They Won the Vote! : Suffrage and Suffragists in New Mexico

On Sunday, August 23, 2020, Dr. Sylvia Ramos Cruz, gave a presentation on the campaign for woman suffrage in New Mexico. The presentation was live-streamed on the Albuquerque Historical Society’s Facebook Page.

Photo collage of Adelina Otero Warren, Isabella Selmes Ferguson and Maude McFie Bloom
Adelina Otero Warren, Isabella Selmes Ferguson, Maude McFie Bloom

The campaign for woman suffrage in New Mexico is rich and deep. But, as with other aspects of women’s lives, most of their stories—political, economic, social—are not found in history books. They are still being unearthed in family lore, memoirs, songs, newspapers, and a few precious, oft-quoted scholarly works.

Arguably, the national campaign for the vote began in 1848 at the Seneca Falls Convention with the Declaration of Sentiments. “All men and women are created equal.” It concluded 72 years later with the adoption of the 19th Amendment. “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.”

In NM the struggle took a mere 46 years beginning in 1874, ending in 1920. Women came together in temperance organizations, suffrage leagues and women’s clubs to tackle issues in their communities that needed attention. Eventually, they realized that depending on men to carry their voices to the halls of political power was not a viable long-term plan. They needed to cast the ballots themselves.

Some of the protagonists in this story, such as Adelina Otero Warren and Octaviano A. Larrazolo, are well known historical figures. Others, including Ada McPherson Morley, Isabella Selmes Ferguson, Cora Armstrong Kellam and Margaret Green Cartwright, are less so. We’ll look at the road to suffrage in New Mexico and some of those who walked along that road.

Photo of Sylvia Ramos Cruz, M.D.Sylvia Ramos Cruz, M.D. is inspired to write by art, women’s lives, and everyday injustices. Her work is rooted in places she calls home—Puerto Rico, New York, New Mexico. She is a retired general surgeon, world traveler and women’s rights activist still working to get the Equal Rights Amendment into the Constitution.

Two years ago, while writing about the achingly slow process of getting women’s right to “equal justice under law” recognized in the US, she realized the 100th anniversary of Woman Suffrage was at hand. Though she knew quite a bit about the national movement, she knew little about the campaign for the vote by suffragists in New Mexico. She started looking.

Her photographs and award-winning prose and poetry appear in local and national publications. Among these are Persimmon Tree, Malpaís Review, Journal of Latina Critical Feminism, Southwestern American Literature, Sin Fronteras:Writers Without Borders, Artemis Journal, and Choice Words: Writers on Abortion. May 29, 2020: In the Year of Our Peril was named “Best” non-fiction work in the 2020 SOMOS contest. Railyards Trilogy: Poems and Photographs, multimedia collage work, is in the City of Albuquerque’s Public Art collection.

Ongoing activities are writing Haibun about journeys to visit historic NM women road markers and journaling for the National Women’s History Museum Coronavirus Project.

1918 Photo of National Woman's Party picketing White House
National Woman’s Party picketing White House – 1918