NAWSA Convention, Washington, D.C., December 12-15, 1917

The Forty-ninth National Suffrage Convention, which met in Poli's Theater at Washington Dec. 12-15, 1917, was held under the most difficult conditions that ever had been faced in the long history of these annual gatherings. Always heretofore they had been comfortable, happy times, when the delegates came from far and wide to exchange greetings, report progress and plan the future work for a cause to which many of them were giving their entire time and effort. Now great changes had taken place, as the Call for the convention indicated.

Since last we met the all-engulfing World War has drawn our own country into its maelstrom and ominous clouds rest over the earth, obscuring the vision and oppressing the souls of mankind, yet out of the confusion and chaos of strife there has developed a stronger promise of the triumph of democracy than tile world has ever known. Every allied nation has announced that it is fighting for this and our own President has declared that "we are fighting for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own government." New Russia has answered the call; Great Britain has pledged full suffrage for women and the measure has already passed the House of Commons by the enormous majority of seven to one. Canada, too, has responded with five newly enfranchised provinces; France is waiting only to drive the foe from her soil to give her women political liberty.

Such an array of victories gives us faith to believe that our own Government will soon follow the example of other allied nations and will also pledge votes to its women citizens as all earliest of its sincerity that in truth we do fight for democracy. This is our first national convention since our country entered the war. We are faced with new problems and new issues and the nation is realizing its dependence upon women as never before. It must be made to realize also that, willingly as women are now serving, they call serve still more efficiently when they shall have received tile full measure of citizenship. These facts must be urged upon Congress and our Government must be convinced that the time has come for the enfranchisement of women by means of an amendment to the Federal Constitution.

Men and women who believe that tile great question of world democracy includes government of the people, by the people and for the people in our country, are invited to attend our convention and counsel with us on ways and means to attain this object at the earliest possible moment.*

On account of the large rush of soldiers to the eastern coast and the many other problems of transportation travelling had become very hard and expensive but so greatly had the interest in suffrage increased among women that nearly 600 delegates were present, the highest number that had ever attended one of the conventions. They came through weather below zero, snowstorms and washouts; trains from the far West were thirty-six hours late; delegates from the South were in two railroad wrecks. It was one of the coldest Decembers ever known and the eastern part of the country had never before faced such a coal famine, from various reasons. Washington was inundated with people, the vast number who had suddenly been called into the service of the Government, the soldiers and the members of their families who had come to be with them to the last, and this city of only a few hundred thousand inhabitants had neither sleeping nor eating accommodations for all of them. The suffrage convention had been called before these conditions were fully known and because of the necessity of bringing pressure at once on Congress. The national suffrage headquarters were now occupying a large private house and the officers were cared for there but the delegates were obliged to scatter over the city wherever they could find shelter, were always cold and some of the time not far from hungry and prices were double what was expected. Notwithstanding all these drawbacks the convention program was carried out and a large amount of valuable work accomplished, tried and loyal suffragists being accustomed to hardships and self-sacrifice.

The victory in New York State the preceding month had marked the beginning of the end and the universal enfranchisement of women seemed almost in sight. Even the intense excitement of the war had not entirely overshadowed what had now became a national issue. Under the auspices of Mrs. Helen H. Gardener, resident in Washington, an Advisory Council was formed to act in an honorary capacity and extend official recognition to the convention, Senators, Representatives, Cabinet officers, judges, clergymen and others prominent in the life of the capital, with their wives and other women of their family, cheerfully giving their names for this purpose.

The evening before the convention opened a reception by invitation was given in the ball room of the New Willard Hotel to Dr. Shaw, Mrs. Catt and the other officers and the delegates, the following acting as hostesses: Mrs. William Gibbs McAdoo, Mrs. Newton D. Baker, Mrs. Thomas W. Gregory, Mrs. Albert Sidney Burleson, Mrs. Josephus Daniels, Mrs. Franklin K. Lane, Mrs. David F. Houston, Miss Agnes Hart Wilson, Mrs. James R. Mann, Mrs. Philip Pitt Campbell. The first seven were the wives and the eighth the daughter of the members of President Wilson's Cabinet, only Mrs. Robert Lansing being absent, who, like her husband, was an anti-suffragist.

* Signed: Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, honorary president; Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt, president; Mrs. Walter McNab Miller, Mrs. Stanley McCormick and Miss Esther G. Ogden, vice-presidents; Mrs. Frank J. Shuler, corresponding secretary; Mrs. Thomas Jefferson Smith, recording secretary; Mrs. Henry Wade Rogers, treasurer; Mrs. Pattie Ruffner Jacobs, auditor; Mrs. Maud Wood Park, chairman Congressional Committee; Miss Rose Young, chairman of Press; Mrs. Arthur L. Livermore. chairman of Literature.