I love the political game and I think the time has come when women will have the power to turn the tide and stop many of the calamities that seem pending. (Wood County Reporter, September 2, 1920)
Christine Duncan Bradley was born in Lancaster, Kentucky on 20 December 1878, the second child of Margaret Duncan and Kentucky Governor William O. Bradley. Her older brother, George Robertson Bradley, was nearly ten years her senior and died at the age of 24. The daughter of the first Republican governor in Kentucky, she told in interviews later in life of how she read law in her father’s office and traveled on muleback through the mountains of Kentucky to help get him elected in 1895. She married on 2 November 1904, Dr. John Glover South (23 January 1873-13 May 1940), a general practice physician living in the state capitol of Frankfort. The elaborate wedding took place in her parents’ home, and they traveled for several weeks across the U.S. In 1905, her father purchased a house for the newlyweds on Main Street, and her status as a popular socialite only increased. Her photograph was placed among the many items in the copper box under the cornerstone of the new state Capitol Building in 1906 with the additional notation that she had christened the Battleship Kentucky.
When in 1908 her father narrowly won as the Republican candidate from Kentucky for the U.S. Senate, the newspapers gave notice of her lobbying work on his behalf. The Breckenridge News republished an article from the St. Louis Globe Democrat:
Mrs. South is a typical Kentucky girl. She is a perfect exponent of the far-famed Kentucky hospitality and it has often been said by strangers that ‘five minutes after you have met Mrs. South you feel as if you had known her all her life.’ She has been her father’s confident and advisor since leaving school, and it is largely owing to her tact and good judgement that he captured the United States senatorship from Gov. Beckham with odds apparently so overwhelmingly against him … She was at the balloting for senator nearly every day during the campaign and did much toward cheering her father’s spirits when everything looked so dark for him. She is a charming conversationalist and by her brilliant powers in this respect and her magnetic personality she won over many men to her father’s cause. (“Christine Bradley South Helped Her Father Win,” Breckenridge News, 18 March 1908)
By 1910 she was keeping house not only for her husband, but also her mother and two nieces who were originally from California. Dr. South owned a farm as well and speculated in oil production. In 1918 Dr. South was drafted into military service at the age of 45.
In 1916, after Elise Bennett Smith of Frankfort resigned from the presidency of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association (KERA) to serve on the National American Woman Suffrage (NAWSA) Board, Christine Bradley South was elected President. South served as President of KERA until 1919 when Madeline McDowell Breckinridge returned to take up this leadership role again. South had been active in women’s clubs and the statewide suffrage movement for some time. She worked with Miss Lola Walker on December 6, 1916, to organize the Pulaski County Equal Rights Association. The two women had spoken at the High School Auditorium and then received at the home of Mrs. Edwin P. Morrow where the local chapter was then organized with 31 founding members (KERA, Reports, 26). She spoke on “Woman and the War” for the Scott County Equal Suffrage League, and as a result of her visit, the League sent a petition with over 100 signatures to the Kentucky legislature urging for ratification of the Susan B. Anthony Amendment (KERA, Reports, 28)
South kept a firm hand on the voice of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association, assuring its members and the public that its cause was for justice - but separate from the kind of protests undertaken by the Congressional Union/National Woman’s Party [NWP] at the White House gates since January 1917. In March 1917 at the statewide conference in Louisville and following the request of the NAWSA’s president Carrie Chapman Catt to denounce the NWP’s tactics, the KERA leadership issued a resolution: “resenting the obloquy this [militancy by the NWP] cast on the great cause of woman suffrage, denounce the attitude of these militants as fatuous, unwomanly and reprehensible…(quoted in “KERA Resolution,” 2018)” South then followed up with public notices to be published in local newspapers across Kentucky that – even though there had been an announcement from Louisville that Doris Stevens of the NWP would be coming to Kentucky to recruit suffragists for the protests in Washington D.C. – the leadership of KERA stands with the NAWSA in deploring the NWP’s militant methods. She further stated:
There is no organization of militant suffragists in this State. It is our wish that there may never be one. It is our belief that militancy will never be endorsed by our women and will never be necessary to secure justice from the men of Kentucky. (“A Card,” 1917)
In May of 1917, the Mason County Woman Suffrage League invited South to speak in Maysville. They reported “Mrs. South’s gentle but forceful presentation of woman’s work in the world was heartily received and the cause thereby strengthened. In a rural church once closed to a suffrage speaker, our President had a good hearing. Several names were added to the list of believers in the County and other hearts were softened (KERA, Reports, 25).” She spoke also in nearby Flemingsburg the evening before in the Lyceum Hall to a “fair sized crowd.”
