Women's Suffrage: The Local Leaders

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After the Nineteenth Amendment passed at the federal level, many trailblazers continued their work at the local level to educate other women about their right to vote and convince them of the importance of exercising this right. While some outspoken women picketed lawmakers to ratify the amendment in state congressional sessions, other trailblazers quietly organized candidate debates for women, went door-to-door to register women and explain the voting process, or accompanied women to the polls to ensure their safety.

Bess W. Truman with Democratic Women, ca. 1950

Gladys Avery Tillett (right) with First Lady Bess
Truman (left) and other Democratic leaders,
ca. 1950 - National Archives

"I won't stop it"
- Gladys Avery Tillett

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Gladys Avery Tillett, future head of the Women's Division of the Democratic National Committee, organized a candidates meeting to expose some of the women in Charlotte, NC, to the platforms of the two men running for mayor of Charlotte in the early 1920s. Tillett, who had to use her husband as an intermediary to organize the event, notes that as the campaigns continued, the candidates preferred not to meet with women voters. The candidates expressed this sentiment to Tillett's husband who, she said, brought their message home to her and was silent as she made the decision to go forward with the meeting.

"Women weren't all
crazy to register"
- Kathrine Robinson Everett

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Kathrine Robinson Everett tells of the difficulty many women had with door-to-door voter registration efforts. To explain the process to other women, she says, they had to speak with women when their husbands weren't at home, and even then some women were not convinced they wanted to exercise their right to vote. Everett feels this may be related to the fact that women did not want to lose common courtesies like having doors opened for them, and in this Everett sees a parallel to the backlash against the Equal Rights Amendment of the 1970s.