Helen M. Barker
Rev. M. Barker
Philena Everett Johnson
Alice M.A. Pickler
John A. Pickler
Samuel A. Ramsey
Elizabeth M. Wardall
Sarah A. Richards
Emma Smith DeVoe
John H. DeVoe
William M. Fielder
Sophia M. Harden
Nettie C. Hall
William F. Bailey
Henry B. Blackwell (Boston)
Susan B. Anthony (New York)
Rev. Helen G. Putnam (Jamestown ND)
Anna Howard Shaw (Washington DC)
Helen M. Gougar (Kansas)
Sena Hertzell Wallace (Kansas)
Carrie Lane Chapman Catt
Mary Seymour Howell (Albany NY)
Matilda Hindman (Pittsburgh PA)
Julia B. Nelson (Red Wing MN)
Clara B. Colby (Beatrice NE)
Olympia Brown (Wisconsin)
The Dakota Territorial House created a seven-member committee on woman suffrage of Van Etten, Cooke, Lillibridge, Newman, Price, Burnham, and Potter [Press and Daily Dakotaian (Yankton SD), January 15, 1889, January 16, 1889]. Captain Van Etten, a “temperance lecturer,” introduced a bill for suffrage but made “an inconsiderate speech” that “damaged the cause” and the bill was rejected 28 to 17 [Press and Daily Dakotaian (Yankton SD), January 18, 1889; January 26, 1889, January 29, 1889]. Several suffragists, including Helen Barker, Philena Johnson, and Alice Pickler, had gone to Bismarck for the session [Press and Daily Dakotaian (Yankton SD), January 16, 1889, February 15, 1889]. Later, Cooke introduced a municipal suffrage bill which was defeated 26 to 22 after two hours of discussion, including remarks by Helen Barker who was invited to speak and “presented her points with wonderful clearness” [Press and Daily Dakotaian (Yankton SD), January 30, 1889, February 8, 1889; Mitchell Capital (SD), February 15, 1889].
“Petitions, principally from South Dakota, beseeching for female suffrage and prohibitory law, are coming in, and the speakers deferentially refer them to the yawning abysses of the election and temperance committees.”
Jamestown Weekly Alert (ND), January 31, 1889.
Suffrage supporter S.A. Ramsey served as a delegate to the Dakota statehood convention in Sioux Falls from Jerauld County, and national suffrage activist Henry B. Blackwell of Boston attended and addressed the Sioux Falls convention [Kingsbury/Smith, History of Dakota Territory, vol. 2 (1915), 1926; Jennifer M. Ross-Nazzal, Winning the West for Women: The Life of Suffragist Emma Smith DeVoe (Seattle: The University of Washington Press, 2011), 33].
“Gov. Mellette will be apt to have the support of every lady in South Dakota. He is pronounced in favor of woman suffrage.”
And he was quoted at a commencement speech in Grand Forks (ND) having said: “I notice in this class that the ladies outnumber the gentlemen six to two. The granting of the ballot to women will be the next step in advance in the political development of our land. Equal as she is in education, an added power will be given her with the ballot in her hand. The emancipated slave can vote, but he can deny the ballot to Harriet Beecher Stowe, his emancipator. I hope to see the day when the ladies of Dakota will walk side by side with men to the ballot-box to express their opinion upon all questions.”
Wessington Springs Herald (SD), July 12, 1889.
“The first important measure to occupy the public mind of South Dakota, after prohibition is settled—and perhaps before, as a step towards it—is woman suffrage. All the old fogies who have been on the losing side in every advance, should get their thinking apparatus in repair to be ready to get on the right side for once.”
“Twin State Talk,” quoting Aberdeen News in St. Paul Daily Globe (MN), July 22, 1889.
October: The 1889 statehood convention continued the 1887 law by including, in the draft of the state constitution, school suffrage for women “‘any woman having the required qualifications as to age, residence and citizenship may vote at any election held solely for school purposes.’ As State and county superintendents are elected at general and not special elections, women can vote only for school trustees. They have no vote on bonds or appropriations.” They were eligible to hold office as school board members, or county or state superintendents of public instruction [ Anthony and Harper, History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 4 (1902), 561; Nelson in Lauck et al., 133; Jones, “The Women Voted,” in Lahlum and Rozum, Equality at the Ballot Box, 197, 203]. The convention did make a provision for full suffrage to be put to a public ballot in November 1890–kicking off the first major statewide suffrage campaign in South Dakota [Turner County Herald (Hurley SD), July 11, 1889; Plattsburgh Republican (NY), October 12, 1889; Kingsbury/Smith, History of Dakota Territory, vol. 2 (1915), 1929; Dennis A. Norlin, “The Suffrage Movement and South Dakota Churches: Radicals and the Status Quo, 1890,” South Dakota History (1985), 308].
In a telegram from Minneapolis, Susan B. Anthony included an interview where she said: “The state of Dakota is the place of all others in the United State to which we are going to turn our attention. The state is bound by its constitution to submit the question of universal suffrage a year from this time, and we are going to concentrate all our forces in that state from this time on. All the best speakers, all the best workers in the woman’s suffrage ranks in the United State are to be turned into the field in South Dakota…. We shall do the greatest work for the cause ever done. We never before had such an opportunity. We never had before a whole year in which to work on a state…. The fact is the people of South Dakota are largely made of liberal westerners who did not come from the conservative east. We will not have to work with them as we would the people of the east. Many of them are educated up to the fact that woman’s suffrage has come, that it is no longer an experiment. We are going to educate the whole state. We have very great hope in South Dakota.”
Evening Star (Washington D.C.), October 22, 1889; Mitchell Capital (SD), October 25, 1889.
“Susan B. Anthony announces that all the woman suffrage stumpers of the country are to be turned loose on South Dakota. Heaven help Dakota and her people.”
Wichita Eagle (KS), October 26, 1889.
One of the earliest campaign events was Woman’s Day at the Beadle County fair in 1889, which was headed by Emma Smith DeVoe, aided by Libbie Wardall and Mrs. Thomas. In addition to a baby show and horseback riding contests, she arranged for many suffrage and temperance speakers to address the “densely packed” crowds who had come to see the women’s exhibits. The speakers included DeVoe, Libbie A. Wardall, Alice Pickler, Rev. Helen G. Putnam, Sophia Harden, and Helen Barker, as well as short remarks on equal suffrage from several “brothers-in-law of the W.C.T.U.” Rev. Mr. Barker, Rev. Mr. English, Mr. Langley, Hon. A. Wardall, and A.W. Page of Broadland. After the speeches, “a unanimous vote of all present was taken in favor of equal suffrage and it was so popular that four bolts of yellow ribbon, the badge of the suffragists were used up.” The exhibits and speeches took place in a tent referred to as Floral Hall. Despite “dust that was driving in blinding clouds by a strong northeast wind,” the fair crowds were largest that day. After the fair, the DeVoes hosted a meeting at their home on Kansas St. to plan for a convention to organize the South Dakota Equal Suffrage Association [Sources: The Union Signal, November 7, 1889, in “Page 09 : South Dakota — Equal Suffrage Work,” “Page 09 : [news clipping: “Woman’s Day”],” Dakota Farmer (Huron SD), November 1889, “Page 66 : Entire Page,” and “Page 67 : Entire Page.” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10].
