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Citizenship – Emma Guy Cromwell

January 26, 2013 in 1920s-30s, Political history, Primary source

Emma Guy Cromwell wrote Citizenship to explain to teach recently franchised peoples the process and importance of voting. She believed that with the right to vote came great responsibility – the responsibility to vote with intelligence, to understand one’s rights and to exercise them with logic, reason, and intelligence rather than with blind passion. While Cromwell respected the passion of new voters and old voters alike, she recognized that passion can inhibit people’s rationale, and can be dangerous when spread to wide audiences. By combining the logic of suffragist groups and maternalist groups, Cromwell appealed to a larger audience and was able to reach more people.

Cromwell wrote this manual for the everyman (and everywoman). With clear language and great care, she explains what it means to be a citizen of the United States. She details how this nation functions, as well as the importance and qualifications for voting. She is unbiased, and gentle in her writing. She clearly has the best interest of the people at heart, and is dedicated to helping the people of the United States best serve their nation. Citizenship is exactly the thing she advertises – a manual for being a conscientious, dedicated, and proper citizen. In this manual, she explains how one can best make use of the rights, freedoms, and liberties provided to us by our government.

My father, a Veteran of the United States Air Force, has always expressed to me the concept of civic duty. I grew up knowing how important it was to pay your taxes in full, take your turn for the most insufferable stints of jury duty, and especially to vote. While my father stresses the importance of voting, he, much like Cromwell, passionately believes that the best kind of voter is an informed voter. If one is ignorant of their own rights, as guaranteed in the Constitution, they cannot, with due conscious, make decisions as important as voting. A voter must be informed, not only about their rights as citizens of this nation, but they also must be informed about current issues and policies in order to make the best possible decisions as they enter the voting booth.

Today, many young people are ignorant of the issues that plague our nation daily, and many are unconcerned with the infrastructure of our government. Emma Guy Cromwell fought against people like this – she fought for intelligent, informed, and passionate people who were dedicated to understanding the system they had the chance to be a part of. Today’s youth are both ignorant and indifferent to the fact that they have the right, and the responsibility, to take interest in the governing of our nation. Disinterested and misinformed or uninformed voters are a detriment to our nation, even today, and Cromwell’s Citizenship is a guide and a plea to these people to educate themselves and take part in the democratic system by which we are privileged to be governed.

by mookygc

Cromwell and Citizenship

January 26, 2013 in 1920s-30s, Political history, Primary source

In 1920, a booklet was published by a female activist named Emma Guy Cromwell. The booklet was entitled “Citizenship: A Manual For Voters“. I found Cromwell’s definition of citizenship quite accurate: “A citizen is one who has the rights and privileges of the inhabitants of the community, state and nation, and as a duty should equip himself so as to render the best citizenship possible.” The part of her definition I agree with the most is the specification that a citizen has a “duty to equip” themselves.

There are many ways I believe a citizen can be “equipped”. The most important of these, which Cromwell outlines, is the ability to educate oneself about your government. Cromwell states: “The citizen who does not possess some knowledge of his government and its workings will become a prey to the demagogue, or of individuals who are anxious to advance their own interest at the expense of the people.” It was important for women in the beginning of the twentieth century to be informed, because they were fighting for the right to vote, and voting without knowledge undermines the purpose of a government ruled by the people.

I have always believed that as citizens we are provided with so many rights and privileges, and as Cromwell states, it is our duty to give back to our government by informing ourselves and doing what we can to further promote democracy. I think that if you aren’t willing to do something to change a situation, you shouldn’t be allowed to complain about it, and we are lucky to live in a country that provides the right to speak our minds.


January 26, 2013 in 1920s-30s, Political history

Citizenship in the context of Kentucky women’s  history is a complex issue because it creates a division with women about their roles in society; namely whether women deserve the right to vote on a human rights basis, or whether, because women are mothers and have a different and natural sexuality to them that the voting booth is not a suitable place for respectable, gentlewomen.

In Emma Guy Cromwell‘s “Citizenship” she takes another look  into what  a women’s role is not only as it pertains to suffrage but also her role as a citizen of her country. While she speaks generally at first of more basic ideas such as naturalization versus  natural born citizens and the idea of civil rights that are available to all citizens of a nation, in reference to America specifically, she says,” Our country is a land of freedom and opportunity, and it is our duty to help uplift the government, and as citizens we must study  conditions and know how to govern and be governed. We must be familiar with our national and state Constitutions, for they are the fundamental principles by which we are governed. We must know how to make laws and how to have them executed. We must keep posted on the issues of the day, and know something of the standing and character of our public men and women” (Chapter 1). With this she calls men AND women to become better informed of the nation and its inner workings in order to be the best citizen possible. In that way all people can vote in the most educated maner.

