At all events, the hypocrisy of Democrats serves us a better purpose in the present emergency than does the treachery of the Republicans.
Susan B. Anthony, 1866
If the elective franchise is not extended to the negro, he dies . . . Woman has a thousand ways by which she can attach herself to the ruling power of the land that we have not.
Frederick Douglass, 1868
One month after Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton founded the Equal Rights Association, Congress sent the male-exclusive Fourteenth Amendment to the states for ratification. With the federal government determined to exclude women, Anthony and Stanton resolved to keep the association focused on a strategy that held that black and woman suffrage were compatible, and to do so on the state level by launching a series of lobbying and petition campaigns to amend state constitutions. In 1866 and 1867, campaigns began in New York, New Jersey, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, and Ohio. In Minnesota, Sarah Stearns and Mary Colburn began their own campaign. Despite the best efforts of organizers, however, antiblack riots in New Orleans and Memphis intensified the belief that freedmen needed further constitutional protections. After passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, policy makers shifted their focus to black suffrage. Indeed, through black suffrage, the Union’s victory would be secured. As Ellen Dubois has written, “These developments increasingly drew the black man alone to the center of the national political stage.” Republicans and Democrats, abolitionists and racists, agreed—the major issue of Reconstruction was the freedmen’s political status.
In the face of this consensus, the universal suffrage vision of the Equal Rights Association became more and more problematic. Few believed that white men would support black suffrage if the vote simultaneously made their wives politically equal to them. While Radicals refused to endorse women’s suffrage, Democrats supported suffrage petitions and bills, seeing them as a way to embarrass the advocates for black suffrage. Similarly, while the Republican press ridiculed the Equal Rights Association and the Standard refused to report its activities, Democratic papers, happy to publicize any split within the abolitionist ranks, gave the association generous coverage and helped spread its message. These were the events to which the St. Paul Press would refer in castigating the women’s suffrage bill in the 1870 session of the Minnesota legislature. Anthony and Stanton no longer felt they had anything to lose by accepting aid from the Democrats and were under no illusions regarding Democratic motives. The issue was quite clear. “If the Democrats advocate a grand measure of public policy which they do not believe, they occupy much higher ground than Republicans who refuse to press the same measure which they claim to believe. At all events, the hypocrisy of Democrats serves us a better purpose in the present emergency than does the treachery of the Republicans.” In time, the tension between abolitionists and feminists deepened until it destroyed the foundation of the Equal Rights Association, leading Anthony and Stanton to an open break with abolitionists. In 1867 the split became unavoidable.
In March, Anthony received a message from Samuel Wood, a Republican state senator from Kansas, appealing to her to come to his state to help campaign on behalf of women and black suffrage. At the time, neither she nor Stanton could leave New York, so Anthony enlisted Lucy Stone to go to Kansas. Stone’s husband, Henry Blackwell, accompanied her. The campaign, already poorly financed, was ill fated from the start. Earlier, it had all seemed so promising. Stanton would later write, “As Kansas was the historic ground where Liberty fought her first victorious battles with Slavery, and consecrated that soil forever to the freedom of the black race, so was it the first State where the battle for woman’s enfranchisement was waged and lost for a generation. There never was a more hopeful interest concentrated on the legislation of any single state, than when Kansas submitted the two propositions to her people to take the words ‘white’ and ‘male’ from her Constitution.”
Indeed, Kansas seemed to be a good place to wage a campaign for woman’s suffrage, and victory there, as Dubois notes, would counter the charge that public opinion did not support the enfranchisement of women. It would provide the Equal Rights Association with the evidence it needed to convince Republicans that women’s suffrage could be safely linked to black suffrage. Many Kansans were veterans of the fighting in the 1850s, and thought to be sympathizers of the abolition movement. The state had a strong record in women’s rights. Only in New York was the legislation concerning women more advanced. Blackwell was even more optimistic when he wrote to Stanton, “This is glorious country, Mrs. Stanton, and a glorious people. If we succeed here, it will be the State of the Future.”
The glimmer of hope quickly faded. Though Wood had succeeded in getting the Republican-dominated legislature to place the women’s suffrage question before the voters, the first signs of trouble appeared when party leaders refused to permit it to be linked too closely to black suffrage, presenting it instead as a separate question. Moreover, the state Republican committee endorsed only the black suffrage referendum. Without that endorsement, women’s suffrage was cast adrift. The State Impartial Suffrage Association, which Wood had organized, was being pressured by party leaders to drop women’s suffrage and campaign only for black suffrage. Blackwell noted, “There are a great many silent enemies among the Republicans who are paralyzed by our bold strokes and waiting for a lull in our breeze to raise a reaction. This must not be permitted.”
