IV. FDR: Suffrage and Elections


Franklin Delano Roosevelt Poster, c.1928-1930. Collection of Jane and Tony Stepanski on loan to Roosevelt House.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt announced his support for women’s suffrage as a member of the New York State Senate in 1912, when a constitutional amendment was proposed in the Legislature. That same year, FDR’s cousin Theodore Roosevelt made his Bull Moose Party platform the first national endorsement of women’s suffrage. Teddy lost the election and New York women lost in the Legislature, and then at the ballot box in 1915. Undeterred, suffrage leaders garnered more than a million signatures of support and campaigned vigorously to win a referendum in 1917 which granted New York women full voting rights.  New York women voted for the first time in a national election-along with all other American women-in 1920 after the 19th Amendment granting suffrage had been ratified. In this election, FDR ran as the vice presidential candidate on the Democratic ticket with presidential nominee Ohio Governor James Cox but were defeated by Republicans Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge.  In 1928, when FDR ran for Governor of New York, Eleanor Roosevelt led the NYS Democratic Party’s effort to mobilize women voters. FDR pulled off a narrow victory, winning by just 25,000 votes.  At the same time Al Smith, the Democratic candidate for President, was defeated by Republican Herbert Hoover.  Polling at the time indicated that more women voted for Hoover because he supported Prohibition while Smith was for its repeal as women’s groups were the leading advocates of temperance. When FDR ran for President in 1932, he won decisively in a landslide over Hoover. FDR may have received a greater percentage of the women’s vote, an outcome likely influenced by the detrimental effects of the Great Depression on family life.