On this last day of Women’s History Month we would like to explore President Coolidge’s views on women’s suffrage. President Coolidge’s thirty-year political career began at the height of the women’s suffrage movement. Many states had already given women the franchise in the years leading up to the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, but nonetheless the issue was deeply fraught at the time. President Coolidge considered suffrage very closely, and concluded that women possess all the faculties necessary to be equal participants in our nation’s democracy. Thus, he was an early and enthusiastic supporter of women’s right to vote.
Ten years on from the introduction of nationwide female suffrage, President Coolidge reflected in his October 13, 1930 “Calvin Coolidge Says” column on the contributions of women to the health and vitality of our democracy:
“We have just completed the first decade of national woman suffrage. Generally it has revealed that while women are not eager for public office they administer it successfully. Not all the claims made about the value they would add to political life have been substantiated. Party alignments have been little changed. If a purification of politics has not yet been perceptible, probably public life was already reasonably clean.
But women voters have had a very considerable influence on party platforms and governmental policy, especially on the humane and social welfare sides. Education is better served. Ten years are too short for final results. The women are particularly effective on the conservative side of affairs. They are still the homemakers. They look to the future. They think of conditions not only for themselves but for their posterity.
The great benefit of their vote will be in bringing to the aid of the State that spiritual support which they have so long given to the Church. They are devoted, steadfast, sensible. They will not follow radical proposals, but will be influenced by moral values. Nothing can be safer for the commonwealth than the informed judgment of the mothers of the land.”
We often forget how truly different the political landscape was in the early 20th century. It is fascinating to imagine a world in which women’s access to the ballot was an innovation, yet it is also gratifying to know that President Coolidge understood how important it was for women to make their voices heard in the project of American self-government.