October 21: The South Dakota Equal Suffrage Association was organized at the state convention held in the city hall at Huron [“Page 01: Equal Franchise,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10]. The first officers elected to lead the association were S.A. Ramsey, president; Alonzo Wardall, vice-president; and Rev. M. Barker, secretary; Sarah A. Richards, treasurer; J.H. DeVoe and William Fielder, executive committee; and Helen Barker, state lecturer/organizer. They also set up committees to solicit support from the Farmers’ Alliance, the Knights of Labor, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, “and other similar organizations” [Wessington Springs Herald (SD), October 25, 1889; “Page 66 : Entire Page,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10; Wittmayer, “The 1889-1890 Woman Suffrage Campaign,” 205]. John and Emma Smith DeVoe were selected for a committee on music for the campaign, and “Mr. DeVoe offered as an emblem for the association a pair of balances containing on either side the words ‘equality’ and ‘justice,’ which was adopted and Mr. DeVoe was authorized to get the emblems manufactured into medals and pins” [Wessington Springs Herald (SD), October 25, 1889]. Rev. Barker was selected a full-time secretary/staff for the association with headquarters in Huron [The Daily Plainsman (Huron, SD), November 19, 1889].
November: Shortly after South Dakota became a state on November 2, 1889, the first state legislature was convened. During that session the question of putting equal suffrage on the ballot was brought up for a vote and passed 40 to 1 in the Senate and 84 to 9 in the House, in accordance with the direction of the 1889 constitutional convention [Anthony and Harper, History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 4 (1902), 553].
The legislature also put a measure on the ballot that would have limited voting rights of men of Lakota/Dakota tribes. Men of the tribes who took their assigned allotments from the 1877 Dawes Act, “proved up” (in a way) for twenty-five years to get it out of trust status, and relinquished tribal affiliations could be considered U.S. citizens and eligible to vote. The ballot measures were worded in a way that suffragists later claimed would cause confusion. The prospect of native men voting brought up racism in society such as the conservative Kimball Graphic editor, Clate Tinan, who referred to it as “a problem comparable to negro supremacy in the South.” As with African-American voting in the South, opponents of native enfranchisement promoted education requirements or literacy tests. Some supporters of women’s suffrage, like John Pickler, argued that educated white women would help offset the increased numbers of native voters. [Rozum, “Citizenship, Civilization, and Property,” in Lahlum/Rozum, Equality at the Ballot Box (2019), 240-247].
Susan B. Anthony lectured across the eastern part of the state before addressing the Farmers’ Alliance convention in Aberdeen [Wessington Springs Herald (SD), November 8, 1889; “Page 66 : Entire Page,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10; Anthony and Harper, History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 4 (1902), 553]. She organized equal suffrage associations/clubs in Minnehaha and Lake Counties [Kingsbury, History of Dakota Territory, vol. 3 (1915), 765; Jennings, “Lake County Woman Suffrage Campaign,” 391 quoting Madison Semi-Weekly Sentinel (SD), November 26, 1889]. Susan B. Anthony’s first visit to South Dakota concluded with a speech to the state Farmers’ Alliance meeting with its “densely packed” audience of 475 delegates plus other spectators at the opera house in Aberdeen. After Anthony, Helen Barker and S.A. Ramsey, who were seated on the platform, gave short responses [“Page 66 : Entire Page,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10]. She also inspired local workers like Emma Smith DeVoe who said: “The coming here of Susan B. Anthony just when she did has helped us by at least five thousand votes. She gave us such instruction, such help, that workers like myself, for instance, feel that we can do something” [The Woman’s Tribune (Boston), January 4, 1890 in “Page 09 : Among the Workers,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10].
December: Emma Smith DeVoe went to Hyde, Hand, and Spink Counties, each for a week, to speak and organize local suffrage societies [“Page 01: Equal Suffrage Meeting,” “Page 05 : Entire Page,” The Woman’s Tribune (Boston), January 4, 1890 in “Page 09 : Among the Workers,” and “Page 10 : Entire Page,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10]. At one stop at Greenleaf church in Hand County, “the usual Sunday school and gospel service was suspended, and the entire time given to this subject, the pastor fully believing that the cause she advocated, appealed so strongly to the noblest christian sentiment of the church, as to be appropriately considered on the Lord’s day” [“Page 10 : Mrs. DeVoe at Ree Heights,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10].
January 11: The S.D.E.S.A. executive committee met in Huron to select delegates to the national convention in Washington D.C., plan legislative work, and plan literature and speakers for the campaign [St. Paul Daily Globe (MN), January 12, 1890; Griggs Courier (ND), January 24, 1890, et al.].
January 17: H.P. Smith, state senator from Lake County, introduced Senate bill No. 57 to give women the right to to vote at all school and municipal elections [Jennings, “Lake County Woman Suffrage Campaign,” (1975), 393]. Partridge introduced a full suffrage bill in the House [Kimball Graphic (SD), January 17, 1890; The Herald (Big Stone City SD), January 28, 1890].
February: Emma Smith DeVoe lectured and organized local suffrage clubs in Beadle County. One reporter printed that they accompanied DeVoe and “extensive preparations were made to enable us to defy the attacks of jack-frost, wolves, bad roads, etc., which were rewarded by a very pleasant and comfortable ride.” The week concluded with a county convention at G.A.R. Hall (Kilpatrick Hall) in Huron. Coffee was supplied and “many were there from the outside townships who came early with baskets well filled with provisions” [Wessington Springs Herald (SD), March 14, 1890; “Page 25 : Entire Page,” “Page 26 : Entire Page,” and The Woman’s Tribune (Boston), March 15, 1890 in “Page 27 : Beadle County Convention,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10].
February 15: At the G.A.R. Hall in Huron, local suffragists held an event to celebrate Susan B. Anthony’s 70th birthday with speeches about her and her work by John and Emma DeVoe, Libbie Wardall, Mary Elson, and others, and closing by singing DeVoe’s “A Soldier’s Tribute to Women.” They had decorated the hall: “On the stage hung large lithographs of Miss Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, handsomely draped with national flags. In front of these, on tables, were handsome bouquets of flowers, and large potted plants that added beauty to the surroundings.” [Huron Daily Times (SD), February 17, 1890, “Page 26 : Susan B. Anthony Honored,” and “Page 26 : In Honor of Miss Anthony,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10; Huron Dakota Huronite (SD), February 20, 1890; Leavenworth Times (KS), March 11, 1890].