This ties into other things that help to better classify citizenship. Among these are also the ability to give an informed vote, paying taxes and natural birthright to the nation. Cromwell identifies in  her introduction an interesting idea that women should be involved in the election process while still understanding their role as women. Said another way, women should utilize their vote to instill in Americans what the most important unit  is in America, the family in the home. With this, it can be seen that as long are women are informed (just as it would be assumed that men were) then their vote would  help them fit the mold as American citizens, just as their birthright and contribution to society grants them their citizenship.

In light of Cromwell’s ideas on the woman in the household, one could one could easily argue that with the women being mothers to the “great citizens of tomorrow,” as denoted in the  separate spheres theories in both America and Western Europe, that women’s contribution to society might even be greater to that of men because they are molding the minds of the future. That said, as long as American women remember that the unit of the home, offering intelligent and well-informed loyalty to the statehead, is the most important function of a woman, then the right for women to vote to extend their citizenship should be given. Overall, Kentucky women had a delicate balance to reach between their maternal expectations and their rights as US citizens.

Votes for Women

January 26, 2013 in 1920s-30s, Political history, Primary source

After reading Emma Guy Cromwell’s Manual for Voters, I now understand that my duty to vote is much more of a big deal than previously thought.

I already knew that voting is a right that comes with our citizenship to the United States and that it is important to take part in deciding who our leaders will be, but as a woman, I see that it is more important for me to take advantage of an entitlement that was once reserved solely for men.

The issue of women’s suffrage first gained recognition with the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention. At this landmark gathering of prominent women—including Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton—there was much discussion centered on the exclusion of women in society. Because the struggle for women’s rights was long-fought, I think it fitting to show appreciation for the perseverance and diligence these women had by participating in elections. It is a privileged to be able to vote and we as women should not ignore our past or be indifferent to the choosing of our country’s governors.

According to Cromwell’s Manual, our citizenship to this nation gives us many freedoms and protection from the government, but our relationship with America should not be one-sided. In exchange for the rights we are entitled to, we must do our duty by voting in return. Cromwell stated that, “we must be familiar with our national and state Constitutions.” I will not pretend that I know the Constitutions very well, but reading the Manual made me realize how important it is to stay informed when it comes to politics. When one is ill informed, it becomes more difficult to form a personal opinion or even understand the truth to “government and its workings.”

I think that many Americans do not have all the facts when it comes to making political decisions. Some choose not to participate at all or vote based on the little information they do know. I believe that it is important to stay objective when entering the political sphere because bias can easily sway one’s views toward a certain direction.

To conclude, I will end with a personal story. I voted in my first presidential election last November. I have always heard that one vote really does not make a difference in the outcome, but I still believe it does. I especially believed it when I watched the second inauguration of our president this past Monday. Seeing the man I voted for made me proud that I could be part of a milestone moment as a woman voter and as a citizen of the United States.


Cromwell, Emma Guy (1920). Citizenship: A Manual for Voters. Frankfort, Kentucky: Emma Guy Cromwell.



January 24, 2013 in 1920s-30s, Historical Decades

Citizenship by Emma Guy Cromwell is a pamphlet describing what it means to be a citizen of the United States and an overview of how our government works on local, state, and federal levels.  Cromwell stresses the importance of understanding the system to be better involved in the system.  The pamphlet is a guide to being a responsible citizen.


Cromwell strongly believes in the responsibility of voting.  She even writes

“Every citizen should study the ethics of his government, think for himself, and form his own opinion.

A person with no public opinion on public affairs is a coward and unpatriotic.”

Women have earned the right to vote and if they don’t utilize their right there is no point in having it.  As a responsible citizen, everyone should vote to express their opinion so the political leaders that are chosen represent the entire population.


Cromwell’s primary audience are new voters and since the 19th amendment was newly ratified, women were her main targets.  Cromwell believed that women should be rational when making political and public decisions, but should also consider their past experiences in the home.  Cromwell writes that

“…the chief end of all good government is to improve and protect the home, the church, and the community…”

With that idea, women would be perfect voters because they have the greatest experience in the home.  Approximately 27 million women were eligible to vote so the vote of women should greatly propel the nation.