In 1917 South organized the women of Kentucky to furnish over 400 knitted garments for the battleship U.S.S. Kentucky – she was the official Sponsor for the battleship and since 1911 had been the elected President of the Society of Battleship Sponsors. Both Madison County and the Irvington Equal Suffrage League reported to the 1917 KERA convention (page 22, 24) that they had organized a campaign to gather supplies for Kentucky soldiers and gave to South for the battleship Kentucky. Her presidential report to the convention that year was a powerful statement for women's rights and the need for suffragists to excel not only at the local level in rousing support for the vote but also to be rolemodels for patriotic work. She concluded her report with a spirited call for a brighter future:
By some it is claimed that we should cease suffrage work on account of war. I would have you feel that you fight beside the man in the trench for democracy. While gloom and sadness touch our hearts, the darkness of the war cloud is broken by the rainbow of promise, of freedom to all people. The worth of liberty has so inspired the world that practically every land is pouring out its blood and treasure upon the altar of National freedom. The brazen serpent of democracy has been lifted high in the desert of warring Europe that all men may gaze upon it and be healed of the sickness of autocracy. We have sent our flag across the seas. Our battle-cry "The world must be made safe for Democracy." We must first make Democracy safe. Our Government must represent all its people. Men and nations have realized that without woman's aid they cannot win the war. If we are good enough to give, good enough to serve, good enough to send our own flesh and blood into the trenches, then we are good enough for citizenship. If we give all, our Government must give something. ... We must fight on that our land may fulfil its promise of making democracy safe in the world by first making it safe for us. Fight so that we may be fully equipped for rendering the greatest service in upholding the educationa, moral and social standard, which will be left almost entirely in our hands if the war continues. We must fight to win every protection and assistance for our sisters who have entered the industrial fields, and who must toil there from sheer necessity. In every truth we are our Sister's Keeper and in no lesser sense are we our Brother's Keeper. We must, above all, fight so that the voice of woman may be heard in the policies that must be outlined in the days of reconstruction; that woman may be there to demand not wealth, not territory, not trade, but a structure upon which an eternal peace may rest. The victory is near at hand. The greatest men of all lands have been touched and are beginning to speak out for woman-kind. The past with its bitter prejudice is behind us; the future with its bright star of hope and victory is before us. Let us press on to the future with steady step and true. Let us fight for the good of our common country. (13-14 in KERA Reports, 1917)
South signed on in 1917 as the president of KERA along with all the other leaders of women's clubs in Kentucky to the “Proclamation” to support the U.S. Food Administration’s efforts to conserve food and “thereby assuring elimination of waste in our homes and a substantial increase in our food supplies” to show their patriotic duty and support the war effort. Under South’s leadership, many of the local suffrage clubs reported that their members had signed the food conservation pledge. She led another campaign with KERA to raise funds for the “Laura Clay Ambulance” to be sent with the Barrow Unit with medical supplies and staff to the European front.
South’s work with KERA did not stop when she stepped down as president. In 1919, she was elected First Vice President and continued her leadership in suffrage and war work. That year she also chaired the political science committee of the Kentucky General Federation of Women’s Clubs, and in that role she led the campaign to start citizenship schools for women in every Kentucky county. In 1920 she served again as the First Vice President when her cousin (on her mother’s side), Governor Edwin P. Morrow, signed into law Kentucky’s ratification of the 19th Amendment in January then the state’s own law for women’s presidential suffrage the following March. This law guaranteed that Kentucky women would be able to vote in the November 1920 Presidential election whether the federal amendment garnered enough states in time or not.
