by Rachel Dworkin, Archivist
In 1915, there was a proposed amendment to the New York State Constitution granting women the right to vote. At the time, some New York women could vote in local school board elections, but not in municipal or federal elections. The decision to grant full suffrage was put directly to the voters in an Election Day ballot initiative. The state-wide run-up to the vote was intense.
By 1915, women’s suffrage was a major national issue. 12 States including Wyoming (1869), Colorado (1893), Utah (1896), Idaho (1896), Washington (1910), California (1911), Kansas (1912), Arizona (1912), Oregon (1912), Alaska (1913), Illinois (1913), Montana (1914) and Nevada (1914) had already granted their women the right to vote. There were ballot initiatives not only in New York, but also in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Iowa, and a bill in Congress.
|1915 Campaign flyer with map|
The suffrage movement in New York had been slowly building momentum throughout the 1910s, but its supporters kicked their efforts into overdrive for the campaign. The Empire State Campaign Committee, a coalition including the Women’s Suffrage Party, the Women’s Suffrage Association, the Women’s Political Union and other likeminded organizations, was headed up by Carrie Chapman Catt. The organization published and distributed a mountain of leaflets and gave out free suffrage novelties at rallies and fairs. The Chemung County Committee handed out ribbons, drinking cups, writing pads, flags, fans, balloons, pins, place cards, and tango twirls at the Chemung County Fair.
|Women's suffrage flyers, 1915|
From January through November, the Empire State Campaign sponsored a series of lectures, campaigns and rallies throughout the state. They canvassed the women of New York and urged them to show their support. The whole thing was to be capped off by a massive rally and parade in New York City on October 23rd with delegates coming in from across the state.
|Chemung County suffragettes on parade, 1913|
According to a poll conducted by the Elmira Advertiser, 96% of Chemung County women were in support of the amendment. Unfortunately, women couldn’t actually vote and the 1915 amendment failed to pass. A second campaign in 1917, however, was successful in granting New York Women the right to vote.