We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE
OR

The Weight of Their Votes

Southern Women and Political Leverage in the 1920s

Lorraine Gates Schuyler

Publication Year: 2006

After the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, hundreds of thousands of southern women went to the polls for the first time. In ###The Weight of Their Votes# Lorraine Gates Schuyler examines the consequences this had in states across the South. She shows that from polling places to the halls of state legislatures, women altered the political landscape in ways both symbolic and substantive. Schuyler challenges popular scholarly opinion that women failed to wield their ballots effectively in the 1920s, arguing instead that in state and local politics, women made the most of their votes. Schuyler explores get-out-the-vote campaigns staged by black and white women in the region and the response of white politicians to the sudden expansion of the electorate. Despite the cultural expectations of southern womanhood and the obstacles of poll taxes, literacy tests, and other suffrage restrictions, southern women took advantage of their voting power, Schuyler shows. Black women mobilized to challenge disfranchisement and seize their right to vote. White women lobbied state legislators for policy changes and threatened their representatives with political defeat if they failed to heed women's policy demands. Thus, even as southern Democrats remained in power, the social welfare policies and public spending priorities of southern states changed in the 1920s as a consequence of woman suffrage. In an examination of southern politics immediately following the 19th Amendment, Schuyler challenges popular scholarly opinion that woman suffrage had relatively little effect in its first decade. She argues instead that in state and local politics, southern women exercised spirited engagement. She explores get-out-the-vote campaigns staged by black and white women in the region and the response of white politicians to the sudden expansion of the electorate. Black women mobilized to challenge disfranchisement and seize their right to vote. White women lobbied state legislators for policy changes and threatened their representatives with political defeat if they failed to heed women's policy demands. Thus, even as southern Democrats remained in power, the social welfare policies and public spending priorities of southern states changed in the 1920s as a consequence of woman suffrage. After the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, hundreds of thousands of southern women went to the polls for the first time. Schuyler shows that from polling places to the halls of state legislatures, women altered the political landscape in ways both symbolic and substantive. Challenging popular scholarly opinion that women failed to wield their ballots effectively in the 1920s, she argues instead that in state and local politics, women made the most of their votes. Even as southern Democrats remained in power, the social welfare policies and public spending priorities of southern states changed in the 1920s as a consequence of the demands of the new female voting constituency who lobbied for change. After the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, hundreds of thousands of southern women went to the polls for the first time. In ###The Weight of Their Votes# Lorraine Gates Schuyler examines the consequences this had in states across the South. She shows that from polling places to the halls of state legislatures, women altered the political landscape in ways both symbolic and substantive. Schuyler challenges popular scholarly opinion that women failed to wield their ballots effectively in the 1920s, arguing instead that in state and local politics, women made the most of their votes. Schuyler explores get-out-the-vote campaigns staged by black and white women in the region and the response of white politicians to the sudden expansion of the electorate. Despite the cultural expectations of southern womanhood and the obstacles of poll taxes, literacy tests, and other suffrage restrictions, southern women took advantage of their voting power, Schuyler shows. Black women mobilized to challenge disfranchisement and seize their right to vote. White women lobbied state legislators for policy changes and threatened their representatives with political defeat if they failed to heed women's policy demands. Thus, even as southern Democrats remained in power, the social welfare policies and public spending priorities of southern states changed in the 1920s as a consequence of woman suffrage.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Title Page, Copyright

pdf iconDownload PDF (132.9 KB)
pp. 2-7

Contents

pdf iconDownload PDF (71.5 KB)
pp. vii-viii

read more

Acknowledgments

pdf iconDownload PDF (86.9 KB)
p. xi-xi

Aft er the long process of researching and writing this book, I am honored to have the opportunity to thank the many people who made this project possible. This is the part of the book I have long wanted to write. First, I would like to thank the history department at the University of Virginia for its generous financial support of my graduate education in gen-...

read more

Introduction

pdf iconDownload PDF (140.8 KB)
pp. 1-12

Does voting really matter? From the time of the Revolution to recurring debates over redistricting, Americans have fought for the right to vote. The Founding Fathers created a government by elected representatives to ensure that propertied white men were ruled by a government they could control. Since then, other Americans have fought to share in that power by securing the franchise for themselves. This book assesses the significance of those struggles by exploring...

read more

Chapter One: Now You Smell Perfume: The Social Drama of Politics in the 1920s

pdf iconDownload PDF (294.0 KB)
pp. 13-44

What will you be? A Man or a Jelly Bean?”1 This is the question that antisuff ragists posed to southern men on the eve of ratification. For years, and at an even more fevered pitch in the last months before the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, antisuff ragists made apocalyptic predictions of the doomsday that would arrive in the South if women received the vote. According to these “antis” the entire southern social order would collapse in the wake of woman suffrage, as it threatened ...

