“An Appeal for Woman Suffrage” (March 23, 1870)


In this article, published March 23, 1870, by the Richmond Daily Enquirer, Anna Whitehead Bodeker argues for equal treatment of men and women under the law and in society. She debunks the idea that women cannot enter spheres historically dominated by men for their protection and the preservation of their femaleness. This is the second of her two essays on suffrage published in the Richmond Daily Enquirer, which opposed extending the franchise.


We publish to-day the conclusion of an argument furnished us by a committee of the Woman’s Rights Association of Richmond in behalf of female suffrage:

In the second place, woman suffrage means this: Now when a woman’s attempts to go out and engage in some occupation for which she believes herself fitted, but which has hitherto been monopolized by man, she is frightened off by the shrill alarum—“you cannot work here without exposing yourself to insult, or, at least, to such coarse and degrading influences as must forever blunt all true womanly delicacy of feeling.”

I have never been able to understand any insinuations to the effect that a man must necessarily be less truly moral or refined than a woman. I am thankful I can sincerely say I have known some gentlemen who gave every evidence of as purely refined natures as any woman I ever knew and I trust I have known some as lovely female characters as our Southern society every produced, and I confess I have known gentleman with whom it was a positive relief to associate after being confined to intercourse with some who passed for ladies. And yet, when a woman now asks, “Why cannot an honest, upright woman go anywhere that her business calls her as well as an honest, upright man?” she is told that society is still in such a barbarous condition that it is impossible to secure the observance of decency and self-respect in many places of public business; and, therefore, until the millennium [sic] arrives all persons of the highest refinement must keep aloof from any occupation which would expose them to contact with these obnoxious elements.

But if such a statement is true, is not man granting the question that his efforts to govern without the direct assistance of woman have proved a failure? Can anything be plainer or more impressive?—Now woman has felt deeply on this subject ever since she began to enjoy an advantages of mental culture, and as these facilities have increased from age to age her voice has been raised in eager protest again and again. But since our last “big fight” in America, she has been waked up to look at and feel about this matter as she never did before. Now her fathers and husbands and sons and brothers, in multiplied cases throughout the land, lie cold in their graves! On the females of the family comes the entire burden of its support. What shall she do? And many a delicate hand is uplifted to these stern iron walls, and tremblingly groping to find some outlet or crevice by which she may try her chances beyond; for within she knows there is only toil that brings the pale horse and his rider, instead of life and health, and that fierce disease and gaunt famine and reeking crime are threatening the idols of her heart!

And some “strong-minded,” aye, and “strong-hearted” women, too, have turned the whole matter over in their earnest, practical minds, until speaking out at length, they have pledged themselves to lead a movement for bringing about another order of things. And thousands—high and low, and some of the noblest in the land, have flocked to the standards which these women have erected, and are signing their petition to Congress for a sixteenth amendment, which shall remove all artificial and arbitrary restrictions from woman, and leave her free to be a true help meet of man. And this noble band, no longer a “little” band, have obtained a respectful hearing in the capitol of our country from her appointed rulers, and the power and truth of the eloquent addresses there delivered by women, was acknowledged by the oldest members of Congress present. And these women have determined at least to try what woman’s influence, operating directly in every department of social life, and making her voice heard at the ballot-box, and in the halls of legislation, can affect to cure some of our social evils.

And there are at least two things that woman suffrage means. Their number is indeed a “legion” and at some future time it is proposed to continue the discussion of the many weighty arguments which support this grand reform.

APA Citation:
Daily Enquirer, Richmond. “An Appeal for Woman Suffrage” (March 23, 1870). (2021, October 28). In Encyclopedia Virginia.
MLA Citation:
Daily Enquirer, Richmond. "“An Appeal for Woman Suffrage” (March 23, 1870)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (28 Oct. 2021). Web. 12 Apr. 2024
Last updated: 2021, October 28
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