Women’s Suffrage in Oklahoma
Interpreting Claims: Newspaper Article
Women of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries felt pressure to live by certain cultural and social standards. Some women found these expectations to be confining, especially when it came to the ability to file for divorce.
Mrs. Jane Welsh-Strong and her husband agreed to file for divorce by claiming her freedom under the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery. Mrs. Welsh-Strong argued that because her husband was not making any money, being a stay at home wife in a home with no means was involuntary servitude.
The Thirteenth Amendment reads as follows:
“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
Read the excerpts below from a 1909 newspaper article published by the Curtis Courier, a local Oklahoma newspaper, that outline Mrs. Welsh-Strong’s arguments.
“I have to work all the time. I don’t get any money for it. My husband can’t make much money.”
“Its terrible to have to bring children into the world and know that you won’t have money enough to care for them and educate them and give them a right start in life. That’s what I call slavery. Wasn’t that one of the strongest points against slavery, that mothers were forced to see their children brought into this world without a future for them?”
“Men seem to think that washing, scrubbing, taking care of a house without means; worrying about bills you can’t pay, wanting clothes you can’t get, wishing the very best for your children, and knowing they can’t have it— men don’t see that as slavery.”
Answer the questions below.
- What is your reaction to reading these quotes?
- What is the connection between the Thirteenth Amendment and women’s rights? Why is this woman using it as grounds for divorce?
- How do you think the era of suffrage was influenced by the Civil War?
Incorporating Historical Evidence: Writing Prompts
Answer the following open-ended questions with examples from the e-exhibit.
- Why were people opposed to women gaining the right to vote?
- How did World War I affect the suffrage movement?
- What role did racial prejudice play in the suffrage effort?
- How did the temperance movement affect suffrage?
Reading Critically: Image Contrast
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines propaganda as “ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one's cause or to damage an opposing cause.”
Evaluate the two posters below and answer the following questions.
- What message is each poster trying to convey? What evidence is there to support your opinion?
- How does each poster fit the definition of propaganda?
- Why are images a powerful tool to influence people?
- What are the positives and negatives of looking at propaganda posters?
- Explain how you develop a balanced view of an issue.
Reflection: Primary Source Activity
The anti-suffragists made appeals to congress just like the suffragists. The National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage wrote the article below, outlining their position. Read and answer the following questions.
- What is your reaction to reading this article? What specific evidence from the text supports your feelings?
- Did anything surprise you about the anti-suffrage position? Explain.
- Do you agree with anything from the text? Do you disagree with anything from the text? Explain.
A woman holding a suffrage banner (image courtesy of the Library of Congress.)25
Constructing a Presentation: Create Your Own Banner
Suffragists commonly used banners to advertise their message during demonstrations. This was an effective way of spreading their ideas and arguments for equal suffrage. Look below to see examples of suffrage banners.
Myrtle McDougal (standing on left) with Democratic National Committee members (image courtesy of the Library of Congress).19
Photo of a suffrage banner (image courtesy of the Smithsonian).26
Two women holding banners (image courtesy of the Library of Congress).27