WEST VIRGINIA SUFFRAGISTS AN ONLINE EXHIBIT EXPLORING SUFFRAGE IN THE MOUNTAIN STATE

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment to the U. S. Constitution (granting women the right to vote), and the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (enforcing voting rights for racial minorities), the WVU Libraries are planning a major art exhibition for fall 2020 at the Downtown Campus Library around the political process with special attention to efforts to suppress the votes of women and minorities since 1920. In preparation for this endeavor, we take a look at some of the early crusaders of suffrage in our state of West Virginia. For information on the upcoming exhibit, visit https://exhibits.lib.wvu.edu/gallery_undefeated. For information on more suffragists, visit the Online Biographical Dictionary of the Women’s Suffrage Movement in the United States.

Photo: Women's Suffrage League, West Virginia University (West Virginia & Regional History Center, 1920)

 

"RUBBER NECK SUFFRAGETTES," WOMEN'S SUFFRAGE AND THE CONTROVERSY AT WEST VIRGINIA'S 1913 GOLDEN JUBILEE

Written by Lori Hostuttler, Assistant Director & Digital Projects and Outreach Archivist, WVRHC (2016). This was originally published in 2016 on the WVU Libraries Blog.

In 1913, festivities were planned in cities across the state to mark the grand occasion of celebrating West Virginia's 50th birthday. The two-page Wheeling advertisement caught my eye because of the imagery and especially the slogan, “Roll Around a Week in a Square Town.”

 

"WHAT WAS A "RUBBER NECK SUFFRAGETTE?"

It boasts that the Golden Jubilee in Wheeling will be the “Greatest Celebration Ever Held in the Ohio Valley.”  As I looked it over, I noticed that the last item in the schedule of events on the second page advertised “Burlesque and Fantastic Parades” and in all caps, “DON’T MISS THE RUBBER NECK SUFFRAGETTES.” I was intrigued.  What was a “rubber neck suffragette?” I thought maybe it was a musical group or some kind of slang term that I had not heard of before.

 

I did a quick Google search.  The top result linked to a news item. I had stumbled upon a controversy.  Suffragists were outraged about a proposed burlesque “rubber neck suffragette” parade and threatened a boycott of the Semi-Centennial festivities.  A news service had picked up the report and it made it into a Boston paper.  To find out more about the story, I went to the local Wheeling newspapers on microfilm at the Center.  I found one article that directly addressed the situation. Noted West Virginia suffragette Dr. Harriet B. Jones declared the parade “an insult to every woman in the state.”  A large women’s suffrage parade had taken place in Washington, D.C. only a month before.  This event appeared to lampoon it. Women’s rights advocates in Wheeling were angry about the reflection of their “cause and their sex.”  Suffragists demanded that the parade be immediately removed from the program.

 

The unknown author of the Daily News article doubted the intention of the parade was to demean womankind and stated that the “native chivalry of true West Virginians is too deep-rooted to permit of such a travesty on the fair sex and I am sure that it will not permit such a parade to be allowed to take place.”  A working girls parade would take place instead. And thus, it appears that the “rubber neck” parade was scrapped. No further mentions were found in Wheeling newspapers.  The WVRHC holds the official program of the Semi-Centennial as well as other souvenir books from the celebration, but none lists such an activity.  Perhaps this was a small victory for West Virginia suffragists, but they still faced judgement in the local newspapers. The day following the publication of “The Ways to Go” cartoon, the Wheeling Register printed a letter to the editor from “A Suffragist Tho’ Married” who objected to the cartoon saying it was “direct slap at all suffragists and decidedly in error.” She asks “are all married women happy?” and “do all you men insist that marriage and suffrage cannot walk hand in hand?”  The letter write also notes that the Register had been progressive, but not on this issue.  She implores them to change. Changing the anti-suffrage mentality was a state and nationwide challenge. 1913 had begun as an encouraging year for West Virginia suffragists when the House of Delegates passed a state women’s suffrage amendment. 

 

"THE WAYS TO GO"

 

In the cartoon accompanying the letter to the editor in the Wheeling Register, May 26, 1913, the suffragette embraces Cupid.

Unfortunately, the amendment did not have the support in the State Senate and so it went no further. The same amendment returned and passed both houses in 1915 but failed as a statewide constitutional referendum with two-thirds of the fifty-five counties rejecting the amendment.  Finally, in 1920 the West Virginia legislature ratified the national constitutional amendment granting women the right to vote.  The “Rubber Neck Suffragettes” controversy turned out to be only a small battle in the long and hard fought crusade for women’s suffrage. 

Please note the WVRHC Printed Ephemera collection includes pamphlets, brochures, isolated periodical issues, news clippings, event announcements and programs, and advertisements.  The materials were primarily published from the late 19th century to the present.  The Center is selectively digitizing items from the collection and building an online index.

