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Kansas Collection Books

Andreas' History of the State of Nebraska

Nebraska as a State
Produced by Ted and Carole Miller.

Part 1:

Nebraska as a State | First State Officers
Congressional Representation
Legislative | Political | Removal of the Capital

Part 2:

Impeachment of Gov. Butler:   Article I | Article II | Article III
Article IV | Article V | Article VI | Article VII | Article VIII | Article IX
Article X | Article XI

Part 3:
Impeachment of Gov. Butler (cont.):   Answer
Part 4:
Constitution of 1871 | The James Regime | Proclamation
Part 5:
The James Regime(cont.) | Supplementary Resolutions
Part 6:

Constitution of 1875:
Preamble | Article I--Bill of Rights | Article II--Distribution of Powers
Article III--Legislative | Article IV--Legislative Apportionment

Part 7:

Constitution of 1875 (cont.):
Article V--Executive Department | Article VI--The Judicial Department
Article VII--Rights of Suffrage | Article VIII--Education
Article IX--Revenue and Finance | Article X--Counties
Article XI--Corporations:   Railroad Corporations
Municipal Corporations | Miscellaneous Corporations
Article XII--State, County and Municipal Indebtedness
Article XIII--Militia | Article XIV--Miscellaneous Provisions

Part 8:

Constitution of 1875 (cont.):
Article XV--Amendments | Article XVI--Schedule
Propositions Separately Submitted | Legislative and Political

Part 9:

Legislative and Political (cont.) | Popular Votes | State Roster
State Judiciary

Part 10:

Senatorial Succession | The Political Status of Nebraska
County Boundaries

Part 11:

The Population of Counties | Omaha in 1858
Per Cent of Increase in Population | Prof. Wilber's Address

Part 12:
Hon. J. M. Woolworth's Address | Public Lands
Part 13:
Educational Lands in Nebraska | Educational
Part 14:
Slavery in Nebraska
Part 15:
The Woman Suffrage Question

Part 15


   The question of the extension of the elective franchise to women was first presented to the people of Nebraska in the winter of 1855, by Mrs. Amelia Bloomer, the distinguished advocate of the equality of women before the law, and of other noted reforms in social and political matters. On the 29th of December, 1855, that lady, a resident of Council Bluffs, Iowa, received a letter, signed by Hon. William Larimer, Jr., and twenty-four other members of the Territorial Legislature, requesting her to address that body in the Hall of Representatives on the subject of women's rights. The invitation was accepted in the spirit which prompted it, and the 8th of January, 1856, designated as the date of the delivery of an address. A correspondent of the Chronotype, published at Council Bluffs, thus described the event, and the appearance of the lady on that occasion:

   "Mrs. Amelia Bloomer, who had been formally invited by members of the Legislature and others, arrived at the door of the State House at 7 o'clock P. M., and, by the gallantry of Gen. Larimer, a passage was made for her to the stand. The house had been crowded for some time with eager expectants to see the lady and listen to the arguments which were to be adduced as the fruitage of female thought and research. When all had been packed into the house who could possibly find a place for the sole of the foot, Mrs. Bloomer arose, amidst cheers. We watched her closely, and saw that she was perfectly self-possessed--not a nerve seemed to be moved by excitement, and her voice did not tremble. She arose in the dignity of a true woman, as if the importance of her mission so absorbed her thoughts that timidity or bashfulness were too mean to entangle the mental powers. She delivered her lecture in a pleasing, able, and, I may say, eloquent, manner, that enchained the attention of her audience for an hour and a half. A man could not have done better. In mingling with the people next day, we found that her argument had met with much favor. As far as property rights are concerned, all seemed to agree with the lady that the laws of our country are wrong, and that woman should receive the same protection as man. All we have to say now is, that Mrs. Bloomer's arguments on woman's rights are unanswerable. We may doubt the policy of allowing woman to vote, but who can draw the line and say that, naturally, she has not the right to do so? Mrs. Bloomer, though a little body, is among the great women of the United States; and her keen intellectual eye seems to flash fire from a source that will consume the stubble of old theories, until woman is placed in her true position in the enjoyment of equal rights and privileges. Her only danger is in asking too much."

   The interest awakened by this advanced move resulted in the offering of a bill in the House giving to women the right of the franchise. This bill was drawn, it is said, by Gen. William Larimer, Jr., formerly of Pittsburgh, Penn., and then a resident of the new city of Omaha. The local squabbles which engrossed attention prevented the bill from receiving action until the last day but one of the session. Gen. Larimer spoke eloquently in its behalf. A vote was taken, showing that Messrs. Boulware, Campbell, Buck, Chambers, Clancy, Davis, Hail, Decker, Hagood, Hoover, Kirk, Larimer, Rose and Sullivan--fourteen--favored the measure; while Messrs. Beck, Bowen, Gibson, Harsh, Laird, Miller, Moore, Riden, Morton, McDonald and Salisbury--eleven--were against the adoption of the bill.

