This article originally appeared in the September 23, 1944, issue.
The question about the so-called “women’s vote” is generally phrased: How will the women vote? The answer to that is too easy. Women vote just as men vote. Either they are thinking women who draw their own conclusions as to what vote is best for them and the economic group to which they and their masculine counterparts belong by right of inclination, or they are thoughtless women who vote as their husbands tell them to vote.
The question is not so much how women will vote as how many women will vote.
In 1940 the total population of the United States over twenty-one years of age was 79,863,452. Of that number of potential voters, an estimated ten million were disenfranchised by the poll tax. The total vote cast was 49,815,312. About twenty million, or about 30 per cent of those who might have voted, did not vote.
In 1944, with a population over twenty-one of about eighty-eight and a half million, with an estimated 70 per cent of soldiers disenfranchised in addition to the millions in the poll-tax states, if we assume that 3O per cent of those who can will not vote, we have about twenty-two million wilful non-voters. About half the votes in 1940 were cast by women. By a slight sleight-of-hand movement, one may logically determine that there are eleven million female votes to be picked up, and that this eleven million could swing an election–in a close year.
It is generally agreed that if everyone in the United States who could vote did vote, Mr. Roosevelt would unquestionably be elected by an overwhelming majority. On September 6 Gallup said that if the total vote were as low as 37,500,000 Dewey would be elected. He pointed out that when it goes above the 37,500,000 mark approximately 60 per cent of the doubtful votes would be for RooseveIt against 35 per cent for Dewey. We are justified in assuming, therefore, that the majority of the eleven million new female voters would be for Roosevelt.
Is there any special appeal which can get women to the polls? Are women’s interests different from men’s?
I’ll say there are special appeals to be made to women, and that women’s interests are different from men’s. I’ll say it on the basis of having talked personally with hundreds of women industrial workers, from Maine to California; on the basis of having corresponded with hundreds more who are housewives. Of course this is a personal opinion, and Mr. Gallup can go out and disprove it if he pleases.
The majority of women in the United States, whether working inside or outside their homes, are the most self-sacrificing creatures living. They are 100 per cent Christian in the main, turning the other cheek if slapped, making miracles out of loaves and fishes; and to partake of the loaves and fishes is not their primary concern.
Surely, most housewives are afraid that they will lose their jobs as wives if they express opinions contrary to those of their husbands on any major issue. They do not even expect their husbands to talk politics to them. They expect to give all for the children. They fuss, yes, but about small things; they are adamant in protecting their right to choose the food and the curtains, to bring up the children. “It would be fine,” said one of them, “to have an outside job and a little independence. But don’t you think we might lose our husbands?” And so they go on doing their jobs–their hateful, confining jobs.