Beyond Supply & Demand: Duke Economics Students Present 100 Years of American Women’s Suffrage

The Value of Labor

Women recognized that to rectify such injustices as inequality of compensation and working conditions, as well as to ensure labor protections, they must have a voice in political affairs. The objects in this section highlight the ways in which wage gaps and gendered power imbalances prompted the desire by many writers to be enfranchised and the conviction by others that the movement belittles women’s important accomplishments. Written by labor activists, journalists, political and social reformers, and others, the items also showcase the diverse lenses through which suffrage was considered and understood, and the vast array of issues that the movement encompassed.

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First page of small pamphlet in typed black ink on yellowed paper, title in gothic font

Political Equality Series "Suffrage for Woman Wage Earners" - Full Pamphlet

Ida H. Harper was a woman’s suffrage journalist employed by the National American Woman Suffrage Association. She was also Susan B. Anthony’s biographer and co-author of History of Woman Suffrage. Suffrage for Woman Wage Earners asserts that women workers will inevitably earn lower wages than men unless they are enfranchised. Harper argues that access to the ballot would improve women’s economic situation.

Faded light blue cover in typed blue ink with seal of the National American Woman Suffrage Association - a woman holding scales

Florence Kelley—a prominent labor activist, socialist, and founding member of the NAACP—frequently challenged the unfair working conditions of this time period. Her pamphlet, What Women Might Do with the Ballot, advocated for increased labor protections for women and children and asserted these protections could only be achieved through women’s suffrage.

Faded and stained light green pamphlet cover with typed black ink and small circular seal with an arm holding a hammer

This essay in this pamphlet was based on an address entitled “Woman Suffrage” delivered in 1909 under the auspices of the Socialist Women of Greater New York by American socialist leader, newspaper editor, politician, Marxist theoretician, and trade union organizer, Daniel De Leon. Published in 1933, the essay was described as a thesis on the evolution of society with a focus on the impact of voting on class struggle that continued despite the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment.

Women’s Labor and WWI