Today in Feminist History: Alice Paul Meets with Charles Evan Hughes (July 8, 1916)

Today in Feminist History is our daily recap of the major milestones and minor advancements that shaped women’s history in the U.S.—from suffrage to Shirley Chisholm and beyond. These posts were written by, and are presented in homage to, our late staff historian and archivist, David Dismore.

July 8, 1916: Alice Paul is now back in Washington, D.C., following a meeting at the Astor Hotel in New York City with Republican Presidential nominee Charles Evans Hughes.

Paul said today that she made it clear to Hughes that despite her dissatisfaction with the Democrats’ failure to pass the Susan B. Anthony (woman suffrage) Amendment even though in control of both House and Senate, and being unhappy with President Wilson’s unwillingness to endorse it or lobby Congress on its behalf, Republicans must work to earn her support and women’s votes in the eleven full-suffrage States of the West, as well as in Illinois, where women can vote for President, but not all offices:

“If the Republican Party continues to dream it has nothing to do but sit tight and profit by the Democratic mistakes in regard to the Susan B. Anthony Amendment it is destined to a sad awakening,” is the way she put it this morning at the headquarters of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage.

Her forces are already organized in the Western States, and will try to influence the 4 million women voters there to support whichever party will do the most to help ban sex discrimination at the polls nationwide via the Anthony Amendment:

“Voting women will not accept a mere endorsement of the principle of suffrage. They are solely interested in the best method of protecting their own political rights and of emancipating the rest of their sex. The Republican Party wants the women’s votes. They are essential to the success of the party next fall. But it will not receive them by default.”

Both Republicans and Democrats passed pro-suffrage planks at their conventions this year, but endorsed winning nationwide suffrage only by the “one State at a time” method, something totally unacceptable to Alice Paul and her Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage and newly-formed National Woman’s Party of Western Women Voters. Organizing the women of the West began in April, when the Congressional Union sent speakers on a tour of Western States in a “Suffrage Special” railroad car. A second campaign tour to unite and energize those millions of women voters seems likely, and may be even more extensive and intense than the first.

Getting the active support of Charles Evans Hughes for the Anthony Amendment would give it quite a boost. The former Governor of New York (1907 – 1910) and recent Justice of the Supreme Court (1910 – 1916), who resigned his position on the High Court on June 10th when he won the Republican nomination for President, is highly respected by most Americans. But regardless of whether he actively works for suffrage, or becomes President, just the fact that he considers Alice Paul to be enough of a political force in this country to agree to a private meeting with her despite his rigorous campaign schedule shows the power of our suffrage movement in general, and the growing influence of the militant faction in particular.


David Dismore is the archivist for the Feminist Majority Foundation. His journey from would-be weather forecaster to full-time feminist began with the powerful impression made by a photo and a few paragraphs about the suffragists in his high school history textbook; years later, he had his first encounter with NOW—in which he carefully peeked in a window before opening the door to be sure men were allowed. He was eventually active in the ERA extension campaign of 1978, embarked on a cross-country bikeathon for it in 1982 and even worked for pioneers Toni Carabillo and Judith Meuli.