By Claudette Simpson
(Note: This is part three of a five part series of articles for Days Past celebrating Woman's History Month.)
A woman in the 1990s, takes it for granted she can vote. If she wants to register and if she wants to go to the polls and mark a ballot, her vote carries the same weight as a man's vote.
Not only can a woman vote, she can run for office. By law and constitutional amendment, women have the same suffrage rights as men. But, in the history of the United States, those rights are new. A woman's right to vote was scorned years ago. It has been a long battle to the ballot box, a battle against prejudice and ridicule.
The Equal Rights for Women Movement began in 1848, with a convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y. In those days, it was a "fact" that women were weak and inferior. Some of the more educated women began challenging that "fact." There were about 300 people at the 1848, convention and 40 of them were men.
Elizabeth Cody Stanton spoke at that convention. She said that thus far in history women "have been the mere echoes of men. Our laws and constitutions, our creeds and codes, and the customs of social life are all of masculine origin." Stanton applauded younger women on the scene. Those women had the results of older women's experience; they had superior opportunities for education, and they would find a more enlightened public sentiment for discussion. "They will have more courage to take the rights which belong to them," Stanton said. Those words were spoken in 1848. It was not until 72 years later, in 1920, that the U.S. Constitution was amended and ratified by enough states, that American women had the right to vote.
This year is the 78th anniversary of that right. And women are celebrating. Some remember those valiant women, and men, who have gone before, who labored long in a vineyard of ridicule. In Arizona, at the constitutional convention in 1910, P. F. Connelly of Douglas introduced a proposition that would permit women as well as men to vote on the question of women's suffrage.
According to Jay J. Wagoner's Arizona Territory, A Political History, Connelly lost the support of many constituents because of his action. "One telegram from 'Democrats that supported you, told him not to come back Douglas and concluded with these words: 'You ought to be shot. We are sorry that the recall is not in operation.' "Another bitter telegram, from Henry Sullivan and 200 others called Connelly a 'bum' and advised him to move to Apache County. He was also promised a 'model hobble skirt and a peach basket hat' upon his return to Douglas after the convention adjourned."
Many people in Arizona helped the women's cause along. The name most often associated with women's suffrage is Frances Willard Munds (1866-1948) of Prescott. For years, Munds was a sincere and valuable worker with the Territory of Arizona Women Suffrage Organization. In 1898, Munds was elected secretary of the suffrage organization and 'Buckey' O'Neill's widow, Pauline O'Neill, was elected president.
Years after Mund's death at her Prescott home, her daughter, Sally Munds Williams, went through her mother's diaries and wrote a history of Frances and John Munds. If it had not been for this history, much of the history of women suffrage in Arizona would have been lost. Eventually Munds was elected president of the women's suffrage organization in Arizona. She attended the constitution convention every day it was in session. She made effective and influential speeches. But a woman suffrage plank was defeated.
Arizona won statehood on Valentine's Day in 1912. When the first state legislature convened, Munds presented a woman suffrage bill but the legislature refused to accept it. Her daughter wrote: "So Frances Willard Munds went to work in real earnest then and she led a campaign to get a Woman Suffrage Petition into circulation and they had no trouble getting enough signatures to place the signed Suffrage Petition on the ballot. When the first State General Election was held in November 1912, Frances, and other Suffrage workers were at the polls handing out Suffrage cards and a very large extra tall policeman called to Frances and said, 'What are you going to be when you get the vote?' and Frances who was only about five feet tall, walked over and stood beside him and she barely reached his elbow, then she replied, 'I'm going to be a policeman,' and the voters all laughed and shouted a loud "hurrah" to Frances, and the policeman laughed heartily and said, 'She's all right boys. She would make a real dangerous and courageous policeman.'
In the General Election, the Woman Suffrage Petition was passed by a majority of three to one in every County in the State of Arizona, except Mohave County."
In a 1928, speech by Mattie Williams to the Woman's Club of Maricopa County, in which she traced the history of woman's suffrage, Williams contended that the greatest opponent through the years was the Brewers Association. And that the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, the largest women's organization in any country, had been one of the biggest aids in winning national women's suffrage. In her speech, Williams said, "A real active campaign was begun in 1909 led by Mrs. Frances Willard Munds of Yavapai County, who was assisted by a number of prominent women, especially members of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union." "After Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and Washington had suffrage for women, there were only two remaining territories, Arizona and Oklahoma, and here as elsewhere the saloons checkmated every effort to secure suffrage," Williams said.
Women in Arizona finally got the vote in 1912, the year of statehood. Arizona re-affirmed woman's suffrage in 1920 by ratifying the national amendment. Frances Willard Munds is one of the 346 pioneer women commemorated in the Sharlot Hall Musuem's Territorial Women's Memorial Rose Garden. She was nominated for this honor by her daughter, Sallie Munds Williams.
Claudette Simpson is an Employee at the Prescott Public Library.
Sharlot Hall Museum Photograph Call Number: (pb129f3i6). Reuse only by permission.
Frances Lillian Willard Munds in 1914. That same year, she led the successful campaign to gain the vote for women and was elected to the legislature, the first Arizona woman to achieve that honor.