Tag Archives: John Stuart Mill

Aaron Beede on Women’s Rights in North Dakota Circa 1915

Aaron McGaffey Beede, Digital Horizons collection,  State Historical Society of North Dakota.

Aaron McGaffey Beede, Digital Horizons collection, State Historical Society of North Dakota.

In the last couple weeks I took a day to visit the special collections and manuscript room at the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks. While sifting through one box and folder after another, I came across a 1915 excerpt where the Episcopalian Reverend Aaron McGaffey Beede, PhD, opined on the way the North Dakota legislature treated women at the state capitol. Beede was disgusted with the legislature. The local story, as Beede set it down, is as follows in his February 19, 1915 journal entry:

…The House voted for ‘Equal Suffrage’ to get rid of the mob of women at the capitol… then when the women have gone and scattered from the city to their homes celebrating, the House recalled the bill, to get rid of the bill. I call that ‘double crossing.’ I am fully in favor of allowing all women to vote, not withstanding some heroic ‘suffragettes’…

Thank you Beede for calling out legislative double crossing. Women’s suffrage required individuals at all levels to make that kind of difference. And sometimes local state legislators were not with the times. In this case, a national amendment eventually brought them up to speed. (A pertinent John Stuart Mill 1869 link here.)

John Stuart Mill “The Subjection of Women” (1869)

MillIn 1869, four years after the conclusion of the American Civil War and, on the other side of the Atlantic, a year after John Stuart Mill finished his tenure as a member of the British Parliament, Mill published The Subjection of Women, a philosophical volley and contribution to the history of ideas for the ages, specifically those toward individual human rights. To be short, Mill knew his languages and philosophers as well. In his opening remarks of his polemic that speaks toward the rights of women, he said,

…I have held from the very earliest period when I had formed any opinions at all on social or political matters, and which, instead of being weakened or modified, has been constantly growing stronger by the progress of reflection and the experience of life: That the principle which regulates the existing social relations between the two sexes — the legal subordination of one sex to the other — is wrong in itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a principle of perfect equality, admitting no power or privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other.