The Organization Appeals to the Constitutional Convention

The organization lost no time in making its appeal to the constitutional convention. The petition presented was signed by a thousand citizens of Colorado, and other states also memorialized the convention, particularly the suffrage association of Missouri, asking that the new constitution make no distinction on account of sex. Judge H. P. H. Bromwell and Agapita Vigil were the only two members of the constitutional convention who signed a report favoring the granting of the voting privilege to women. It is but just to add that more than a majority of the men in this convention were inclined to favor suffrage but felt that it was a matter that should be referred to the voters to decide. But a concession was made in granting women the right to vote for school district officers.

When the matter came to a vote in the constitutional convention, equal suffrage was lost by twenty-four to eight, but Judge Bromwell had the satisfaction of securing the adoption of the following section to Article 7:
“The General Assembly may at any time extend by law the right of suffrage to persons not herein enumerated, but no such law shall take effect or be in force until the same shall have been submitted to a vote of the people at a general election and approved by a majority of all the votes cast for or against such law.”

This was the opening wedge, and it was an easy matter for the few staunch adherents to the cause to bring about the adoption in the convention of a resolution instructing the First General Assembly of the State of Colorado, which was to meet in 1877, to provide a law whereby the question of woman suffrage be submitted to a vote of the electors. This was a victory worth achieving, for it meant that the matter would be before the people of the state within a year.

When the Woman Suffrage Association held its annual convention on February 18, 1877, it at once arranged for an active campaign, and in order to make sure that the cause would be properly presented elected its strongest adherents to office. The new list of men and women who had charge of this campaign was as follows:

President, Alida C. Avery;

vice presidents,
D. Howe Mrs.
M. B. Hart,
J. E. Washburn,
Mrs. Emma Moody,
Willard Teller,
J. B Harrington,
A. Lee and
N. C. Meeker;

Recording secretary, Birks Cornforth of Denver;
Corresponding secretary, Mrs. T. M. Patterson;
Treasurer, Mrs. H. C Lawson of Denver;
Executive Committee,
D. M. Richards,
Mrs. M. F. Shields
Mrs. M. E. Hale,
H. McAllister,
Mrs. Birks Cornforth,
J. A. Dresser,
A. J Wilber,
B. F. Crary,
Miss Annie Figg,
H. Logan,
J. R. Eads,
F. M. Ellis,
C Roby,
Judge Jones,
Gen. R. A. Cameron,
B. H. Eaton,
Agapita Vigil,
W. B Felton,
S. C. Charles,
J. B. Campbell.

The question, “Shall the right of suffrage be extended to the women of Colorado?” was a puzzling problem to many people. The proposition was novel and vexing, and was the dominating source of contention throughout the campaign. The pulpit and press were divided on the measure and the weight of influence was against the women. Among the leading champions of the cause were Lucy Stone, Henry B. Blackwell and Susan B. Anthony, who came to the aid of the Colorado women and wielded a mighty power in the field, while among the home leaders were:

Dr. Alida C. Avery,
Mrs. W. W. Campbell,
Mrs. M. F. Shields,
D. M. Richards,
Henry C. Dillon,
Rev. B. F. Crary,
Mrs. T. M. Patterson,
Col. Henry Logan,
Governor John Evans,
David Boyd,
Miss Laura Hanna,
Hon. J. B. Belford,
S. C. Charles,
J. A. Dresser,
J. R. Eads,
Judge H. P. H. Bromwell,
Mrs. H. S. Mendenhall,
Reverend Doctor Ellis,
Mary and Lafayette Nichols,
Alexander and Emmeline Rooney and others.

Miss Matilda Hindman the noted Eastern advocate, and Miss Lelia Partridge of Philadelphia, were also efficient aids in the movement. Miss Hindman having made a thorough tour of the state at her own expense.

From January to October the question of woman suffrage was a prominent topic of discussion throughout the state. On Wednesday, August 15th, an equal rights mass meeting was held in Denver for the purpose of organizing a county central committee and for an informal discussion of the plans for the campaign. The main speakers were Judge H. P. H. Bromwell, H. C. Dillon and Governor John Evans. From this meeting the following committee of seventeen was appointed to district the territory and send out speakers assigned to their respective stations: Dr. R. G. Buckingham, chairman; Hon. John Evans, Judge C. W. Miller, Benjamin D. Spencer, A. J. Williams, Capt. Richard Sopris, E. B. Sluth, John Armor, John Walker, J. W. Marlow, Col. W. H. Bright, John G. Lilly, John S. McCool. J. W. Nesmith, Henry O. Wagoner and Doctor Mortimer.

October 1, 1877, a mass meeting was held at Lawrence Street Methodist Church, in Denver, and the overflowing audience was addressed by Lucy Stone, Miss Matilda Hindman, Mrs. Campbell and Doctor Avery. The next day (Sunday) a Presbyterian minister preached a sermon on “Woman Suffrage and the Model Wife and Mother,” in which he said, “God intended woman to be a wife and mother and the eternal fitness of things forbade her to be anything else. If women could vote, those who were wives now would live in endless bickering with their husbands over politics, and those who were not wives would not marry.”

At that time Mrs. Alary Grafton Campbell was the editor of a column in the Rocky Mountain News, which space had been donated by W. N. Byers for the daily use of the women. On Monday morning Mrs. Campbell answered the Reverend Speaker with a most gracefully written article which was at the same time a withering rebuke for the affront and an accomplished refutation of his vagaries concerning the instability of the tender passion in the heart of woman. In concluding her argument she quoted thus from “floating literature of the day”:

”Motherhood is the natural vocation of woman; is, indeed, an instinct so mighty, even if unconscious, that it draws women toward matrimony with a yearning as irresistible as that which pulls the great sea upon the land in blind response to the moon.”

“If this be true,” Mrs. Campbell concluded, “society is safe and women will still be wives, no matter how much they may exult in political freedom; no matter how alluringly individual careers may open before them nor how accessible the tempting prizes of human ambition may become.”

The women and their masculine allies continued to work with unfaltering energy and faith to the end of the campaign. At last Election Day came and their measure was defeated by a vote of 10,000 for and 20,000 against. Discouraged, though not vanquished, the women discontinued their organization and associated work for suffrage, but, maintaining their individual convictions and their pur-pose until passing years and the progress of events should again ripen the field of their endeavor.

While the City of Denver was from first to last the central source of activity in the suffrage cause, many active advocates of equal rights were found among the leading men and women in other sections of the state. In the earlier stages of the movement, people of the pioneer Town of Greeley were among the more advanced co-workers in the cause.

History of Colorado

Source: History of Colorado, Wilbur Fisk Stone, Editor, Volume I, Chicago, The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1918

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