( 1883-1972), suffragist and antilynching crusader: advocate of militant reform through local action
KIMBERLY A. POWELL AND CELESTE CONDIT
Throughout her work for universal suffrage and improved race relations, Jessie Daniel Ames was known as a determined, positive, animated person. In describing herself she said, "I have never learned in all the fifty-six years of my life to keep my mouth shut when something arises which offends either my sense of justice and fair play or violates the principles of democracy and Christianity" ( Letter to Una Roberts, 1940). Her success as a public advocate arose from her ability to transform her sense of justice into a powerful rhetoric that addressed overwhelmingly difficult obstacles with tact and force. She began her activist career working for woman suffrage in Texas. When that objective was achieved, she went on to create the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching (ASWPL), a group of white southern women who strove to end lynching in the South. She directed this organization from 1930 until its dissolution in 1942. The primary tactic she employed with this group was local, gradualist action grounded in direct contact between oppressed groups. This uniquely powerful method effectively contributed to positive changes in public opinion on race issues in the South and the halting of lynch law.
Jessie Daniel Ames was steeled for the obstacles she would face as a public advocate by a difficult early life. She was born in Palestine, Texas, the youngest daughter of James and Laura Daniel. Her father's preference for his first-born daughter led her to carry feelings of unworthiness with her from childhood through her college career at Southwestern University. Upon her graduation in 1902, she faced what she called "the purgatory of spinsterhood." Denied contact with her aunt, Annie Sturgis Daniel, an unmarried suffragist and physician who might have provided an alternative model, she chose marriage to Roger Post Ames as proof of her worth and desirability as a woman. Her husband was