“Votes for North Dakota Women, sing it loud and clear;
Sing it till the sleeping ones shall waken up and cheer.
Half a score of suffrage states are sending us a cheer,
While we are marching to victory.
Hurrah, hurrah, we’ll bring the jubilee,
Hurrah, hurrah, We women shall be free,
So we sing the chorus, while with vision free
We see ‘Votes for N.D. Women!’”
Popular movements have historically brought together members of disadvantaged groups to assert and fight for their rights, and music has played an important role in recruiting and inspiring supporters. As demonstrated above by what was identified as the North Dakota Suffrage Song, printed in the Hope Pioneer in January of 1914, the suffrage movement was no exception.
Decades before the demand for the vote was formally put forth in the “Declaration of Sentiments” of the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848, a song entitled “Rights of Woman” was written by a 1795 songwriter who identified herself only as “A Lady.” The vast majority of suffrage songs, however, were written between 1870 and 1915, years in which the movement expanded its membership and gradually earned wider public support.
In many cases, suffragists wrote new lyrics to existing songs, which simplified the song writing process and offered the advantage of allowing others to easily sing along to the familiar tunes. The songs represented a range of musical styles, but were most frequently set to the tune of familiar patriotic songs, marches, hymns, and folk songs.
While the songs might occasionally be performed in the private parlor, more frequently they were sung by suffragists in their organizational meetings and public demonstrations. They served to recruit new supporters, and to unify and inspire the suffragists during the distressingly slow and undependable process of winning the vote state-by-state.
As part of a 1914 campaign for a suffrage amendment to the North Dakota Constitution, suffragists meeting in Fargo March 23 sang another composition, also identified as the state suffrage song, to the tune of “God Save the Queen/My Country, ’Tis of Thee.”
“O Suffrage, liberty
Of these we sing.
That short may be the fight
For N. D. woman’s right,
That vict’ry be in sight
We pray and sing.
Let this our burden be:
All women must be free
In this fair state.
They must be free to go
And vote an aye or no
For every friend or foe
That rules their fate.
November third will see
The longed for victory
Of which we sing.
Then justice will be done
To daughter as to son
When right to vote she’s won—
The vote’s the thing.”
The 1914 measure went down to defeat in the November election. But the suffragists of the state continued singing these songs until full suffrage was assured with the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1920.