February: Alice Pickler, John Pickler, and Alonzo Wardall attended the National Woman’s Suffrage Association convention in Washington D.C. to ask for personnel and funds to run their suffrage campaign in South Dakota [Wessington Springs Herald (SD), December 6, 1889, February 28, 1890; Black Hills Union (Rapid City SD), March 7, 1890; Jamestown Weekly Alert (ND), February 27, 1890; Washington Critic (DC), February 20, 1890; Anthony and Harper, History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 4 (1902), 554; Kingsbury, History of Dakota Territory, vol. 3 (1915), 786-787; Wittmayer, “The 1889-1890 Woman Suffrage Campaign,” 208]. Congressman Pickler sent back a telegram to John DeVoe that $3,000 had been subscribed for the fund [“Page 09 : [news clipping : A telegram from Congressman Pickler],” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10; Kingsbury, v.3, 786-787].
In February 1890, Major J.A. Pickler proclaimed for the press that the chances were “excellent” to pass suffrage…
“He has thus epitomized the facts on which he bases his conclusions: ‘That there are a large number of unmarried women in the state, who came to the state and acquired government land under the pre-emption and homestead laws, and who are paying taxes without any representation, and without any voice in the levying taxes on their land. It is estimated that one fifth of the land belongs to women. The state is largely agricultural, and the Farmers’ alliance, which is a very strong organization, has declared with very few dissenting votes for equal sufferage, and many of its leaders will engage actively in the work… The prominent men of the state are generally outspoken for equal sufferage, and no prominent politician openly opposes it. The near prospect of the enfranchisement of fifteen thousand Indians makes it imperative that woman suffrage be adopted now, before this new element shall be admitted to participation in the state government. The newspapers of the state are generally friendly. – Deadwood Pioneer.”
Black Hills Union (Rapid City SD), February 21, 1890
The territorial assembly of the Knights of Labor passed a resolution in support of equal suffrage [Black Hills Union (Rapid City SD), February 7, 1890].
Starting in the spring of 1890, national speakers came to South Dakota to campaign for suffrage, including: Susan B. Anthony, Anna Howard Shaw, Helen M. Gougar, Sena Hertzell Wallace, Henry B. Blackwell, Carrie Chapman Catt, Mary Seymour Howell, Matilda Hindman, and other national speakers from the east, as well as a few from neighboring states like Julia B. Nelson of Red Wing, Minnesota and Clara B. Colby of Beatrice, Nebraska. Anthony and Blackwell both donated their time. Shaw and Catt were “new recruits” of Anthony’s. Shaw’s expenses were paid by the national association. Although from Pittsburg, PA, Hindman was supported by Californians. For local speakers, Emma Smith DeVoe was joined in the field by Helen M. Barker, Alice M.A. Pickler, and Nettie C. Hall. They spoke at schoolhouses, courthouses, opera halls, and churches. Suffrage speakers appeared mostly in East River counties (most of West River was the Great Sioux Reservation), but also traveled to and through the developing towns and mining camps of the Black Hills. Concerns about the year’s drought was a major competitor for the attention of the wider public and drove people out of the state–Julia Nelson reported that Buffalo and Brule Counties on the plains of central S.D. were “nearly deserted.” The heat and dust, as well as scarcity of “decent” accommodations made traveling and campaigning difficult for out-of-staters as well.
[The Dakota Ruralist (Aberdeen SD), June 28, 1890, “Page 42 : Entire Page,” and August 16, 1890, “Page 57 : Entire Page,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10; Trisha Franzen, Anna Howard Shaw: The Work of Woman Suffrage (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2014), 67-68; More sources: see SD suffragist biography pages or Invaluable Out-of-Staters].
Photograph of Anna Howard Shaw turning the crank of her car,
Wisconsin Historical Society.
Marietta Bones, Samuel A. Ramsey, and Helen M. Gougar of Indiana/ Kansas criticized Anthony for not turning over national funds for the South Dakota campaign to the state board. Anthony with Alice Stone Blackwell and Clara Colby managed the $3,000 that NAWSA had pledged. The tension between these active leaders carried through the end of the campaign in 1890. Suffragists in South Dakota were split between support for or opposition to Anthony’s leadership [Wessington Springs Herald (SD), March 28, 1890; St. Paul Daily Globe (MN), April 13, 1890; Minneapolis Tribune (MN), July 15, 1890; Kingsbury, History of Dakota Territory, vol. 3 (1915), 766, 786-787; Wittmayer, “The 1889-1890 Woman Suffrage Campaign,” 208-220].
“Susan B. Anthony says she will manage the campaign from Washington. Our South Dakota sisters say she will not, that they are perfectly competent to carry on the war. Result: blood on the moon.“
Sturgis Advertiser (SD), March 20, 1890
“To be sure some of us may think we know a good deal about woman suffrage; but we should be willing to admit that those who have devoted twenty, thirty, and even fifty years to this cause might know even more, and we should be glad of their help, especially as it is to be paid for by outside parties or donated entire. We hope our South Dakota Association will not kick up a row simply because they cannot handle the money that was donated the National Association for work in our state.”
Wessington Springs Herald (SD), March 28, 1890
“Of course Miss Anthony and Mrs. Bones do not dwell in any great sisterly love, but they should put blinds over their eyes while working in double harness, until after the result is decided.“
Reprinted from the Pierre Free Press, St. Paul Daily Globe (SD), April 3, 1890.
“Susan B. Anthony should come out to South Dakota, and put in her oar in the suffrage contest. She knows how to rattle the Bones.”
St. Paul Daily Globe (MN), April 14, 1890.
“The women’s public battle was giving the newspapers the opportunity to poke fun at the women and, by association, the suffrage cause… For all of their efforts to attract political support and educate the public, the suffrage workers were only succeeding in getting their internal feuds ridiculed in the papers.”
In Wittmayer, “The 1889-1890 Woman Suffrage Campaign,” 210, 220.
Over two weeks, Emma Smith DeVoe did organizing work in Spink County with a county convention at the Methodist Episcopal church in Frankfort on March 21st. As she organized in each voting precinct, “usually men” were chosen as officers to distribute literature “and to look after the interests of the cause at the polls on election day” [“Page 27 : Entire Page,” and “Page 28 : Entire Page,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10].
Libbie Wardall edited a suffrage department for The Dakota Ruralist, a paper of the Farmers’ Alliance [“Page 27 : Among the Workers,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10]. When anti-suffragists in Boston printed the first Remonstrance newsletter, they sent it specifically to leaders of the Farmers’ Alliance to sway them away from suffrage. One, John Goodspeed in Brookings County, sent his copy to the Ruralist to alert them of the mailing [Nelson, “Defending Separate Spheres,” p128-130 in Lahlum and Rozum, Equality at the Ballot Box (2019)].
At the 1890 SD W.C.T.U. convention in Madison, one of the proposed resolutions stated: “Therefore, Resolved; that we, members of the W.C.T.U. and women of South Dakota will never cease to petition, to work for, and to demand the ballot for women, till we are granted a fair share in the government of our commonwealth.”
