Belle Case La Follette to Mary Ware Dennett, January 22, 1912


22 January 1912.

My dear Mrs. Dennett:

In reply to your letter of the 17th, I am sorry to say that after full reflection, I still feel obliged to adhere to my decision to go off the Board which, as I have tried to make plain, was reached reluctantly and after the fullest consideration.

I can't help believing that the Board will be able to agree upon the right person for my successor. I hesitate to make any suggestion lest it be considered improper. But a prominent member of the Wisconsin Political Equality League has written me recently, expressing the hope that a Wisconsin woman might be selected, and in that event, she asks that Mrs. Theodora W. Youmans (Mrs. H. M.) of Waukesha, be considered.

My correspondent did not know whether Mrs. Youmans would accept and had said nothing to her or to anyone about it. But I want to say that if the Board could agree upon Mrs. Youmans, that no more excellent selection could be made, either nationally or for the state of Wisconsin.

Mrs. Youmans was Secretary and President of the State Federation of Womens Clubs and has, from the beginning of the club organization, been a prominent and very much beloved leader. She is on the State Board of Normal School Regents, and has a very wide [acquaintance]. She has fine organizing ability, good political understanding, and is very tactful. I am [confident] that her influence would unite all the suffrage forces of the state and would attract and enthuse club women who are wavering. She would know too, how to reach other organizations, coalesce and make them effective for suffrage.

You know it is my intention to take active part in the Wisconsin campaign; my presence on the Board could not make me more deeply interested. I can see how Mrs. Youmans would aid in the work of the state tremendously, and I should very much like to see her appointed.

Now, as to another matter: I think it is entirely wrong to oppose the direct election of United States Senators and the presidential primary, except as the states make women as well as men qualified electors. From my own intimate feeling for these measures I would not ask anybody to introduce a resolution which can be interpreted as for the purpose of obstruction.

To try to hold these measures up in Congress puts us in a dog-in-the-manger attitude toward progressive legislation of very great popular interest. In my view, it is inexpedient, and is certain of misinterpretation. For instance, when I am campaigning in Wisconsin, I am likely to be asked why I opposed the direct election of United States Senators and the presidential preference. We should not work in conflict with our best friends. For the most part the men who favor these progressive measures are friends of woman suffrage, and we should recognize that everything that makes for progress helps our cause. All our practical experience shows that the way to get suffrage is through the states. Whenever a state gets woman suffrage women become qualified electors, and whenever it is secured would enjoy the benefit of the direct election of senators and a presidential primary.

I wish the members of the Board would reconsider their action on this point.

Very truly yours,