The Role Of Women In Tennessee Elections

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The Role Of Women In Tennessee Elections Essay, Research Paper The Role of Women in Tennessee Elections In Tennessee in 1919 women were recruiting the votes of other women to vote for the first time. In Nashville, suffragists who had been working for many years for this right, hastily organized women to register and as part of their of the preparation for their first election, struck a rare alliance with African American women leaders. There was a political agreement between the two groups, white women suffragists and African American women leaders. Black women of Tennessee would turn out and vote and, in return, the white women would support a number of specific social services to the African American community. This was a practical, mutually satisfactory, and altogether

surprising alliance. This is an example of the effort it takes to break through racial barriers, to even limited, biracial cooperation. The Nashville alliance suggests that there was an alternative to the bitter race relations of the postwar years. This alternative was due to the development of African American women s organizations, which gained more influence because of the connections black women had with white women of the Methodist Women s Missionary Society. In a time where black men had already lost meaningful political influence as citizens, voters and members of the Republican Party, black women had taken an activist role, establishing programs in their communities and seeking allies to establish power in government. Black women joined suffrage ranks because they were

convinced it was important to vote in order to protect their interests and because the saw suffrage as a part of a strategy for racial progress. White suffragists started this alliance because they believed in suffrage as an important cause and because they, too, had a political agenda. The alliance between these two groups is odd for a number of reasons. During this time there were many racial problems. Many lynching and brutal assaults had occurred due to the racial problems that had accelerated by World War I. African Americans experienced hostility over their men wearing uniforms of the armed forces and because of black labor moving to the North. Whites during this time wanted to maintain supremacy, segregation, and racial inequality. Nashville had been the place of an

organized black protest of a lynching that had happened in the area, but Nashville had refused to recognize the march of two thousand blacks. The timing of the women s alliance was not the only thing that made it unusual. The question of what kind of effect the votes of African American women was raised many times. Southern opponents of woman suffrage feared that African American votes were a threat to white supremacy. White suffragists argued that demographics made the votes of African American women irrelevant, or that their votes could be dealt with in the same way that African American men s votes were. Southern suffragists thought that the race issue was a perfectly good reason to keep all women from voting. Most white suffragists did not consider blacks voting as part of

their campaign, only in Tennessee do white suffragists seemed to have joined an alliance with black women. Nashville was the center of African American middle class since reconstruction, so it was probably a logical place for this alliance. As a result, there were many African American churches and women in these churches insisted on an independent voice within their churches and community. Many African American women s club was also formed in Nashville and the leaders of these societies had an important role in forming the union between the two races. The issues that the African American women dealt with were many of the same issues that white suffragists were concerned about. These women raised funds for better schools, day-care centers for the children of working mothers,