On July 4, 1919, J.O. Carr, a North Carolina lawyer, wrote to Weil explaining his opposition to the suffrage movement. Carr argued that women should be granted the vote only if they assumed every responsibility a man would have to assume, including jury duty and military duty. Yet he noted that he himself would be unwilling for the law to require his wife "to be locked up on a jury for a week or to serve in the trenches," and thus he did not "think that she is entitled to the same privileges in suffrage that people are entitled to who perform such duties."
Weil responded to Carr's arguments one by one, explaining why women could easily serve on juries and why the fact that they did not serve in the military should not disqualify them from voting. Given Weil's many statements elsewhere about the necessity of treating all people equally and her later work for civil rights, it is unclear whether she truly believed her words in the second paragraph of the letter - about limiting universal suffrage and coping with "the negro problem" - or whether they were simply dictated by political expediency.
Notes: Quotation from letter from J.O. Carr to Gertrude Weil, July 4, 1919, in the Gertrude Weil Papers at the North Carolina Office of Archives and History.
EQUAL SUFFRAGE ASSOCIATION OF NORTH CAROLINA
July 8, 1919
Mr. J.O. Carr,
My dear Mr. Carr: -
Your letter of the 4th has been received. The interest therein evidenced in the subject of woman suffrage impells me to reply to your objections.
May I first point out that "equal" suffrage does not necessarily imply UNIVERSAL suffrage. It does not forbid the limiting of the franchise right, but simply that the limitation be NOT ON LINES OF SEX. I myself am strongly in favor of demanding higher qualifications for voting than at present. To my mind it is the only way to cope fairly and effectually with the negro problem, which is a difficult problem with or without the negro woman.
As to jury duty, to which women as voters might be liable, it seems that the ends of justice might be more nearly accomplished if women did serve on juries, as the understanding of women, especially in cases concerning women, might contribute to the fair judgment of a case. There would doubtless be times when it would be difficult to the point of impossibility for a woman to serve on a jury, just as circumstances have sometimes deterred men from serving. In such circumstances they would be excused from jury duty, as men are excused. As to being detained over night for jury duty, the difficulty seems not insurmountable. Arrangements might easily be made for the accommodation of women serving in this capacity, where they could enjoy comfort and security certainly equal to that furnished by our sleeping cars.
The objection that the franchise right might imply military obligation of women seems without foundation in view of the fact that the members of our regular army have always been disfranchised, and that our special armies, whether raised by volunteer enlistment or draft have always excluded a large number of male voters on account of unfitness. Moreover, the body of our voting citizens in whose hands lies the decision to make war, our Federal Congress, is for the most part disqualified for military service on account of unfitness. Why should women, then, on account of unfitness to fight be denied the right to vote.
I am taking the liberty of sending you two small volumes which contain answers to your objections put more forcibly than I am able. Perhaps you will find in them other material that will interest you. May I ask that you return them to me when you are quite through with them. There is, however, no hurry about their return.
Very truly yours,