The Defeat of the 1914 Missouri Woman Suffrage Initiative

Date of Graduation

Summer 2005


Master of Arts in History



Committee Chair

Worth Miller


The objective of this research was to determine specifically why Missouri’s 1914 woman suffrage initiative failed. This research provides a unique opportunity not only to document historically how woman suffrage was debated in Missouri, but also to understand how progressive movements took place on the state level in traditionally conservative states such as Missouri. Several period newspapers helped compile the social and political character of Missouri populace in 1914. Nineteenth century settlement patterns, state and federal records such as voting results, religious populations, taxable wealth, and number of rural schools, all helped compile robust country profiles to see if any patterns or trends emerged indicating the reason(s) for the loss. Several factors impacted the woman suffrage initiative in varying degrees, but it is clear that woman suffrage would have had faired better if it been debated any time other than in a year in which Missouri debated the prohibition issue as well. Woman suffrage and prohibition were inextricably connected in the minds of Missourians, and in 1914 Missourians were not ready for the changes woman suffrage and prohibition would bring. A strong adherence to the traditional southern politics of small government, a rural-urban rivalry dating back to the Civil War, and conflicting social, cultural, and religious values combined together to ensure that the 1914 woman suffrage initiative would never succeed.


Missouri, twentieth century, woman suffrage, Progressive Era, reforms, prohibition, St. Louis

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© Lynn Michele Lansdown