Harriot Stanton demolishes her mother's argument for "educated suffrage"


Harriot Stanton demolishes her mother's argument for "educated suffrage"


It’s easy to disagree with your mother in private. In public, less so. Especially when your mother is Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Harriot Stanton Blatch was the 6th of ElizCadyStanton’s 7 children. She grew up to become an accomplished suffragist and feminist in her own right. 🧵

I’ll spend a few days on Harriot, who led some of the ideological and strategic shifts that helped the suffrage movement shake off its turn-of-the-century doldrums. Harriot Stanton went to @Vassar, then married a wealthy British man and lived 20 years in the UK.

In 1894 she spent some months back home in New York, helping lobby the state legislature. She found that while she had been studying class conflict in England, the radical suffragist movement of her childhood had become much more conservative.

Still, her mother’s support for an “educated suffrage” law for male voters--literacy tests that would exclude many immigrants and working men--was a shock. Harriot said so in print. Writing in the Woman’s Journal, suffragists’ weekly paper, she begins: “My honored mother.”

She then proceeds to demolish ElizCadyStanton’s argument: -- first pointing out that her mother knows more than a few lettered men who are awfully ignorant; -- then chiding her for being so parochial as to think English is the only language that matters; -- then noting that her mother’s elitism leads her to false conclusions about working people. Harriot archly points out that not so long ago, men who could read and write held all the power in “the whole southern section of the United States,” and the results were dismal.

“[W]e are ever vainly trying to get morals and character out of intellect, but they grow on quite other soil.” Though ElizCadyStanton fired back a few weeks later, apparently their mother-daughter relationship was undamaged, and Harriot had asserted her political independence.


Daily Suffragist






Daily Suffragist, “Harriot Stanton demolishes her mother's argument for "educated suffrage",” Daily Suffragist, accessed June 20, 2024, https://dailysuffragist.omeka.net/items/show/363.

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