Old Fort Dodge: The 19th Amendment

Adeline Morrison Swain

Editor’s note: The following first appeared in TODAY Magazine.

The 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States says:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation. The amendment was passed by Congress June 4, 1919, and ratified Aug. 18, 1920. Before that amendment was ratified, women of the country rallied and fought for decades for the right to vote. Here are examples of two people on opposite sides of the issue:

Adeline Morrison Swain

Wilberforce Gaylord

Adeline Morrison Swain was one of the early settlers of Fort Dodge. She and her husband, James Swain, moved to the town in 1858.

The home they built is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Adeline’s interests were many. She was interested in equal political and legal rights for women. She held the first women’s suffrage meeting in Fort Dodge in 1869.

She was the first woman to run for public office in Iowa, in 1883, seeking the position of Iowa Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Although she never achieved public office, Adeline Morrison Swain had wide influence in Fort Dodge. She was an early cultural leader in town, organizing classes for young women in French, English, music, botany and art. She was involved in the temperance movement and spiritualist movement.

In the Annals of Iowa, Vol. 4, No. 1 (1899), Adeline Morrison Swain is memorialized:

“Mrs. Adaline M. Swain was born at Bath, New Hampshire, May 25, 1820; she died at Odin, Illinois, February 3, 1899. Mr. and Mrs. Swain settled at Fort Dodge as early as 1857 or 1858, where they became well known throughout northwestern Iowa. They were highly cultured people and made their home a literary center. They possessed excellent taste and judgment in literature and art, and their collections were large and interesting. A distinguished lady of Fort Dodge says of Mrs. Swain: ‘She was an intellectual, beautiful women. When I was a young girl I admired and loved her as a superior personality, and I never had reason to change my opinion of her.’ Mrs. Swain at an early day took a deep interest in the movement to secure laws enabling women to control their own property, and was also an influential advocate of the wider and higher education of her sex. She was an influential leader in charitable and benevolent work, and on all these accounts deserves to be kindly remembered.”

Adeline Morrison Swain was inducted into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame in 2000.

Wilberforce Gaylord

In 1880, state Sen. Wilberforce Gaylord, of Floyd County, was quoted in the Webster County Gazette. Sen. Gaylord gave his 21 reasons why women should not be allowed the ballot. Below are his reasons:

1. Because it is not to the interest nor in the disposition of man to legislate against the woman, and because man instead of depriving her of her rights has already made laws discriminating in her favor.

2. Because women as a mass are modest and refined, not bold, and aggressive; benevolent and forgiving, not avaricious and cruel; nervous and excitable, not strong and courageous, and therefore ought not to be compelled by laws, whether by herself, or man, or both, to work out a poll-tax on the public highways, nor learn the bloody arts of butchery on the battle-field.

3. Because, with few exceptions, there is no evidence that the most intelligent, refined and exemplary women of Iowa are clamoring for the miserable privilege of becoming politicians.

4. Because in virtue and honor, in affection and benevolence, and in all the charming graces which adorn a happy home, the woman is the superior of the man, and she owes that superiority to the fact that she never has waded in the muddy pools of politics.

5. Because the same politics that make wizards of men will not make angels of women.

6. Because a difference is now shown to women which would be denied them were they brought into political collisions with their husbands and sons and the balance of mankind.

7. Because if married women should vote with their husbands nothing would be gained, and where they voted against their husbands the family would be at war.

8. Because there are bad women as well as bad men, who would always be found at the ballot-box, and to restrain these, would require that every true and modest women, whatever be her condition, should come forward and vote.

9. Because if a woman trains up her children right they will vote right, but while she is campaigning around the country teaching other households to vote, her own home and household is in danger.

10. Because women, as well as men, are sometimes vain, ambitious and aspiring, and are seeking not so much for the privilege of voting as they are for the privilege of being voted for.

11. Because instead of drying up the foundations and the flow of interemperance and its kindred vices, there would be great danger that they would be drawn into the terrible maelstrom themselves.

12. Because woman’s suffrage has not been a grand success where it has been tried.

13. Because there must be a dividing line drawn somewhere between those who may vote and those who may not. Taxation does not confer the right to vote, else the minor and the alien who pay taxes should vote, nor is the privilege of voting conferred on the account of superior intelligence, else some men should (have) two votes, and the overgrown son who outweighs his father in body and mind should also vote.

14. Because the All-wise Author of our natures has made the laws by which we are governed unchangeable, and there are and ever will be times when women can neither lawfully nor religiously escape from her condition, nor with safety leave her exalted throne for the moonshine and monsoons of politics.

15. Because there is great danger that another and a greater evil than that of intemperance would be increased instead of diminished, were women to vote.

16. Because the good wife, who loved her husband and who is loved by her husband, has a voice and a vote already, and her husband is her agent and mutual friend to carry their votes in the ballot-box.

17. Because there cannot, at one and the same time, be two equal heads in the same family, any more than there could be at one and the same time be two equal heads in the same hat; where the woman is the man, the husband is dwarfed.

18. Because politics would largely pervert and destroy in women’s nature that religious element, and in her practice that youthful training of her children, which is referred to with pride and reverence in after years. What the nonpartisan mother said when we were children is often repeated and never forgotten, even in old age.

19. Because the right of suffrage if granted to women would destroy domestic tranquillity, engender a spirit of ruinous rivalry and provoke an exhibition of temper and retaliation. The woman who is clamoring for the right to vote is trying to commit suicide and the man who is encouraging her in it is turning the crank to sharpen her blade.

20. Because the ballot in the hands of women would create jealousies, engender hatred and strife, set in motion the festering tongue of the slanderer, cast a cloud of suspicious over those whose good name is their fortune in life and prove a fruitful source of discord and divorce.

21. Because the good, the true and honored women of Iowa cannot afford to vote and the bad women ought not to be allowed to force them to the ballot box in self-defense.