“Get Out the Vote” Spotlight – National Organization for Women

The purpose of NOW is to take action to bring women into full participation in the mainstream of American society now, exercising all privileges and responsibilities thereof in truly equal partnership with men.

The National Organization for Women’s 1966 Statement of Purpose

National Organization for Women (NOW) was formed in 1966 as an organization focused directly on advancing women’s rights. It was and remains the most visible second-wave feminist organization, and it represents the first independent American women’s movement since the women’s suffrage movement at the beginning of the 20th century.
 
Twenty-eight women co-founded NOW, including well-known feminists like Shirley Chisholm, Betty Friedan, and Pauli Murray. Their original statement of purpose, written by Friedan and Murray, declared that “the time has come to confront, with concrete action, the conditions that now prevent women from enjoying the equality of opportunity and freedom of choice which is their right, as individual Americans, and as human beings.” Today, their platform also addresses  voting rights. They argue that women are disproportionately affected by voter suppression and work to get feminist candidates elected to office.

Explore the records of the National Organization for Women, Maryland Chapter in Special Collections and University Archives in Hornbake Library.

At the heart of the Special Collections & University Archives exhibit Get Out the Vote: Suffrage and Disenfranchisement in America are advocates and grassroots organizations who have fought for expanding the right to vote. Their individual and collective voices have driven major changes to American voting rights, moving the nation closer to the ideal of “one person, one vote.”

Visit the Maryland Room Exhibit Gallery in Hornbake Library to view the exhibit Get Out the Vote: Suffrage and Disenfranchisement in America or explore the exhibit online.

“Get Out the Vote” Spotlight – MaryPIRG

We believe that the full participation of young people in the political process is essential to a truly representative, vibrant democracy. Together young people have the power to elect the next generation of leaders who will fight for our shared vision of the future, but only if we vote.  

MaryPIRG New Voters Project

MaryPIRG is Maryland’s own Public Interest Research Group (PIRG). PIRGs are a federation of non-profit organizations that emphasize grassroots organizing and direct advocacy as a way to create progressive political change. The first PIRGs were founded on college campuses in the 1970s. MaryPIRG has been active at the University of Maryland since 1973. In addition to the student chapter at UMD, MaryPIRG also has offices in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. 

One of MaryPIRG’s biggest campaigns is their “Democracy” campaign. The “Democracy” campaign focuses on expanding voter access and diminishing the effect of special interest money in elections. It also pushes for state and local legislation that creates publicly funded elections programs, automatic voter registration, and election day registration. The “Democracy” campaign also works to register students to vote through the New Voters Project, which helps students register to vote ahead of primary or general elections at UMD.

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“Get Out the Vote” Digitization Spotlight- Objections to Woman Suffrage Answered by Alice Stone Blackwell

The reasons why women should vote are the same reasons why men should vote – the same as the reasons for having a republic rather than a monarchy.

Alice Stone Blackwell, 1910

Each month, we shine the spotlight on items from the exhibit Get Out the Vote: Suffrage and Disenfranchisement in America that have been fully digitized and made accessible online.

For January, we are showcasing Objections to Woman Suffrage Answered by Alice Stone Blackwell.

Alice Stone Blackwell (1857-1950) was a suffragist, journalist, editor, and activist. This pamphlet, printed in 1910 is her thorough examination and refutation of the arguments commonly made against women’s suffrage. Blackwell responds to 34 arguments, including:

  • Women “don’t understand business”
  • Women as voters could disrupt the established “division of labor”
  • Women suffrage “will lead to family quarrels and increase divorce”
  • If granted the franchise, women should also serve in military and police forces.

You can read the complete digitized pamphlet with of Blackwell’s arguments for women’s suffrage online in the Internet Archive.

Visit the Maryland Room Exhibit Gallery in Hornbake Library to view this item and more on display in the exhibit Get Out the Vote: Suffrage and Disenfranchisement in America or explore the exhibit online.

“Get Out the Vote” Digitization Spotlight- “No Compromise of Human Rights” by Charles Sumner

The same sentiment which led us to hail the abolition of slavery with gratitude as the triumph of justice, should make us reject with indignation a device to crystallize into law the disenfranchisement of a race… The attempt now is on a larger scale and is more essentially bad than the Crime against Kansas or the Fugitive Slave Bill. Such a measure, so obnoxious to every argument of reason, justice, and feeling, so perilous to the national peace and so injurious to the good name of the Republic, must be encountered as we encounter a public enemy

Charles Sumner, 1866

Each month, we shine the spotlight on items from the exhibit Get Out the Vote: Suffrage and Disenfranchisement in America that have been fully digitized and made accessible online.

For December, we are showcasing a speech by Senator Charles Sumner (1811-1874): No Compromise of Human Rights: No Admission in the Constitution of Inequality of Rights, or Disfranchisement on Account of Color.

Charles Sumner was a United States Senator from Massachusetts from 1851-1874. He was vehemently anti-slavery, denouncing the Compromise of 1850 and the “Crime” against Kansas (the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854) which encouraged the expansion of slavery. In 1856, he was violently attacked on the Senator floor by Congressman Preston S. Brookes, a pro-slavery Democrat from South Carolina. In 1867, he worked with Congressman Thaddeus Stevens from Pennsylvania on a campaign to advocate for full voting rights for African Americans across the nation.