To make matters worse, many of the strongest voices of the Equal Rights Association, an organization created to pursue universal suffrage—Frederick Douglass, Theodore Tilton, Wendell Phillips, and Thomas Wentworth Higginson—all refused invitations to come to Kansas to work alongside Blackwell and Stone. In fact, the abolitionist and Radical press, as well as the nation’s most prominent paper, Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune, had all refused even to recognize the work. In May Stone wrote to Anthony, “But the Tribune and [Tilton’s] Independent alone could, if they would urge universal suffrage, as they [do] the negro suffrage, carry this whole nation upon the only just plane of equal human rights. What a power to hold, and not use!” Republican voters were inclined to follow their party’s endorsement, and prominent liberal opinion makers heard nothing to support women’s suffrage.
What had begun as a campaign for universal suffrage tragically slipped into a fratricidal battle for political survival. This was the moment that both sides—black suffrage supporters and women’s suffrage supporters—had long wanted when a people unjustly excluded from the franchise could now be welcomed into the fold. But then it all fell apart. The “black” supporters did not have faith that white male voters would tolerate change that was anything but piecemeal. The “women” supporters, on the other hand, feared that the depth of intransigent sexism was such that this moment of opportunity was fleeting; that the time to act—or at least, try—was now, never to return with their generation. The stakes were high. Each saw the ballot as protection against systemic oppression. Neither saw time as a luxury. Both saw the magnanimity of white male voters as a shooting star streaking across the night sky over the Kansas prairie, a sight of wonder, perhaps, and hope, but not one to rely on when charting a navigational direction to permanent safe harbor.
But by April, not quite one month after Wood’s request, the allies supporting black and women’s suffrage, standing under the flimsy umbrella of “Equal Rights,” could feel the momentum change within the Kansas political landscape and their advantage recede as they increasingly slipped into the hubris of mutual distrust. Phillips had already accused Anthony of misappropriation of funds. Anthony accused Douglass, Tilton, and others (including, of course, Phillips), who had all accepted leadership positions with an organization created to promote universal suffrage, of acts of betrayal when those same men refrained from aiding that very campaign. Douglass on several occasions in 1866 insisted that universal suffrage was a birthright of black men and women alike, but now argued that the urgency of present circumstance dictated only one group to get the vote, and that group had to be the black man, whose very life depended on it. Anthony resented the presumptuousness of male colleagues who dictated the strategic goal and then criticized her for being unrealistic and emotional. Blacks questioned Anthony’s racial sincerity when she brought Sojourner Truth to New York in a gesture intended to trump Douglass, but not to Kansas, where the presence of the famous former conductor of the Underground Railroad would have turned off potential supporters; and they took exception when Anthony’s frustration led her to chide blacks with mockery and stereotype by saying, “It ain’t as it used to was.”
In this, blacks felt white suffragists, despite their support for universal suffrage, would easily sacrifice black suffrage for their own. Even though audiences seemed receptive to universal suffrage, the power play of the Republican Party and Equal Rights canvassers reduced the suffrage issue to a scrap of meat to be fought over. “The negroes are all against us,” wrote Lucy Stone. “These men ought not to be allowed to vote before we do, because they will be just so much more dead weight to lift.” A month earlier, a disheartened Blackwell referred to recriminations by blacks directed toward Sam Wood, who had initiated both campaigns in the state. “Wood has helped off more runaway slaves than any man in Kansas. He has always been true both to the negro and the woman. But the negroes dislike and distrust him because he has never allowed the word white to be struck out, unless the word male should be struck out also. . . . So while he advocates both, he fully realizes the wider scope and far greater grandeur of the battle for women.”
In fact, Blackwell’s reference to “the greater grandeur of the battle” confirmed black suspicions. Earlier that year, in an open letter to legislatures of Southern states, Blackwell advised them of a way to permit Negro suffrage and still maintain white political supremacy. He urged the South to give the vote to women, arguing that the vote of Southern white women would counterbalance the combined vote of black men and black women. If all the whites voted one way and all the blacks voted another, the latter would be outvoted two to one. Thus, through universal suffrage, “the Negro question would be removed from the political scene. . . . [It would be a way to maintain] the political supremacy of your white race.” To the Republican Party, this was blasphemy.
