Melanie Beals Goan, The 'Argument of Numbers': Laura Clay and the Failure of the Kentucky Plan, Ohio Valley History 20 (Spring 2020): 9-29.

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Author: Melanie Beals Goan 

Title: The 'Argument of Numbers': Laura Clay and the Failure of the Kentucky Plan

Publication: Ohio Valley History 20 (Spring 2020): 9-29.

N.B. This issue is available for a short time online, free and open via The Filson Historical Society website:

This article focuses on Laura Clay's work to build the suffrage movement in Kentucky. As president of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association and a member of the Executive Board of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, Clay devised what came to be known as the "Kentucky Plan." Clay's strategy relied on increasing membership in the state organization by eliminating dues and creating a "lifetime membership" category of fundraising. Problems with this plan were identified by Clay's peers but ignored: the argument of higher numbers in the suffrage clubs did not convince her male legislators that their female counterparts wanted the franchise. The author also argues that Clay's "Kentucky Plan" did not reach far enough into rural areas, into the working classes or across racial barriers for true engagement in the movement. Clay's own predeliction to mobilize white women openly at the expense of black women's rights also denied important sources of powerful support for the cause. The article's author Melanie Beals Goan, PhD is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Kentucky. Her research focuses on twentieth century U.S. and Kentucky history. Her first book, Mary Breckinridge: The Frontier Nursing Service and Rural Health in Appalachia (U. of N.C. Press, 2008) reflects her interest also in the history of health care and sciences. She is working with the University Press of Kentucky and the Kentucky Woman Suffrage Project to publish in the fall of 2020 her next book, A Simple Justice: Kentucky Women Fight for the Vote.

This post supports the collection of resources for the Kentucky Woman Suffrage Project's Annotated Bibliography - see the full list of KWSP's primary, secondary and tertiary sources here: