A Logical Explanation Against Voting Restrictions

January 23, 2013 in 1920s-30s, Political history, Primary source

Portrait of Emma Guy Cromwell

Emma Guy Cromwell

Our Declaration of Independence stated that “men are created equal” and that they are protected by the law and if the law, for some reason goes against these guaranteed rights, we as a people have the right to abolish the law. This was and is the foundation that our country is laid upon. However during the 1920’s these laws and rights that every U.S. citizen has seems to have been forgotten. Women and African Americans were not allowed to vote. While many sought to change this through peaceful and not so peaceful protests, showing the country how emotionally taxing not being a citizen can be, Emma Guy Cromwell sought a different approach. She set out to write a manual, entitled Citizenship, to tell the logical side of the story.

“Let us train ourselves for good citizenship and serve our nation, state, county, city and town in every way possible to make our government one of high ideals and the best in the world.” (47)

Cromwell formally states what is needed to be considered a citizen of the United States and the rights and privileges that come along with this. One of the privileges that she stresses is the right to vote. In fact she calls it “not just a privilege but something that is imposed by the law to be a good, active citizen” (45). In her opinion, voting allows us to make sure that our country is standing by what it said it would do for every citizen in the Declaration, and that if voting is restricted for some reason then our country has stopped becoming the place of freedom that it was meant to be.

As Cromwell looked at the world around her, she saw a place where these standards were not met. African Americans and women were not allowed to vote and actively participate in society. In her manual, though, she points out that these restrictions are against the law and should be changed immediately. Taking a logical rather than emotional approach, she shows in her manual why all citizens can and should vote.

“Men and women without regard to race, color, or social condition must take their turn exactly alike at the polling place” (45).

Many of the laws that were put in place during this time period were actually illegal according to the law. Laws such as having to be literate to vote and having to pay a certain polling tax are actually against the law. Cromwell logically explains why laws such as these are actually unconstitutional by stating the laws that govern whether or not someone is eligible to vote. Along with many other suffragists at the time, such as Laura Clay, Emma Guy Cromwell works to end the segregation and unlawful rules and regulations imposed on who can and can’t vote.



Cromwell, Emma Guy (1920). Citizenship: A Manual for Voters. Frankfort, Kentucky: Emma Guy Cromwell

Speech on Partial Suffrage (Kentucky Constitutional Convention, December 12, 1890). (2012, August 16). In Wikisource, The Free Library. Retrieved                       03:35, January 24, 2013, from http://en.wikisource.org/w/index.php title=Speech_on_Partial_Suffrage_(Kentucky_Constitutional_Convention,_December_12,_1890)&oldid=4021282

United States Department of State, “The Declaration of Independence, 1776, 1911.

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