   Having passed the House, the bill was sent to the Council, where it was twice read; but, owing to the conflict over the fixing of county boundaries and other questions--many of which were spoken upon to "kill time" and defeat legislation--the suffrage bill never reached a vote. The law limited the session to forty days, and the Legislature came to a close before anything definite could be done. It is said that great excitement prevailed when the vote was announced in the House, and that some members of the opposition proposed to present Gen. Larimer with a petticoat as a badge of his devotion to the sex. After the lapse of a quarter of a century, it is safe to remark that such an emblem, had it really been imposed on the General at that time, would now be regarded as an historic garment, worthy of preservation among the valued relics of the State.

   It is a fact easily demonstrable from the statute books, that Nebraska has ever been one of the foremost States in the just work of treating women as the equals of men before the law. Step by step the world has moved in this reform, which had as its foundation the truth that mind, not body, was the element endowed with inalienable rights. The accident of sex was no more worthy of consideration than that of physical perfection or imperfection. Man, no matter how feeble in frame, was still regarded as possessed of political rights; and woman, from deductions as consistent as those of mathematics, must of necessity be the possessor of equal rights where equal responsibilities rest upon her. This State, composed, as it always has been, of men of fine intelligence and liberal ideas, was quick to accept this fact, and laws of an equitable character were enacted in behalf of women.

   A noteworthy meeting of the friends of this just measure was held at Omaha, November 15, 1867. Many of the most celebrated advocates of the cause were present, and addresses were delivered by Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Miss Susan B. Anthony and George Francis Train.

   The constitutional convention of 1871 agreed to submit, as a separate proposition, the question of extending constitutional powers to a degree consistent with the further submission of the direct question, but the electors negatived the clause, as has been shown elsewhere, by a vote of 12,676 to 3,502. The constitution now in force permits the presentation of any amendment thereto which shall have received a three-fifths vote of indorsement by each house of the Legislature separately and the approval of the Governor. In those matters which tended toward the accomplishment of the last and highest step--the removing of a disability to a voice in the legislation--Nebraska has kept abreast, if not in advance, of other States. But it was not until in 1877 that the movement crystallized into effective form. From the pen of Mrs. A, Martha Vermillion, Corresponding Secretary of the Thayer County Woman Suffrage Association, is taken the following historic sketch of the later work. The paper quoted is taken from the Western Woman's Journal, the official organ of the movement in the West:

   "In reviewing the history of woman's work in Nebraska, we find Thayer to be the banner county of the State, it being the first county in the State to organize a permanent Woman's Suffrage Association. Through the personal efforts of Mr. E. M. Correll, who, previous to this time, had been agitating the subject of woman suffrage through editorials and an address prepared by himself on 'Women and Citizenship,' the lecture of Susan B. Anthony on 'Bread versus the Ballot' was secured October 30, 1877. Her theme aroused the community, and a majority of the leading citizens became converts to the doctrine of equal rights. Previous to this time, the women of this locality had been laboring under the delusion that they had all the rights they wanted, but they soon discovered that their rights were only privileges.

   "January 30, 1879, Mr. E. M. Correll, editor of the Hebron Journal, proposed to devote a column of the paper to the interests of women, if they would accept the control. The women promptly responded, and have ever since made good use of this department of the pioneer paper in equal rights. The seed thus sown was ripe for the reaper, when, in April, 1879, Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton lectured in Hebron, and, at a private lecture to the ladies, organized the Thayer County Woman's Suffrage Association, April 15, 1879, the first Woman's Suffrage Association in the State, with a membership of fifteen. Since the organization, the society has not failed to hold its regular semi-monthly meetings. The organization now numbers sixty-one members. Some time after this, the Thayer County Sentinel opened a column to the women, which they have used to their interest ever since.

   "In December, 1879, this association, conjointly with the Hebron Library Association, secured a lecture from Miss Phoebe Cozzens, which gave the work a new impetus.

   "Petitions numbering 294 names were sent to the Forty-fifth Congress of the United States. then assembled, petitioning for a sixteenth amendment to the constitution of the United States. Also, individual petitions from the following-named women of Hebron, Thayer Co., Neb.:

   "Sarah J. Church, Lucy L. Correll, Hannah G. Huse, Clara A. Thompson, Kate T. F. Cornell, Susan E. Ferguson, Barbara J. Thompson--seven in number.

