The Weight of Their Votes
Southern Women and Political Leverage in the 1920s
Publication Year: 2006
Published by: The University of North Carolina Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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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-...
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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...
Chapter One: Now You Smell Perfume: The Social Drama of Politics in the 1920s
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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 ...
Chapter Two: More People to Vote: Woman Suffrage and the Challenge to Disfranchisement
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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 ...
Chapter Three: Making Their Bow to the Ladies: Southern Party Leaders and the Fight for New Women Voters
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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 ...
Chapter Four: Not Bound to Any Party: The Problem of Women Voters in the Solid South
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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 ...
Chapter Five: The Best Weapon for Reform: Women Lobbying with the Vote
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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-...
Chapter Six: No Longer Treated Lightly: Southern Legislators and New Women Voters
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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 ...
Chapter Seven: To Hold the Lady Votes: Southern Politics Ten Years after Suffrage
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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 ...
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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 ...
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Page Count: 352
Illustrations: 10 illus., 1 line drawing, 3 maps, 6 tables
Publication Year: 2006