read more

Chapter Two: More People to Vote: Woman Suffrage and the Challenge to Disfranchisement

pdf iconDownload PDF (300.6 KB)
pp. 45-74

In August 1924 an officer in the Atlanta League of Women Voters discovered that in order to vote in the city elections, citizens had to register not only at the courthouse but also at city hall. Georgians already faced significant hurdles to their political participation, including a literacy requirement and, even more daunting, a cumulative poll tax that had to be paid six months before the election. To female political activists, the dual registration requirements were yet another example of the closed political system that had “gagged ...

read more

Chapter Three: Making Their Bow to the Ladies: Southern Party Leaders and the Fight for New Women Voters

pdf iconDownload PDF (286.5 KB)
pp. 75-106

It must have been quite a sight, in the summer and fall of 1920, as male candidates and party officials worked to woo new white women voters whom they had just recently denounced as “he-women” and supporters of “Negro Domination.”1 In mass mailings, in their stump speeches, and in their sudden solicitousness of advice from female leaders, the South’s leading men pursued women voters in a new political ritual that visibly symbolized the transformations that woman suffrage had wrought. Of course, women had been active ...

read more

Chapter Four: Not Bound to Any Party: The Problem of Women Voters in the Solid South

pdf iconDownload PDF (263.6 KB)
pp. 107-134

An absolute menace to Democratic supremacy.”1 That is how one white southerner described woman suffrage. Like the antisuffragists who warned that woman s suffrage was an affront to southern manhood and that votes for women would subvert traditional gender roles, this observer recognized the potential power of women’s ballots to transform party politics in the New South. Even small numbers of black voters and dissident white voters had long terrified southern Democratic men, spurring ...

read more

Chapter Five: The Best Weapon for Reform: Women Lobbying with the Vote

pdf iconDownload PDF (290.4 KB)
pp. 135-164

On 16 October 1923, clubwomen from across Kentucky met in Louisville for a conference of state women’s organizations. Before the assembled women, the Republican and Democratic nominees for governor stood for questioning. The state’s League of Women Voters, Parent Teacher Association (PTA), Home Economics Association, Consumers League, Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), Business and Professional Women, Girls’ Friendly Society, Daughters of Isabella, and Social Hygiene Associa-...

read more

Chapter Six: No Longer Treated Lightly: Southern Legislators and New Women Voters

pdf iconDownload PDF (243.9 KB)
pp. 165-188

In 1920, an aide to South Carolina’s Governor Cooper wrote to one of his state’s most prominent women for advice. He had received a request from an organization of women, and in contrast to years past, he was unsure how to respond. Letters from women’s organizations had once been of no consequence. When women were enfranchised, however, such letters came to represent groups of constituents. Faced with the electoral uncertainties posed by woman suffrage that year, he confessed, “Letters from women’s organizations, you know, can ...

read more

Chapter Seven: To Hold the Lady Votes: Southern Politics Ten Years after Suffrage

pdf iconDownload PDF (359.6 KB)
pp. 189-226

In June 1930, the candidates for state office appeared before the voters in Edgefield, South Carolina. There, one of the office-seekers announced his support for women jurors. Just ten years before, “candidates would have preferred the guillotine to a suspicion that they favored” jury service for women. On that hot summer afternoon, however, the candidate’s announcement received little attention from the assembled voters, who were more focused on the issues of prohibition and taxes. In fact, only one unusual thing happened at ...

read more

Conclusion

pdf iconDownload PDF (66.9 KB)
pp. 227-230

When I began this project, some skeptics warned that I would be lucky to find enough evidence of southern women’s political activism to fill an article, let alone a book. Indeed, the consensus among historians suggested that the empowering effects of the Nineteenth Amendment had been attenuated and short-lived. Yet in every archive, in every southern town, and in seemingly every women’s club yearbook, southern women left evidence of their persistent and remarkably successful efforts ...

Appendix

pdf iconDownload PDF (73.7 KB)
pp. 231-236

Notes

pdf iconDownload PDF (486.0 KB)
pp. 237-302

Bibliography

pdf iconDownload PDF (170.0 KB)
pp. 303-332

Index

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.0 MB)
pp. 333-336


E-ISBN-13: 9781469606224
E-ISBN-10: 1469606224
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807830666
Print-ISBN-10: 0807830666

Page Count: 352
Illustrations: 10 illus., 1 line drawing, 3 maps, 6 tables
Publication Year: 2006