Jennings, “Lake County Woman Suffrage Campaign,” (1975), 407.
April 2: The state executive committee met at the campaign headquarters in Huron. Members included S.A. Ramsey, Alonzo Wardall (not present at this meeting), Rev. M. Barker, Sarah A. Richards, Helen M. Barker, Rev. W.M. Fielder, and Emma Smith DeVoe [Daily Plainsman (Huron, SD), April 8, 1890].
April: Emma DeVoe, Helen Barker, and Mrs. S.F. Grubb worked for translations of suffrage literature into Norwegian and German [The Woman’s Tribune, April 5, 1890, “Page 32 : Entire Page,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10].
Emma DeVoe continued organizing work in Potter, Sully, Stanley, and Hughes Counties [Sully County Watchman (Onida SD), April 19, 1890; “Page 29 : Entire Page,” and “Page 30 : Entire Page,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10]. Through Sully County, “she traveled 166 miles by team—a task which many of us would shrink from” [The Dakota Ruralist, May 3, 1890, “Page 34 : Entire Page,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10]. In her tours of Kingsbury County, her speeches were accompanied often by a female quartette (from Iroquois?) who also performed later at the state convention in August [The Dakota Ruralist (Aberdeen SD), June 28, 1890, “Page 42 : Entire Page,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10].
During city and county elections in April 1890, the women of Lake County were urged by the state Equal Suffrage Association to attempt to vote. “Territorial law had granted women the right to vote only at elections that included school business. [Newspaper editor F.L.] Mease interpreted new state law as allowing females to vote on school questions in any election.” They gathered at the Baptist Church but were turned away from submitting votes on school officers at the polls. Apparently women were accepted at polls in DeSmet and Rapid City. Editor Mease commented that another paper in Madison “makes her [women] the object of newspaper ridicule and sneers at the ladies attempting to vote. Heaven forbid, that the outside world should take this unmanly slur as a reflection of the best thought of this community” [Jennings, “Lake County Woman Suffrage Campaign,” 396-397].
Matilda Hindman came to South Dakota from Pittsburg PA, with her expenses paid by the California Woman Suffrage Association [Wessington Springs Herald (SD), April 4, 1890]. She spoke and organized clubs in Parker, Madison, Hurley, Huron, and Sanborn County [Turner County Herald (Hurley SD), March 27, 1890, April 10, 1890; Madison Daily Leader (SD), April 10, 1890, May 26, 1890; The Daily Plainsman (Huron, SD), May 13, 1890]. She also spoke at the Methodist church in Elk Point before touring elsewhere in Union County; the news announcement ahead of her talk specified: “Please note that this line of work is entirely distinct from the Temperance work; because you are a member of the W.C.T.U. it does not follow that you are obliged to be a suffragist. The lady has come a long way, and courtesy demands that we give her a good audience, although you may not agree with her in sentiment, come out and hear her.” [Union County Courier (Elk Point SD), April 9, 1890, April 23, 1890]. She did not always succeed though, and failed to get signers to organize a club after a lecture in Egan [Madison Daily Leader (SD), June 3, 1890]. Hindman also traveled to Colorado and, at her “behest,” suffragists there organized to coordinate aid for the South Dakota campaign [Anthony and Harper, eds., History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 4 (Rochester NY: Anthony, 1902), 509].
In April 1890, state attorney general Robert Dollard tried to clarify school franchise questions but was vague about women who were unnaturalized. Two Scandinavian women who tried to vote in Slaughter SD were challenged for their lack of citizenship papers. In other cases, cities refused to set up distinct ballot boxes for school questions. Where there were no challenges to school franchise, the turnout for women voting was interpreted as an indication of their interest in voting at general elections. One of the Beadle County E.S.A. resolutions in 1890 was to encourage voting at the their school elections [Jones, “The Women Voted,” in Lahlum and Rozum, Equality at the Ballot Box, 197, 201-204].
May: Anthony returned to South Dakota in May 1890, staying for six months and making her headquarters with the DeVoes in Huron [Madison Daily Leader (SD), April 24, 1890; Wessington Springs Herald (SD), May 23, 1890; Anthony and Harper, History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 4 (1902), 554-555].
John W. Brewer wrote to Herald editor from the State Agricultural College in Brookings that “Woman suffrage is booming, even among the students, many of them wearing the suffrage pin adopted by the So. Dak. E.S.A.” [Wessington Springs Herald (SD), May 2, 1890].
Emma DeVoe went to the Black Hills to organize local committees in advance of Shaw and Anthony’s visits there that summer/fall [Sturgis Advertiser (SD), May 15, 1890; Hot Springs Star (SD), May 23, 1890, June 20, 1890, “Page 33“–“Page 37,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10, et al.]. She traveled on “lengthy stage rides over the hilly, rough country, and sometimes speaking twice a day” to organize in Rapid City, Hot Springs, Terraville, Centennial Park, Central City, Deadwood, Spearfish, Lead, Oelrichs, Minnesela, Sturgis, Tilford, Postville, Whitewood, Hermosa, Buffalo Gap, Custer, and Hill City [The Dakota Ruralist (Aberdeen SD), June 14, 1890, “Page 37 : Entire Page,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10]. DeVoe was reportedly “loud in praise of her reception in the mining towns. She asserts that it is a great mistake to think that the miners are a rough set, uneducated, she finding them intelligent, kind-hearted and wide awake to all the reforms of the day” [The Dakota Ruralist, May 31, 1890, “Page 34 : Entire Page,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10]. Her visits inspired local workers like Marie J. Gaston (Deadwood), Belle Hammond (Centennial Park), and Mrs. S.A. (or A.S. or H.S.) Way (Hermosa) to continue field work through the summer around the Hills [“Page 48 : Suffrage Campaign in the Black Hills,” and Woman’s Tribune, August 16, 1890, “Page 48 : Letter from Mrs. DeVoe,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10].
“Western men, of whom the population of the Black Hills is largely made up,—and by western men is meant those coming here from Montana, Idaho, Nevada and those far western states—who have literally hewn their way to success, are the kind of men who listen patiently and with a chivalry that is real to a wrong that needs righting, ‘fair play’ being a code of honor with them. They are the men who do not fear women becoming ‘feeble, second rate copies of men,’ but have had a life experience of woman’s endurance, patience and courage…”
Dakota Ruralist, June 28, 1890, “Page 42 : Entire Page,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10.
May 10-11: The Jerauld County Equal Suffrage Association held its convention in the chapel of the Methodist Seminary in Wessington Springs. Prominent convention workers were Nettie C. Hall, Abi Huntley, Mother Freeland, Rev. Vessey, Rev. S.F. Huntley, and Prof. Freeland and wife Clara Freeland. Susan B. Anthony came to speak about her life and work. The Seminary Chapel was decorated with flags, banners, flowers and ferns, and among the mottoes displayed were: “Taxation without representation is tyranny”; “Equality before the Law”; “In 37 states the mother has no control of her child”; and (in the attitudes of the day) “Only idiots, paupers, criminals, insane, Chinese and women cannot vote.” [Wessington Springs Herald (SD), May 2, 1890, May 16, 1890].
