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Emma Guy Cromwell on Citizenship in the U.S.

January 24, 2013 in 1920s-30s

In Emma Guy Cromwell’s “Citizenship: A Manual for Voters” she argues that not only is the ability to vote a privilege, but also a necessity if one wishes to be a good citizen in American society.

At the time of publication, women had just been given the right to vote. It is likely that many women did not believe they needed to vote, or knew little about what voting entailed. This pamphlet was created not only to inform and educate readers about voting, but to also convince the audience that a proper citizen is a citizen who votes.

Cromwell stresses that one can only be a good citizen if they understand and participate in the government. She claims that it is an American’s civic duty to understand how the government works. The more a citizen knows, the better they are able to serve their country. Not only does she believe that a person who is unaware and does not participate in the government is an unfit citizen, but also that “a person with no opinion on public affairs is a coward and unpatriotic” (31).

Cromwell believes “if we enjoy the good things in this life without doing our part then we are cowards” (57). American citizens are given many privileges, taking the time to educate one’s self on how the government works and then voting is a small price to pay for what is received in turn. In other parts of the world people are forced to obey a government in which their opinion does not matter. “We are living in a democratic government which is a priceless heritage and a great blessing to mankind” (57).  The right to vote was not easy to earn – especially for women.  Americans should not only feel obliged to exercise this right, but should also be grateful for the opportunity.

The factual information in the pamphlet, in addition to the personal opinion, back up Cromwell’s belief that voters should be informed. There is a great deal of information on how local, state, and federal government work, as well as topics like voting registration and political parties. Her efforts to make this information easily accessible to the uninformed citizen reaffirm her dedication to the topic. Putting together a document such as this would have taken a large amount of time and research.

In 1920 there were 27,011,330 women voters who had been given a voice in the government for the first time. Hopefully, Cromwell’s words inspired them to follow in her footsteps and give back to the country they belonged to.

*** Sources ***

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

US History: Roaring Twenties and Prohibition.” Wikibooks. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Jan. 2013.

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