The black suffrage referendum in Kansas was a Republican Party measure and represented the success Radicals were having by 1867 in making the freedmen’s enfranchisement part of the Republican program. At the same time, it seemed that the universal suffrage message was taking root within the electorate. Dubois notes that the more visible the Equal Rights Association could make its demand for women’s suffrage, the more pressure it put on the Republican Party to take a stand on the issue. Although a few Republicans suggested the party take up women’s suffrage, antifeminist counsel prevailed and the party moved from implicit opposition to explicit attack. Few of the attacks were philosophical or principled. One Republican canvasser against women’s suffrage claimed that Lucy Stone “and that seed-wart she carries around with her—called Blackwood were practicing free-lovers.” A black man named Charles Langston claimed to represent the freedmen in their opposition to women’s suffrage. Suffragist Olympia Brown described a third man, who asked his audience “if they wanted every old maid to vote” and rebuked the audience with “ ‘preferring every old thing that had a white face’ to the negro.” Under such onslaught, the suffragists began to openly seek support from the Democrats.
This could only qualify as a tactical blunder. Grounded in desperation, this new approach at best would appeal to one-quarter of the Kansas electorate. Though the Democratic State Committee had come out against black and women’s suffrage, Democratic canvassers accompanied Stanton and former Republican governor Charles Robinson in working in the border town where Democrats were strong; yet, with many of them, the campaign was less about women’s suffrage than about mocking the Republican cause. Nonetheless, the Anthony-Stanton faction attempted to cultivate this rather flimsy base of voters. “Although equal rights organizers had quietly sought Democratic votes since the beginning of the canvass,” Dubois writes, “they now concentrated on this tactic to the exclusion of others. Their appeals to Democrats became more open and much more partisan.” In other words, the suffragists had declared verbal war, not just against abolitionists but also the Republicans as a whole; and in turn, as Republicans saw it, women’s suffrage had become a cause that appealed to sympathizers of the Old Confederacy.
In October, the dazzling, wealthy, and racist George Francis Train, a Boston-born Democrat and presidential candidate, stepped onto the stage. As Stanton reported,
Seeing that the republican vote must be largely against the woman’s amendment, the question arose what can be done to capture enough democratic votes to outweigh the recalcitrant republicans. At this auspicious moment George Francis Train appeared in the State as an advocate of woman suffrage. He appealed most effectively to the chivalry of the intelligent Irishmen, and the prejudices of the ignorant; conjuring them not to take the word “white” out of their constitution unless they did the word “male” also; and not to lift the negroes above the heads of their own mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters. The result was a respectable democratic vote in favor of woman suffrage.
Years later, Blackwell described the decision to bring Train to Kansas as unwise. “After my wife and I had returned from our campaign work in Kansas, George Francis Train was invited into the State by Miss Anthony, at the insistence of friends in Missouri, to speak in behalf of the woman suffrage movement. While undoubtedly done with the best of intentions, this was most unwise. Mr. Train, as everybody knows, was a semi-lunatic.” He added that Train was a “virulent Copperhead” and “the last person who should have been asked to speak for woman suffrage in a strongly Republican State, like radical Kansas.” However, Kathleen Barry sees Train’s entry in an entirely different light, describing a series of events that characterized yet another challenge the Anthony-Stantonites faced: duplicity from within their own ranks, for it was Henry Blackwell and Sam Wood—and not Miss Anthony, as Blackwell wrote—who had engineered Train’s entrance into the campaign:
[Lucy Stone’s] husband told me in the course of a long conversation on the “differences” that Mr. Train went to Kansas on the invitation of one Wood, a republican, to lecture to whomever would hear on Woman Suffrage among other things. . . . Mr. Blackwell & Gov. Robinson & two or three others who were conducting the W.S. campaign thought it might be well for Susan to accompany Train & so get democratic votes—while at the same time she could perhaps keep him straight on the negro question—Train being there against negro suffrage. They accordingly advised & promoted her Kansas trips with Train and she went as General Agent of the Equal Rights Association & with their full approval on that whole Kansas campaign.
In any event, Train arrived on October 21 to begin the disastrous final chapter.