In late May, Mary S. Howell went to Tripp (Hutchinson County) to give a lecture scheduled at a school there. The resulting story sent from Tripp on the 26th is interesting to my historian-brain in terms of the analysis of opposition to suffrage, but also for the terminology used in reference to race and ethnicity…
“Upon her arrival here she was confronted by a gang of scabby-brained Russians fresh from a hole-in-the-wall, who think that woman was created solely to ‘stay at home home and take care of the children’ and other menial duties, who informed her that they did not believe in woman’s rights or woman preachers and under no circumstances could she speak in the school-house. This aroused the few white people in town and they determined to open the school-house to Mrs. Howell at all hazards, but some of the gentlemen from the land where freedom of speech and the press is unknown were so demonstrative in their actions that the lady hardly felt safe to even remain in town, and she spent the afternoon with an old acquaintance and went to Parkston to wait for a train to take her to Scotland. Such behavior on the part of the school board and city officers has given our little town a black name that will require long and careful nursing to restore to its usual brightness” [Madison Daily Leader (SD), May 29, 1890; Wessington Springs Herald (SD), May 30, 1890].
In a Montana newspaper, the story was retold with less extreme language: “confronted by a crowd of people of foreign birth, principally Russians… the friends of the cause were determined to give Mrs. Howell the freedom of the school house at all hazards… [she] shook the mud of Tripp from off her dainty overshoes and left by the next train” [Anaconda Standard (MT), June 1, 1890].
In the midst of leadership conflict, the South Dakota Equal Suffrage Association called a state convention in Huron ‘to attempt reconciliation’–the call was signed by “forty or more women” including Harden, DeVoe, Wardall, Bonham, Pickler, Johnson, Elson, Mouser, and Hall [Madison Daily Leader (SD), June 24, 1890; Kimball Graphic (SD), July 4, 1890; Union County Courier (Elk Point SD), July 2, 1890; Wittmayer, “The 1889-1890 Woman Suffrage Campaign,” 213-214].
By the summer, the national speakers were also criticized for limiting their appearances to larger towns and county seats, where the crowds willing to travel to hear them would likely already be supporters — new supporters would only be obtained by campaigning in rural areas [The Woman’s Tribune, June 7, 1890, “Page 42 : Entire Page,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10.
Sophia M. Harden (secretary of the SD Farmers’ Alliance), Mrs. Bonham, and Judge A.W. Bangs attended and spoke for suffrage at the state Democratic Party convention held at the opera house in Aberdeen. Newspapers reported that Judge Bangs’ appeal for suffrage was “choked” by the chairman [Mitchell Capital (SD), June 20, 1890]. They also reported that the anti-suffrage response from congressional candidate Ezra W. Miller was “grossly abusive” and “a vulgar and outrageously filthy speech…. an insult to every woman and was finally drowned by loud hisses and cries of ‘Shame!'” According to one news report, a small group made apologies for the incident, but most of “the party stands branded with the outrage” [The Herald-Advance (Milbank SD), June 13, 1890; Wessington Springs Herald (SD), July 25, 1890; Mitchell Capital (SD), April 7, 1893]. The party adopted a resolution opposing suffrage [Sully County Watchman (Onida SD), June 14, 1890]. There were also reports that people were posted outside the convention, passing out issues of The Remonstrance, the publication of the Boston-based anti-suffrage national association [Carrie Chapman Catt and Nettie Rogers Shuler, Woman Suffrage and Politics: The Inner Story of the Suffrage Movement (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1923), 116].
July 4: “The fourth of July in South Dakota is pre-empted by the woman speakers.” Emma Smith DeVoe spoke at Scatterwood Lake in Faulk County at a picnic held by the Farmers’ Alliance. Susan B. Anthony spoke at Wessington and at Merritt’s Grove. James Kyle of Aberdeen spoke at a celebration “in which he attacked corporate wealth and advocated compulsory education, universal suffrage, and freedom of the press”; after which Brown County Populists selected him to be their state senate candidate [“Page 43 : Entire Page,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10; Guide to the Hagerty-Lloyd Historic District (1990), 11-12, Beulah Williams Library Archives and Special Collections, NSU].
“More than once the speakers slept in sod houses, where the only fuel for preparing the meals consisted of ‘buffalo chips.’ Sometimes they drove twenty miles between afternoon and evening meetings, at one time forty miles, on a wagon seat without a back. On the Fourth of July, a roasting day, Miss Anthony spoke in the morning, drove fifteen miles to speak in the afternoon, and then left at night in a pouring rain for a long ride in a freight car.”
The Woman Citizen 3 (March 22, 1919), 901.
July 7-8: At the Huron convention, delegates from each county met as a committee “on the order of business” which met in the G.A.R. Hall “to report the attitude of the convention towards the state executive committee” who had been in conflict with those factions allied with Susan B. Anthony. They adjourned at 3:00 a.m. to reconvene in a jury room of the courthouse at 9:00 a.m. Other activities of the convention included a speech by Mary Howell in the opera house on the first night and a general business meeting in the morning. When the committee adjourned, the state executive committee had all resigned except Sarah Richards who was not present. The remaining members reorganized the state association, electing new officers and establishing a headquarters in the Hills Block in Huron. According to historian Sara Egge, the reorganized state organization encouraged a “Do-Everything policy” where local associations held oratory contests, tent meetings, “yellow tea parties,” and suffrage dinners. The state also planned to include more outreach to German and Scandinavian populations [Madison Daily Leader (SD), July 10, 1890; The Daily Plainsman (Huron SD), July 10, 1890; “Page 44 : Entire Page,” and “Page 45 : Entire Page,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10; Wittmayer, “The 1889-1890 Woman Suffrage Campaign,” 217-218; Egge, “Ethnicity and Woman Suffrage,” in Lahlum and Rozum, Equality at the Ballot Box, 223].
July: The state suffrage convention in Huron was scheduled to coincide with the Independent party convention in hopes that suffragists could convince the party to adopt a suffrage platform [Kingsbury, History of Dakota Territory, vol. 3 (1915), 787; Wittmayer, “The 1889-1890 Woman Suffrage Campaign,” 214-218]. Reportedly “many ladies, wives of prominent members of the party, and leading lights of the Equal Suffrage Association” were seated on the stage of the convention [The Daily Plainsman (Huron, SD), July 10, 1890]. A few newspaper editors took aim at suffrage leaders (particularly husband/wife teams) for their third-party, “erratic” politics [Kimball Graphic (SD), July 4, 1890; “Page 44 : Entire Page,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10]. Yet. although each group separately had indicated support for equal suffrage, the Farmers’ Alliance and Knights of Labor did not adopt a suffrage plank in their platform [Sully County Watchman (Onida SD), July 26, 1890; Madison Daily Leader (SD), July 26, 1890; Wittmayer, 213-214].
