Article 1, Section 4 of the Constitution of the United States of America says that the “…Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof: but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations…”  Amendment X strengthens state control of the election process by stating that “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

The fight for women’s suffrage in the United States took place on two fronts – in each state and at the national level.  Who was allowed to vote depended in part on the history and heritage of each individual state, but suffice it to say that women were included in every disenfranchised class.

Even if a woman could meet the same qualifications as a male voter, she might still be prevented from voting because she lacked or was not in control of property.

Texas was first recognized as a political entity under Spanish rule.  Unlike many of its English colonial counterparts, Spanish courts in the New World recognized a woman’s right to inherit – and her right to control that inheritance.  While this was not a “ticket” to participate in government, it did mean that women had legal standing under Spanish law.

When the Republic of Texas was organized and later the State of Texas, the judicial system incorporated elements from both the Spanish and English traditions, allowing female citizens certain rights not necessarily accorded in other states.

This outline is the story of how women in El Paso, Texas took their rights one step further, to achieve the franchise.  It is a biased report, noted down several years ago and based on computer information accessible at the time.  The general overview of the subject was taken from the Texas State Library’s on-line exhibit on Votes for Women.  Newspaper information was derived from the El Paso Herald-Post, as provided by the Library of Congress website.  As the Herald’s Society editor, Ruth Auger, was instrumental in starting the local chapter of the Equal Franchise League, this subject received regular coverage.  Missing is information from a rival newspaper, the El Paso Times.  Both were English language publications, which were more likely to cover African-American stories than those where the participants did not speak English.  A wealth of information on the subject may still wait in Spanish language and Labor oriented newspapers, and in the oral histories of cultural groups without immediate access to a printing press.

Can’t see the timeline? Click here to view.

Woman’s Suffrage timeline

Woman’s suffrage songs

From an untitled song by Mme. Annie Girard, in Belle Christie Critchett’s papers. Written to the tune of “Auld Lang Syne.”

 Shall early efforts be forgot-

The sacrifice of years,

Through times of ridicule and scorn,

Discouragement and tears?

Let us remember how they fought

Those sisters, brave and strong-

Although it seemed a hopeless task,

The way so hard and long.

Source: UTEP Special Collections.  

Written to the tune of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee“.  Song titled “The New America” by Elizabeth Boynton Harbert in 1891.

Women of every age,

For this great heritage,

Tribute have paid!

Our birthright claim we now,

Longer refuse to bow,

On freedom’s altar now

Our hand is laid

Also, take a look at our other women’s suffrage exhibit, Women as Agents of Social Change: El Paso Social Housekeepers 1886-1930.

Women as Agents of Social Change: El Paso’s Social Housekeepers, 1886-1930