For the Freedom of Her Race: Black Women and Electoral Politics in Illinois, 1877-1932

By Lisa G. Materson | Go to book overview

[3]
Profit from the Mistakes of Men:
National Party Politics, 1920–1924

“I wish I had time to go into detail,” Chicago clubwoman Margaret Gainer proudly announced in March 1921, “but Illinois believes it has done its part.” Gainer was addressing leading black clubwomen from throughout the country who, like her, had worked on behalf of the Colored Women’s Department of the Republican National Committee (CWDRNC) in the 1920 election and had traveled to Washington, D.C., in order to celebrate together the inauguration of Warren G. Harding as president. “Not only have we instructed the women in voting,” Gainer told an audience which included the likes of Alice Dunbar-Nelson and Mary Church Terrell, “but, through influential effort, have helped elect and appoint men and women of our group to creditable positions.” “Personally,” she concluded, “I can assure you we did not miss a precinct in Cook county.” The 1920 election was the first in which women across the nation held full voting rights. Just over two months before Americans headed to the polls in November 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment fully enfranchising American women became part of the U.S. Constitution. Asked to speak for five minutes about their canvassing experiences during the 1920 presidential campaign, one woman after another stood up to share success stories at the D.C. meeting. The excitement in the air was palpable, and the women had so many stories to relay that, as one reporter put it, “the five-minute limit was not sufficient, and the time-keeper’s rap, rap, found each with ‘just one more experience’ to relate.”1 The mood at this inauguration week meeting was understandably buoyant. Decades of deliberate organizing had paid off. They had made good use of numerous local black women’s Republican clubs, like those created in Chicago during the 1910s, to canvass voters in national elections. These women had also made good use of the well-established national networks of the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) to coordi-

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