Extract from History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. 3, edited by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda Joslyn Gage.
In the autumn of 1867 Mrs. Stanton and Miss Anthony lectured in Omaha and sowed seed which bore fruit in the large number of petitions sent later from that city. In December 1870, Mrs. Tracy Cutler gave several addresses in Lincoln. Miss Anthony lectured January 28, 1871, on “The False Theory,” and before leaving the city looked in on the legislature, which promptly extended to her the privilege of the floor. A number of ladies met Miss Anthony for consultation, and took the initiatory steps for forming a State association. A meeting was appointed for the following Friday, when it was decided to memorialize the legislature. The memorial was headed by Mrs. Lydia Butler, wife of the governor of the State, who spent some days in securing signatures.A lively pen-picture of those times is furnished by private correspondence of Mrs. Esther L. Warner of Roca:
The first work done for woman suffrage in Lincoln was in December, 1870. Mrs. Tracy Cutler stopped when on her way to California, and gave several addresses in Lincoln, Her womanliness and logic won and convinced her hearers, and had a marked effect upon public sentiment. There are men and women to-day in Nebraska who date their conversion to the cause of equal rights from those lectures. Some steps were taken towards organization, but the matter was dropped in its incipient stages. During the same winter Miss Susan B. Anthony lectured in Lincoln, and presented a petition to be signed by women, asking to be allowed to vote under the fourteenth amendment. She also called a meeting of ladies in a hotel parlor and aided in organizing a State suffrage society. Her rare executive ability accomplished what other hands would have failed to do, for the difficulties in the way of such a movement at that early day were great. Lydia Butler, wife of Governor Butler, was elected president, and other representative women filled the various offices, but after a short time it was deemed wise to disband, as circumstances made it impossible to keep up an efficient organization. Time and money were not plentiful with western women, but we did what we could, and sent a petition to the legislature that winter asking a resolution recommending to the coming State convention to omit the word “male” from the constitution. The petition was signed by about 1,000 women, and received respectful attention from the legislature, and speeches were made in its favor by several members. Among others the speaker of the House, F. M. McDougal, favored the resolution. Governor Butler sent a special message with the petition, recommending the passage of the resolution, for which Nebraska women will always honor him.
Next it was thought best to call a convention in the interest of woman suffrage, to be held while the constitutional convention should be in session the coming summer. Two women were commissioned to prepare the call and present it for the signatures of members of the legislature who favored the measure. It was thought this course would give dignity and importance to the call which would secure attention throughout the State. The session of the legislature was very exciting. Intrigue accomplished the impeachment of a high State official, and others were being dragged down. As it neared its close the political cauldron boiled and bubbled with redoubled violence. It was more than any woman dared do to approach it. Were not the political fortunes and the sacred honor(?) of men in jeopardy? Woman's rights sunk into insignificance. We subsided. Our hour had not yet come.
Mrs. Butler says of the part she took at this time: “I entertained the speakers because requested to, and found them so pleasant and persuasive that I soon became a convert to their views. The active and intelligent leaders at that time were Mesdames Cropsey, Galey, Warner, Monell, Coda, and many others whose names I cannot recall.”As the result of the effort thus made the legislature of 1871 memorialized the constitutional convention relative to submitting the question to the electors. The proceedings given in the journals are as follows:
February 4, 1871, Mr. J. C. Myers announced that ladies were in the gallery, and desired to present a petition. A committee was appointed to wait on them. D. J. Quimby introduced a resolution asking an opinion of the attorney-general as to whether in accepting the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments we grant the right of suffrage to women. It was carried, and the memorial, the opinion, and the governor's message were referred to the judiciary committee, which reported through Mr. Galey as follows:
Whereas, The constitution of the State of Nebraska prohibits the women of said State from exercising the right of the elective franchise; and
Whereas, Taxation without representation is repugnant to a republican form of government, and applies to women as well as all other citizens of this State; and
Whereas, All laws which make any distinction between the political rights and privileges of males and females are unbecoming to the people of this State in the year 1871 of the world's progress, and tend only to deprive the latter of the means necessary for their own protection in the various pursuits and callings of life. Therefore be it
Resolved, By the House of Representatives of the State of Nebraska, that the constitutional convention to be begun and holden on the — day of May, 1871, for the purpose of revising and amending the constitution of said State, is hereby most respectfully and earnestly requested to draft such amendment to the constitution of this State as will allow the women thereof to exercise the right of the elective franchise and afford to them such other and further relief as to that honorable body may be deemed wise, expedient and proper; and be it further
Resolved, That said convention is hereby most respectfully and earnestly requested to make such provision (when said amendment shall be submitted to a vote of the people of said State) as will enable the women of Nebraska to vote at said election for the adoption or rejection of the same.
Resolved, Further, that the Secretary of State is hereby instructed to present a copy of this resolution to said convention as soon as the same shall be convened.
Mr. Porter moved the adoption of the report, which was carried by a vote of 19 to 16. In the Senate, March 22, E. C. Cunningham offered the following amendment to the bill providing for calling a constitutional convention:
That the electors of the State be and are hereby authorized and recommended to vote for and against female suffrage at the election for members of the constitutional convention. Provided, That at such election all women above the age of 21 years, possessing the qualifications required of male electors are hereby authorized and requested to vote upon said proposition, and for the purpose of receiving their votes a separate polling place shall be provided.
The amendment was lost by a vote of 6 to 6.
Full text of The History of Woman Suffrage, Volume 3.