Cromwell stresses that the United States Constitution is the supreme law.  On several occurrences she explains that the federal laws are above state laws.  Many states tried to keep women and African Americans from voting and this pamphlet taught new voters that the do in fact have the right to vote, regardless of what their state says.


The pamphlet has a four part call to action.  This call to action is directed primarily at women but includes all voters.  The first part is that everyone with the right to vote should.  Second, citizens should help manage public affairs and if they are elected, they should be ready to hold that office.  Her third point is that citizens should understand public questions so they can vote intelligently and criticize justly.  Finally, all citizens should pay their taxes.


Emma Guy Cromwell’s pamphlet was important at the time of publication to guide the new voters and citizens of the United States.  The information found in the pamphlet is still pertinent.  Some of the information is dated, however, chapters that give overviews of the government systems, particularly federal government, is still useful and many current citizens could learn a great deal about our system of government.

by emme23

Emma Guy Cromwell on Citizenship in the U.S.

January 24, 2013 in 1920s-30s

In Emma Guy Cromwell’s “Citizenship: A Manual for Voters” she argues that not only is the ability to vote a privilege, but also a necessity if one wishes to be a good citizen in American society.

At the time of publication, women had just been given the right to vote. It is likely that many women did not believe they needed to vote, or knew little about what voting entailed. This pamphlet was created not only to inform and educate readers about voting, but to also convince the audience that a proper citizen is a citizen who votes.

Cromwell stresses that one can only be a good citizen if they understand and participate in the government. She claims that it is an American’s civic duty to understand how the government works. The more a citizen knows, the better they are able to serve their country. Not only does she believe that a person who is unaware and does not participate in the government is an unfit citizen, but also that “a person with no opinion on public affairs is a coward and unpatriotic” (31).

Cromwell believes “if we enjoy the good things in this life without doing our part then we are cowards” (57). American citizens are given many privileges, taking the time to educate one’s self on how the government works and then voting is a small price to pay for what is received in turn. In other parts of the world people are forced to obey a government in which their opinion does not matter. “We are living in a democratic government which is a priceless heritage and a great blessing to mankind” (57).  The right to vote was not easy to earn – especially for women.  Americans should not only feel obliged to exercise this right, but should also be grateful for the opportunity.

The factual information in the pamphlet, in addition to the personal opinion, back up Cromwell’s belief that voters should be informed. There is a great deal of information on how local, state, and federal government work, as well as topics like voting registration and political parties. Her efforts to make this information easily accessible to the uninformed citizen reaffirm her dedication to the topic. Putting together a document such as this would have taken a large amount of time and research.

In 1920 there were 27,011,330 women voters who had been given a voice in the government for the first time. Hopefully, Cromwell’s words inspired them to follow in her footsteps and give back to the country they belonged to.

*** Sources ***

Cromwell, Emma Guy (1920). Citizenship: A Manual for Voters. Frankfort, Kentucky: Emma Guy Cromwell

US History: Roaring Twenties and Prohibition.” Wikibooks. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Jan. 2013.


January 23, 2013 in 1920s-30s, Social history

Citizenship by Emma Guy Cromwell


In Emma Guy Cromwell’s “Citizenship” she defines the rights and responsibilities of American citizens, placing particular emphasis on women.  In analyzing my personal views on citizenship, I easily drew parallels between the ideals of Cromwell and what I consider when defining citizenship.  Among these shared ideals are the importance of citizens’ personal dedication to being informed, the importance of exercising one’s right to suffrage, and the overall idea that citizenship must involve a heavy sense of responsibility alongside expected rights.

Cromwell suggests from the very introduction of her writing the importance of being an educated citizen.  This applies in particular to the vote, where the author commands intelligence and critical thinking.  Not only do I consider this a very important obligation to citizens, but one that is largely disregarded by many modern Americans.  Although in our modern society information is easily accessible, false information can be provided as easily as the truth.  Perhaps, Cromwell’s writing could be updated to suggest that citizens not only be informed, but be critical of the information they obtain, and explore alternate avenues of obtaining information to develop an unbiased opinion.

