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Advancing the Race of African-Americans

February 5, 2013 in 1920s-30s, Social history

Nearly all the laws manifested in racial segregation were enacted in the late 1800s. The Jim Crow laws replaced the Black Codes once society transitioned from one dominated by slavery and farming to a modern one with burgeoning cities and suburbs. Along with it, the infamous 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case was put in place, upholding the separate but equal doctrine. Although slavery seemed to be dying down, the fight for equality was far from over.

“The help”

By the turn of the 20th century, African-Americans were working in homes or taking on other forms of manual labor away from the countryside. Many women worked as maids or “help” as portrayed in The Maid Narratives. At this point, these women were no longer required to live with their employers and often had families of their own or held a second job. Interestingly, young white children learned many life lessons and grew close to their African-American caretakers. Segregation and racial inequality were usually learned through a parent’s scolding or observations in daily life. In addition, “the help” was sometimes seen as part of the family and the white women of the home even looked to them for advice and reassurance.

Despite the slight improvement in the treatment of African-Americans in society, many were still left unsatisfied.  In the Great Migration of the early 1900s, millions of African-Americans left the South for a better life in cities of the North, Midwest, and Western parts of the United States. Wages were often higher in these areas and there were more opportunities for upward mobility, especially in industry work. Racial prejudices were also less severe in places outside of the South, allowing for the growth of “Black metropolises” that included newspapers, jazz clubs, churches, and businesses serving as havens for ambitious African-Americans.

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

Around this time, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was established with a mission “to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination.” Focusing on issues such as the disenfranchisement of African-Americans, lynching, eliminating Jim Crow, and other civil rights matters, the NAACP was founded by a group of white and black men and women, including W.E.B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells, and Archibald Grimké. I think the most amazing part about this organization is how long it has remained in society. Since 1909, the NAACP has continued to voice concerns for all minorities, not just African-Americans. In fact, there is a chapter on early every college campus in America. Membership is open to people of any race and to anyone willing to make known the struggles faced by minorities still today.


“Great Migration (African American).” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 02 Apr. 2013. Web. 04 Feb. 2013.

“Jim Crow Laws.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 19 Jan. 2013. Web. 04 Feb. 2013.

“National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 02 Jan. 2013. Web. 04 Feb. 2013.

“Plessy v. Ferguson.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 02 Apr. 2013. Web. 04 Feb. 2013.

Van, Wormer Katherine S., David W. Jackson, and Charletta Sudduth. The Maid Narratives: Black Domestics and White Families in the Jim Crow South. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 2012. Print.

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.

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.

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