   "January, 1881, memorials were sent to the United States Senators in Congress from Nebraska (Paddock and Saunders), asking them to bring before the Congress then assembled the fact that Nebraska, as a State, had disfranchised all of her women by inserting the word 'male' in the constitution, thereby setting aside Article 14, Section 1, which says: 'All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States, and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.'

   "In the fall of 1880, Thayer County elected the Hon. E. M. Correll, Representative, and Hon. C. B. Coon, Senator, both gentlemen residents of Hebron, Thayer County, and members of the Thayer County Woman's Suffrage Association.

   "In January, the Thayer County Woman's Suffrage Association sent the petition of many voters asking the Legislature to amend the constitution by striking out the word 'male.'

   "January 26, a mass convention was held in the Opera House at Lincoln, the State capital, to effect a permanent State organization, at which the Thayer County Woman's Suffrage Association was represented by Hon. E. M. Correll and Mrs. Lucy L. Correll, their duly appointed delegates.

   "January 27, the Nebraska Woman's Suffrage Association was organized, with the following officers:

   "President, Harriet S. Brooks, Omaha, Neb.; Vice President at Large, Mrs. C. B. Colby, Beatrice; Vice President, First Judicial District, Mrs. B. J. Thompson, Hebron; Second, Mrs. E. L. Warner, Roca; Third, Mrs. P. Nicholls, Omaha; Fourth, Mrs. J. S. Burns, Scribner; Fifth, Mrs. C. C. Chapin, Riverton; Sixth. Mrs. D. C. Slaughter, Fullerton; Recording Secretary, Mrs. M. C. Bittenbender, Osceola; Corresponding Secretary, Mrs. J. B. McDowell, Fairbury; Treasurer, Mrs. L. Russell, Tecumseh; Executive Committee, Mrs. M. J. De Long, Tecumseh; Mrs. Dr. Dinsmore, Omaha; Mrs. J. C. Roberts, David City; Mrs. C. B. Parker, Mrs. J. B. Finch, Lincoln; Mrs. E. M. Correll, Hebron; Mrs. J. H. Bowen, Hastings.

   "Mrs. Harriet S. Brooks, who has labored earnestly and zealously in the work, was tendered a vote of thanks. Hon. E. M. Correll was tendered a vote of thanks for his work in the Nebraska Legislature, and elected honorary member of the Nebraska Woman's Suffrage Association.

   "About the 1st of February, a joint resolution, providing for the submission to the electors of this State an amendment to Section 1, Article 7, of the constitution, was presented to the Legislature by Representative E. M. Correll, and, through his able efforts, together with many women, notably Mrs. H. S. Brooks, Omaha; Mrs. C. B. Colby, Beatrice; Mrs. M. J. De Long, Mrs. Charles Holmes, Mrs. L. Russell, Tecumseh; Mrs. M. C. Bittenbender, Osceola; Mrs. J. B. McDowell, Fairbury; Mrs. Dr. Dinsmore, Omaha; Mrs. E. L. Warner, Roca; Mrs. E. M. Correll, Hebron, and others, the bill was brought to a successful issue, passing the House by the necessary three-fifths majority, and the Senate twenty-two to eight.

   "February 21, the Thayer County Woman's Suffrage Association, at a regular meeting, unanimously adopted the following resolution:

   "Resolved, That the thanks of the Thayer County Woman's Suffrage Association be tendered to Hon. E. M. Correll for his efficient work in the cause of equal rights, particularly his presentation and advocacy of a bill for an act to provide for submission to the electors of this State an amendment to Article VII, Section 1, of the Constitution of the State of Nebraska.

   "Attorney W. J. Thompson, in a speech on these bills, said: 'It is largely due to the work of this association that these bills passed.'

   The first paper in Nebraska to advocate the enfranchisement of women, in connection with the present movement, and, in fact, the one to inaugurate the work, was the Hebron Journal, published at Hebron, Thayer County, by Hon. Erasmus M. Correll. This paper, established in 1871, by the gentleman named, was always an outspoken advocate of the reforms of the times, and wielded a marked influence in molding public opinion. The section in which it labored was practically "the frontier " at the time the paper was founded, but the rapid growth of the country soon made it a powerful, factor in the work of progression. The Journal began editorially to discuss the cause of equal rights, as a friend of the cause, in 1876, and has since then been a consistent and intelligent supporter thereof. In 1879, it instituted a new feature in local journalism in the State, by devoting a column to the political interests of women, which column has since then been most ably conducted by Mrs. Lucy M. Correll, wife of the editor. This custom has been generally adopted by the newspapers of the State, and in many of the counties, woman has thus a means of giving publicity to free opinions.

