Vote and Voice: Women's Organizations and Political Literacy, 1915-1930

Vote and Voice: Women's Organizations and Political Literacy, 1915-1930

Vote and Voice: Women's Organizations and Political Literacy, 1915-1930

Vote and Voice: Women's Organizations and Political Literacy, 1915-1930

Synopsis

Wendy B. Sharer explores the rhetorical and pedagogical practices through which the League of Women Voters and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom challenged the conventions of male-dominated political discourse and trained women as powerful rhetors.

Excerpt

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Once I was happy but now I'm forlorn O how I wish I had never been born Left all alone for to weep and to mourn Betrayed by the girl that I love,

I plead for her love and I beg her to wed, She joins a new club down at central instead. They call her a leader, I call her misled, Alas and alack—and alas Now some weekends are sacred to cupid, say some But not to this viper in skirts. She goes to a conference stupid and dumb And when I protest she says “nerts”—O— She floats through the “Y” with the greatest of ease She helps raise the budget because they say “please” She won't give me dates though I beg her on my knees That “Y” has blighted her love.

—Song from the Volunteer Training Program, YWCA Y-Dames, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

The lyrics of this comical song for new members of the Y-Dames club in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, suggest that the women who sang the tune realized the challenges they posed to popular expectations about women's behavior. Not afraid to ridicule those expectations, the Dames used the song to express their satisfaction with the educational and leadership opportunities the club afforded—opportunities to intervene in traditional patterns of courtship and to explore alternative outlets for women's energies. I begin with the song from the Y-Dames in order to explain the direct, and some might say personal, connection between this project and my life.

As many historians have argued, writing history is not merely an exercise in the objective recording of factual information. Rather, it entails the care-

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