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  • “They Think I Have Forgotten All About the Past”: Suffragists’ Struggle for Acceptance in Politics in Arizona and Texas
  • Rachel Michelle Gunter (bio)

The suffrage movement and women’s experiences in politics in Arizona and Texas have remarkable similarities, despite their differing timelines. Arizona enfranchised women before Texas, which granted women the ability to vote in the all-white primary in 1918 and ratified the Nineteenth Amendment in 1919, the first southern state to do so. While the Texas Legislature passed a state amendment for full suffrage in 1919, the required referendum failed.1

In both Texas and Arizona, male legislators enfranchised women only when they believed it to be in their own best interests within a politically competitive environment. After the extension of at least partial suffrage, male politicians in both states attempted to control women in politics and expressed frustration when they met [End Page 231] resistance. Finally, women in both states most easily won election as superintendents of education and only assumed the governorship when opportunities arose due to the overt failings of male politicians.

Both the Arizona and Texas legislatures enfranchised women to strengthen one faction or political party and to prevent another from gaining power through future female voters. The Arizona and Texas state legislatures passed suffrage measures only when pressed by active suffrage movements amidst increased political competition.2 In 1917, Texas governor Jim Ferguson was impeached but resigned before the Texas Senate officially removed him from office and barred him from holding an office of trust in the state. Ferguson ignored the Senate’s judgment and ran for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 1918 against his former lieutenant governor and then acting Governor William Pettus Hobby. In order for Governor Hobby, a moderate progressive Democrat, to defeat the conservative faction of the state Democratic Party led by Ferguson, he supported and signed a bill giving female citizens the right to vote in the Texas primary.3 Female voters then secured Hobby the Democratic primary in 1918 and used primary suffrage to successfully pressure the state legislature to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment the following year.4

In Arizona, Heidi Osselaer shows how Frances Munds and Pauline O’Neill used the political competition between the Bull Moose Progressives and Democrats to get the Arizona Democratic Party to endorse suffrage in their platform. Munds and O’Neill then used political competition in the state to get the state Republican Party onboard. The suffragists played on fears of a partisan state suffrage movement that would work against politicians who refused to endorse suffrage. Using this strategy, Munds and O’Neill gained [End Page 232] “the endorsement of all five political parties in the state: Democrats, Republicans, Progressives, Prohibition, and Socialists.”5 In both states an organized suffrage campaign took advantage of political competition in order to convince men with political power that it was in their best interests to enfranchise women.

After women gained at least partial suffrage in each state, male politicians felt that women owed them and made demands on female constituents and politicians accordingly. In Texas, progressive dry Democrats, who supported prohibition, forced a state suffrage amendment in 1919 against the wishes of the Texas Equal Suffrage Association (TESA) led by Minnie Fisher Cunningham and the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) led by Carrie Chapman Catt. Following Catt’s advice, Cunningham did not want woman suffrage and prohibition on the ballot together, as they believed the association of suffrage with prohibition led to electoral defeats.6 Cunningham publicly argued that the Texas legislature should first pass a constitutional amendment limiting suffrage to citizens and that the veterans of World War I should be allowed to return home before a state suffrage amendment went to referendum.7

Cunningham’s arguments were meant to stall a state amendment until Congress sent the Susan B. Anthony Amendment to the states for ratification. As Texas women had primary suffrage (meaning they could vote in party primaries), which they could use to get legislators to ratify the forthcoming Nineteenth Amendment, they did not want to undertake an energy- and resource-draining state amendment campaign and risk failure. However, state representative M. M. Crane pushed for a suffrage...


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pp. 231-240
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