Campaigning for suffrage in Texas
Texas suffragists circulated more than 300,000 pieces of literature like these flyers as they campaigned for suffrage between 1913 and 1919.
Working with national leaders, the Texas Equal Rights Association developed a strategy to raise women’s suffrage to an active issue. The national and state suffrage associations produced a variety of materials — speeches, flyers, plays, pencils, posters, buttons, postcards, sashes — that individual women and local suffrage chapters could order to aid their campaigns. This standardized effort was critical in gaining widespread public support.
The suffrage associations were almost exclusively white and upper middle-class, and their tactics were frequently racist, elitist, and nativist in ways that excluded many women and played on the fears of Americans. Specifically excluded were women of color who still campaigned for suffrage, but through their own organizations. In Texas, flyers were chosen to highlight patriotism, democrary, the war effort, and self representation. One issue was American citizenship. In 1919, male immigrants were allowed to vote in Texas even if they were not yet full citizens. Legislators sought to stop this practice by proposing a law that would allow only full citizens to vote. Another issue was the concern among white voters that allowing all women to vote — including Afrcian American women — would tip the balance of power in favor of the South's black population. Flyers, newspaper articles, and speeches frequently addressed this issue, assuring white male voters that other laws were in place to keep African Americans from voting. They had nothing to fear by granting women full suffrage.
Over 9,000 women in Texas worked relentlessly on behalf of suffrage. They succeeded in gaining the vote for women in primary elections in 1918. Continuing their campaign, they worked for full suffrage on the state and national levels. Their bid for statewide full suffrage failed with voters in May 1919, but they successfully gained Texas’s ratification of the national Nineteenth Amendment on June 28, 1919. When the amendment granting full suffrage to women nationwide received final ratification in August 1920, Texas women were able to participate fully in elections.
Just as the suffragists promised, African Americans and other minority and lower income groups were blocked from full participation until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 made it illegal to keep voters from the polls.
Courtesy Jane Y. McCallum Papers, Austin History Center, Austin Public Library
Time Period: 1866 - 1936
Exhibit: Sister Suffragists
This artifact is currently on view.