In April, 1890, Miss Matilda Hindman again came to Colorado to lecture and raise funds in behalf of the Equal Rights Campaign then pending in South Dakota. The admission of South Dakota into the Union of States was to be an event of that year. The effort of the women was to have the word “male” expunged from the constitution, so that woman suffrage become a constitutional right. At the time of Miss Hindman’s visit to Denver there was no organization of the women and but little interest taken in her mission except by a few persons. However, the women by whom she was received made up in enthusiasm what they lacked in numbers. A public meeting and a substantial subscription list headed by Mrs. T. M. Patterson, were the first signs of a reawakening interest in the cause of woman’s suffrage. It was a part of Miss Hindman’s mission to urge the organization of societies as the nucleus of a State Suffrage Association.
The first meeting was held at Miss Hindman’s room at the Richelieu Hotel. The results were a pledge of $100 to the women of South Dakota and the organization of the Colorado Equal Suffrage Association, with a membership of only six persons. These were Miss Georgiana E. Watson, president; Mrs. Mary P. Nichols, treasurer; Mrs. Sharman, secretary. Other ladies, Jennie P. Root, Amy K. Cornwall and Mrs. Laverna C. Dwelle. Mrs. Nichols collected the $100 pledged, besides giving $10 as her part. It was Mrs. Sharman’s endeavor to have regular meetings of this small association as a study club and in various ways encourage a deeper interest in all matters pertaining to woman’s political rights.
In this way the association was maintained so far as its membership was concerned, but it had no constitution or by-laws, nor was there a membership fee, so that for a time its existence was of little force. In May of the same year, Mrs. Louisa M. Tyler of Boston came to make Denver her home, bringing with her a letter from Lucy Stone, urging the women of Colorado to form a state organization as an auxiliary to the National Association. Mrs. Tyler first called upon Mrs. John R. Hanna, by whom she was directed to the new association in Denver. Mrs. Tyler thereupon attended one of the regular meetings, accompanied by Mrs. Elizabeth P. Ensley, both at once becoming members. Soon after this time the association was regularly organized, with constitution and by-laws, and by vote attached itself as an auxiliary to the national body. Miss Watson continued as president and held the office until Mrs. Tyler was elected president. She held the office until April, 1892, when Mrs. A. W. Hogle became her successor. In 1893, Miss Martha A. Pease was elected president and ad-ministered the affairs of the campaign of that year. In July, 1890, Mrs. H. S. Stansbury and her mother, Mrs. Emily Meredith, became members of the association and were among the foremost workers. Mrs. Ella C. Adams was also a prominent worker. The first candidate endorsed by the association was Mrs. Harriet Scott Saxton, who was nominated for the East Denver High School Board in the spring of 1892, but not elected.
At the session of the Ninth General Assembly (1893), a bill providing that the question of woman suffrage be submitted to a vote of the people at the next general election was drawn by J. Warner Mills, who gave his services free of charge, and this was presented in the House by Representative J. T. Heath. Mrs. Louise M. Tyler, as chairman of the legislative work, gave her time for nearly three months, watching over the destiny of the bill as it took its course among the committees of the House, while Miss Minnie J. Reynolds gave the same devoted attention to the measure in the Senate, where her constant presence was of great value. Near the close of the session the bill passed the House by a small majority and the Senate by a two-thirds majority, and received Governor Waite’s signature without delay. It is worthy of note as a singular coincidence that four bills for woman suffrage were introduced at that session of the Legislature by different organizations and without the knowledge of the Suffrage Association. Three of these were held in abeyance until the fate of the Suffrage Association bill should be decided.
Thus, the year 1893 being the year of a general election, the women of Colorado, upon the passage of their bill, found themselves upon the eve of their first political campaign, though it was to be a campaign without the use of the ballot by them. The association entered the campaign with only twenty-eight members and $25 in the treasury. These facts, however, showed all the more favorably the force and cleverness of their work in the political field. The foundation of their work was laid within their society organization, which was so powerful a factor in the splendid conduct of the campaign. Auxiliary societies were organized all over the state, and were in constant communication with the state association.
At its annual election of 1893 the State Suffrage Association, then changed in name to that of the Non-Partisan Equal Suffrage Association of Colorado. Miss Martha A. Pease of Denver was elected president; Mrs. H. S. Stansbury, vice president; Mrs. E. P. Ensley, treasurer; Mrs. C. A. Bradley, secretary; Mrs. Louise M. Tyler, chairman of the executive committee. At the annual school election in Denver for that year, Mrs. Ione T. Hanna was placed in nomination for director and elected by a large majority in the face of bitter opposition. The women for the first time exercised their one right of franchise in full force and it was their votes that elected Mrs. Hanna. This fact stimulated them to the more vigorous efforts for their enfranchisement at the November election, and as a result of their activity it was noticed that the stale argument, that women would not vote if they could, was not once heard during their entire campaign.
