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Suffrage in Print: Alice Duer Miller’s Satiric Journalism

In 1920, after more than seventy years of struggle, the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granted women the right to vote. While nineteenth-century suffrage campaigns gained partial voting rights for women in twenty states, beginning in 1910 the push for suffrage took on a new urgency under the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) and the more radical National Woman’s Party (NWP). Their campaigns reached wide audiences, in part because suffragists had learned to spread their messages through imaginative use of various media. Supporters held old-fashioned pageants and street parades as well as statewide tours, thanks to the relatively new technology of automobiles. Suffragists also reached large audiences through newspapers. In Alice Duer Miller’s “Unauthorized Interviews,” originally published as newspaper columns in the New York Tribune, the pro-suffrage writer spoofed male legislators with clever reversals of gender stereotypes: the men were petulant and irrational, while the women suffragists remained cool and logical.

Impressions of a Canvasser



Half a dozen Legislators Opposed.


A Certain State Capitol.


Please, sir, to tell us, if you will,

How you will vote upon our bill?

1st Legislator.

Ladies, observe my easy grace,

My manners and my pleasant face;

I hope you see I bow, I smile,

I call you “ladies”—all the while

My heart is black with seething hate

That I, who am so very great,

Should have to waste a single minute

On your affairs—there’s nothing in it.

Suffragists (to another legislator).

And you, sir, if we recollect,

Are much opposed. Is that correct?

2nd Legislator.

Opposed! O ladies, no, indeed!

I vote against you, I concede;

I may continue so to do,

But I am not opposed to you.

To call me so is most unjust.

I make myself quite plain, I trust.

Suffragists (to another legislator).

And may we hear from you, sir, how

You’ll vote?

3rd Legislator.

I have no option now;

I listen to my district’s voice;

It voted no; I have no choice.


O sir, I think there’s some mistake,

Your district carried.

4th Legislator (hastily interrupting).

Let me make

His statement clear; he means that we

All come here absolutely free.

Not at our districts' beck and nod,

We vote to please ourselves and God;

And we are not in all events

The slaves of our constituents.

Suffragists (slightly puzzled, to another legislator).

And you, sir, shall you vote for it?

5th Legislator.

No, though I think you will admit

I have a very open mind;

If in my district I should find

The women want it (which they don’t)

I’d vote for it. Till then I won’t.


And have you asked so very many?

5th Legislator (astonished).

Why, no, I don’t think I’ve asked any.

Suffragists (to another legislator).

And what, sir, is your attitude?

6th Legislator.

I hope you will not think me rude,

If, ladies, as a friend I say

You do not work the proper way.

It’s time you disappeared, and let

The public utterly forget

That there are women wish to vote.

Then at some future time, remote,

In twenty years, or twenty-five,

If you should chance to be alive,

You’d see a change—at least you ought—

A striking change in public thought.

This from a friend.


But are you so?

6th Legislator.

A friend? Oh, well, I voted "no,

But surely you can comprehend

That I advise you as a friend.

Suffragists alone.

1st Suffragist.

The men in favour talk much less.

2nd Suffragist.

They haven’t much to say but “yes”;

The men opposed explain a lot

How they’re opposed and yet they’re not.

It takes some time to make that clear.

1st Suffragist.

How very bad the air is here!

2nd Suffragist.

Do you refer to ventilation,

Or to the general situation?

The reply is inaudible.



An Unauthorised Interview

Between the Suffragists and the Statue of Liberty

The Suffragists

Lady robed in light,

At our harbour standing,

Equal law and right

Promising, demanding,

Can you tell us, do you know,

Why you treat your daughters so?

Do not think us pert,

Insolent or teasing,

But you seem a flirt,

Only bent on pleasing

That one-half of human kind

Who made Sister Justice blind.

The Statue

Be not deceived, my daughters, I’m not she—

The winged Goddess, who sets nations free.

I am that Liberty, which when men win

They think that others' seeking is a sin;

I am that Liberty which men attain

And clip her wings lest she should fly again:

I am that Liberty which all your brothers

Think good for them and very bad for others.

Therefore they made me out of bronze, and hollow,

Immovable, for fear that I might follow

Some fresh rebellion, some new victim’s plea;

And so they set me on a rock at sea,

Welded my torch securely in my hand

Lest I should pass it on, without command.

I am a milestone, not an inspiration;

And if my spirit lingers in this nation,

If it still flickers faintly o’er these waters,

It is your spirit, my rebellious daughters.

Source: Alice Duer Miller, “Impressions of a Canvasser” and “An Unauthorized Interview Between the Suffragists and the Statue of Liberty,” from her “Unauthorized Interviews,” in Women Are People! (New York: George H. Doran, Co.,1917).

See Also:Suffrage On Stage: Marie Jenney Howe Parodies the Opposition
Singing for Suffrage: A Yiddish Musical Dialogue
Starving for Women's Suffrage: "I Am Not Strong after These Weeks"