In addition to advocating women’s suffrage, he spoke increasingly on currency reform, Fenianism (a movement of Irish nationalism), his own presidential campaign, and the innate inferiority of black men. His speeches, indulgent and often bawdy, entertained audiences with excessive sentimentalism and barroom humor, which at times included prurient insinuations of how he and Anthony, who were traveling together, spent the nights. But “most of all,” notes Dubois, “it was Train’s racism that violated the historical traditions and political principles of women’s rights. Train slandered the freedmen whenever he could and anchored his advocacy of woman suffrage to his racism. Without quite calling for the defeat of black suffrage” (perhaps the high mark of Anthony’s effort to “keep him straight”), “he offered women’s votes as a weapon to be used against the specter of black supremacy he portrayed.” Regardless of Anthony’s actual role in bringing Train to the Kansas campaign, it remains that she welcomed him, she worked with him, and she praised his performance. “No other man I ever saw,” she wrote to Anna Dickinson, “could move mountains.” To abolitionist critics who denounced the Equal Rights suffragists for associating with Train, a bitter enemy of black people, Stanton replied,
So long as opposition to slavery is the only test for a free pass to your platform and membership of your association, and you do not shut out all persons opposed to woman suffrage, why should we not accept all in favor of woman suffrage to our platform and association, even though they be rabid pro-slavery Democrats? Your test of faithfulness is the negro, ours is the woman; the broadest platform, to which no party has yet risen, is humanity.
Then, recognizing the moral flaw in both camps, she added, “Reformers can be as bigoted and sectarian and as ready to malign each other, as the Church in its darkest periods has been to persecute its dissenters.”
In the end, Kansas voters rejected both amendments. Fighting to end slavery was not the same as extending to black men a political say in state affairs. Kansas men had said, If negro suffrage passes, we will be flooded with ignorant, impoverished blacks from every state of the Union. On the other hand, the voting majority in the state—Republicans—rejected a cause that so eagerly embraced Democratic votes and the embodiment of all they reviled—George Francis Train, who insisted that the women’s vote was “a weapon to be used against the specter of black supremacy.” In other words, “Kansas” meant that the voters, as white men, feared black migration and, as Republicans, rejected a vote that supported the Democratic cause.
By collaborating with Train, Stanton and Anthony were reacting to intensifying antagonisms they had not been able to control. Equal Rights organizers had begun the Kansas campaign by trying to forge a joint voting bloc in favor of suffrage for blacks and women, but Republicans had sabotaged their efforts. By turning to Train, they gave substance to the charges of antifeminist Republicans that the women’s suffrage movement was a tool the Democratic Party used against the freedmen. Blacks and women did not begin the campaign as enemies of each other’s enfranchisement. To the degree they ended that way they were victims of the Republicans’ policies of dividing them. Yet, the swiftness and energy with which Stanton and Anthony turned their own abolitionist traditions to Train’s racism remain remarkable. At this point, their racism was opportunistic and superficial, an artifact of their Republicanism and alienation from abolitionists. It drew on and strengthened a much deeper strain within their feminism, however, a tendency to envision women’s emancipation in exclusively white terms. Encouraged by Train they transformed the racism of white women into a kind of gender pride, which in turn contributed to the awkward fringe of the women’s suffrage movement.
In Rochester, Minnesota, despite her frustrations with the state party’s singular commitment to passing the black suffrage amendment, Stearns was not ready to sever ties with her own party and the radical wing in particular whose principles she wanted deeply planted in southern Minnesota. Announcing the series of speakers that her group had organized for Rochester during the coming winter months, Stearns wrote, “The lecture committee of the Library Association have, ever since this spring, been in correspondence with other societies and with lecturers and their agents and have after a great deal of effort and much trouble, succeeded in engaging a number of the best lecturers in the United States.” It was her intent to bring speakers of different stripes within the liberal camp, including Anna Dickinson, Frederick Douglass, and Wendell Phillips. But as a supporter of Stanton and Anthony, for Stearns the prospect of hearing the last two men promised to try her patience. Indeed, it was already beginning to wane.
In Minnesota, as in Kansas, the 1867 campaign for black suffrage failed. Unlike Kansas, where voters rejected women’s suffrage, Minnesotans were never asked the question. Yet it was for black suffrage—and black suffrage alone—that the Republican caucus reaffirmed its commitment. On January 10, 1868, Governor William Marshall stood before the joint houses of the Minnesota legislature and declared in his annual address that it was time to renew the campaign for black suffrage. In that speech, appealing largely to the principles of Republican values, he argued that because of the declining trend of dissenting votes, Minnesota was ready to support the constitutional amendment. Minnesota was poised to be at the vanguard of civil rights at the beginning of the postwar era. There were a few Minnesotans who rejoiced at this prospect and felt it propitious to press the measure just a little further, having confidence that they could avoid the problems in Kansas.
