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Broadside urging Texans to vote for the state suffrage amendment in 1919.
The suffrage question was reflected in popular culture
as shown by this postcard.
The national suffrage movement put out numerous broadsides with the arguments
for allowing women to vote.
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Taking It to the Voters
The constitutional amendment that had passed the U.S. House of Representatives in January 1918 was still languishing in the Senate 10 months later. On November 11, 1918, the armistice was signed in Europe, bringing an end to the fighting in the Great War. Women who had put their suffrage work aside to help with the war now returned to the cause, feeling that final victory was in sight.
The Texas Equal Suffrage Association (TESA) along with many suffragists nationwide, decided to devote their efforts toward winning passage of the federal amendment. In Texas, the women focused on lobbying state legislators, most of whom they already knew well from the primary suffrage campaign. It would take support from two-thirds of the legislators in each house to win Texas's ratification of the amendment. Jane Y. McCallum took charge of the lobbying effort, while Minnie Fisher Cunningham went to Washington to aid in the lobbying of southern Democrats in the Senate to pass the amendment and send it out to the states for ratification.
A split soon developed between those who, like McCallum and Cunningham, wanted to focus on passage of the federal amendment and those who believed that winning a state amendment should come first. The state-suffrage-first advocates were generally strong prohibitionists. The legislature was planning to take up prohibition again in 1919, and the issue would be put to the voters in a general election, from which women were still barred from participating. The prohibitionists felt that it would take the female vote to defeat the liquor lobby and make prohibition the law in Texas. Governor Hobby and other prohibitionists who now controlled the Democratic party agreed and wanted to press ahead with the state amendment.
At the same time, a feud broke out between McCallum and Jessie Daniel Ames, Georgetown suffragist and publisher of the weekly newspaper, the Williamson County Sun. Ames had joined the faction pressing for a state amendment and bolstered her position with a slashing attack on McCallum, accusing her of incompetence and a lack of leadership. In the end, McCallum and her supporters were forced to accept the fact that a state amendment was coming and that the future of women's suffrage in Texas would ride not on a lobbying effort but on a statewide campaign before the male voters of Texas.
The legislature passed the women's suffrage amendment soon after convening in January 1919. They set the date of May 24 for an election in which voters would pass judgement on several items, including suffrage and prohibition. The suffrage amendment as passed included granting the right to vote for women. It also included a citizenship clause. Texas law then provided that foreign-born residents of Texas could vote in state elections as long as they had applied for citizenship. The new law proposed that only full citizens would be allowed to vote.
Profile: Jessie Daniel Ames (1883-1972)
Jessie Daniel was born in Palestine, Texas. Her family moved to Georgetown when she was 10, and she later graduated from Southwestern University there. Her family moved to Laredo, where she met and married surgeon Roger Ames in 1905. The marriage was not a happy one, and the couple often lived apart. Nonetheless, they had a son and two daughters before Roger Ames died in 1914.
In 1916, Ames organized the Georgetown Equal Suffrage League and began to write a weekly column for the Williamson County Sun. She became a protégé of Minnie Fisher Cunningham, president of the Texas Equal Suffrage Association, and served as treasurer of the group during the final fight for Texas to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment.
In 1919 she founded the Texas League of Women Voters. In 1924, she founded the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching, a group of white women who wanted to end the vigilantism and terror that poisoned race relations in the South. By the time she retired in 1942, she had won considerable support among the public for the anti-lynching laws.
Prints and Photographs Collection, Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission. #1971/53-1.
Linking the two issues only made the task of the suffragists more difficult. The two proposals could not be voted on separately but had to be accepted or rejected as a unit. Women could not vote in the election, but foreign-born residents could vote. Many of the foreign born, especially German Americans, were also staunch anti-prohibitionists. Already certain to vote against prohibition, they would have every reason to vote against women's suffrage as well.
Minnie Fisher Cunningham returned to Texas to lead the campaign, with McCallum heading up press and publicity. The suffragists bombarded newspaper editors throughout Texas with letters, press releases, and literature. They broke the state down into four hundred districts, with a campaign chair in charge of getting out the suffrage vote in each area. The suffragists held mass meetings, circulated petitions, and went door-to-door to persuade voters of their cause. They operated information booths in department stores and movie theaters. It is estimated that the suffragists put almost 1500 speakers in the field and circulated more than 300,000 pieces of literature. They won the active endorsements of President Wilson and both U.S. Senators from Texas.
In the end, their efforts were not enough. Coupling suffrage with the citizenship clause had been a fatal mistake. Women's suffrage was defeated by 25,000 votes statewide.
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