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Read The History of Woman Suffrage Volume VI Part 49

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Since 1910 Mrs. Woodworth had kept the question of woman suffrage continually before the State Federation of Women’s Clubs and in all organizations of women there was an increasing interest in legislation, especially for the benefit of women and children, and they were seeing the necessity of the ballot as a means of attaining it. Meanwhile most of the States west of the Mississippi River had enfranchised their women and for months before the Legislature convened in 1917 letters and telegrams came in announcing that former foes had become friends, many of them offering to help the cause.

Woman suffrage was the first subject discussed when the Legislature convened. The resolution to submit an amendment was championed in the Senate by Senators Fred Tucker of Ardmore, John Golobie of Guthrie, Walter Ferguson of Cherokee and many others. In the House among the most earnest supporters were Paul Nesbitt of McAlester and Bert C.

Hodges of Okmulgee. The vote in the Senate February 2 was unanimous and in the House March 17 was 75 ayes, 12 noes.

Women over the State watched anxiously the action of the Legislature and many were in attendance. Mrs. Stephens, Mrs. Frank Mulkey of Oklahoma City and Mrs. Robert Ray of Lawton were especially active but the chief credit belongs to Mrs. Frank B. Lucas, legislative representative of the Federation of Women’s Clubs, with wide experience in legislative procedure. Mrs. Woodworth and Mrs. Lucas had acted as committee for the State suffrage a.s.sociation, which now merged with the campaign committee.

The campaign was made particularly difficult by the fact that Governor Robert L. Williams, Attorney General S. P. Freeling and the chairman of the State Election Board, W. C. McAlester, all Democrats, were avowed and active anti-suffragists, notwithstanding the party had declared in State convention in favor of the amendment. Encouraged by eastern women an Anti-Suffrage Committee was formed with Mrs. T. H.

Sturgeon chairman and Miss Maybelle Stuard press chairman and speaker, both of Oklahoma City. Other women prominent in the movement were Miss Edith Johnson, of the _Daily Oklahoman_ and Miss Alice Robertson of Muskogee, who were very active in the distribution of the usual “anti” literature, attempting to link the suffragists with Germans and with the negro vote. Miss Charlotte Rowe of Yonkers, N. Y., representing the National Anti-Suffrage a.s.sociation, remained in Oklahoma during most of the campaign but their work was scattered and ineffectual.

The election took place Nov. 8, 1918, and the amendment received a majority of 25,428 of the votes cast on it. It had a majority of 9,791 of the highest number of votes cast at the election, a record that never had been equalled in any State. After the National League of Women Voters was organized at the convention of the National American Suffrage a.s.sociation in March, 1919, a State League was formed in Oklahoma with Mrs. Phil Brown of Muskogee chairman.

Report of Mrs. Shuler to the Board of the National American Woman Suffrage a.s.sociation on the Oklahoma Campaign.

Against the advice of the National Board with conditions adverse as they were in Oklahoma the legislative committee of the State Federation of Women’s Clubs and some members of the State suffrage board secured the submission of an amendment to the voters in 1917 and appealed for help to the National a.s.sociation.

It found that the Oklahoma a.s.sociation was not organized as in other States with the club as the unit but was composed of individual memberships and was not an auxiliary of the National a.s.sociation, not having paid dues for several years. After obtaining the submission there seemed to be a desire on the part of the women to waive all responsibility for the campaign, but they said that if the National a.s.sociation considered the winning of it a necessity to its program, it should a.s.sume the entire financial responsibility.

On Jan. 19, 1918, Mrs. Nettie Rogers Shuler, corresponding secretary and chairman of campaigns and surveys; Mrs. T. T.

Cotnam of Arkansas and Mrs. Charles H. Brooks of Kansas, directors of the National American a.s.sociation, reached Oklahoma City. Several conferences were held with the State board none of whose members could give all their time to the campaign, although two would work for salary and expenses. It was evident that a Campaign Committee must be formed and new groups interested, to which the board agreed. Forty-five women met at the Lee Huckins Hotel on January 21, adopted a plan for work and agreed to raise a budget of $25,000, Mrs. Shuler stating that no financial a.s.sistance from the National a.s.sociation could be given until the Board had taken action on her “survey” of conditions. Mrs. John Threadgill was elected chairman of the campaign committee with a salary of $100 a month and Mrs. Julia Woodworth, the former State secretary, was made executive secretary at a salary of $15 a week. Mrs. Frank B. Lucas, chairman of finance, agreed to raise the $25,000 necessary for the campaign with the understanding that she was to have personally 10 per cent. of the money raised.

