservative opposition by women themselves. This opposition to a movement identi-
fying itself as representing women serves to fundamentally discredit the claims of
those seeking reform in the name of all women.
As the quotation from Mrs. George indicates, opposition by women to a cause
which seems to benefit them is not new. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries
women also organized in opposition to the women's movement, as represented by woman
suffrage. Then as now, opposition stemmed from three closely related perceptions:
that the rapid social change occurring in the nation was a threat to families and
to the traditional function of women; that women had more in common with, thus more
allegiance to, members of their own class than with all members of their gender; and
that women were powerless outside their own narrow sphere. Class allegiance, fear
of change and the sense of limited power are apparent in much of the anti-suffrage
literature written by women.
Organized resistance by womer to their own enfranchisement began almost concur-
rently with the woman suffrage movement. The strongest opposition to the suffrage
came from the highly industrialized states experiencing a flood of immigration and
rapid urbanization. The first and most active organization was the Massachusetts
Association Opposed to the Further Extension of Suffrage to Women. Founded in 1890,
it continued its fight against sutfrage through October of 1920 when the battle was


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