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(October 25, 1917)
The President received at the White House a delegation from the New York State Woman Suffrage Party. Answering the address made by the chairman, Mrs. Norman de R. Whitehouse, the President spoke as follows:
MRS. WHITEHOUSE AND LADIES,--It is with great pleasure that I receive you. I esteem it a privilege to do so. I know the difficulties which you have been laboring under in New York State, so clearly set forth by Mrs. Whitehouse, but in my judgment those difficulties cannot be used as an excuse by the leaders of any party or by the voters of any party for neglecting the question which you are pressing upon them. Because, after all, the whole world now is witnessing a struggle between two ideals of government. It is a struggle which goes deeper and touches more of the foundations of the organized life of men than any struggle that has ever taken place before, and no settlement of the questions that lie on the surface can satisfy a situation which requires that the questions which lie underneath and at the foundation should also be settled and settled right. I am free to say that I think the question of woman suffrage is one of those questions which lie at the foundation.
The world has witnessed a slow political reconstruction, and men have generally been obliged to be satisfied with the slowness of the process. In a sense it is wholesome that it should be slow, because then it is solid and sure. But I believe that this war is going so to quicken the convictions and the consciousness of mankind with regard to political questions that the speed of reconstruction will be greatly increased. And I believe that just because we are quickened by the questions of this war, we ought to be quickened to give this question of woman suffrage our immediate consideration.
NOW IS THE TIME TO ACT
As one of the spokesmen of a great party, I would be doing nothing less than obeying the mandates of that party if I gave my hearty support to the question of woman suffrage which you represent, but I do not want to speak merely as one of the spokesmen of a party. I want to speak for myself, and say that it seems to me that this is the time for the States of this Union to take this action. I perhaps may be touched a little too much by the traditions of our politics, traditions which lay such questions almost entirely upon the States, but I want to see communities declare themselves quickened at this time and show the consequence of the quickening.
I think the whole country has appreciated the way in which the women have risen to this great occasion. They not only have done what they have been asked to do, and done it with ardor and efficiency, but they have shown a power to organize for doing things of their own initiative, which is quite a different thing, and a very much more difficult thing, and I think the whole country has admired the spirit and the capacity and the vision of the women of the United States.
It is almost absurd to say that the country depends upon the women for a large part of the inspiration of its life. That is too obvious to say; but it is now depending upon the women also for suggestions of service, which have been rendered in abundance and with the distinction of originality. I, therefore, am very glad to add my voice to those which are urging the people of the great State of New York to set a great example by voting for woman suffrage. It would be a pleasure if I might utter that advice in their presence. Inasmuch as I am bound too close to my duties here to make that possible, I am glad to have the privilege to ask you to convey that message to them.
It seems to me that this is a time of privilege. All our principles, all our hearts, all our purposes, are being searched; searched not only by our own consciences, but searched by the world; and it is time for the people of the States of this country to show the world in what practical sense they have learned the lessons of democracy--that they are fighting for democracy because they believe it, and that there is no application of democracy which they do not believe in.
I feel, therefore, that I am standing upon the firmest foundations of the age in bidding godspeed to the cause which you represent and in expressing the ardent hope that the people of New York may realize the great occasion which faces them on Election Day and may respond to it in noble fashion.
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