When H.L. Loucks, at an address in Aberdeen, was asked by an audience member why Independents didn’t declare for prohibition and suffrage, Loucks reportedly “made an extremely lame reply”… “Woman suffrage was left out, he frankly admitted for the sole purpose of catching votes.”
Madison Daily Leader (SD), July 26, 1890.
“That was a terrible campaign. Even the Knights of Labor and the farmers dumped the women’s cause in the ditch for a last-minute political expediency, after swearing by all their gods to support it.”
The Woman Citizen 3 (March 22, 1919), 901.
July-August: Clara Colby and Mary Howell undertake a campaign tour through the Black Hills, including several small mining camps [Sturgis Advertiser (SD), July 31, 1890; Hot Springs Star (SD), August 1, 1890; Black Hills Union (Rapid City SD), August 8, 1890; Daily Deadwood Pioneer-Times (SD), August 9, 1890; “Page 46 : Appointments,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10].
Irene Adams’ song “Woman and the Ballot,” was printed in papers around the country.
For instance: Iola Register (KS), July 11, 1890; Iowa Plain Dealer (New Oregon IA), July 17, 1890; Grenada Sentinel (MS), July 19, 1890; et al.
DeVoe and Matilda Hindman campaigned through Brown and Edmunds County. DeVoe’s schedule included speaking at a Farmers’ Alliance picnic at Rondell [“Page 44 : Entire Page,” “Page 47 : Entire Page,” and “Page 48 : Entire Page,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10].
Helen Barker also held talks on suffrage in Deadwood, Sturgis, and Hot Springs [Black Hills Union (Rapid City SD), August 8, 1890, page 1, page 4; Sturgis Advertiser (SD), August 14, 1890; Hot Springs Star (SD), August 15, 1890].
Nettie C. Hall campaigned in Yankton County spending ten days riding horseback to rural communities, many of German or Scandinavian descent, to talk about the suffrage amendment. County organizers, largely Anglo-American city residents, were glad to have a speaker from the SDESA to send around, but also asked for speakers who could deliver addresses in the immigrants’ own languages [Egge, “Ethnicity and Woman Suffrage,” in Lahlum and Rozum, Equality at the Ballot Box, 223-224].
August 25-26: The South Dakota Equal Suffrage Association held its convention in Mitchell, to coincide with the state Republican convention at which they hoped to be able to present their case [Kingsbury, History of Dakota Territory, vol. 3 (1915), 788]. As convention attendees were arriving, many filled the pulpits of local churches as visiting speakers [Mitchell Capital (SD), August 22, 1890, August 29, 1890, page 10].
“Mitchell will no doubt be greatly crowded and friends are advised, if coming in parties, to bring tents and camp out, as they would probably be much more comfortable, and at no expense, than if depending upon accommodation to be secured after arriving.”
Dakota Ruralist, August 16, 1890, “Page 57 : Entire Page,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10.
The convention included many different addresses and reports by local and national speakers, music by a female quartet from Iroquois, and a business meeting at the Davison County Courthouse [Mitchell Capital (SD), August 8, 1890, August 22, 1890, (full report) August 29, 1890; Madison Daily Leader (SD), August 8, 1890, August 26, 1890; Wessington Springs Herald (SD), August 15, 1890, September 5, 1890, September 12, 1890, September 19, 1890; Convention program, “Page 31 : Entire Page,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10].
The suffragists who stayed in Mitchell and approached the state Republican party convention were initially denied seats, but eventually ten were found at the back of the hall. The suffrage committee of Nettie Hall, Rev. S.D. Huntley, Mrs. Sheets of DeSmet, and Emma DeVoe made a request to be heard, but were also only given permission to speak during a recess after the general meeting had adjourned to await committee reports. Apparently about two-thirds of the attendees remained to hear from Rev. Olympia Brown of Wisconsin, Rev. Anna Howard Shaw of Washington, Mary (Emma?) S. DeVoe of Huron, and Susan B. Anthony. Alice M.A. Pickler also “came forward in response to being called, and gave expression to her confidence in the men of the state, whom she characterized as the noblest on earth.” Her husband, John Pickler, who became the party’s nominee for United States representative, included his support of suffrage in his acceptance speech. “The Republicans as a party failed to endorse woman suffrage.”
Some suffragists (particularly national representatives) were bitterly disappointed at perceived slights, yet local suffragist Rev. A.W. Adkinson remarked that “On the whole the friends of equal suffrage are well satisfied with the work of the republicans. While they did not get what they asked for, they are gratified with the feeling of the majority of the delegates on that subject,” and another person submitted to the Woman’s Tribune that “the women speakers were treated with respect and cordiality, and were invited to speak at the close of the opening session, which they did with excellent effect.” The convention also received and read a letter from Clara Barton of the American Red Cross Society, asking for them to support woman suffrage [Wittmayer, “The 1889-1890 Woman Suffrage Campaign,” 222; Mitchell Capital (SD), August 29, 1890, pg 4, pg 9, pg 10, (Adkinson quote) September 5, 1890; Black Hills Union (Rapid City SD), August 29, 1890; Hot Springs Star (SD), October 3, 1890; Catt’s presidential address in Hannah J. Patterson, ed., The Hand Book of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and Proceedings of the Forty-Eighth Annual Convention held at Atlantic City, N.J., September 4-10 inclusive, 1916 (New York, 1916), 59–60, 66; Catt and Shuler, Woman Suffrage and Politics (1923), 116].
Extract from Emma Smith DeVoe’s address before the republican convention:
“… The times are as revolutionary now as they were in 1776 and if the cause for which our forefathers fought was just, then is our cause of equal suffrage in South Dakota is just, and if our cause of equal suffrage is not just, then the very foundation of the republic is false, and structure reared thereon, should fall to the ground dishonored and disgraced.”
The Dakota Ruralist (Aberdeen SD), October 4, 1890, “Page 52 : Entire Page,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10.
Catt’s account in 1916 of the 1890 Republican convention, with racism towards American Indians:
“My first campaign was that in South Dakota in the year 1890… My first point was Mitchell, where a two days’ suffrage meeting was held prior to the State Republican Convention. Miss Anthony was the leader; Miss Shaw ‘the star’ and the very best women of South Dakota were there. Of course, we wanted a plank in the Republican platform. The great concession was made the suffragists of ten seats on the platform where no one of us could see or be seen. I was fortunate enough to be one of the ten and being young, I did not mind standing on a chair in order to see the convention. Peeping over the heads and shoulders of those before me, I saw a man arise and move that a delegation of Sioux Indians be admitted. They had been enfranchised by the National government and the delegate said, their votes must be won. They were admitted to the floor of the house,–three blanketed, long-haired, greasy men of the plains.”
