Thursday, July 18, 2013

Mapping Historical Votes: When Women's Suffrage Failed, 1915.

With the release of the amazing new historical Congressional shapefiles (by Jeffrey B. Lewis, Brandon Devine, Lincoln Pritcher, and the invaluable Congressional geographer Kenneth Martis), along with the great work of sites like Govtrack, we can fairly easily map any historical vote.

I thought I'd demonstrate this with a vote that has long interested me: the failed vote on a women's suffrage amendment in the 63rd Congress (1913-1915).  

Here's the map, colored by party as you'd expect (red is Republican, blue is Democratic), with yellow for Progressives, and green for the sole independent, California's William Kent (who may or may not have been a Progressive for this vote).  Following Martis' maps, I've added insets for urban areas.
The darkest colors are "aye", the lighter colors are "nay", and the lightest colors are unrecorded votes ("Not Voting", vacancies, or not listed by Govtrack at all).

Note that this was before "one man one vote", so quite a few states had one or more at-large Representatives.  Since these can't all be mapped, I've listed those votes on the bottom right.

Some regional patterns are immediately clear:
  • The South, and Southern Democrats more specifically, was almost monolithic in its opposition to the suffrage amendment.  Of "Deep South" Congressmen, only Alabama's Richmond Hobson voted Aye (although he had lost a primary for his next term already).

    Even in border states, most of the Aye votes came from Republicans in Eastern Tennessee, Western Virginia, Kentucky, and West Virginia.  I believe the only exceptions are the two Memphis-area Democrats, future Senator Kenneth McKellar and Thetus Sims.
  • The West--Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and Progressives--was even more monolithic in its support of the suffrage amendment.  Only one Western Congressman, Colorado Democrat George Kindel, voted against the suffrage amendment, and there were scarcely even any missed votes.  Many of these states, of course, already allowed women to vote.

    (Incidentally, the two Los Angeles County Congressmen, Charles Bell and future Governor William Stephens, identified as Progressives at points in their careers, but GovTrack has them listed as Republicans for this vote.  Bell, who incidentally helped pass California's suffrage act, had been re-elected as a Progressive, but this was still his "Republican" term.  You might notice California's partisan geography is the inverse of today's, with coastal districts Republican or independent, and inland districts Democratic).

    Oddly enough, Kindel had retired from the House to run for Senate--on the "Kindel Commercial Equality" ticket.  He wound up behind the Socialist, with 4.5% of the vote.

  • Cities were generally against the suffrage amendment, although there are some nuances:
    • The Congressmen from New York City, Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis, Detroit, Baltimore, Milwaukee, Newark, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Rochester, Columbus, and St. Paul were nearly all against suffrage.  They were also nearly all Democrats.  By the way, note the incredible number of districts mostly or entirely on Manhattan--about 12.

      The two Manhattan Congressmen who voted Aye were Progressive Walter Chandler and Democrat Henry George Jr., the son of the famous "Single Tax" advocate.  Both had Harlem-area disricts, with George's extending into the Bronx.  Brooklyn's Herman Metz (another lame duck) and James Maher (representing what we now think of as Downtown Brooklyn) supported the amendment as well.

      Cleveland Democrat Robert Crosser voted for the suffrage amendment as an at-Large Representative from Ohio, and Baltimore Democrat Frank Smith (a lame duck by the time of this vote) also supported the amendment.  And of course, the representatives from Southern cities (New Orleans and Louisville were the largest urban areas in the South at the time) opposed women's suffrage as well.
    • Congressmen from Philadelphia, Boston, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and Providence were split (Boston was only split in the sense that the central Boston Congressmen don't seem to have voted at all).

      I find Philadelphia's split particularly interesting, with Broad Street serving as the apparent dividing line.  Broadly speaking, my sense (from, e.g., the great book "Tasting Freedom") is that Western Philadelphia has generally had more "reform" politicians, and Eastern Philadelphia has generally had more "machine" politicians, although archetypal Philly machine boss William Vare voted for this amendment.  Incidentally, the city's sole anti-suffrage Republican, J. Hampton Moore, would go on to be Mayor.

      I also don't know what on Earth is going on with Providence, which might be split into as many as three districts, but Rhode Island Democrat George O'Shaunessy supported the suffrage amendment.
    • Congressmen from Chicago, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Jersey City, and most Western cities (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland) recorded no votes against the amendment.

      Toledo Democrat Isaac Sherwood (a Civil War veteran!) voted for the amendment, and the aforementioned George Kindel was a Denver Democrat.

      I don't know why the representatives of the entire urban area between Newark and New York City voted for suffrage when neither of those cities did themselves.

      New Haven (lame duck) Democrat Thomas Reilly voted for the suffrage amendment as well.

As I understand the scholarship, urban voters (often immigrants) and/or urban machines were often hesitant to support women's suffrage for various reasons, and perhaps especially since they feared women would vote for prohibition.  (Some writers note that women's suffrage passed relatively easily once prohibition was enacted anyway).  I don't remember which papers I'm thinking of; perhaps this one by Buenker.  Anyway, this might be part of why the representatives from northern Wisconsin and Minnesota's Iron Range opposed this suffrage amendment as well.  

With cities and the South mostly opposed, it's pretty amazing that even a third of the Democratic caucus supported this suffrage amendment.  Some political context:

You might have noticed I kept writing the phrase "lame duck".  

Democrats won the 1912 House elections in a landslide, winning 290 seats (which is.  But they lost a net total of 60 seats in the 1914 elections, keeping the House but with a greatly reduced majority.  Connecticut, for example, went from all-Democratic to all-Republican in the 1914 election, and Democrats lost 10 seats in Illinois.  

Between that enormous loss, primaries, and retirements, a great many lame ducks were voting on this amendment, so the relationship between the roll call vote and district-level public opinion on women's suffrage was probably pretty complicated.  It would be interesting to study that further.

But my main point in writing this post is to promote the use of these wonderful shapefiles in historical political science.

By the way, along with the maps, I found this PDF directory of the 63rd Congress useful in checking which Representatives lived in which cities.

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