   Following out his theories to their practical workings, Hon. E. M. Correll, then a member of the State Legislature from Thayer County, on the 13th of January 1880, introduced a bill into the House (House Roll No. 59), providing for the submitting to the electors of the State of an amendment to Article VII, Section 1, of the Constitution of Nebraska. This measure passed through its first and second readings, and was referred to the Committee on Constitutional Amendments February 3. Mr. Correll, deeming the bill liable to technical objections, prepared and substituted House Roll No. 162, which was in form of a joint resolution, embodying the proposition to submit the subject of the extension of suffrage to women. This second bill passed through the several stages of procedure incident to legislative enactment, and came up for final action in the House on February 21. Upon the question, "shall this bill pass?" the vote stood: yeas, fifty-one; nays, twenty-two; absent, eleven. Those voting were: For the measure, Messrs. Abbott, Babcock, Baily, Baldwin, Bartlett, Broatch, Brown, Cantlin, Carman, Cook, Cole, Correll, Daily, Dew, Dowty, Filley, Fried, Graham, Gray, Hall, Heacock, Herman, Hostetter, Howe, Jackson (of Pawnee), Jenson, Johnson, Jones, Kaley, Kempton, Kyner, Linn, McClun, McDougall, McKinnen, Mickey, Moore (of York), Montgomery, Palmer, Paxton, Ransom, Reed, Roberts, Root, Schick, Scott, Sill, Slocumb, Watts, Wilsey and Windham--51.

   Voting in the negative: Messers. Bick, Bolln, Case, Franse, Frederick, Gates, Hollman, Jackson (of Douglas), King, Lamb, Laughlin, McShane, Moore (of Otoe), Mullen, Overton, Peterson, Putney, Sears, Wells, Whedon, Ziegler and Mr. Speaker--22.

   Absent and not voting: Messrs. Ayer, Helms, Kloepfel, Lehman, McClure, Parry, Reyman, Silver, Sprick, Walling and Wyatt--11.

   The constitutional majority of three-fifths (necessary in a bill to amend the Constitution), having voted in its favor, the bill passed -in the House and its title was agreed to.

   In the Senate a similar course of procedure was gone through with. On February 25, it came to a vote in that body, with the following result: Those voting in the affirmative were: Messrs. Baker, Burns (of Dodge), Burns (of York), Coon, Daily, Dinsmore, Doane, Evans, Gere, Graham, Harrington, Morse, Perkins, Pierce, Powers, Smith, Tefft, Turner, Van Wycke, Wells, Wherry and White--22. Those voting in the negative were: Messers. Ballantine, Cady, Ervin, Howe, Myers, Taylor, Turk and Zehring--8. The bill having passed both houses of the Legislature, received the Governor's signature February 26, 1881, and thus became a law.

   Should a majority of the voters ratify this amendment at the November election, in 1882, Nebraska will be the first State in the American Union conferring equal rights upon its citizens, carrying out the spirit of the Declaration of Independence, and representing the advanced and enlightened principles of a pure and progressive Republic.

   The text of the joint resolution is as follows:

   Resolved, By the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Nebraska:

   SECTION 1. That the following amendment to Article VII, Section 1, entitled "Rights of Suffrage," of the Constitution of the State of Nebraska, shall be submitted to the electors of this State for their adoption or rejection, in accordance with the provisions of Section 1, Article XV of said Constitution, and an act entitled "An act to provide the manner of proposing amendments to the Constitution and submitting the same to the electors of this State, approved February 13, 1877."

   SEC. 2. Every person of the age of twenty-one years or upward, belonging to either of the following classes, who shall have resided in this State six months, and in the county, precinct or ward for the term provided by law, shall be an elector:

   First--Citizens of the United States.

   Second--Persons of foreign birth who shall have declared their intentions to become citizens conformably to the laws of the United States on the subject of naturalization, at least thirty days prior to an election.

   SEC. 3. The ballots at the election at which said amendment shall be submitted, shall be in the following form:

   "For proposed amendment to the Constitution, relating to rights of suffrage." "Against proposed amendment to the Constitution relating to the rights of suffrage."