She raised a little over $2,000 and resigned April 1.

An organization of young women was formed in Oklahoma City and State and city headquarters were opened in the Terminal Arcade.

Two organizers, Miss Josephine Miller who remained one week and Miss Gertrude Watkins who remained three weeks, were sent by the National a.s.sociation. Miss Lola Walker came January 30, Miss Margaret Thompson, a volunteer, and Miss Edna Annette Beveridge in February, all remaining through the campaign.

Mrs. Shuler left April 6 for South Dakota and Michigan, both in amendment campaigns. While in Oklahoma she had visited twenty-seven counties out of the seventy-seven and organization had been effected in thirty-two county seats; also the pa.s.sage obtained of a resolution by the Democratic and Republican State Committees not only endorsing but promising to work for the amendment. A Campaign Committee had been formed with representatives from seventeen organizations of men and women representing different groups with widely diversified interests.

Ten State vice-chairmen had been selected from different sections and eleven chairmen of active committees. Headquarters had been opened in Tulsa and Muskogee and others promised in the larger cities. A canva.s.s had been made of forty-six newspapers showing only five to be absolutely opposed. The State had been divided into ten districts and it was hoped that each might have the services later of an experienced national worker.

On April 17, 18, a meeting of the Executive Council of the National a.s.sociation was held in Indianapolis. The Board took action on Oklahoma, agreeing to give organizers, press work and literature to the amount of $13,650, provided the State would put two more trained organizers in the field immediately and raise the rest of the “budget,” about $11,000. Mrs. Threadgill attending this meeting and agreed to the plan.

On May 1 Miss Marjorie Shuler was sent by the National a.s.sociation to take entire charge of press and political work, and, to quote from Miss Katherine Pierce’s report, “to her effective work with the newspapers of the State was due in a great measure the success of the campaign.” Three hundred were supplied with weekly bulletins and two-and-a-half pages of plate, and the last week 126,000 copies of a suffrage supplement sent from national headquarters in New York were circulated through the newspapers. As a unit the suffrage organization was used for the 3rd and 4th Liberty Loans, and a statewide Unconditional Surrender Club, in which nearly 100,000 members were enrolled, was organized by Miss Shuler. In the face of these activities the men paid little heed to the charges of pacifism and lack of patriotism made against the suffragists by paid “anti” speakers sent in from outside the State.

May 1 found the Campaign Committee without funds and a meeting held in Oklahoma City early in the month pa.s.sed the following resolution: “On account of the unusual conditions prevailing at this time which have caused the Oklahoma State Campaign Committee to find itself unable to meet the expenses of the campaign, said committee does hereby dissolve and stands ready to cooperate in any way possible in any plans that may be evolved by the National Board, hoping for its continued aid and support and expressing warmest thanks and most earnest appreciation of the generous aid and a.s.sistance already given.” This resolution was unanimously carried, the committee dissolved and Mrs. Clarence Henley was made chairman, Mrs. Frank Haskell, vice chairman, Mrs. A..

Crockett, secretary, Mrs. Blanche Hawley, treasurer, and Mrs. C.

B. Ames, chairman of finance of a new one. As the State had not put in the two trained organizers, the National Board sent Mrs.

Mary K. Maule in April and Misses Alice Curtis and Doris Long in June.

One of the requirements by the National a.s.sociation if financial a.s.sistance were given was that States in campaign should secure signatures of women on pet.i.tions. At the meeting in January officers of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union agreed to take entire charge of this work but later decided that it might injure the chances for national prohibition. Its president, however, Mrs. Abbie Hillerman of Sapulpa, served as an advisory member of the Campaign Committee and with other members rendered valuable a.s.sistance. Under the direction of Miss Curtis 58,687 signatures were obtained.

In the meantime the Oklahoma City organization, which had for officers a group of young women, was dissolved and their headquarters given up. Money was needed to maintain State headquarters, which were an absolute necessity. In June Mrs.

