Seems Some Ideas Behind the Men’s Rights Movement Had Already Surfaced a Century Ago

September 11, 2017

By 1912, the Men’s League for Woman Suffrage, was gathering force, both in New York State and in chapters that had been proliferating across the country since early in 1910.

The movement immediately became fodder for the humorists, too, like this “Moulton’s Meditations” column by Roy K. Moulton (1879-1928) that appeared in the July 1, 1912 issue of the Kingston Daily Freeman. Kingston is the seat of Ulster County in the Hudson Valley, about 90 miles north of New York City and 60 miles south of Albany. The likely mythic “Militant Suffragents” he refers to appear to be opponents of women getting the vote. Maybe that’s what tempted modern day supporters of the men’s rights movement to claim a gently chiding moniker, like “suffrage husband,” that was meant the male allies of the women’s cause.

“Me for the tall and uncut timber,” F.W. writes, “so take my name off the membership roll of the Militant Suffragents,” and proceeds to relate his experience giving up his seat on a street car to accommodate several women who were standing. “Say, on the level,” he goes on. “the line of talk that was passed out would discourag a braver suffragent than I am and I hopped off the car ten blocks before I got to my destination. we will never have equal rights for women.”

G.F.T. reports on his own issues, at the breakfast table. “Take my name off the list,” he tells Moulton. Arguing about it with his wife, he ostensibly reports, made him three hours late for work and he lost his job. “I know we had a lot of arguments on our side, but I forgot them,” he is quoted as saying. “For when my wife gets started, she has got Patrick Henry, Demosthenes, Henry Ward Beecher and William J. Bryan lashed to the mast and panting for breath. She can talk faster, longer and louder than the whole blamed Suffragent Club combined.  I guess we had better not oppose the women or try to achieve equal rights with them until we make a more thorough study of oratory and the possibility of the English language.”

Moulton’s kicker: “At a meeting of the Suffragents held last evening only 17 members responded to roll call, which was a falling off of 4, 873 since the first meeting. The 17 present were all bachelors.”

In fact, Ulster was well represented among the 500 members of the Men’s League in New York State, as listed in the 1912 membership booklet. There were five from Kingston (F.S. Benedict, Roscow Irwin, W.J. Michaels, W. Frank O’Reilly, and William Willians) and one from Pine Hill (Timothy Goodyear Remick.) Here’s the actual page from the booklet:

(These pages also show the League members in Ontario, Orange, Queens, Rensselaer, Richmond, Saratoga, Schenectady, Steuben, Tompkins, Warren, Westchester, and Wyoming counties, too.) Manhattan and Brooklyn, understandably, had the largest numbers of members. I like that the booklet lists them by each member’s Electoral, Assembly, and Aldermanic district. That’s a powerful statement of intent, don’t you think?

Here is my poorly handcrafted map of where League members resided by 1912 in New York State. I’ve got the rest of the pages with all their names if you’d like to see them.

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The Suffragents won the Gold Medal in US History in the 2018 Independent Publisher Book Awards and was a finalist for the 2018 Sally and Morris Lasky Prize, presented by the Center for Political History.  See Summer Camp Newsletters” and Facebook posts from book-related appearances. Reviews, notices, and articles about my books are under their titles here. My articles are here.

2019 Calendar:
January 29:
Exhibition Opening Remarks: “Women Get the Vote: A Historic Look at the Nineteenth Amendment,“New York Society Library. February 23: Public Values in Conflict with Animal Agribusiness Practices,” UCLA Law School, Los Angeles.  March 13: The Suffragents,” Scarsdale Woman’s Club, Scarsdale NY. March 24: League of Women Voters, Albany County at the Bethlehem (NY) Public LibraryMarch 25:Judges, Lawyers, and Women’s Suffrage: Recognizing the Men Who Stood with Women on the Front Lines,” Gender Fairness Committee of the Third Judicial District, CLE, NY State Courts at SUNY Albany Law School, Albany NY. May 15: “The Republican Suffragents,” National Women’s Republican Club, New York City. August 7: “From Emma Goldman to the Marketplace of Ideas: Marking the 100th Anniversary of Free Speech at the Supreme Court,.” AEJMC, Toronto.