One of the most useful books to have on your bookshelf is The Fascinating Story of Black Kentuckians: Their Heritage and Traditions, by Alice Allison Dunnigan (The Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History, 1982).
Here is her short biography of Kentucky activist Elizabeth R. Fouse (p. 374) under the section “Women in Politics.” We present this subsection in full for your consideration. It is curious to us to think that this great journalist – who broke so many barriers in her own profession – would give such an important woman’s biography a mere mention of a political appointment, and leave out so much more political work Fouse had taken on through the years. Is this an oversight on her part? The paucity of this entry is puzzling. What does Dunnigan know that she’s not telling us?
Elizabeth (Lizzie) Beatrice Cooke Fouse (1875–1952)
“Elizabeth R. Fouse, a prominent Lexington educator and club woman moved into the political arena as early as 1944 when she was appointed by Governor Simeon Willis to serve on the Kentucky Commission for the Study of Negro Affairs, a commission which he had recently created for the purpose of study the problems of black people.
“This group soon acknowledged that the greatest barrier to the advancement of colored people of Kentucky was segregation. It, therefore, recommended legislation to abolish Jim Crow practices. This included the abolition of segregation in transportation, an amendment to the State Day Law so that black students could attend professional and post graduate schools, and the inclusion of non-discrimination clauses in state contracts and public projects.
“Kentucky became the first state in the South to make any such recommendations.
“This bi-racial commission was co-chaired by J. Mansir Tydings and William H. Perry. The latter was Secretary of the Kentucky Negro Educational Association (KNEA) at the time. Robert E. Black, former Secretary of the Louisville Urban League was appointed Secretary.”
Why does Dunnigan choose to add the last three sentences highlighting three men’s names when the topic is women and the focus was to be on Fouse? Dunnigan left out so much of Fouse’s leadership and other political actions, e.g., her work with the NAACP, her leadership in founding a YWCA for black youth in Lexington (named after the poet Phyllis Wheatley) her founding of a segregated branch of Lexington’s WCTU (named after the abolitionist Sojourner Truth). Was this because she, like so many others, believed that descriptions of political actions could only entail electoral or commission work?
See more on Fouse in a Wikipedia article started by a History student at the University of Kentucky. The civic activism of this brave and intelligent Kentucky woman deserves a full-length biography to place her squarely in the middle of our state and national political history — a history that she helped to create.