One side of the suffrage movement

Matthew Urtz

In July of 1848, a group of nearly 200 women met at the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls launching the women’s rights movement. One of their goals was to attain the right to vote for women. It was 69 years later that New York voters approved woman suffrage. Three years later a federal amendment was approved. In between, both men and women were drawn into the debate of women should (or should not) have the right to vote. Today we are focusing on those who were against woman suffrage.

In April 1894 the City of Oneida hosted a conference on woman suffrage at the Munroe Opera House (then located across from Madison Street on Main Street). The conference was part of a state-wide initiative to have a conference in every county in the state. On the first night Susan B. Anthony spoke to the crowd; on the second night the Reverend Anna Shaw spoke. Newspaper accounts say the conference was a success and well attended.

The following year the Oneida Civics and Social Science Club, Madison County’s earliest pro-suffrage club, was organized. Formed in October of 1895 the club was active in the suffrage movement but it was organized to “…pursue a course of study on political equality, social science, the laws of our country and kindred topics that will prepare us for all the duties of good citizenship.”

The women would educate themselves on current events, local, state and national politics, world events and more. They also conducted letter campaigns and spoke to local and state politicians on a number of issues including suffrage and a local curfew. The club also organized special speakers including, on two separate occasions, prominent national woman suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt.

In addition, they regularly worked with prominent Onondaga County suffragist Harriet May Mills to have her speak or assist in bringing other speakers. As woman suffrage moved towards a vote in 1915 a conference was held in Oneida and members attended local fairs and events, as well as the hop grower’s picnic, which is interesting as many members of the Civics Club were also members of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. The group merged with organizations in Oneida and Kenwood to form the Oneida Kenwood Suffrage Campaign Club. The vote failed in Madison County by over 1600 votes.

Following the vote another conference was held, and in May the Woman Suffrage Party held their first convention in Oneida. The Oneida Kenwood Suffrage campaign had over 125 members and was working to host fundraisers, meetings, dances, and dinners. They made their voices heard and in November 1917 the Suffrage Vote passed by a slim majority of 163; still, that was nearly a 10-percent swing from the vote two years earlier.

On Oct. 11, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the County Office Building (Building No. 4, Department of Motor Vehicles), 138 N. Court St., Wampsville, will be putting the original meeting minutes (transcribed as well as the original), photos and poster images on display as part of our Archives Day celebration.

The Madison County Historian’s Office is partnering with the Oneida Community Mansion House, Madison County Historical Society and Cazenovia Public Library to bring forth the story of the role of both the pro- and anti-suffrage societies as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of woman suffrage in New York state.

For more information, feel free to contact Matthew Urtz at 315-366-2453 or

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