”[W]e are for suffrage because women are not merely entitled to it as a right, but are entitled to it as a means of rendering more efficient service to the community as a whole... I need hardly say to you that there are few if any positions of leadership in our party so important as this, and I am tempted to say that there are none more important...”
ROOSEVELT’S HISTORIC LETTER INVITING MAUD NATHAN TO LEAD THE SUFFRAGE COMMITTEE OF THE PROGRESSIVE PARTY.
Women’s suffrage was a key element of the Progressive Party’s platform during Roosevelt’s unsuccessful third-party presidential bid in 1912. In early 1913, despite his loss, Roosevelt was not about to give up the fight and continued to aggressively campaign for Progressive causes and candidates throughout the country.
In this letter, from February 18, 1913, Roosevelt re-affirms his commitment to women’s suffrage by asking the influential reformer and suffragist Maud Nathan to head his “Suffrage Committee” for the Progressive party.
Written on Roosevelt’s “Outlook” stationery, the letter reads in full:
My dear Mrs. Nathan: The other night we had too much speaking at the Progressive dinner. We should have cut down by one-half the number of speakers, and if possible have cut down the number of subjects touched upon. I had to refuse a request from Teddy Robinson to introduce another matter, and it would have been quite impossible to introduce the question of those concerts.
Now may I ask very warmly that you head the Suffrage Committee in the Progressive Service? It is, in my judgment, essential that we have at the head of that committee a women who is known as much more than only an agitator for suffrage for women. She must be a convinced suffragist, eager for the cause; but she must also be identified in the public mind with other movements—that is, she must embody our principle, that we are for suffrage because women are not merely entitled to it as a right, but are entitled to it as a means of rendering more efficient service to the community as a whole. Now, my dear Mrs. Nathan, you embody this principle. I earnestly ask that you will accept the head of this committee. The chairmanship of this committee if accepted by you will make you one of four people who are directing the policy of the popular government department of the Progressive Party. I need hardly say to you that there are few if any positions of leadership in our party so important as this, and I am tempted to say that there are none more important.
Earnestly hoping you can accept, even at the cost of considerable personal inconvenience, I am,
Very sincerely yours,
Maud Nathan did indeed accept Roosevelt’s offer and continued to be an aggressive champion for women’s rights throughout her life.
The timing of this letter - February 18, 1913 - coincides with a critical moment in the movement, for only a few weeks later - on March 3, 1913 - thousands of suffragists marched down Pennsylvania Avenue to protest the inauguration of the new president Woodrow Wilson (who was hostile to the idea of suffrage), a march that would be instrumental for the future success of the movement.
More on Maud Nathan:
Maud Nathan “worked tirelessly for woman suffrage, an issue that caused a rift in her relations with her family. Her brothers and sister opposed this reform, while her cousin Benjamin Cardozo supported a constitutional amendment, writing Nathan that his conscience would not allow him to vote against it.
“Frederick Nathan shared his wife’s views on equal suffrage, leading the Men’s League for Equal Suffrage, helping to organize the International Men’s League at Stockholm, and marching in the first suffrage parade. Newspaper accounts of conventions and demonstrations often mention his presence at his wife’s side (occasionally referring to him as Mr. Maud Nathan)... Maud Nathan won the New York Herald Prize in 1913 for the best letter in favor of woman suffrage” (Jewish Women’s Archive).
“Of all the American Jewish women who participated in the suffrage movement, Maud Nathan was probably the best known at the turn of the century… She believed that Jewish women had a special civic responsibility that could best be demonstrated through social reform and political participation” (Melissa R. Klapper, Ballots, Babies, and Banners of Peace: American Jewish Women’s Activism, 1890-1940).
Typed Letter Signed. Two 7.5x9.5 inch pages of Roosevelt’s Outlook stationery. A few spots of soiling; usual folds; custom folder. With three handwritten emendations in Roosevelt’s hand. An important letter during a critical time for the women’s suffrage movement.
Price: $9,000 .