On Tuesday, January 21, Representative John Hechtman of the Fifth District presented the petition of Mary Graves and 349 others, asking for the extension of the right to suffrage to females. It was formally read and referred to the Committee of Elections. Two days later, and barely two weeks after the governor spoke, Representative John Colton of the Twelfth District reported back on behalf of the committee, recommending that the “prayer of said petitioners [to amend the constitution by striking out the word ‘male’ as a requisite for voting and holding office] be granted.” Legislators in the chamber broke out in laughter. Upon a motion from Representative C. D. Davison of Hennepin County, the report was unceremoniously tabled.
* * * * *
In New York, on May 26, 1868, the American Equal Rights Association met for its second-anniversary convention; but unlike before, when passions were largely held in check as all participants attempted to show at least nominal solidarity, now, because of the deep wounds festering from the Kansas campaign, former friends openly vented their differences. The rupture began to unfold after Stone presented for association endorsement two forms of petitions that would be sent to Congress. One would extend women’s suffrage rights within the District of Columbia and the territories; the other petition concerned the submission of a proposition for the Sixteenth Amendment to extend voting rights to women. Olympia Brown supported the proposal, ridiculing the oft-heard assertion that women in politics ran against the laws of nature (It would take the romance out of life to grant what you desire). She said, “No one worthy [of] the name man or woman is willing to surrender liberty and become subservient to another. . . . Now is the accepted time for the enfranchisement of women. . . . Now is the time for every disfranchised class to make known its wants.” Then she took direct aim at the Republican Party: it was no longer worthy of their blind loyalty. “The Republican party is no better than the Democratic.” Douglass responded, “There is no deep seated malignity in the hearts of people against her; but name the right of the negro to vote, all hell is turned loose and the Ku-klux and Regulators hunt and slay the unoffending black man.” In paternalistic terms that must have felt insulting to the suffragists, he added, “The government of this country loves women. They are the sisters, mothers, wives and daughters of our rulers; but the negro is loathed.” Unconvincing to many in the audience, Douglass concluded, “There is a difference between the Republican and Democratic parties.”
“What is it?” challenged Brown.
“The Democratic party,” responded Douglass, “has, during the whole war, been in sympathy with the rebellion, while the Republican Party has supported the Government.”
“How is it now?” she said.
“The Democrat party opposes [President Johnson’s] impeachment [presently being litigated in Congress] and desires a white man’s government.”
“What is the difference in principle between the position of the Democratic party opposing the enfranchisement of 2,000,000 negro men, and the Republican party opposing the emancipation of 17,000,000 white women?”
“The Democratic party,” Douglass responded, “opposes suffrage to both; but the Republican party is in favor of enfranchising the negro, and is largely in favor of enfranchising [the] woman. Where is the Democrat who favors woman suffrage? (A voice in the audience, “Train!”) Yes, he hates the negro, and that is what stimulates him to substitute the cry of emancipation for women. The negro needs suffrage to protect his life and property, and to ensure him respect and education. He needs it for the safety of reconstruction and the salvation of the Union; for his own elevation from the position of a drudge to that of an influential member of society. If you want women to forget and forsake frivolity, and the negro to take pride in becoming a useful and respectful member of society, give them both the ballot.”
Then Brown asked, “Why did Republican Kansas vote down negro suffrage?”
“Because of your ally, George Francis Train!
“How about Minnesota without Train? The Republican party is a party and cares for nothing but party! It has repudiated both negro suffrage and woman suffrage.”
Douglass responded, “Minnesota lacked only 1,200 votes of carrying suffrage. All the Democrats voted against it, while only a small portion of the Republicans did so. And this was substantially the same in Ohio and Connecticut. The Republican party is about to bring ten states into the Union, and Thaddeus Stevens has reported a bill to admit seven, all on the fundamental basis of constitutions guaranteeing negro suffrage forever.”
Brown “again insisted that the party was false, and that now was the time for every true patriot to demand that no new State should be admitted except on the basis of suffrage to women as well as negroes.”
