Suffrage suffered in wringer of House
Having thrilled everyone with Part One on Feb. 20, Old News today trots out the second half of a report that appeared in the Arkansas Gazette on March 3, 1917.
It describes the wild scene in the state House as it voted to accept state Senate amendments on a bill to grant women the right to vote in political primaries.
The House already had approved the bill, written by Rep. John Andrew Riggs, D-Garland County, and sent it to the state Senate, where — on this date 100 years ago, Feb. 27 — it was OK’d 17-15, with three amendments. The two-vote margin of victory was credited to the absence of two senators who stood accused of bribery.
The Senate action sent the Riggs bill back to the House, where on March 2 the minority opposed to suffrage did their darndest to kill it. Before we resume the account, here’s your scorecard:
Suffragists, besides Riggs: House Speaker Lee Cazort of Johnson County and Reps. Wilson Cardwell of Washington County, Claude B. Brinton of Craighead County, Jo Johnson of Sebastian County, William Burt Brooks and J.I. Trawick of Pulaski County, Ben E. McFerrin of Newton County, S.A. Moore of Independence County and Dr. Henry B. Hardy of Faulkner County.
Opponents: Reps. Josiah Hardage of Clark County, E. Newton Ellis of Randolph County, Usco Alonzo Gentry of Hempstead County, William Jayson Waggoner of Lonoke County and James M. Coker of Marion County.
As we saw last week, Hardage first called for restoring the words “and declaring an emergency” to the bill’s title. Of course Hardage did not see any emergent need to let women vote. Quite the opposite. But he knew taking off that wording was a concession that helped the bill through the Senate, and it was highly unlikely to gain Senate approval a second time — which would become necessary could he finagle rejection of the Senate’s changes.
After more than an hour of arguing on this one point, “a gesticulating and shouting throng of frenzied men filled the aisles, and very few were in their seats.
“Speaker Cazort pounded his gavel in vain for order, and above the din it was impossible to recognize any one. …
“Mr. Waggoner suddenly sprung an unexpected development when he shouted at the top of his stentorian voice a demand that the rules be enforced and the hall be cleared of all visitors and every one not entitled to the privilege of the floor. Mr. Johnson moved that the rules be suspended and the women present be permitted to remain, but Mr. Gentry insisted that the rule be enforced. He said he was tired and sick of seeing the rules broken, and of seeing so many women on the floor to influence
the members in their votes.
“At this point a party of well known Little Rock suffrage leaders, who had been on the floor watching the proceedings, left. Among them were Mrs. Minnie U. Rutherford-Fuller, Mrs. O.F. Ellington, Mrs. Clarence Rose, Mrs. DeMatt Henderson, Mrs. F.W. Gibb, Mrs. John P. Almand, Mrs. Drennen Scott and Miss Norma Hutton.
“After their departure, Mr. Johnson said they had become disgusted and had left the hall, and he withdrew his motion. Speaker Cazort then said that since the rule had been invoked, it would be enforced, and directed every visitor on the floor to go to the galleries, and the sergeant-atarms to lock the doors. This was rigidly enforced — for about 15 minutes — when the visitors began to drift back into the hall as the guests of members. The speaker also forced every member to his seat and refused to recognize anyone not at his seat.
Speaker Is Sustained
“Finally, the Hardage motion was put and defeated, 26
ayes to 64 noes. Mr. Hardage gave notice that at 9:30 a.m. Monday he would move to reconsider the vote by which the motion was lost. Mr. Brooks of Pulaski raised the point of order that Mr. Hardage had voted with the minority and could not give such notice. The speaker ruled the point of order well taken and Mr. Hardage appealed from the decision. Mr. Brooks was called to the chair.
“Speaker Cazort said that it was common sense that a man who had voted in the minority could not move to reconsider, and therefore could not give notice. Mr. Trawick of Pulaski moved to lay the appeal on the table. Mr. Gentry
shouted that there was no rule that would permit laying an appeal on the table, but Mr. McFerrin and Mr. Trawick cited the rule.
“The motion was put and declared adopted, when the filibusterers demanded a roll call, and by a vote of 63 to 20 this appeal was tabled and Speaker Cazort sustained.
Hardage Effort Again Defeated
“Mr. Waggoner moved to postpone further consideration until next Tuesday, and Mr. Johnson moved to table that motion, which prevailed. By this time it was 11:33 and Mr. Hardage moved to recess until 2 p.m. Mr. Moore of Independence moved as
a substitute that at 12 o’clock the house take a recess until 2 p.m. Mr. Hardage moved as an amendment to the substitute that at 21 minutes of 12 o’clock the house take a recess.
“The Hardage amendment lost by a vote of 55 to 29 and the Moore motion prevailed.
“Mr. Brooks then moved the previous question on the other amendments, which Speaker Cazort declared adopted.
“Mr. Gentry insisted that there should be a roll call on the motion, and there were cries all over the hall of ‘roll call,’ ‘steam roller,’ ‘point of order,’ ‘czar,’ ‘railroad,’ ‘Stay with Lee,’ ‘We are with you, Mr. Speaker,’ and some remarks
made in the heat of passion which the members would probably renounce if they saw them in print.
Want Chaplain to Pray
“Mr. McFerrin invoked the rule that the speaker might declare motions dilatory in his judgment, and Mr. Brooks supported him. The speaker ruled subsequent motions and points of order dilatory and ordered the clerk to read the amendments.
“The reading proceeded while pandemonium prevailed, and above the strident shouts a score of voices were heard singing, ‘How Dry I Am; Nobody Knows How Dry I Am.’”
“The speaker ruled the second amendment adopted and Mr. Hardage appealed again from his decision, on some technical point. Mr. Brooks moved to lay the appeal on the table, which was adopted with a thunder of ayes.
“Mr. Hardy of Faulkner, who has one of the strongest voices on the floor, pleaded above the din and turmoil for someone to send for the chaplain to pray for the house, and a dozen members gathered around him and fanned him with newspapers while he shouted.
Amendments Are Adopted
“The reading of the amendments was completed under these conditions. The members knew by intuition that the speaker was putting the motions, and at the signals from the chair the friends of suffrage thundered ‘aye.’
“The speaker declared all the amendments adopted. The bill was ordered engrossed, and will come up Tuesday morning, next Senate day in regular order, to pass as amended by the Senate.”
But no, the foes were not finished.
Next week: Governor Signs Suffrage Measure
Gov. Charles H. Brough (center, in a light suit and bow tie) poses with 83 men and 63 women suffragists on the steps of the state Capitol. State Capitol historian David Ware IDs the photo as having been taken Feb, 27, 1917, the day the state Senate approved the bill that became Act 186 of 1917, granting women the right to vote in primaries.