Woman suffrage came to the forefront of American political life in the early twentieth century, culminating in the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. But it had a much longer history, emerging from the anti-slavery groups of New England (1830s-1860s) and first realized in law in some of the country’s newer Western states (1870s-1890s).
It was only by the turn of the twentieth century that suffrage became a real concern of many Southern white women. But familiar attitudes of the region — especially regarding race and the role of the federal government in state affairs — made the suffrage fight something markedly different in states like Alabama.
This exhibit attempts to capture Alabama’s place in the woman suffrage movement, through presenting examples of Alabamians’ reflections on the national movement and local efforts to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment.
Content warning: Many of these pieces, in addition to having racist views about African Americans, use outdated language to refer to people of color. Such terms (which do not include slurs like the N-word) have been retained to accurately reflect historical attitudes.
Need some context? Visit the Resources page for a brief history of the national movement.
On the arguments of Suffragists and “Antis,” and how suffrage is entangled with other major concerns of the day: prohibition and world war.
On how maintenance of white supremacy becomes an important selling point for the movement, in the South and nationally.
On the formation and activities of the Alabama Equal Rights Association and its precursors, especially their role in the ratification fight.
On how militant suffragists shake up the movement; and how the battle for ratification is lost in Alabama but won nationally.
Want to learn and see more? Visit the Resources page for links to further reading and digital exhibits.
Curated by Kate Matheny (firstname.lastname@example.org), Outreach Coordinator, May 2020, based on a physical exhibit of the same name (March 2020).