Furthermore, her overlying theme that citizenship denotes both privilege and responsibility directly corresponds to my own ideals.  If one is going to declare themself a true citizen, they must be a part of the democratic process.  Cromwell states that citizenship is not only about civil rights but political rights, and that citizens must uphold the government.  This idea holds true today. Responsibility lies within the hands of the people to control government through voting, but also through other forms of participation in the democratic process,such as voicing one’s opinion, protesting, and participating in civil disobedience. It means contributing to society by educating oneself, and being engaged in educating others.

For more information on Emma Guy Cromwell.

A Logical Explanation Against Voting Restrictions

January 23, 2013 in 1920s-30s, Political history, Primary source

Portrait of Emma Guy Cromwell

Emma Guy Cromwell

Our Declaration of Independence stated that “men are created equal” and that they are protected by the law and if the law, for some reason goes against these guaranteed rights, we as a people have the right to abolish the law. This was and is the foundation that our country is laid upon. However during the 1920’s these laws and rights that every U.S. citizen has seems to have been forgotten. Women and African Americans were not allowed to vote. While many sought to change this through peaceful and not so peaceful protests, showing the country how emotionally taxing not being a citizen can be, Emma Guy Cromwell sought a different approach. She set out to write a manual, entitled Citizenship, to tell the logical side of the story.

“Let us train ourselves for good citizenship and serve our nation, state, county, city and town in every way possible to make our government one of high ideals and the best in the world.” (47)

Cromwell formally states what is needed to be considered a citizen of the United States and the rights and privileges that come along with this. One of the privileges that she stresses is the right to vote. In fact she calls it “not just a privilege but something that is imposed by the law to be a good, active citizen” (45). In her opinion, voting allows us to make sure that our country is standing by what it said it would do for every citizen in the Declaration, and that if voting is restricted for some reason then our country has stopped becoming the place of freedom that it was meant to be.

As Cromwell looked at the world around her, she saw a place where these standards were not met. African Americans and women were not allowed to vote and actively participate in society. In her manual, though, she points out that these restrictions are against the law and should be changed immediately. Taking a logical rather than emotional approach, she shows in her manual why all citizens can and should vote.

“Men and women without regard to race, color, or social condition must take their turn exactly alike at the polling place” (45).

Many of the laws that were put in place during this time period were actually illegal according to the law. Laws such as having to be literate to vote and having to pay a certain polling tax are actually against the law. Cromwell logically explains why laws such as these are actually unconstitutional by stating the laws that govern whether or not someone is eligible to vote. Along with many other suffragists at the time, such as Laura Clay, Emma Guy Cromwell works to end the segregation and unlawful rules and regulations imposed on who can and can’t vote.



Cromwell, Emma Guy (1920). Citizenship: A Manual for Voters. Frankfort, Kentucky: Emma Guy Cromwell

Speech on Partial Suffrage (Kentucky Constitutional Convention, December 12, 1890). (2012, August 16). In Wikisource, The Free Library. Retrieved                       03:35, January 24, 2013, from title=Speech_on_Partial_Suffrage_(Kentucky_Constitutional_Convention,_December_12,_1890)&oldid=4021282

United States Department of State, “The Declaration of Independence, 1776, 1911.


January 23, 2013 in 1920s-30s, Political history, Religious history, Social history

Image of the pamphlet, Citizenship: A Manual for Voters by Emma Guy Cromwell

Citizenship: A Manual for Voters by Emma Guy Cromwell

Without question, the definition of citizenship is continuously modified in America to suit those who identify themselves as United States citizens. The residents of this nation have continuously sought out representation and have constructed a governmental institution for support and stability and thus guidelines developed regarding conduct within the nation. In Emma Guy Cromwell’s Citizenship: A Manual for Voters, citizenship largely refers to the duty of citizens to vote, particularly an appeal to women who had recently received the right. Additionally, women of this time were encouraged to have a political opinion and to apply their skills and abilities to aid the community. Today, citizenship encompasses similar trends which particularly parallel the history of women in Kentucky.  Today’s understanding of the term acknowledges civic activity while coming to relinquish national religious sentiments in order to uphold the rights of both genders recognized by the government.