Henley, the chairman, sent a financial plan to all county chairmen, asking for a certain sum from each county based on population, wealth, etc. Some county chairmen resigned, which was a discouragement to Mrs. Henley and to the national workers.

Early in July Mrs. Henley telegraphed her resignation to the National Board, stating that the campaign must go by default unless it would a.s.sume all financial obligation. Mrs. Catt, the national president, wrote urging her not to resign and stating that the National a.s.sociation would pay salary and expenses of all national organizers then in the field and would send other workers as needed, providing Oklahoma would finance its State headquarters and speakers’ bureau and meet the pledge made in April to pay salary and expenses of two workers. Mrs. Henley remained chairman; Mary Parke London and Sally f.a.n.n.y Gleaton were sent by the board in July; Alma in August and Isabella Sanders as headquarters secretary on September 1. Mrs. Shuler returned from New York and took over the campaign for the final two months, with headquarters in Oklahoma City.

All of the prominent suffragists in the State were doing war work…. There was a depleted treasury. The Campaign Committee was not able to pay for any workers in the field. Money was needed for rent, postage, telegrams, stenographers’ salaries, etc. It became necessary for Mrs. Shuler and the organizers, in addition to the detailed work of the campaign, to a.s.sume the financial burden as well. Mrs. Shuler gave her personal check for rent for August, September and October and with the national a.s.sistants in the field and by personal appeals raised $2,433.

From January 21 to November 5, 1918, there came into the State Campaign Committee’s treasury $4,993 and of this amount $2,559 were spent from January to June for salaries of Mrs. Threadgill, the chairman; Mrs. Woodworth, the secretary, and headquarters expenses. These funds were checked out on warrants signed by them and the checks signed by Mrs. Hawley, treasurer. From June to November $2,433 were raised and checked out on warrants signed by Mrs. Henley and checks signed by Mrs. Hawley for headquarters expenses–not a penny going for salary or expenses of any national worker. The sum of $79.92 remaining in the treasury at the end was turned over to the Ratification Committee.

The Tulsa suffragists opened headquarters, engaged an executive secretary and financed their own campaign. They also very generously paid nearly $500 for the suffrage supplement distributed through the State. There were other counties no doubt where money was spent locally, but no record was sent to headquarters. The National a.s.sociation expended nearly $20,000 in Oklahoma, the largest sum it had ever put into a State Campaign.

By September 1 it was paying salaries and expenses of eleven national workers.[149]

When the epidemic regulations forbade meetings of more than twelve persons, the suffragists resorted to all manner of devices for voiceless speech and 150,000 fliers with the wording of the amendment, directions how to vote and the warning that a “silent vote” was a vote against it were distributed by hand and through the mail. Other circularization, posting of towns at a specified date and newspaper publicity were pushed. Much political help was secured. Both Republican and Democratic State conventions pa.s.sed suffrage resolutions and preceding the Democratic nearly every county convention pa.s.sed such a resolution.

No work which the women did in the campaign was more effective than their election day appeal. Nearly every polling place had women watchers within and women scouts without. Whenever one party in any place denied women the privilege of watching, they secured appointments as regular watchers for the other party. An amendment to the const.i.tution of Oklahoma has to poll a majority of the highest number of votes cast in the general election. The “silent vote” is the term applied to the votes cast in the election but not on the amendment and which are counted against it. The task of arousing every man to such a degree of interest that he would remember to mark his ballot on the suffrage amendment seemed a hopeless task. Those who know the usual inattention given to any const.i.tutional amendment by the rank and file of voters can estimate how difficult it was to get a _majority of the ballots correctly marked_.

Early in September it was learned that the Elections Board, claiming that the Secretary of State had failed to supply the official wording of the amendment ninety days before election, did not intend to print the suffrage amendment. Through the efforts of Judge W. H. Ledbetter of Oklahoma City, who donated his services, this obstacle was overcome, and then further to increase the difficulties, the board decided to print the suffrage amendment on a separate ballot. In October it was found that soldiers had voted in seven camps but suffrage ballots had not been furnished them and thus hundreds were prevented from voting on the amendment, yet all of these were counted as voting in the negative! The attempt to hold back the returns and to get a new ruling on the meaning of the so-called “silent vote” are matters of history.

