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Maine. September, 1917

by Jeremy Hooper

The Pine Tree state legislature had enacted a bill granting women the right to vote, throwing their strong support behind the measure. But first, the matter had to be ratified at the polls, putting a minority's right was put to the whims of a majority vote. Sound familiar?

Yeah, you know the script. The anti-side warned their troops to come out against the "unwise policy" before it was "everlastingly too late":

Kennebec Journal, Sep. 10, 1917
Screen Shot 2009-11-09 At 11.48.35 Am

The pro-equality side (in this case "yes") tried everything they could to combat the other side:

Kennebec Journal, Sep. 10, 1917
Screen Shot 2009-11-09 At 11.48.50 Am
Screen Shot 2009-11-09 At 12.25.49 Pm

In support of fairness, suffragists looked to the more progressive Canada, refuted claims that the state had more pressing issues to take on, shot down the idea that women didn't actually want this right, and even had to distance themselves from "militant" activists. It's all remarkably familiar to modern gays:

Kennebec Journal July 25, 1917

But when the votes were cast, the fair-minded side still lost. In fact, the fear of the lady-vote was apparently even more pronounced than the current fear of the 'mo marriage:

Kennebec Journal, Sep. 27, 1917
Screen Shot 2009-11-09 At 11.49.29 Am-2

But as it turned out, some of them didn't even know what the hell they were voting on:

Kennebec Journal, Sep. 14, 1917
Screen Shot 2009-11-09 At 12.01.40 Pm

Yet despite what had to be an enraging situation then (as it is now), the fair-minded team vowed to march on:

Kennebec Journal, Sep. 24, 1917

And two years later, Maine ratified the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which finally gave women this fundamental right.

Stay the course, folks. We remember history, and we will not be condemned by it.

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Your thoughts


Thank you for this. An excellent parallel and a wonderful reminder.

Posted by: Timothy Kincaid | Nov 9, 2009 1:35:26 PM

As the old saying goes, "There's nothing new under the sun...."

Yes, we WILL prevail, not only in Maine, but in all 50 states eventually... and the bigots against us know this deep inside of them.

Stay the course!!

Posted by: David Twombley | Nov 9, 2009 1:35:54 PM

Wait... I thought Legislatures ratified amendments, not voters? Is it different in Maine? Because if it's not, then chances are, 2 years later, Maine voters still didn't want to give women the vote... but enlightened politicians knew better....

Posted by: Tommy | Nov 9, 2009 4:03:39 PM

Oops, Tommy. Yes, that was miswording. It was the leg. that ratified the 19th in 1919. Correcting it now.

And yes, I'm sure public opinion was still against ratification. I don't have that data, but I can't imagine it changed that much that quickly.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Nov 9, 2009 4:11:30 PM

Clearly you will NOT prevail. Voters in all 30 states that have asked them have spoken against the changes you seek. It's not happening. And that, my friend, is what I know deep inside of me.

Posted by: John Rocksbury | Nov 9, 2009 4:18:42 PM

And in 5 years, Mr. Rocksbury, we have won marriage equality in SEVEN STATES, with a couple more on the horizon. Yes, two of those were overturned -- but we have still made considerable progress.

I am married. Legally. You will never take that away from me.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Nov 9, 2009 4:28:37 PM

Fascinating stuff. It's almost sad how the script never changes.

Hope you don't mind, but this post reminded me of an article I was working on a few weeks ago about the National Woman's Organization.


Posted by: Matt Algren | Nov 9, 2009 4:29:00 PM

Mr. Rocksbury, you may delude yourself all you wish but 20 years ago DPs/civil unions never would have even been considered, let alone approved. Gays are being accepted more and more in society than I ever thought I'd see in my lifetime. Keep dreaming, marriage equality is coming even if you folks successfully delay it for a little bit longer.

Just wait until these amendments start to be repealed. I predict that DPs and civil unions will happen first within 10 years in the 19 states that currently ban them. That's the first step. Marriage equality will follow.

Posted by: John | Nov 9, 2009 5:35:01 PM

Do you have a source for this? I want to see the bigots who wouldn't shut up about how "the majority chose this!" dance around the facts and pretend this can't be compared.

Of course I'll never even get that far if I link directly back here, they'll just say "LOL BLOG" and ignore it.

Posted by: wackadoodle | Nov 9, 2009 5:38:03 PM

Ah, Mr. Rocksbury; 'me thinks you dost protest too much'... I think I, and others, have struck a nerve. Your comment just reinforces what I posted earlier; you know that this is inevitable. Deny it all you want; it will happen.

Posted by: David Twombley | Nov 9, 2009 7:32:13 PM

Jeremy, you are legally married. You were married in the state of Connecticut (and it looked like a fabulous party, too!). Maybe that's what needs to happen...same sex couples go en masse to Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, NH (after Jan 1st), Vermont and just get married. And then go home to their home states and say, as you have, "I am legally married. You can't take that away from me." And then stand up and demand all the rights and benefits that accrue to legally married couples.

I was married in NY. Since I have been married I have lived in Illinois and Maine. No one has ever asked to see my marriage license, nor has anyone ever questioned my marriage. Maybe same-sex couples need to just start getting married and then...be married.

My 2 cents for this evening. Still hurting from last week.


Posted by: Leslie | Nov 9, 2009 8:26:12 PM

Yep, that's the beauty of the public initiative process. I have a feeling we saw some of that same confusion on Question 1 last week.

Face it, it's only a 5.5% difference between yes and no. That's a statistical anomaly.

Posted by: Tony P | Nov 9, 2009 8:39:53 PM

What a facinating article! I really truly enjoyed this, Jeremy, what a great parallel. It's crazy looking back to a point in time where women couldn't vote, and that people were actually gunning to keep it that way! Just goes to show you how stupid the "majority" can be, and why such civil liberties should NOT be put to the vote of the people, many of whom (as this blog showed) don't even know the main arguments of the argument itself!

Posted by: Stef | Nov 10, 2009 12:17:36 AM

Having just seen the movie, MILK, and having just had wonderful discussion about the perseverence and hope that Harvey Milk embodied, and recognizing how far rights for the GLBTQ community have come in the last 30 years, I have every hope and belief that I will see the day that all people are treated equally in the USA as the writers of the Declaration of Independence intended 233 years ago. The parallels between the womens' suffrage movement, the civil rights movement and the gay rights movement are astounding. God bless our future USA, where all people have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Posted by: Tara B. B. | Nov 10, 2009 2:37:26 PM

Fascinating, interesting, all true---and really thank you so much for sharing this. It just makes me that much angrier, that much more frustrated. Oh well---patience---no civil rights advances happened quickly----sigh

Posted by: Kevin | Nov 10, 2009 10:17:03 PM

Trust me, it would take much more than your wishful thinking to strike a nerve :-). It's just funny how at first, people tried to force these changes through the courts. Then voters started approving ammendments to their state constitutions en masse, so then the tactic changed from trying to get their way through the courts to bringing the vote before the people. And what's funny is that same-sex marriage has failed miserably at the ballot. Now the general sentiment here seems to be that voters are stupid and don't know anything, so take it to the legislature. But then you look at Maine, a New England state that is overwhelmingly liberal, and even those voters overturned the legislation. If voters in liberal states like Maine and California disapprove, how can you even make the argument that you are winning the battle?

Posted by: John Rocksbury | Nov 11, 2009 5:45:48 PM

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