Suffrage Movement Sheet Music

Fighting music with music

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by Jenny Cobb, Associate Curator of Exhibitions

Women in Texas and throughout the country took great strides toward equality in the 20th century.

While the 19th century woman was expected to restrict her interests to home and family, the “new woman” of the 20th century worked in an office, sought higher education, participated in active sports, and pressed the legislature to pass a bill that would grant women voting rights.

But before women won the right to vote, debates for and against suffrage ensued, spilling over into popular culture. Fittingly for women whose role was confined to the home, parlor music gave voice to the opinions of the day. Those supporting suffrage rallied behind anthems like Under Fire: March and Two Step by Albert Russell, Jr. The cover art of the popular piano piece, often sold as a fundraising tool for “Political Equality Clubs,” shows a suffragist displaying a sign of victory before a cheering crowd.

Anti-suffrage groups countered with songs that made a mockery of women’s suffrage. In the lyrics of I’m Going to be a Suffragette (words by D.R. Miller, music by Sandy Engelke), a perplexed husband laments and then ridicules his wife’s new political interest while she sings in the refrain:

I’m goin’ to be a suffragette, Billy

Hear me shout Hurray, Hurray. 

Now don’t you think that I am silly

or will waste my time away. 

The sex that always joggled the cradle 

have got some rights you bet.

I say Hip Hip Hip Hip Hip Hurray

I’m goin’ to be a suffragette.

On March 26, 1918, women’s primary suffrage was signed into Texas law. The following year, Texas became the ninth state to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting full voting rights to women nationwide.

See this and other artifacts on the Interactive Texas Map

Suffrage Movement Sheet Music Artifact from Houston, Texas
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