On Friday after election it became apparent to the State Elections Board that the suffrage majority was piling up and there was every evidence that the amendment had won. On it was reported that a member of the State Elections Board in Oklahoma City had called up some chairmen of county elections boards, asking that they open the sealed returns and send a second report counting from the “stubs,” which would include the mutilated and spoiled ballots, so as to increase further the number of the “silent votes.” At that time the suffrage headquarters had received returns from 63 out of 77 counties, showing a majority of 21,000 of the votes cast on the amendment, about 10,000 over the “silent vote.” The publication of these attested returns prevented any further attempt to get them from “stub” books. When all other resources failed, the anti-suffragists filed a protest against certification by the State Elections Board.

There were really two campaigns in Oklahoma–one to win the ballot and the other to hold it. Mrs. Shuler remained in the State until November 14. On that day the _Oklahoman_ printed the statement by Governor Williams that on the face of the returns so far suffrage had won.

Miss Beveridge, who had charge of one of the most difficult sections of the State and had carried it, remained in Oklahoma until December 3, when Governor Williams finally called for the suffrage returns and without certification by the Elections Board, proclaimed it carried. The vote stood 106,909 ayes, 81,481 noes, a majority of 25,428 votes on the amendment and of 9,791 over the total vote cast at the election. This latter requirement had always been counted on to defeat any measure that the party “bosses” did not want carried and the politicians now asked, “But where was the ‘silent vote’?” The answer came when a map of the State was shown almost obliterated with tiny red stars and they were told, “Every star represents a suffrage committee working since last January.” Organization had reduced the “silent vote”

to five per cent. and won the suffrage for the women of Oklahoma.

[End of Mrs. Shuler’s report.]

RATIFICATION. With the successful closing of the campaign the county chairmen answered the call of Mrs. Shuler to meet in Oklahoma City and formed a Ratification Committee to carry on the work of ratifying the Federal Suffrage Amendment when it should be submitted to the Legislatures. This committee was composed of Miss Katherine Pierce of Oklahoma City, chairman; Mrs. A. P. Crockett of the same city, treasurer, and Miss Aloysius Larch-Miller of Shawnee, secretary, with representative women from the State at large as follows: Mrs. Frank Haskell, Tulsa; Mrs. E. E. McPherron, Durant; Mrs. Walter Ferguson, Cherokee; Mrs. Robert J. Ray, Lawton; Mrs. Hardee Russell, Paul’s Valley. The county chairmen for the campaign were retained.

No active work was done until after the Conference of Governors in Salt Lake City in the summer of 1919, when the amendment had been submitted. At this conference the new Governor, J. B. A. Robertson, gave as a reason for not calling a special session to ratify, the great expense and the fear of untimely legislation but he consented to call one if these could be avoided. In September Miss Larch-Miller, a.s.sisted by Miss Marjorie Shuler, sent by the National a.s.sociation, asked the legislators to sign a pledge that they would attend a special session, serve without pay, consider no other legislation and vote for ratification. Pledges were signed by a majority of both Houses and presented to the Governor who made no answer. Several weeks later he addressed the State Federation of Women’s Clubs and again offered the same excuses.

In January, 1920, the Democratic Central Committee called county conventions of women to select delegates to a State convention of women to be held prior to the regular State convention. Many of these county conventions pa.s.sed a resolution requesting the Governor to call a special session and it was also adopted at the State convention of about 1,500 women. A number of the regular county conventions of men and women pa.s.sed it. Miss Larch-Miller attended the convention of her county, although she had been confined to her room for several days with influenza. She spoke strongly for the resolution and was opposed by the Attorney General, S. P. Freeling, one of the ablest orators in the State, but her enthusiasm and eloquence carried the day and it was adopted. The exertion proved too much for her frail body and the next night pneumonia developed and she gave her young life as the supreme sacrifice for the cause she loved.

The Democratic State convention met at Muskogee February 5 and Senator Robert L. Owen’s candidacy for President of the United States had developed to such an extent that he was its dominating figure. He insisted on a special session to ratify the amendment. Governor Robertson stated to the convention that because of its interest in Senator Owen’s candidacy he would call the session and he did so for February 23. President Wilson sent the following telegram on the 25th to the Speaker of the House: “May I not take the liberty of expressing my earnest hope that Oklahoma will join the other suffrage States in ratifying the Federal Suffrage Amendment, thus demonstrating anew its sense of justice and retaining its place as a leader in democracy?”

