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Singing the Dream: American Sheet Music at the British Library: Part 7

Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7
Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10

The Women's Suffrage Movement

In 1848, a convention was held at Seneca Falls, New York, to discuss the condition and rights of women. Four of the five women who organised this convention were Quakers; all five of them were well-acquainted with the movements for temperance and antislavery.

Over three hundred people, including forty men, attended the convention, and one third of them, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Frederick Douglass, signed its "Declaration of Sentiments." This document - modelled on the Declaration of Independence - proclaimed that "all men and women are created equal," and laid out a vision for women's social, economic, political, and religious equality.

In 1869, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony founded the National Woman's Suffrage Association with the aim of securing an amendment to the Constitution in favour of female suffrage. At around the same time, the American Woman's Suffrage Association was formed with the intention of achieving a constitutional amendment on a state-by-state basis. In 1890, these two organisations merged, to become the National American Woman Suffrage Association, and in the same year Wyoming became the first state to allow female suffrage.

Nearly thirty years later, on 9 January 1918, President Woodrow Wilson announced his support for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would give women the right to vote. The Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution was finally ratified on 18 August 1920; it became law on 26 August 1920.

Suffrage March Song.

Suffrage March Song (11kb)
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Richards, Lucenia W. Suffrage March Song. Chicago: Richards & Richards, 1914. H.3995.nn.(18)
Copyright © The British Library

Like many suffrage songs, this one is designed to stir the spirits of those taking part in rallies or cmeetings for encourages women who are undecided about female suffrage to recognise the benefits the vote will bring to women across the nation. In her dedication to the song, the composer urges all women to: "Vote the ticket which will give you more power, and never fail to keep the cause of woman's suffrage foremost in your mind…it is your cause and you must support it." The song itself expresses the suffragists' determination to fight for their rights: "Till side by side with gentlemen/We sheath the sword and grasp the pen."

 

I Want a Man!

I Want a Man! (12kb)
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Ball, Ernest R. I Want a Man! New York: M. Witmark & Co., 1910. H.3989.b.(11)
Copyright © The British Library

Not surprisingly, numerous songs ridiculing those involved in the suffrage movement appeared alongside those supporting it. In this one, the rather air-headed protagonist explains: "The right of franchise is a thing that now appeals to me/It's something well worth struggling for, whatever it may be/And "Woman's Rights" will someday make all legislation clean/It's just the thing I want to get, whatever it may mean." She then expresses her ardent desire for a cottage or a flat, as well as her need to settle down. She finishes by exclaiming: "And I will tell if you will not tell/I want a man!"

 

Fall in Line: Suffrage March for the Pianoforte.

Fall in Line: Suffrage March for the Pianoforte (13kb)
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Hawn, Zena S. Fall in Line: Suffrage March for the Pianoforte.New York: Arthur W. Tams Music Library, c.1914. H.3826.r.(27)

The copyright for this march was owned by the New York State Women's Suffrage Association, which would have benefited from sales of this sheet music. The photograph on the cover is almost certainly of one of the suffrage marches held in New York in 1912 and 1913.

 

Votes for Women. Suffrage Rallying Song.

Votes for Women. Suffrage Rallying Song (10kb)
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Zimmerman, Marie. Votes for Women. Suffrage Rallying Song. Philadelphia: E.M. Zimmerman, 1915. H.3992.r.(18)
Copyright © The British Library

This song is dedicated "To Dr Anna Shaw and the Great Cause of Woman Suffrage". Born in Great Britain in 1847, Anna Howard Shaw moved to Michigan with her family while still a child. From a very young age she felt a strong call to preach, and in 1880 she became one of the first women ordained in the Methodist Church. Five years later she received an M.D. from Boston University. Rather than pursuing a medical career, however, she dedicated her life to the causes of female suffrage, temperance and peace. In 1904 she became President of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, a position she held until 1915.

Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7
Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10


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