Feb 19, 2016

Billy Sunday backs women's suffrage

From the Washington Herald on Jan. 9, 1918:

Sunday was holding a revival in Washington D.C. in the winter of 1918 and rallying American support for World War I. He railed against the Germans. He promised to fight the devil until hell froze over and then keep fighting on ice skates. And he said women should have the vote.

The famed evangelist agreed to say an opening prayer at the United States House Congress before a vote on women's suffrage. He took the opportunity to reiterate his support for women's participation in the political process.

"I see no reason why the men and women of the nation should not walk side by side," Sunday said, according to the newspaper, "in the matters of law enactment as well as in the home and social life."

Sunday also cited the war effort as reason to give women the vote. "Without their co-operation," he said, "the war could not be waged to a successful conclusion."

Sunday was not alone among evangelicals (or those who might today be called evangelicals) in supporting extending the franchise to women. William Jennings Bryan -- of Scopes trial fame -- wanted women to vote. One of the largest groups of advocates on the issue was the Women's Christian Temperance Union, social activists who used scripture reading and prayer and sang hymns like "Jesus the Water of Life Will Give." Both the Southern Baptist Conference and the Southern Methodist General Conference were in favor of women voting. This wasn't a universal evangelical position, by any means, but Sunday's stance wasn't uncommon.

The House passed the 19th Amendment, allowing women to vote, by the necessary two-thirds majority. The Senate voted against the Amendment later that year.