South, a powerful leader at the state and national level for the Republican Party, remained true to the ideal that the suffrage movement needed to remain non-partisan – surprising many in the fall of 1920 that she publicly praised a Democratic president for helping to bring about the federal amendment. The Mount Sterling Advocate mocked South’s endorsement of President Woodrow Wilson with the headline “She Forgot; or She Flopped – Which!” but printed her card nevertheless:
Today Woodrow Wilson stands forth before the nations of the world as the commanding force for justice and a world democracy. He goes now to perfect that which has been baptized with the fire of the battle and sealed with a covenant of blood – a world-wide democracy, a democracy in truth of all the people. (“She Forgot,” 1920)
Also in the fall of 1920, after the Kentucky legislature passed a school administration law and in preparation for the county boards of education in November, South contributed to the call by the state’s women political leaders for women to get out and vote. As the assistant secretary of the Republican National Committee, and as a Southern white woman of high social standing, South’s words held great weight:
The seriousness of the crisis through which the world is passing emphasizes the importance of education as the hope of democracy. In so far as is humanly possible, there must be equality of opportunity for education for all the children - rich and poor, native born and foreign born, city and country, white and black until ignorance everywhere is supplanted by disciplined information. Our children are worth of better teachers; our teachers are worthy of better pay; democratic education is entitled to the loyal support of all. ... To secure the right of suffrage for women, we have insisted always and everywhere that woman was inclined to feel a more jealous regard for the rights of childhood than man. I know of no more certain way for woman to justify the new privilege and new responsibility that have come to her than by using her voice and her vote in securing better educational opportunities for the children of Kentucky, and by aiding in the election of county boards that will think in terms of the rights of children rather than in the interest of any party. (“Women in Both Parties Agree,” The Bourbon News, 12 October 1920)
In the summer of 1921, South was one of two women to stand for election to Frankfort City Council on the Republican ticket, and the Democrats stood three women. As a result of his wife’s work as the assistant secretary of the Republican National Committee in stumping for the Harding and Coolidge presidential campaign, Dr. South was appointed in 1921 as the American Minister to Panama. He was accompanied on his journey by his wife, mother-in-law (now aged 75) and – according to the application for his Ministerial papers – “a negro servant whose name is Al Morton.” She traveled back and forth from Panama very often throughout his tenure in Panama from 1921 to 1930. In 1930, he was appointed American Minister to Portugal, and they lived in Lisbon with Christine South traveling often back and forth again until the end of his service in 1933. They had no children.
She was there in Washington D.C. when her father (governor of Kentucky from 1895-1899 then U.S. Senator from 1909-1914) died in 1914; and, she took care of her mother until she died in 1923. Meanwhile, she served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention from Kentucky in 1920, 1928 (at which she served as a speaker, seconding the Hoover nomination) and 1932. A Washington D.C. newspaper reported in 1924 that she was “being seriously discussed” as a nominee for U.S. Senator from Kentucky. Traveling from Panama to Kansas City to attend the Republican convention in the summer of 1928, she then went on a speaking tour around the county in support of presidential candidate Herbert Hoover. A reporter at the convention described South at the podium: “Untroubled by the blinding glare of the photographers’ lights that were directed upon her as she took her place before the speaker’s stand, Mrs. Christine Bradley South of Kentucky, in a clear, loud tone, told the world that the women were behind Hoover … Her closely cropped head bobbed emphatically and her slim, small hands waved as she sought to tell just what Kentucky, and particularly Kentucky women, thought of their candidate.” South also contributed to a radio broadcast on November 5, 1928, in New York following a speech by former Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes. In 1932 she stumped for President Hoover with a catchy slogan “Home and Hoover” and a statement sent out from the Republican Party’s national headquarters in which she reminded women of the “Better Homes” movement, asserting that “in life, in word, in thought and service, Herbert Hoover embodies the social, moral and spiritual ideals which justify women’s participation in politics.” In 1937, she served as a member of the Republican National Committee from Kentucky.
After her husband’s death in 1940, South got a job in public relations with the State Department of Health – Dr. South had served as a secretary for the State Board of Health in Frankfort -- and she lived in Louisville for several years. However, by 1951 she returned to live in Frankfort where she lived in several places and finally at 505 Wapping Street in the historic home now called the South-Willis House. She died at home of a heart attack at the age of 78 on 20 February 1957. She is buried in the Frankfort Cemetery next to her husband and her father in the Bradley family lot (Section I, Lot 466).
"Ambulance for Barrow Unit," The Public Ledger [Maysville, Ky.] (12 April 1918): 4. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Library of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85038022/1918-04-12/ed-1/seq-4/>
Applications for U.S. Passport; Passenger and Crew Lists; Draft Registration Card (12 Sept 1918); Jefferson County Marriage Records; death certificates; and, U.S. Census 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940, Ancestry.com
“Buys Home for Daughter,” The Paducah [Ky.] Sun (26 January 1905): 8. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Library of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052116/1905-01-26/ed-1/seq-8/
“Christine Duncan Bradley South,” FindAGrave.com https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/8882777/christine-duncan-south
“Christine Bradley South,” [South-Willis House, 505 Wapping Street, Frankfort, Kentucky], Digital Map for Kentucky Votes for Women Trail, H-Kentucky. H-Net.org: Humanities and Social Sciences Online. https://networks.h-net.org/christine-bradley-south
"Christine Bradley South Helped Her Father Win," The Breckenridge News [Cloverport, Ky.] (18 March 1908): 3. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Library of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86069309/1908-03-18/ed-1/seq-3/>
“Christine South,” 956 in Caron's Louisville (Jefferson County, Ky.) City Directory, Vol. LXXIII 1946-47. Cincinnati, OH: Caron Directory Co., Inc., Pub., 1947.
