Southern Strategies: Southern Women and the Woman Suffrage Question

By Elna C. Green | Go to book overview

of railroads and planters, industrialists and business groups, the Democratic Party acted as conservators of the economic and political status quo. Together, the planters and the industrialists had directed the economic development of the state in the postbellum period, and together they had benefited from the policies of the Democratic Party and the state government 131 Admitting women, black or white, into the electorate threatened to increase the reform vote, and Virginia's political and economic elites would have none of it.

Woman suffrage sentiment had grown sufficiently strong in Virginia to produce a large and vigorous suffrage association. Other progressive reform movements, such as child labor restriction, had attracted support from a large number of the state's urban middle classes. But woman suffrage and other reforms failed in Virginia because of the power of the Democratic Party, which was backed by the money and assistance of planters, railroads, and industrialists. Thanks to the disfranchisement of poor Virginians, both black and white, the Democratic Party generally got what it wanted in the Progressive Era. The opposition could rarely mount a serious political challenge under these circumstances.


Epilogue

In 1920, Puralee Sampson, a fifty-eight-year-old black housewife in Richmond, was a suffragist. Her name never appeared in the newspaper, she never spoke at any suffrage rallies, she never joined a suffrage club. She is unknown to suffrage historians and has been historically invisible. Yet Puralee Sampson was so eager to vote that she went immediately to city hall to register when given the chance. She registered successfully on September 4, 1920, the first black woman to do so in the First Precinct of Madison Ward -- and perhaps the first black woman to register in the entire city.132

Others followed: Blanch H. Wines, a thirty-year-old domestic worker, Katie D. Pratt, a fifty-three-year-old nurse, Rosa Y. DeWitt, a forty-three- year-old teacher, and others like them all registered and paid their poll taxes the first week the registration books were opened. Black leaders in Richmond did what they could to encourage women to take advantage of their new privilege: large public meetings were held at the Elks Home and St. Lukes Hall to give black women instruction on how to register. Maggie Lena Walker visited city hall several times, demanding that more officials be employed to speed up the registration process and reduce the time black women had to stand in line.133 Ora Brown Stokes, utilizing the organizational strength of the Rich

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Southern Strategies: Southern Women and the Woman Suffrage Question
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page ii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xix
  • I - Origins of the Southern Suffrage Movement 1
  • 2 - Origins of the Southern Antisuffrage Movement 30
  • 3 - Women of the Causes 56
  • 4 - The Ideology of Southern Antisuffragism 78
  • 5 - Organizational Strategies and Activities of the Southern Antisuffragists 101
  • 6 - The States' Rights Faction: Kate Gordon's Louisiana 127
  • 7 - The State Suffrage Campaigns: Virginia as a Case Study 151
  • Epilogue 175
  • Conclusion 178
  • Appendix 185
  • Notes 205
  • Bibliography 249
  • Index 277
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