The women found that they had no speakers of known ability among the women, though later, a number of these arose from their midst; they had little money, no auxiliaries, and as far as they knew, few powerful friends among the men. In view of these disadvantages, they appealed to the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association for assistance. It was known to the home association that Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone and other noted champions of woman suffrage would be in attendance upon the Woman’s Congress at Chicago in 1893. Mrs. H. S. Stansbury, vice president of the Colorado State Suffrage Association, attended the congress for the purpose of meeting the leaders of the National Association, to lay before them the cause of the Colorado women and ask help in the campaign. But these veterans of equal rights, although they lent the aid which in their judgment would be the most effective, were doubtful of the good results. Remembering the defeat of 1877 in Colorado, they had no hope that the verdict would be changed in 1893. Miss Anthony, unable to realize the great change that had taken place since 1877, kindly, but in a vein of satirical humor, inquired of Mrs. Stansbury if she had “converted all those Mexicans out in the southern counties.” However, the appeal of the Colorado women received fair consideration. The National Association having no money for missionary purposes, agreed to send Mrs. Carrie Lane Chapman into the Colorado field. Mrs. Chapman came in the midst of the campaign, and her splendid work contributed much to the success of the cause. In the meantime, Miss Minnie J. Reynolds, chairman of press work, had interviewed the editors of the state, and 75 per cent of the newspapers had been enlisted on the side of the woman, while Mrs. Tyler’s work in organizing auxiliary leagues was persistent and effective throughout the summer. Late in August, state headquarters were opened in the Tabor Opera House Block, Mrs. Elizabeth Tabor having donated the free use of the rooms for three months. Miss Helen M. Reynolds was employed as corresponding secretary and did most effective work throughout the contest, succeeding Dr. Minnie C. T. Love, who had given her time gratuitously, and opened communication with suffragists all over the state. Until the removal to the opera house was necessitated by the increasing numbers in attendance, the association held its meetings at Doctor Love’s residence for a number of months.
In the early fall, the City League of Denver was organized, with Mrs. John L. Routt as president, and with a membership of over one hundred representative women. A valuable auxiliary society was the Young Women’s League, organized by Miss Mary E. Patterson, Miss Margaret Patterson and Miss Isabel Hill, and from this nucleus grew other leagues of a similar nature in the city and state. The ministers preached for the women, while the press, especially the Denver Republican, the National Populist and the Rocky Mountain News wielded a powerful influence in their behalf. The republican, prohibitionist and people’s parties endorsed the measure in their county conventions and the campaign became a regular crusade for equal suffrage in which the best elements in all parties participated. Mrs. Chapman made speeches throughout the state, organizing leagues wherever she found none, and all these leagues were put in communication with headquarters at Denver. An enormous amount of suffrage literature was sent out from Denver to all auxiliary branches in advocacy of the cause and giving instructions in the methods of procedure, etc., in practical work. Numerous mass meetings were held in Denver and many prominent lawyers and politicians put aside their own engagements to speak in the women’s campaign. A number of the women actively engaged in the work who now bear enviable reputations for their powers of oratory, became fluent and effective speakers during the contest.
Among outside speakers Mrs. Chapman, as we have previously mentioned, was one of the best and most effective workers of the campaign. Late in the fall Mrs. Laura Ormiston Chant of London, added her aid also to the good cause by giving two lectures in Denver (on suffrage) which drew crowded and representative audiences.
Fortunately for the success of the new measure the liquor element of the state did not until nearly the time of election, awaken to the fact that the equal suffrage amendment was really a live issue. The most open evidence of their hostility was a circular, widely scattered abroad, wherein much ridicule and abuse was cast upon the upholders of female suffrage. Whatever influence this may have had was more than offset by a dignified manifesto in favor of suffrage published in some of the leading papers and signed by a long list of prominent and influential men and women.
Mrs. Wrigley, state superintendent of franchise of the W. C. T. U., and Mrs. M. T. Telford, state vice president, did efficient work. The lamented Patience Stapleton labored valiantly in the cause and greatly endeared herself to all the women in Colorado. Mrs. Minnie J. Reynolds, a gifted speaker as well as a fluent writer, was indispensable to the cause; so also was Mrs. H. S. Stansbury who, both by her pen and by the magnetic influence of her contact with the people, wielded a large influence. It is to the combined might of these three talented women of the press, Mrs. Stapleton writing in the Denver Republican and Miss Reynolds and Mrs. Stansbury in the Rocky Mountain News, that much of the credit for the victory has been accorded.
Complete returns gave the total vote as follows: For, 35.698; against, 29,461, showing a majority of 6,237 for woman suffrage.
After the canvassing boards of the respective counties had announced the result of the election. Governor Waite issued his proclamation declaring the enfranchisement of the women and Section r of the Act submitting the question to the people became of full force and effect; it read as follows:
“Section i. That every female person shall be entitled to vote at all elections in the same manner in all respects as male persons are, or shall be entitled to vote by the constitution and laws of this state, and the same qualification as to age, citizenship and time of residence in the state, county, city, ward and precinct and all other qualifications required by law to entitle male persons to vote shall be required to entitle female persons to vote.”
Mrs. John L. Routt was the first woman registered in the state. The greater number of them have registered and voted at all subsequent elections. Many of them have become adepts in the knowledge of statecraft and political affairs and not a few have been elected to office, though as a rule, the women who fought the battles for equal suffrage have not sought public preferment.
Source: History of Colorado, Wilbur Fisk Stone, Editor, Volume I, Chicago, The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1918