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African-American women faced discrimination
on the basis of their race and their gender.
Mariana Thompson wrote, "I am sixteen years old today and I always thought that when I got that old I should
be a young lady." Twenty years later she would
become one of the first suffragists in Texas.
Mariana Folsom corresponded with Lucy Stone. Once known as a radical suffragist, by the 1880s Stone was considered to be a conservative on the issue.
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A Haunting Question
Despite the increasingly public prominence of the WCTU, the majority of Texans continued to oppose suffrage. Many still felt that God had placed men and women in their separate spheres, public and private. Men could be counted on to display chivalry and represent their wives, mothers, and daughters in the public sphere.
Those who supported suffrage had a number of reasons, ranging from a desire for simple fairness to support of temperance and other issues of special interest to women. However, not all of the supporters had noble motives. A dark thread ran through the women's movement in Texas and throughout the South, and that thread was racism.
The 1890s saw the resurgence and triumph for the former Confederates and their sons and daughters. Across the South, states moved to redeem themselves from the laws that had been imposed on them during Reconstruction -- laws that gave equal citizenship to African Americans. At least some of the supporters of women's suffrage saw the advantages of doubling the white vote by granting votes to women, while passing measures such as property qualifications, poll taxes, and literacy tests that kept blacks away from the polls.
There was no uniformity in racial views among the suffragists -- some were ardent white supremacists while others supported civil rights for African Americans. Generally, the racial argument was used by male supporters of the women's vote rather than by the women themselves. Even so, the so-called "negro question" would continue to haunt the women's movement in the years to come, introducing a disturbing note into the women's arguments for justice and equal rights.
An incident late in 1894 symbolized the beginning of the end for the first wave of suffrage activity in Texas. Some in the Texas Equal Rights Association wanted to bring Susan B. Anthony to Texas to lecture on the subject of women's rights. Others opposed the idea, opposing Anthony as a Yankee, a former abolitionist, an outsider, and a radical. Split by dissension, and perhaps suffering from having too many leaders and not enough followers, the Texas Equal Rights Association had ceased to be active by 1896.
Profile: Mariana Folsom (1845-1910)
Mariana Thompson, born a Pennsylvania Quaker, was a graduate of St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York. She and her husband, Allan Perez Folsom, were both Unitarian ministers, teachers, and lecturers. By 1879 Mariana was a state lecturer of the Iowa Woman Suffrage Association, living in Marshalltown, Iowa. The family moved to Texas in 1881 following a lecture tour there; the Folsoms lived variously in San Antonio, Hallettsville, and Refugio County before settling in Austin by 1898. They had at least three children, two sons and a daughter, Erminia. Mariana Folsom was a leader in the National American Woman Suffrage Association and the Texas Equal Rights Association, and a member of the Universal Peace Union and the Texas Woman's Christian Temperance Union.
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