Main Themes in Kentucky Woman Suffrage History

Randolph Hollingsworth's picture

In 2020, we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.  It took 82 years from Kentucky’s groundbreaking state law in 1838 for woman suffrage (partial, for educational issues only); 72 years from the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments adopted at the 1848 Seneca Falls meeting by a few of the national leaders; and, 41 years from when Mary Barr Clay started the first permanent Kentucky women’s clubs focused on suffrage. We are finding that most of the histories of woman suffrage movement have left Kentucky women out of the narrative. We want Kentucky to be an integral part of all the national events again - we need your help to find more information on Kentuckians' participation in the suffrage movement.

Several scholars from Kentucky universities have been working on developing a list of themes that guides the Kentucky Woman Suffrage Project. We offer this list to support our project's scholars as well as those community members who are willing to offer new information in supporting the Project. The items are listed in no particular order of importance at this point - more work needs to be done on analyzing the primary and secondary sources in relation to these proposed themes. 

The Importance of Kentucky as a Border State (in history as well as historiography)

  • Rural/Urban Split: how women from different demographic backgrounds (inc. socio-economic) organize, choose specific tactics
  • Race/Color: how race (and among Black clubwomen, how color) energizes the push for the vote and shapes it
  • Anti-Suffrage Voices: active vs. passive/status quo (e.g., Alice Smith Winston, Henry Watterson)
  • Literary Women and Artists: different kinds of output, inc. poetry and song
  • Professional Women: inc. healthcare/medicine, orators, economist, educators, labor unionists
  • Key organizations for suffragists to get the message out, e.g., women’s clubs, church groups, civic leagues, settlement houses, AAUW
  • Religion: ideological basis/arguments, roles of preachers, churches as meeting spaces, role of temperance movement leaders, role of freethinkers/atheists
  • Demonstrations/parades: esp. since Louisville's float in the 1913 Perry Centennial was first in the South, inc. college women and youth
  • Male allies in the woman suffrage movement (e.g., John D. White, John A. Ward, W.C.P & Desha Breckinridge)
  • Motivations and Different Tactics/Competing Strategies: activist foremothers (e.g., abolitionists) and sometimes allies (e.g., temperance, juvenile justice, property rights) working across race vs. whites only, literacy based, partial vs. full suffrage, municipal vs. state vs. federal suffrage, international support efforts for national suffrage
  • Pre-1920 Elective Offices (in government & public agencies), esp. school-related
  • Post-1920 Public Offices (appointed and elected) and role of pre-1920 organizing/networking experiences (e.g., "Her Hat in the Ring" entries for Kentucky)
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