Click each illustration for a larger view
The Austin Woman Suffrage Association and others around the state distributed literature such as this suffrage map.
Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, a minister and physician,
headed the national movement from 1904 to 1915.
Carrie Chapman Catt revitalized the national movement
and conceived the strategy called "The Winning Plan."
Although a progressive in many ways, President Woodrow Wilson stood in opposition to the women's suffrage movement.
Suffragists used many tactics to win support, including putting on plays dramatizing the cause.
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The Anti-Suffrage Movement
Opponents of women's suffrage like Pauline Wells played on deep-seated fears and emotions among Texans. Women, they said, were temperamentally inferior to men. They were governed by emotion, not logic, and were too shallow and irresponsible to be trusted with the responsibility of voting. Their natural female tendencies would wreck the military, make the government "hen-pecked," and jeopardize American "pep" (virility). The leaders of the movement were "unnatural" man-haters who were belittling the natural role of women as mothers and homemakers. Opponents warned women not to be gullible and think that the vote would benefit them. Instead, it would be a burden on them that would interfere with their duties at home.
In fact, marriage and family could even be jeopardized -- a husband and wife could be torn asunder if they disagreed politically, and politically involved women might decide to have fewer children. Ultimately, according to this line of reasoning, the supremacy of the Anglo-Saxon race could even be threatened. By granting the vote to women, Texas and the rest of the South could find itself on a slippery slope that might eventually result in black domination.
Behind the alarmist rhetoric stood powerful interest groups. Besides the liquor industry, planters, textile factory owners, railroad magnates, and political machine bosses all stood opposed to women's suffrage. Although these groups did not agree on every issue, they did have one thing in common: they benefited from the political system the way that it was. They feared that the women suffragists would make good on their determination to reform Texas. Thus, the women were a real threat to their power.
Profile: Joe Bailey (1863-1929)
Joseph Weldon Bailey, nicknamed "The Last Democrat," was born in Mississippi. As a young lawyer, he made his name by the violent intimidation of Republican voters in Mississippi elections. He moved to Texas in 1885 and opened a law practice in Gainesville. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1890 and became the Democratic minority leader in 1897. He became a U.S. Senator in 1901. A favorite of Texas farmers because of his populist outlook and flair for oratory, Bailey was also a masterful politician. But the forces that drove Bailey to success would prove his undoing. His prospects to rise in the Senate leadership were damaged when he physically assaulted another senator. In 1906, he was the subject of an expose that charged that he was one of a group of senators who sold their influence to big corporations at the expense of the public. Although Texans reelected him that year, disillusionment with Bailey grew, and he resigned in 1911 to practice law privately. Bailey's opposition to women's suffrage was total, and he threw all of his power and influence against it. He died in 1929 during a trial in Sherman.
Joseph W. Bailey. W.D. Hornaday Collection. Prints and Photographs Collection, Texas State Library and Archives Commission. #1975/70-562.
Time to Regroup
The year 1916 saw the revitalization of the national women's suffrage movement. Carrie Chapman Catt revived the old National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), which had existed in various forms since the earliest days of the movement. Catt took over a listless and badly divided organization with what she called the "Winning Plan" to campaign simultaneously for suffrage on both the state and federal level. The same year, Alice Paul founded the National Women's Party (NWP). Paul believed that people are moved more by emotion than by logic and that the women's suffrage movement had become stodgy and stale. She brought to the women's movement a radical new style that emphasized militant civil disobedience. The images of her followers chained to the White House fence are some of the most indelible of the women's suffrage movement.
The idealism of the movement did not extend to African-American women. The United States Congress was controlled by Southern Democrats, and the Presidency was held by Woodrow Wilson, who was also a southerner and a virulent racist. The leaders of the suffrage movement decided that the support of southern white women would be vital to winning these men to their cause, and the cause of the black women was sacrificed.
Most Texas suffragists identified with the more moderate NAWSA, though a few cities had active chapters of the NWP. Texas NWP members traveled to Washington to participate in demonstrations, rather than organizing protest marches and sit-ins in Texas. Radical tactics, the suffragists realized, would simply backfire in conservative Texas. But Texas suffragists did make use of persuasive techniques that would have shocked an earlier generation. The women organized parades, set up booths at state fairs, spoke on street corners, organized at women's colleges, conducted essay contests in the schools, put on suffrage plays, and spoke from the back of open cars.
Following the 1915 defeat in the legislature, Minnie Fisher Cunningham emerged as leader of the Texas Woman Suffrage Association (renamed the Texas Equal Suffrage Association in 1916). Cunningham developed a new plan to organize the state according to senatorial districts. The women renewed their lobbying, traveling to both the Texas Democratic Convention and the national Democratic convention to seek support for their cause. At both locations, they ran up against a man who stood squarely in the path of their aspirations -- Governor James E. Ferguson.
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