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“Get Out the Vote” Digitization Spotlight- Annual Report of the Philadelphia Female Anti-slavery Society

To overthrow an institution which has grown up, to giant size, in the heart of a mighty nation; which has its foundations in the strongest depraved principles of human nature; which is surrounded and sustained by the sanctions of law and public opinion, and protected by the suffrage of a false religion; to destroy and utterly lay waste such an institution, and to do so by moral influence on the minds of the community, it is not the work of a day, or a year. Such a work is ours. It can be accomplished only by constant and unwearied effort, day after day, and year after year, by seizing every opportunity to pour a ray of light on the darkened understanding, or a softening influence on the hardened heart, till the mind of the nation is renovated, and the pillars of slavery are removed.

Annual Report for the Philadelphia Female Anti-slavery Society, 1938

Each month, we shine the spotlight on items from the exhibit Get Out the Vote: Suffrage and Disenfranchisement in America that have been fully digitized and made accessible online.

For November, we are showcasing the Annual Report of the Philadelphia Female Anti-slavery Society.

The Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society (1833-1870) was formed by women who had been denied positions in the American Anti-Slavery Society, but responded to William Lloyd Garrison’s call for women to become actively involved in the abolition movement. the society circulated petitions to Congress, raised money through annual fairs, organized lectures, held conventions coordinated with other abolitionist women societies, and much more to aid anti-slavery causes in America.

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“Get out the Vote” Spotlight – Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)

The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, better-known as SNCC, was a student-led civil rights group active during the 1960s. They are best known for organizing sit-ins at segregated lunch counters across the South. SNCC focused mainly on direct action, and with help from early mentor Ella Baker, their activist vision prioritized grassroots organizing and equal participation for women. 

Registration and mobilization of black voters in the South were two of their biggest projects. In early 1962, the Kennedy Administration created the Voter Education Project (VEP) to fund voter drives in the South. Many members of SNCC believed that obtaining the right to vote was an important step toward political power for black Americans, and were excited by the new opportunities to register voters. Other members saw the VEP as the government’s attempt to co-opt the movement. Nevertheless, SNCC helped register many southern voters, despite facing extreme violence and opposition in doing so.

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“Get Out the Vote” Spotlight – Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass championed many causes surrounding social justice and equality, including the burgeoning women’s rights movement and universal suffrage.

Frederick Douglass was an influential abolitionist, author and social reformer. Douglass was born into slavery circa 1818 in Talbot County, Maryland. He escaped to Philadelphia in 1838 with his partner Anna Murray, whom he had met in Baltimore the previous year. They eventually settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts, an abolitionist center, and began their family. In New Bedford, Douglass regularly attended anti-slavery meetings and became a preacher. In turn, he developed impressive oratorical skills. 

For the rest of his life, Douglass was a champion of equal rights. In addition to his anti-slavery work, he fought for women’s rights and equal rights for Native Americans and Chinese immigrants. In 1848, Douglass attended the Seneca Falls Convention, the first women’s rights convention in the U.S. At Seneca Falls, Douglass spoke in favor of women voting before the suffrage movement had even truly begun. In his speech, he noted that he could not accept suffrage as a black man if women could not vote too. 

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“Get Out the Vote” Spotlight – Margaret Brent

Margaret Brent was an early advocate for expanding voting rights law, challenging the Maryland General Assembly to grant her voting rights in 1648. 

Margaret Brent, born circa 1600 in Gloucestershire, England, was a prominent attorney, “founding mother” of Maryland, and the first female in the colonies to demand the right to vote in court. She first arrived in St. Marys City, Maryland with three of her siblings in 1638. She subsequently became involved in various business ventures and became the first woman landowner in Maryland. She was renowned for her business savvy and knowledge of the law. In 1647, then-Governor of Maryland Leonard Calvert appointed her executor of his estate shortly before he died. As Calvert’s executor, she played an instrumental role in stabilizing Maryland at a time of political crisis for the colony. 

In 1648, Brent argued before the provincial assembly for a voice in the council and two votes, one as Lord Baltimore’s representative and one as a landowner in her own right. As an unmarried, property-owning gentlewoman, Brent’s argument was consistent with English law, but she was ultimately denied the vote. After falling out of favor with the Calvert family, Brent moved to Virginia, where she died circa 1671.

You can view the transcript of request for the right to vote to the Maryland General Assembly in 1648 in volume 1 of the Archives of Maryland, on page 215. The volume is available in Special Collections & University Archives and online through the Internet Archive:

At the heart of the Special Collections & University Archives exhibit Get Out the Vote: Suffrage and Disenfranchisement in America are advocates, like Brent, and grassroots organizations who have fought for expanding the right to vote. Their individual and collective voices have driven major changes to American voting rights, moving the nation closer to the ideal of “one person, one vote.”

Visit the Maryland Room Exhibit Gallery in Hornbake Library to view the exhibit Get Out the Vote: Suffrage and Disenfranchisement in America or explore the exhibit online.