   After the success of this measure, which was, perhaps, a surprise even to many of the most hopeful, Mr. Correll realized the necessity of having a medium through which the principles and theories of the cause might be made known, without infringing upon the space of the Hebron Journal, in its capacity of local newspaper. With that purpose in mind, he established the pioneer suffrage paper of the State at Lincoln, in April, 1881, and called it the Western Woman's Journal. This publication, a monthly, is neatly printed, and has a good circulation. In its editorial character it shows a degree of intelligence which commands the warmest approval from the supporters of the cause, as well as the respect and admiration of those yet undecided or indifferent. The abilities and untiring energies of Mr. Correll are fully appreciated, as is shown by his election to the high office of President of the American Suffrage Association.

   The eleventh annual meeting of the American Woman Suffrage Convention was held in the Grand Opera House, at Louisville, Ky., October 26 and 27, 1881. Dr. Mary F. Thomas, of Indiana, presided. The annual report was read by Mrs. Lucy Stone, Chairman of the Executive Committee, and editor of the Woman's Journal, of Boston.

   Letters indorsing the movement were read from Gov. Long, of Massachusetts; Gov. St. John, of Kansas; Hon. George W. Julian, of Indiana; John B. Henderson, of Missouri; Pres. G. W. Elliott, of Washington University, St. Louis, and Pres. John Bascomb, of the University of Wisconsin; John G. Whittier and Wendell Phillips. Spirited addresses were made by Dr. Mary F. Thomas, Mary E. Haggart and Mrs. ex-Gov. Wallace, of Indiana; Lucy Stone, of Massachusetts, Col. John H. Ward and Miss. Laura Clay, of Kentucky; Mrs. Antoinette Brown Blackwell, of New Jersey; Julia Ward Howe; Mrs. J. P. Fuller, of Missouri, and others. Among the delegates were two daughters of Cassius M. Clay. Fifteen States sent reports, viz.: Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Virginia, South Carolina, Nebraska, California, Wisconsin, Texas and Arkansas. At this meeting the honor of the Presidency was conferred upon a Western citizen for the first time, Nebraska receiving the distinction, as shown by the following notification:

   Dear Sir: The American Woman Suffrage Association, at its eleventh annual meeting, held in Louisville, Ky., on the 25th and 26th ult., unanimously elected you to be President for the year next ensuing.

   They did this in consideration of the great service you have rendered and are now rendering to the cause of Woman Suffrage. It is an honor that has been bestowed on some of the best men and women in this country. We trust you will accept it as cordially as it was extended.

   As our nominations are all made at the annual meeting. we had no time to consult you. We assumed that you would, cheerfully accede to their unanimous request, and this is our reason for not getting your permission in advance.

Yours sincerely,


Boston, Mass., Nov. 9, 1881.

   In his acceptance, Mr. Correll says:

   In accepting this great honor, so unexpectedly received, I beg to be allowed to consider it not as a personal tribute--since there are many who am worthier than myself to receive this high consideration--but as an expression of the warmest interest from noble Eastern men and women and advocates of equal rights everywhere in the Union, toward those who are battling for the right in the impartial suffrage struggle now being waged on the prairies of Nebraska. In this sense, it affords me much pleasure to thankfully accept the position and its duties, and divide the honor among the earnest men and women who are not only seeking the highest political welfare of humanity, but the honor of placing upon this young commonwealth the first coronal of a pure and advanced government--the realization of the loftiest principles of a true republic.

   Both as an abstract question of right and a political question of historic interest, the subject now before the people of Nebraska which may, and probably will, eventuate in the extension of the elective franchise to women, is one of the most important in the annals of the State. If the amendment becomes a part of the organic law of the State, it will prove the initial movement of a mighty march toward the general recognition of truth. It is beyond the province of this volume to express opinion upon any subject. We but record impartially the events of the past; but there is need of no supernatural power to perceive what is inevitable in this relation. From cause to effect is but the work of logical deduction, not of prophetic revelation. When the historian who writes at the dawn of the twentieth century records the success of the suffrage movement of 1881-82, he will take from these pages a summary of what was done in the early clays of the struggle.

   Besides the State Association, there are at present six county and thirty-three local Associations, making a total of forty active Woman Suffrage Associations in the State. The work of organization is proceeding in different localities, and it is confidently expected that within the next three or four months this number will be largely increased. It is hoped that nearly all of the precincts in the State will have local organizations in time for effective work just before the election.

   Up to the present time, 84 of the (estimated) 200 papers of Nebraska have declared in favor of the adoption of the pending impartial suffrage amendment, and but fifteen have avowed opposition to it. Many have not as yet expressed themselves upon the issue. Of the number uncommitted, the friends of the amendment hope to have the majority, and it is conceded by the opposition that the newspapers of this State are and will be very largely in favor of the proposed reform. Among those papers favoring the movement may be counted the ablest and most influential.

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