"Cornerstone Laid," The Frankfort [Ky.] Roundabout (23 June 1906): 4. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Library of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86069848/1906-06-23/ed-1/seq-4/>
"County Schools of Citizenship Are Now Being Planned, Women's Clubs Plan Schools of Citizenship in Every County Seat in Kentucky to Educate the Women," The Public Ledger [Maysville, Ky.] (30 Sept. 1919): 2. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Library of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85038022/1919-09-30/ed-1/seq-2/>
"Flemingsburg Hears Equal Rights President," The Public Ledger [Maysville, Ky.] (12 May 1917): 4. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Library of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85038022/1917-05-12/ed-1/seq-4/>
Hatter, Russell. “South-Willis House,” 18 in A Walking Tour of Historic Frankfort. Russell Hatter and Gene Burch, 2002.
“KERA resolution denounces radicals picketing the White House and protesting President Wilson’s speeches,” KWSP Digital Timeline, H-Kentucky, H-Net.org (22 July 2018). https://networks.h-net.org/node/2289/discussions/2091273/kera-resolution-denounces-radicals-picketing-white-house-and
"'Home and Hoover' G.O.P. Watchword: Women's Leader of Frankfort, Ky., Issues Call to Her Sex in Address," Evening Star [Washington, D.C.] (8 Nov. 1932): 4. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Library of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1932-11-08/ed-1/seq-4/>
"Hoover Gets 29 Votes in Kentucky: State to Send Instructed Delegation to Convention with No Second Choice," Evening star. [Washington, D.C.] (6 April 1928): 3. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Library of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1928-04-06/ed-1/seq-3/>
“Mrs. Christine Duncan Bradley South,” DAR ID. Number: 126578, Daughters of the American Revolution Lineage Books, Ancestry.com
"Mrs. Christine Bradley South," Wood County Reporter [Grand Rapids, i.e., Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.], (2 September 1920): 1. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Library of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85033078/1920-09-02/ed-1/seq-1/>
“Mrs. Christine Bradley South…” Daily Public Ledger [Maysville, Ky.] (17 April 1911): 3. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Library of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86069117/1911-04-17/ed-1/seq-3/>
“Mrs. Christine Bradley South…” Evening Star [Washington, D.C.] (23 January 1924): 3. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Library of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1924-01-23/ed-1/seq-3/>
"Mrs. Christine South Candidate for Council in Frankfort," Richmond [Ky.] Daily Register (9 July 1921): 6. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Library of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86069168/1921-07-09/ed-1/seq-6/>
"Proclamation to the Organized Women of Kentucky" The Public Ledger [Maysville, Ky.] (29 October 1917): 1. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Library of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85038022/1917-10-29/ed-1/seq-4/>
"Republican State Convention," The Adair County News [Columbia, Ky.] (10 March 1920): 4. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Library of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86069496/1920-03-10/ed-1/seq-4/>
"She Forgot; or She Flopped - Which!" The Mt. Sterling [Ky.] Advocate (26 October 1920): 7. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Library of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86069675/1920-10-26/ed-1/seq-7/>
South, Christine Bradley. "A Card," The Central Record [Lancaster, Ky.] (05 April 1917): 6. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Library of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86069201/1917-04-05/ed-1/seq-6/>
South, Christine Bradley. “President’s Report: November 27th, 1917,” 10-14 in Reports of the Twenty-Eight and Twenty-Nine Annual Conventions of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association Held at Lexington, Kentucky, November 30th and December 1st, 1917 and at Louisville, Kentucky, March 11th and 12th, 1919. [n.p., n.d.] Available online at the University of Kentucky Special Collections and Research Center’s ExploreUK at https://exploreuk.uky.edu/catalog/xt7w3r0pvw3d_1#page/11/mode/1up
“Speakers and Entertainers at the 1928 Republican National Convention,” The Political Graveyard. Ann Arbor, MI. <http://politicalgraveyard.com/parties/R/1928/speakers.html>
"Visit to National Headquarters Interesting," Evening Star [Washington, D.C.] (23 October 1938): 49. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Library of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1938-10-23/ed-1/seq-49/>
"Woman Journeys Five Days to Cast Vote for Hoover," Evening Star [Washington, D.C.] (14 June 1928):26. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Library of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1928-06-14/ed-1/seq-26/>
"Women Crashed Political Gate," New Britain [Conn.] Herald (15 June 1928): 14. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, Library of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82014519/1928-06-15/ed-1/seq-14/>
N.B. This post supports the collection of bio-sketches for the Kentucky Woman Suffrage Project. An edited version of this essay will be published as part of a database on U.S. suffragists in Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1600-2000 (Alexander Street Press).