Sam's Shorts

If you’ve ever wanted to dive deeper into Twain's works but haven't known where to start, Sam’s Shorts is your opportunity!

Each month, we’re bringing you a brief passage from one of his less-familiar works, including his speeches, essays, short stories, and letters, and inviting you to read, reflect, and respond. Then we’ll share what we learned from your responses, answer some of your questions, and tell you a bit more about the background and context of the piece. Your responses help us develop new programs for adults and teach Twain’s writing to students. They’ll also help us pick new shorts for you to read and enjoy!

You can also read previous Sam’s Shorts selections with reader feedback and additional context, and learn more with our companion podcast.

Excerpt from "The Iniquitous Crusade Against Man’s Regal Birthright Must Be Crushed," published in the St. Louis Missouri Democrat, March 1867

DEAR COUSIN JENNIE: I did not know I had a cousin named Jennie, but I am proud to claim such a relationship with you . . . You seem inclined to treat the question of female suffrage seriously, and for once I will drop the foolishness, and speak with the gravity the occasion demands .  .  .

I think I could write a pretty strong argument in favor of female suffrage, but I do not want to do it. I never want to see women voting, and gabbling about politics, and electioneering. There is something revolting in the thought. It would shock me inexpressibly for an angel to come down from above and ask me to take a drink with him (though I should doubtless consent); but it would shock me still more to see one of our blessed earthly angels peddling election tickets among a mob of shabby scoundrels she never saw before .  .  .

Women will never be permitted to vote or hold office, Jennie, and it is a lucky thing for me, and for many other men, that such is the decree of fate. Because, you see, there are some few measures they would all unite on—there are one or two measures that would bring out their entire voting strength, in spite of their antipathy to making themselves conspicuous; and there being vastly more women than men in this State, they would trot those measures through the Legislature with a velocity that would be appalling. For instance, they would enact:

  1. That all men should be at home by ten P. M., without fail.
  2. That married men should bestow considerable attention on their own wives.
  3. That it should be a hanging offense to sell whisky in saloons, and that fine and disfranchisement should follow the drinking of it in such places.
  4. That the smoking of cigars to excess should be forbidden, and the smoking of pipes utterly abolished.
  5. That the wife should have a little of her own property when she married a man who hadn’t any.

Jennie, such tyranny as this, we could never stand. Our free souls could never endure such degrading thraldom. Women, go your ways! Seek not to beguile us of our imperial privileges. Content yourself with your little feminine trifles—your babies, your benevolent societies, your knitting—and let your natural bosses do the voting. Stand back—you will be wanting to go to war next. We will let you teach as much school as you want to, and we will pay you half wages for it, too, but beware! We don’t want you to crowd us too much .  .  .

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You can read the full piece in Mark Twain: Collected Tales, Sketches, Speeches & Essays, 1852-1890, available in the museum store.

Programs at The Mark Twain House & Museum are made possible in part by support from the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, Office of the Arts, and the Greater Hartford Arts Council’s United Arts Campaign and its Travelers Arts Impact Grant program with major support from The Travelers Foundation.