The morning after she had admonished her sisters in “Ballots and Bullets,” Scott Duniway accompanied eight other representatives of the N.W.S.A1 to Capitol Hill, to testify once again before the Senate Committee on Woman Suffrage.

The text is taken from the official committee report.2

Gentlemen of the committee, I had thought to offer a little apology for the seeming temerity of my coming before you on such an occasion, presumably to instruct you in the law, but I am happy to state that the able paper read by our delegate from Missouri (Mrs. Minor)3 has made that apology unnecessary, and I shall proceed at once to give historic facts.

In the year 1883, amid the mingled acclaim of booming guns and ringing bells, it was announced to all our people that the legislative assembly of Washington Territory had passed a bill, and the governor had approved the act, enfranchising women. Everything went well with these newly-enfranchised citizens for a time, but a change in administration was followed by a change in our territorial judiciary, and the result was that means were soon discovered whereby a flaw or technicality in the construction of the law enabled them to pronounce it unconstitutional, the ground taken being that the purpose of the bill was not expressed in the title of the act. There were some thirty-five bills in the same condition. We appealed to our Senators from Oregon, one of whom (Mr. Dolph)4 I am proud to say, has been grandly re-elected for another six years’ term in this great capital, who has been one of our most consistent champions from the beginning. These gentlemen acceded to our request, and a bill or resolution was passed through the Senate validating all those laws. When the bill came up in the House it was objected to by a gentleman from Virginia, I think, and because there was an objection under parliamentary rule the “omnibus bill” could not be passed unless the clause enfranchising women should be stricken out.

Realizing that we were blocked in this manner, and wishing to be law-abiding, however much the laws might oppress us, we went to work to secure the re-enactment of the law, working quietly, and, as we thought, modestly and judiciously, to secure the pledge from the incoming or next-convening legislature that they would re-enact the law. To the surprise of our opponents that legislature, which had been elected previously by the votes of women largely (of course we do not overlook the help and co-operation of the men), re-enacted the law, this time making no mistake about the title.

Again the universal sound of acclaim went forth throughout our borders, and everywhere we sounded pæans of praise to the chivalric and patriotic spirit that had moved the members of the legislature to again recognize our rights.

Time went on, and at the next general election one woman’s vote, among the many whose votes were received, was refused. I allude to Nevada Bloomer, whose case is now upon the docket of the supreme court. Mrs. Bloomer brought suit for the recognition of her right to vote before the supreme court of the Territory, and the decision was adverse to her claim, the decision being made upon the ground that the Territories have no right to pass a law enfranchising their citizens, or, in other words, that the Territories have no jurisdiction over the the qualifications of their own voters.5 Mrs. Minor has already explained to you the absurdities of this decision, and we come to-day strong in the hope that inasmuch as this case, being on the docket, will require years to reach it and woman’s condition in the Territory calls for immediate action, that your honorable committee will at once take such measures as to recognize the wrong to which our sex has been subjected, and will, in the spirit of justice, rebuke this usurpation of the Territorial organic act of Congress, of which usurpation we are made the victims.

As our leader, Miss Anthony, informs me that I must not trespass beyond ten minutes, and as it is impossible for a woman to say very much in ten minutes, I gladly give way to others.


  1. Isabella Beecher Hooker, Virginia L. Minor, Alice Stone Blackwell, Laura M. Johns, Olympia Brown, Anna Howard Shaw, Susan B. Anthony, and Harriette R. Shattuck []
  2. Pages 49-50. I am grateful to Albert von Frank for drawing my attention to this speech, and to Emma Francis Bloomfield for locating it. []
  3. Virginia Louisa Minor (1824-1894): born Caroline County, Virginia; daughter of Warner and Maria (Timberlake) Minor; moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, when 2; little known of childhood and education; married distant cousin, attorney Francis Minor, 1843; after year in Mississippi, settled in St. Louis, 1844; only child, Francis Gilmer, born 1852, died at 14 in shooting accident; despite Virginia roots, during Civil War joined St. Louis Ladies Union Aid Society, later principle auxiliary of Western Sanitary Commission; first Missouri woman to take public stand for suffrage; petitioned state legislature, 1867; when rejected, 89-5, organized Woman Suffrage Association of Missouri, 1867; first president, re-elected annually for five years; resigned presidency 1871, when W.S.A.M. affiliated with American Woman Suffrage Association, because she personally allied with National Woman Suffrage Association; first president of St. Louis branch, N.W.S.A, organized 1879; after unification, 1890, president of new state branch of N.A.W.S.A. until 1892, when ill health compelled retirement; in speeches and pamphlets, argued that newly-passed 14th Amendment gave women the right to vote, 1869; attempted to register to vote in St. Louis, 1872; when registrar Reese Happersett denied her application, she (represented by Francis) sued; trial court, Missouri Supreme Court, and unanimous U.S. Supreme Court (in Minor v. Happersett, 88 U.S. 162 [1875]) found against her, ruling that voting was not an inherent right of citizenship; honorary vice president, Interstate Woman Suffrage Convention, 1892; “spoke frequently before legislative and Congressional committees, where her intelligence and charm made her an effective advocate”; died at 70 in St. Louis, from liver abscess; buried without clergy, who, she said, had opposed her life’s work (Pinkney). Scott Duniway also discusses Minor’s case in “Constitutional Liberty and the Aristocracy of Sex.” []
  4. Joseph Norton Dolph (1835-1897): born Schuyler County, New York; admitted to bar, 1861; enlisted in Oregon Escort, company of militia authorized by Congress to escort emigrants to territory, 1862; married Augusta Mulkey; practiced law, Portland, 1862-83; U.S. district attorney, 1865-66; state senator, 1866-68 and 1872-76; U.S. Senator, 1883-95; Republican; John Hipple Mitchell’s law partner (Corning 74; Portrait and Biographical Record of the Willamette 180-83; Scott, History of the Oregon Country 3: 135). Senator Dolph was present in the gallery at this hearing. []
  5. In a nutshell, the history that Abigail is recounting is as follows: In February, 1887, ruling on a case brought by a gambler who had been indicted by a grand jury that included some women, the territorial supreme court voided the 1883 suffrage statute, which included women, on a technicality. Scott Duniway pointedly criticized this reversal (New Northwest 10 Feb. 1887). When the next legislature, in January, 1888, rectified the defect and reenacted the law, a test case was contrived in which Mrs. Nevada Bloomer, an opponent of suffrage and wife of a saloonkeeper, arranged to have her ballot rejected in a Spokane municipal election and then sued the precinct judges, with the result that the territorial supreme court, in Bloomer v. Todd (3 Wash. Terr. 599 [1888]), voided the new act on the grounds that Congress had not intended to empower the territories to enfranchise women (Larson, “Washington” 54-55; History of Woman Suffrage 4: 1096-98). The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately would dismiss the case in 1891 (145 U.S. 630). []

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