Suffragists were given five minutes and Shaw called to speak for them: “She has made many powerful addresses but never one quite so wonderful as that. All the men who packed that big skating-rink combined, could not have produced so soul-stirring an appeal for any cause but alas, it was a prophet whose soul was lighted by a vision of truth, speaking to a mob, who marveled at the power of the speaker but did not comprehend her message.”
Hannah J. Patterson, ed., The Hand Book of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and Proceedings of the Forty-Eighth Annual Convention held at Atlantic City, N.J., September 4-10 inclusive, 1916 (New York, 1916), 59.
By the end of the summer, when no political parties had adopted a suffrage plank, organizers held little hope that the bill would pass [Nelson in Lahlum/Rozum, Equality at the Ballot Box, 132].
September: Anna Howard Shaw spoke at the Lincoln County Agricultural Association’s fairgrounds. Her half-hour talk included pointed comments on the native men that had been seated at the Republican convention in Mitchell and opposition from Germans from Russia. Shaw told the crowds that “she never knew the importance of being a man forcibly, until she attended the republican state convention at Mitchell” because their votes as men “was the reason the republicans loved their Indians more than their women” [Daily Dakota Farmers’ Leader (Canton SD), September 11, 1890, September 12, 1890; Nelson in Lauck et al., 139; and Rozum, “Citizenship, Civilization, and Property,” in Lahlum/Rozum, Equality at the Ballot Box (2019), 250].
Emma Smith DeVoe was appointed superintendent of Woman’s Day at the state fair in Aberdeen. She arranged for a procession/parade from downtown Aberdeen to escort speakers to the fairgrounds with the Women’s Relief Corps, the W.C.T.U., a drum corps and a brass band “composed entirely of women”, the Aberdeen Guards–“young ladies in blue & red suits with gold trim,” equestriennes, Knights of Pythias Band, and “All societies composed of women, and all of our farmers’ and mechanics’ wives and daughters, are earnestly invited to be present and participate.” The slate of suffrage speakers included Emma Cranmer, Susan Anthony, Anna Shaw, Olympia Brown, and Clara Colby. They made their addresses from a platform in front of the noisy grandstand and musical selections were performed as well. DeVoe reported to The Woman’s Tribune about the procession, saying that “People came out of their stores and shops; farmers filled both sides of the street, clear out to the ground, and they crowded around the speaker’s stand, eager to catch every word… dear Aunt Susan, I wish you could have seen her face, it just beamed” [Madison Daily Leader (SD), April 16, 1890, August 16, 1890; Wessington Springs Herald (SD), September 5, 1890; The Dakota Ruralist (Aberdeen SD), April 5, 1890 in “Page 27 : Woman’s Day,” “Page 47 : Entire Page,” Aberdeen Daily News (SD), September 17, 1890 and September 18, 1890, “Page 50 : Entire Page,” “Page 52 : Entire Page,” The Dakota Ruralist (Aberdeen SD), September 13, 1890, “Page 57 : Entire Page,” and The Dakota Ruralist (Aberdeen SD), September 17, 1890, “Page 58 : Entire Page,” and October 11, 1890, “Page 57 : Entire Page,” Emma Smith DeVoe: 1880-1890 (Scrapbook D), WSL Manuscripts, MS 171, Box 10].
DeVoe — “Sisters, the time is auspicious. Let us not rest complacently while women of other States, by their persistent energy, are sharing the blessings derived from participating in public enterprises of this character. Never before has there been a period so full of promise for women as there is today for the women of our own beloved State. Let us prove ourselves equal to the demand of the age.”
Wessington Springs Herald (SD), September 5, 1890.
September-October: Henry B. Blackwell of Boston went on a speaking tour through thirty counties in South Dakota [Wessington Springs Herald (SD), August 29, 1890, September 5, 1890, September 12, 1890; Sully County Watchman (Onida SD), September 6, 1890; Madison Daily Leader (SD), September 24, 1890, September 25, 1890; Dakota Farmers’ Leader (Canton SD), October 3, 1890; Turner County Herald (Hurley SD), October 16, 1890; Union County Courier (Elk Point SD), September 24, 1890]. During the 1890 campaign, Blackwell asserted that “God had made men and women equal, but man had deprived her of her rights” and discussed the national/international scope of the suffrage movement [Kingsbury, History of Dakota Territory, vol. 3 (1915), 787-788].
Nettie C. Hall, the state superintendent for election work, put out for the South Dakota Equal Suffrage Association an open letter to women of South Dakota with encouragement to have committees canvass each voting precinct and hold meetings, that young women can look after refreshments, have prayer meeting before polls open, “have the bells rung every hour to encourage those at the front,” “have the children out on parade three times during the day (outside of school hours) with their flags, banners, mottoes and suffrage songs.” Local clubs could also write to state secretary William Bailey for John DeVoe’s song books and copies of mottoes to put up at polling places, have picnics near polling places in country with basket dinners and suffrage songs, and serve lunch or at least coffee and sandwiches. Hall referred them to the biblical passage in Numbers 27 for an “account of old time women’s rights rally”–“Read it and then with a heart trusting in the same God, and with all womanly modesty and dignity, go up before the congregation of the Princes of South Dakota, and present your just cause, and that same Good will give us the victory. Yours for human rights, Nettie C. Hall” [Wessington Springs Herald (SD), September 26, 1890, October 3, 1890; Turner County Herald (Hurley SD), October 23, 1890]. Some took up the suggestions, including clubs in Onida [Sully County Watchman (Onida SD), October 18, 1890, November 8, 1890; Madison Daily Leader (SD), November 4, 1890, November 5, 1890; Mitchell Capital (SD), November 7, 1890].
October: Julia B. Nelson of Minnesota did a speaking tour of Hutchinson and Yankton Counties. Germans-from-Russia communities in Hutchinson Counties were hostile. She once went fourteen miles to Jamesville (an area of Mennonite Germans-from-Russia) in a buggy but was turned away without leaving it. She had slightly better luck with Norwegians at Norway township. Nelson believed that touring rural school districts was the best way to reach foreign farmers — “she explained that their lack of support was neither a permanent cultural hallmark nor an unchangeable political stance. She argued that when she could gather an audience, she made converts” [Egge, “Ethnicity and Woman Suffrage,” in Lahlum and Rozum, Equality at the Ballot Box, 225].
The quantity of campaign events fatigued some communities. For instance, Lydia A. Waters in Aurora County “wrote to the state committee hoping to postpone a visit by Carrie Lane Chapman, ‘as we have just had two excellent lecturers within the past two weeks.’ …. Waters suggested Chapman come on a day nearer to the election or ‘would she be willing to lecture in the country instead of in the town as there has been but little school house work done in our county?'” [Ruth Page Jones, “A Case Study: the Role of Women in Creating Community on the Dakota Frontier, 1880 to 1920,” Master of Arts thesis, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (December 2015), 96].