Stone took issue with “Mr. Douglass’ statement that women were not persecuted for endeavoring to obtain their rights, and depicted in glowing colors the wrongs of women and the inadequacy of the laws to redress them.” Stone “also charged the Republican party as false to principle unless it protected women as well as colored men in the exercise of their right to vote.” With this exchange, the old alliance within the Equal Rights Association was now at its breaking point.
The Republicans in Congress had begun debates on what would be the Fifteenth Amendment, which would extend voting rights to the freedman but not to women. Nothing—no amount of entreaties, petitions, speeches, rallies, or editorials—changed the hearts of congressional leaders to champion universal suffrage. State parties could not be trusted to support the cause, as they witnessed in Kansas and Minnesota. In Massachusetts, despite the nearly symbiotic relationship between the state’s congressional and legislative leadership and the New England Woman Suffrage Association, of which some of the state’s most prominent Republicans were members, the legislature—“largely Republican and temperance”—voted 22 to 9 against women’s suffrage. This proved, as Anthony stated, that cooperating with Republicans was a “bad bargain.” Once the reconstruction laws were enacted, she argued, the question of universal suffrage would be forgotten for another generation. In July Anthony was made a delegate to the Democratic Presidential Convention; and on the Fourth, she spoke before the convention, saying, in part, “While the dominant party has with one hand lifted up two million black men and crowned them with the honor and dignity of citizenship, with the other it has dethroned fifteen million white women—their own mothers and sisters, their own wives and daughters—and cast them under the heel of the lowest orders of manhood.”
When the Equal Rights Association voted to endorse the proposed Fifteenth Amendment, Stanton and Anthony repudiated the men of the organization. “There had been so much trouble with men in the Equal Rights Society,” that the two leaders decided to call a meeting at the newly opened Women’s Bureau where they invited women only. In October 1868, with representatives from nineteen states, they organized their own independent society and named it the National Woman Suffrage Association, though they eventually allowed men to join. The purpose of the association would be to singularly and independently secure the Sixteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution giving women equal suffrage to men.
The opposing faction, composed of such leaders as Stone, Blackwell, and Phillips, believed that this was indeed the “Negro’s hour,” as Phillips termed it in 1866, a position that may well have been held by the numbers of Minnesota women who turned out to hear Wilkinson speak on behalf of black suffrage during the final weeks of the campaign, a contingent—“the largest audience including great numbers of women”—that did not go unobserved by at least one Republican editor. “We noticed one of the striking differences between [Senator Norton’s] audience and the meetings that assembled to hear Senator Wilkinson a week before Norton speak, to a crowd of men—very few ladies were present.” Wilkinson’s message that black suffrage was timely because the initiative, as he had said a week earlier, “proposed to conform our constitution to the Constitution of the United States,” apparently persuaded the women in attendance, and perhaps many more who were not present, who might otherwise have viewed “the Negro Hour” as but mere paternalistic obfuscation. He was being as optimistic about a women’s rights amendment to the U.S. Constitution as he was for the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, neither of which as yet had been ratified.
But it was an optimism that neither Stanton nor Anthony held. For them, too much good faith had been violated. The ideological underpinnings of the party’s stature, basic to its political domination during the Reconstruction period, were its claim to be the party of progress. Anthony and Stanton led the first major group of postwar reformers to defect publicly from the Republican camp and to challenge the party’s reform pretensions. Brown had insisted that “the Republican Party is a party and cares for nothing but the party!” Historian Ellen Dubois has noted, “In light of the mass defection, four years later, of former abolitionists to the Liberal Republican insurgency, the nature of the threat posed in 1868 by the independent stance of Stanton and Anthony becomes clearer. It was an early indication of what the Republican Party would eventually have to confront, the loss of control over the direction of American reform.” The party’s involvement in the New England Woman Suffrage Association, and later the American Woman Suffrage Association, “can best be understood as part of their efforts on behalf of black suffrage, an attempt to keep women’s rights from interfering with it.” Douglass’s view was more urgent and alienating: “If the elective franchise is not extended to the negro, he dies. . . . Woman has a thousand ways by which she can attach herself to the ruling power of the land that we have not.”
That November, the same month in which the New England Woman Suffrage Association was founded, the white men of Minnesota approved the black suffrage amendment to be added to the state constitution. For Minnesota Republicans, the lesson of the Kansas campaign justified their belief that women’s suffrage was something to be set aside for later, always the most prudent approach for such a matter. For Minnesota suffragists, the lesson was to find that delicate balance with assertive restraint, because alliances would always be uncertain.