A First for Women (1908)

The Democratic National Convention, Denver 1908: Women Participate in Convention for the First Time
Though the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution giving women the right to vote was not ratified until 1920, women in Colorado – along with several other states in the West – had earned the right to vote before this time. Colorado gave women voting privileges in 1893; it was one of the earliest states to do so.

For the first time in the history of the Democratic Party, women participated in the convention. Two women were delegates (one from Utah and one from Colorado); three were chosen as alternates. The article about them in The Rocky Mountain News (July 7, 1908) provides an eye-opening glimpse of the times.

Delegate Mrs. Mary C.C. Bradford of Denver, a former New Yorker, had lived in Colorado for 13 years. She is described as being politically active, and her “illustrious ancestry” is noted: Her great-grandfather was Daniel Carroll, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

The other delegate was Mrs. Henry J. Hayward of Salt Lake (we never learn her first name) is described as being “a Mormon and a native of Utah.” She was the founder of the Woman’s Democratic Club of Salt Lake that was organized immediately after Utah was admitted to the Union (1896). She is the mother of nine and the wife of a politically active Mormon who believed in equal suffrage.

The Rocky Mountain News reporter must have asked if voting interfered with her other duties, as the article (7/7/1908) quotes her as saying: “Of all ridiculous ideas,” said Mrs. Hayward,”the very silliest is that suffrage interferes in any way with household or maternal duties. It is just the other way. An interest in the questions of the day brightens a woman, takes her out of the daily rut of dishes, dusting and sweeping and gives her a common bond of interest with her husband.

“She can help to make conditions right for her children and can guide them with more wisdom. Then, too, a child must naturally respect a mother more when that mother is allowed a voice in the government. Woman suffrage is bound to spread and it makes one feel proud to live in a state that early recognizes the justice of giving woman the ballot.”

The descriptions of the alternate delegates were definitely not P.C.: Mrs. Charles K. Cook of Brighton was educated in Colorado, – took a course at the Chicago Normal school, taught in Colorado and is now serving her second term as county school superintendent of Adams County. Mrs. Harriet G. Hood of Thermopolis, Wyoming, is described as age 38, but “looks younger than most women of 25, and is of medium height and build.” The final delegate, Mrs. Sara L. Ventress of Salt Lake City, was age 66, and is described as being “of portly frame, weighing 200 pounds, and of gentle demeanor.” It is noted that she runs a boarding house and is “one of three Gentiles in the Woman’s Democratic Club” in Salt Lake City. The reporter also mentions that both her husband and her daughter were very much against suffrage for women.

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