The Weight of Their Votes: Southern Women and Political Leverage in the 1920s

By Lorraine Gates Schuyler | Go to book overview

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

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 the people of the city for a generation.”1 Determined to “beat the politicians at their own game,” these white women devised a “movable registration booth” that could travel throughout the city registering voters where they lived and worked. After convincing the city clerk to participate in their plan, the women persuaded the NuGrape drink company to loan them a truck that could be transformed into their portable registration booth. On the Saturday before their registration week efforts, a bugler attracted crowds while the women rode up and down Peachtree and Whitehall streets, tossing voter information from the NuGrape truck newly adorned with a banner urging citizens to register. When, on the first day of the registration campaign the driver of the truck informed the women that he could not act as their chauffeur, the women created a further spectacle by simply driving the big truck themselves from ward to ward, stopping at designated spots to register voters. During that single week, Atlanta's newly enfranchised women added 1,500 voters to the city's poll books. The effort was so successful that the league made it a central focus of their election year activities for the rest of the decade, as they worked to expand the electorate that southern white men had persistently endeavored to contract in recent years.2

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