Cromwell undoubtedly believed in the value of defining a model citizen in the effort to construct an ideal society. Her values however, included duties “to improve and protect the home, the church and the community” (Introduction). She includes men and women in this scope but does not neglect the inequalities in representation as she plainly states the division of labor within the state and national governments. Voting has been largely expanded since the publication of this document, however, the ideals Cromwell establishes hold much weight in today’s society in term of political apathy. When women earned the right to vote, Kentucky established the League of Women Voters which encouraged women “to use their new power to participate in shaping public policy”. While the discrepancy of Cromwell’s era fell among racial tensions, the complex issue today is separated by age groups. The youth are seen as the most likely group to invoke change in today’s society but also compose the most apathetic group. Cromwell suggests, “We are not patriotic unless we respond to the call of our government” and that “a person with no opinion on public affairs is a coward and unpatriotic” (Chapter V). Citizenship is recognized as the “rights to have rights” (Citizenship in the United States) and encompasses the duty of all eligible people to exercise their political rights including the power of electing officials.

Portrait of Emma Guy Cromwell

Emma Guy Cromwell

Furthermore, an emphasis on strong community involvement and an encouraged plea to promote relevant global issues has taken root in addition to the existing promotion of local civic issues. Environmental concern has been factored into the national political agenda today and has also come to be part of the definition of citizenship as the right of a citizen to take up interest in issues of national concern. For example, the Women’s Environment and Development Organization promotes women who “are empowered as decision-makers and leaders, especially in environmental and sustainable development arenas”.

Most notably, Cromwell consistently acknowledges the governmental body’s commitment to religion as it should defend the church. She explains, both the state and national conventions are “opened with prayer” (Chapter VI). This has largely been abandoned in today’s definition of citizenship because the ideal citizen would respect the differences that define Americans and various communities. Kentucky’s government, in particular, has revised its documents to acknowledge and respect the separation of church and state especially as it pertains to the sector of public education, to which all students are entitled. (See Constitution of the Commonwealth of Kentucky).


Cromwell, Emma Guy (1920). Citizenship: A Manual for Voters. Frankfort, Kentucky: Emma Guy Cromwell.

History, League of Women Voters of Kentucky

Women’s Leadership, WEDO


New Women of Kentucky

September 21, 2010 in 1920s-30s, Political history

Starting in the 19th century and continuing all the way up until today, women have been creating and demonstrating themselves in ways that are new to a society historically dominated by men. These new women of the mid to late 19th century and early 20th century have shown themselves to men across America, that they can be an independent, intelligent and powerful force. Certain women believed that the lifestyle of a submissive, quiet housewife was not the life they wanted to live. Emma Guy Cromwell and Mary Elliott Flanery from Kentucky were two of these new women.[1]

Historical Marker about Mary E. Flanery at Elliott Hall, 2716 Panola St., Catlettsburg, KYThese women believed that they were capable of contributing more to their communities. They wanted to provide service and influence positive change throughout the region, including the continued suffrage of women. Flanery sought a higher education and was able to attend Barbourville College in West Virginia and the Agricultural and Mechanical College in Lexington Kentucky.  She was forced to fight a gender barrier while seeking a higher education because at the time it was rare for young women to attend college, let alone two different colleges that were mostly filled with men. Flanery also participated in several women’s clubs, which were positive for all women involved. They were able to go out into the community and make a difference with the work by clubs such as Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.) and the Cattlesburg Women’s Literary Club. By helping other women become more independent through education, Flanery was making a difference with these clubs. Mary Flanery also demonstrated her will to improve women’s disposition in Kentucky by involving herself in political life. She became the first women in the Kentucky legislator just one year after women received the right to vote in 1921.

Emma Guy Cromwell

Emma Guy Cromwell

On the other side of the state Emma Cromwell was also doing everything she could to raise the social, political and importance of women in Kentucky society. She too sought higher education and left her home in Kentucky to travel to Gallatin, Tennessee to attend Howard Female College and shortly after completion began teaching school back in Scottsville, Kentucky. She adamantly participated in women’s clubs like D.A.R., Y.W.C.A. and the Parent Teachers Association (P.T.A.) and was elected to state librarian 24 years before women could even vote in 1896. Cromwell pursued a political career after the death of her husband and became the first women to be elected to a statewide position when in 1923 she became the secretary of state for Kentucky and in 1927 she became the first women to be the state treasurer. Both of these women were dedicated to making women of both Kentucky and the United States more prominent, intelligent and important through club work, the spread of education and the ability to reach out to numerous women across the state due to their political careers.

[1] Rebecca S. Hanly, “Emma Guy Cromwell and Mary Elliott Flannery: Pioneers for Women in Kentucky Politics,” Register of the Kentucky Historical Society 99 (Summer 2001), 289.

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