The Center also has an extensive collection of West Virginia Newspapers. Much is available on microfilm at the Center, but portions of the collection have been digitized and made available through the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America project.

 

CORALIE FRANKLIN COOK

"Coralie Franklin Cook (1861-1942) was born into slavery and eventually became the first descendant of a Monticello slave known to have graduated from college. She graduated from Storer College in Harpers Ferry, W.Va. in 1880. She later taught elocution and English at the college and then taught at Howard University. Cook was also known for her activities relating to the Civil Rights Movement" (West Virginia & Regional History Center).

She was a founder of the National Association of Colored Women and a committed suffragist.  About 1910, the Cooks became followers of the Baha'i faith.  A longtime friend and admirer of Susan B. Anthony, she eventually became disillusioned by the women’s suffrage movement, feeling it had “turned its back on the woman of color.” (Jefferson Monticello)

Photo: Coralie Franklin Cook (West Virginia & Regional History Center)

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ADA ENID HALDEMAN

"Ada Enid Haldeman was a West Virginia state leader in the Women's Suffrage Movement to ratify the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, giving the women the right to vote. She was also president and founder of the Women's Suffrage League in Taylor County" (West Virginia & Regional History Center).

Photo: Ada Enid Haldeman (West Virginia & Regional History Center)

 

LENNA LOWE YOST

"Lenna Lowe Yost became the first woman to preside over a Republican state party convention when she presided over that party's convention in West Virginia in 1920. A graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan and former WVU Law student, Yost was Director of the Women's Division of the National Republican Party and spoke regularly on the role of women to take an active part in politics. She led the drive to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women the vote" (West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History).

Photo: Lenna Lowe Yost (West Virginia & Regional History Center)

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IZETTA JEWELL BROWN MILLER

"Widow of Congressman William Brown from West Virginia and the first woman to second a presidential nominee in a major party (1920) and also the first woman south of the Mason-Dixon line to run for the United States Senate, losing the West Virginia Democratic Party nomination to Matthew Neely by only 6,000 votes in 1922" (West Virginia & Regional History Center).

Photo: Izetta Jewell Brown Miller (West Virginia & Regional History Center)

 

HARRIET B. JONES

"Dr. Harriet B. Jones was the first woman licensed to practice medicine in West Virginia in 1885 and the first woman to be elected to the House of Delegates in 1924. Jones was a noted leader of the women’s rights movement, serving as an officer in the West Virginia Equal Suffrage Association" (West Virginia & Regional History Center).

Photo: Harriet B. Jones (West Virginia & Regional History Center)

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MABEL HOGGARD

"Mabel Hoggard was the first black teacher employed by the state of Nevada. As a primary teacher, she taught at Westside Elementary, Matt Kelly, Highland, and C.V.T. Gilbert schools in Las Vegas from 1946 through 1970. She graduated cum laude with a bachelor of science in elementary education from Bluefield State Teachers College in Bluefield, West Virginia. (One Nevada Encyclopedia).

While living in Williamson, West Virginia, in the era of segregated schools, Hoggard registered to vote. While doing so, someone made a racist comment, saying they hoped they wouldn't allow African Americans in the Democratic Party. This prompted Hoggard to become a Republican, however, the school janitor told her to "Contribute to the Democratic Party or lose your job."Both Hoggard and another African American teacher lost their jobs for not following, but 40 other African American teachers contributed and kept their jobs. This led Hoggard to become the first African American writer for the Williamson News and the first African American staff person for the Williamson Housing Authority. Hoggard also worked in the State Republican Party of West Virginia. Subsequently, she moved to Nevada, where she became a teacher and a school was named after her which still operates today as Mabel Hoggard Math and Science Magnet in Las Vegas (West Virginia and Regional History Center).

Photo: Mabel Hoggard (MabelHoggard.net)

 

WVU LIBRARIES

The WVU Libraries encompasses seven libraries: the Downtown Campus Library, Evansdale Library, Health Sciences Library (Morgantown), Law Library, Health Sciences Library (Charleston), Mary F. Shipper Library at Potomac State College, Beckley Library at WVU Institute of Technology, and West Virginia and Regional History Center. Our collections include more than 1.8 million books, 400,000 eBooks, and 117,000 eJournals.

The Art in the Libraries program enriches the connection between WVU Libraries' collections, library services and new ways of seeing, learning, and understanding. For more information visit exhibits.lib.wvu.edu.

Created by Erin Fields, December, 2019, for West Virginia University Libraries.

 

©2019 by West Virginia Suffragists: An Online Exhibit Exploring Suffrage in the Mountain State.

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