Wheeler, Marjorie Spruill. New Women of the New South: The Leaders of the Woman Suffrage Movement in the Southern States. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Joanna Lile Discussion

Author:  Marjorie Spruill Wheeler                            

Title: New Women of the New South: The Leaders of the Woman Suffrage Movement in the Southern States            

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Date of Publication: 1993

Annotation: Marjorie Spruill Wheeler examines eleven elite, white southern women, including Madeline McDowell Breckinridge and Laura Clay, who campaigned for woman suffrage.  All of her subjects came from well-connected and politically powerful families.  As maternalistic reformers they worked under the assumption that they had a responsibility to uplift the rest of the South.  Wheeler explains that all of the women worked to disprove the notion that the suffrage movement was an “alien” movement imposed on the South from the North.  She notes that Laura Clay was indispensable due to her connections to northern suffragists and her ability to recruit southern women for the movement.  Wheeler also effectively demonstrates that southern suffragists exploited racial prejudice (with northern suffragists' approval) in order to secure woman suffrage.  The Nineteenth Amendment created a rift among southern suffragists.  While most southern suffragists, including Breckinridge, welcomed the ratification of the amendment, a small number, including Laura Clay, had become alienated from the national movement by that time due to their insistence on achieving suffrage through state, rather than federal, amendments.      

Type of Source: Secondary