President Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson served as President of the United States from 1913 to 1921.  A Democrat and former governor of New Jersey, Wilson saw the United States through the First World War.  Though Wilson initially attempted to keep the U.S. out of the war, he was forced to bring the U.S. into the war in 1917 after Germany attempted to make Mexico an ally, posing a potential threat to U.S. trade.  Wilson is perhaps most famous for his "Fourteen Points," written after the war with the intention of preventing future territorial disputes.  These Fourteen Points evolved into the League of Nations, and eventually the United Nations.

Wilson was both a thorn in the side of the suffrage cause, and the force that would eventually lead to the ratification of the Susan B. Anthony Amendment (Buhle 415).   Though Wilson supported suffrage with his own voting record, he did not take an active political stance on the issue.  The Woman's Party, formerly the Congressional Union, targeted Wilson in many of their protests, culminating in the burning of an effigy of the President in the summer of 1917 (Weatherford 217).  The Woman's Party believed that they could hold Wilson accountable to the suffrage cause by calling attention to "the key role the President played in determining Democratic voting in Congress and to what they considered his record of duplicity and evasion of responsibility on the suffrage issue" (Kraditor 237-238). As a result of his failure to speak out in support of suffrage, the Democratic party lacked any kind of cohesive stance on the issue in the form of party policy.  Wilson advocated for a state-rights approach to suffrage legislation. 

Wilson did eventually come out as pro-suffrage on January 9th, 1918 when he issued a statement in support of the Susan B. Anthony amendment.  Wilson justified his support of the amendment at the Federal level as a war measure (Buhle 415).  This measure would allow women to vote while their male family members were away at war, and as a form of appeasement for the voluntary service of women both in a military context as nurses and ambulance drivers, and at home as war-time factory workers (Weatherford 220).  The amendment passed through the House the day after Wilson's statement, by a vote of 274-136, the minimum number of votes required by the constitutional "two-thirds" requirement (Weatherford 220).  The Senate refused to vote on the bill until that August.  In an unprecedented move, Wilson spoke to the Senate before the vote, calling the amendment "a necessary war measure" (Weatherford 221).  The bill failed to pass through the Senate by two votes.  It would not successfully pass through the Senate until June, 1919.

The Valentine sent to Wilson is one of the most elegantly drawn of the valentines which we still have images of.  It feature ten elegantly dressed women distributing flower-like heart petals with the word "vote" written on them.  The phrase "Will you be our Valentine, If we will be your valentine" implies a reciprocal arrangement of mutual benefit for both the president and the suffrage cause.  The hundreds of women's votes symbolized by the hearts, serve as a reminder to the president of the voter support available to him in future elections form woman voters, should he come out in support of the constitutional amendment.

Works Cited:

Buhle, Mari Jo and Paul Buhle.  The Concise History of Woman Suffrage: Selections From History of Woman Suffrage. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2005.

Kraditor, Aileen S.. The Ideas of the Woman Suffrage Movement, 1890-1920. New York: Columbia  University Press, 1965.

Weatherford, Doris. A History of the American Suffragist Movement. Santa Barbara: The Moschovitis Group, 1998.