Mrs. Rufus M. Gibbs and Mrs. Mabel G. Millard, presidents of the Maryland and Iowa Anti-Suffrage a.s.sociations, sent urgent telegrams to defeat ratification, which were read to both Houses. Attorney General Freeling made a strong State’s rights argument against it but the resolution was finally pa.s.sed on February 27 by a vote of 84 to 12 in the House and the next day in the Senate by 25 to 13. Senators Fred Tucker of Ardmore and J. Elmer Thomas of Lawton sponsored it in the Senate and Paul Nesbitt of McAlester and Bert C. Hodges of Okmulgee in the House. Governor Robertson signed it February 28. Attorney General Freeling immediately started a pet.i.tion to refer this action to the voters. The decision of the U. S. Supreme Court that there could be no referendum of Federal Amendments ended this final effort.

The Ratification Committee, with a feeling of grat.i.tude to the National Suffrage a.s.sociation for the generous a.s.sistance that had been given to Oklahoma affiliated the State with this body and it was represented at the next national convention by a delegation of eight.

In 1920 Mrs. Lamar Looney was elected to the State Senate; Miss Bessie McColque to the House and Miss Alice Robertson to the Lower House of Congress.


[145] The History is indebted for this chapter to Mrs. Adelia C.

Stephens, president of the State Woman Suffrage a.s.sociation, and Miss Katherine Pierce, chairman of the Ratification Committee.

[146] History of Woman Suffrage, Volume IV, page 888.

[147] The following testimonial was gratefully offered: Mrs. Ida Porter Boyer by her tact and never failing kindness not only won the love of the suffragists of Oklahoma but the respect and confidence of all others who knew her. By her tireless energy and unselfishness she did a work which contributed very largely to the final success that came later. Signed, Kate H. Biggers, president State Suffrage a.s.sociation; Jence C. Feuquay, first vice-president; Adelia C.

Stephens, corresponding secretary; Ruth A. Gay, chairman finance committee.

[148] Other State officers through the years were Mrs. N. M. Carter, Mrs. Julia Dunham, Dr. Edith Barber, Elizabeth Redfield, Mrs. J. R.

Harris, Mrs. Narcissa Owen, Mrs. A. K. McKellop, Martha Phillips, Minnie O. Branstetter, Mrs. Roswell Johnson, Lucy G. Struble, Carrie K. Easterly, Kate Stafford, Dora Delay, Ellen McElroy, Edith Wright, Mrs. Lee Lennox, Mary G.o.ddard, Mrs. John Threadgill, Blanche H.

Hawley, Mrs. A. S. Heany, Mrs. Clarence Davis, Mrs. Carl Williams, Mrs. C. L. Daugherty, Mrs. John Leahy, Jessie Livingston Parks, Mrs.

N. McCarty, Louise Boylan.

District presidents and chairmen of committees: Dora Kirkpatrick, Janet C. Broeck, Elizabeth Burt, Ethel Lewis, Mrs. H. J. Bonnell, Mrs.

O. A. Mitscher, Mrs. C. C. Conlan, Effie M. Ralls, E. Irene Yeoman.

[149] Many ardent suffragists found they could not stand up against the statewide comment that the women should be doing only war work but the cooperation in many counties was splendid and there is not s.p.a.ce enough to name those who stood by throughout the struggle. To those already mentioned should be added Judge and Mrs. D. A. McDougal of Sapulpa, Mrs. Robert Ray of Lawton, Mrs. B. W. Slagle of Shawnee, Mrs.

Hardee Russell of Paul’s Valley, Mrs. Lamar Looney of Hollis, Mrs.

Francis Agnew of Altus, Mrs. Eugene B. Lawson of Nowata, Mrs. Annette B. Ahler of Hennessey, Mrs. Olive Snider of Tulsa. Among the men to be specially mentioned are James J. McGraw of Ponca City, member of the National Republican Committee; Tom Wade of Marlow, member of the National Democratic Committee; George L. Bowman of Kingfisher, Alger Melton of Chickasha, Colonel E. M. McPherron of Durant and Bird McGuire of Tulsa.


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