In mid-October, there was concern that a wording error in printing the suffrage amendment would lead to its removal from the ballot, but it was determined a clerical error and state officials decided it would remain [Hot Springs Star (SD), October 17, 1890; Madison Daily Leader (SD), October 17, 1890; Sully County Watchman (Onida SD), October 25, 1890].
November: In the final days of the campaign, Susan B. Anthony and Anna Howard Shaw went through Sioux City and on to the Black Hills–speaking at the M.E. Church in Hot Springs, the opera house in Sturgis, Library Hall in Rapid City, the Methodist church in Lead, and the Miner’s Hall in Central City [Madison Daily Leader (SD), October 21, 1890; Hot Springs Star (SD), October 10, 1890, October 24, 1890; Sturgis Advertiser (SD), October 23, 1890, October 30, 1890; Daily Deadwood Pioneer-Times (SD), November 2, 1890]. She later recalled that at Hermosa “we had a desperate time one Sunday to get a place for a meeting, because a clergyman told the women it would be wicked to talk suffrage on Sunday,” while at another location, “we could not get any hall to speak in. They were all in use for the variety shows and there was no church finished, but the Presbyterian was the furthest along, and they let us have that, putting boards across nail kegs for seats” [“American Suffragists Need Money,” JK1881 .N357 sec. XVI, no. 3-9 NAWSA Coll, series: Miller NAWSA Suffrage Scrapbooks, 1897-1911; Scrapbook 9 (1910-1911), Library of Congress; The Pensacola Journal (FL), March 30, 1919]. Anthony later commented on the lack of support shown by “the miners of South Dakota” [Anderson Intelligencer (SC), December 4, 1890].
In 1890, equal suffrage was defeated at the polls by over 20,000 votes [Hot Springs Star (SD), December 12, 1890; Black Hills Union and Western Stock Review (Rapid City SD), October 21, 1910]. According to S.D.E.S.A. secretary Elizabeth Wardall, 789 addresses had been made by national speakers and 707 by state speakers; the W.C.T.U. made 104 addresses for suffrage; 400 local clubs had been organized, and literature had been distributed to every voter [Anthony and Harper, History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 4 (1902), 554-555].
“Women suffrage was badly snowed under… Several ladies were present at the polls all day in the interest of women suffrage, but the voters were more wise than gallant. The amendment was badly defeated.”
Kimball Graphic (SD), November 7, 1890.
“We know that we have done what we could, and there is a consolation in feeling, that, although we did not win the prize, we know that we were worthy of it.”
— Mrs. J.R. Milliken, Alpena in Wessington Springs Herald (SD), November 28, 1890.
““It has got to come to a matter of you must [vote for woman suffrage] in the majority of homes before we shall win the ballot”
“Women must feel the need of it an hundred fold more than they do now before we shall win equality.”
Nelson, “Defending Separate Spheres,” p132, in Lahlum and Rozum, Equality at the Ballot Box (2019).
“It would be difficult to put into words the hardships of this campaign of 1890 in a new State through the hottest and driest summer on record. Frequently the speakers had to drive twenty miles between the afternoon and evening meetings and the audiences would come thirty miles. All of the political State conventions declined to indorse[sic] the amendment…. There were 30,000 Russians, Poles, Scandinavians and other foreigners in the State, most of whom opposed woman suffrage. The liquor dealers and gamblers worked vigorously against it, and they were reinforced by the women ‘remonstrants’ of Massachusetts, who sent their literature into every corner of the State.”
Anthony and Harper, History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 4 (1902), 555-557.
After the campaign, Shaw was exhausted, Catt contracted typhoid, and Anthony reportedly looked and acted like an old woman for the first time [Norlin, “The Suffrage Movement and South Dakota Churches,” 309].
According to one history of the 1890 campaign: “Years after this campaign was over, Carrie Chapman Catt would point to the South Dakota effort as the first time that the brewers’ interests used the ‘foreign vote as a bloc’ in a large way against suffrage: ‘South Dakota permitted foreigners to vote on their first papers, and there were 30,000 Russians, Germans and Scandinavians in the State…. Unable to read or write in any language or to speak English, these men were boldly led to the ballot boxes under the direction of well known saloon henchmen, and after being voted were marched away in single file, and, within unmistakable sight of men and women poll workers, were paid for their votes’… seemed mere local incidents but I was to learn later that they were the early manifestation of a nation-wide condition” [Patterson, ed., The Hand Book of the NAWSA and Proceedings of the Forty-Eighth Annual Convention (1916), 60, 116; Wittmayer, “The 1889-1890 Woman Suffrage Campaign,” 206].
On the ballot was also a measure about enfranchising native people. It was reported to have passed, when women’s suffrage had not. The responses of several suffragists demonstrated racism towards native people. In one commentary printed in Pierre and Hot Springs: “For a fact, it isn’t anything very creditable for South Dakota to deny women the right of suffrage, and at the same time accord the privilege to all the Indians in the state who still insist on clinging to their savage customs. It is claimed the latter was done through misapprehension on the part of the voters in reading the amendment printed on their ballots. While this may be so, the outside public will not understand it that way” [Pierre Weekly Free Press (SD), November 27, 1890; Hot Springs Star (SD), December 5, 1890]. Another from the Aberdeen Pioneer, reprinted in the Hurley Herald, also referenced perceptions of a confusing ballot between women’s and native suffrage: “The defeat of Equal Suffrage will stand as a lasting reproach to the state of South Dakota… The same complication in the Indian Suffrage amendment will probably give the red man the right to vote in our state hereafter! What a reproach upon our civilization, and upon the people of a state who have made a pretense of being liberal and just!” [Turner County Herald (Hurley SD), November 20, 1890].
November 7-8: The S.D.E.S.A. met in Huron to reorganize and plan legislative work for early 1891 — “The workers expressed themselves as not dismayed or cast down, but set to work to formulate plans that will batter down the walls of old time predudice[sic].” Officers elected were: president Philena Johnson, vice-president Sophia Harden, secretary Elizabeth Wardall, treasurer Nettie Hall (though she reportedly resigned soon after), organizer/lecturer Emma Smith DeVoe (the DeVoes left South Dakota early in 1891), member of national executive committee Alice Pickler, superintendent of oratory Elizabeth Hammer, and delegates to the national convention: Sarah Richards, Sophia Harden, and Nettie Hall. [Madison Daily Leader (SD), November 12, 1890; [quote] Wessington Springs Herald (SD), November 14, 1890]. Emma Smith DeVoe put out an open letter asking for the continued support of the public as they head into the next legislative session [Madison Daily Leader (SD), December 3, 1890; Black Hills Union (Rapid City SD), December 4, 1890; Wessington Springs Herald (SD), December 5, 1890; Dakota Farmers’ Leader (Canton SD), December 25, 1890].