You are browsing the archive for woman suffrage.

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.

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.


Women Using Business to Reach Equality

December 6, 2010 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, Economic history, Political history

An argument about how women would receive equality during the early 1900’s and before the beginning of the civil rights movement and the womens rights movment, some women believed it could be reached by acquiring equality in the finiancial world first. This meant women owning businesses, running bussiness and operating equally on an economic scale with the men in local society. This would be no easy task to accomplish, but many women continued to follow their dream until they either were respected wealthy women who were seen as equal to the men around them or until they failed and were forced to leave the business world for the common lifestyle led by most women in Kenucky during the first 70 years of the twentith century.

One such women that attempted and succeded at acquiring respect and equality among the men in her town of Kentucky was Nelda Barton-Collings from Corbin, Kentucky. With some help from her husband, the couple became wealthy and became owners of numerous businesses in Corbin. Once her husband died, she continued to control all of their businesses herself, but continued collaboration with a business partner that she and her husband had already been associated with prior to her husbands death. She was a natural leader and was the Republican National Committee Woman from Kentucky for 28 years and was the first woman to chair the Kentucky Chambers of Commerce. She recived no college schooling until after her husband passed, but learned mostly through the extended period of time in which she owned businesses. Today she owns with her business partner, nuring homes, newspapers, banks, and a pharmacy in the Corbin, Kentucky area.

Through business and economics, Nelda Barton-Collings was able to achieve equality in her daily life.  She is looked up to by many local women in the area and was able to live life as a equally respectable member in the community, not just as a women from Corbin, Kentucky whose husband owned a lot of businesses. She was able to distinguosh herself from the rest of the women in her town and raised herself above the norm for women from this time period.

Mary Elliot Flannery

October 13, 2010 in 1920s-30s, Intellectual history, Political history, Social history

          I have decided to do research on Mary Elliot Flannery, Kentucky’s and the south’s first female legislator.  After reading about her, I couldn’t help but wonder where the determination and the will to push through a campaign during a time in which women were not received well in politics or many other aspects of American society comes from?  It’s a significant reason why I chose her.  Also, she is a native Kentuckian and was a public school teacher, something I someday hope to relate to.

            Born in 1867 as Mary Elliot into an affluent family, she attended college at Barboursville College in West Virginia before completing her education at the University of Kentucky.  She then became a school teacher and married a man named William “Harvey” Flannery and moved to Pike County, Kentucky due to her husband’s job.  It was here where Flannery began her career as a writer, writing columns for the Ashland Daily advocating legislation for women’s rights.  Through her articles in the newspaper Flannery was able to muster support for her cause and by 1921, only a year after womens’ suffrage had become constitutional law, won a seat in the Kentucky House of Representatives by a 250 vote margin.  She continued her work in politics and journalism until her death in 1933 being an active voice for women in Kentucky, the south, and the entire United States.  She was a member of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association, the General Federation of Women club, Daughter’s of the Revolution, and founded a chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.  She also had an unsuccessful run at Secretary of State in 1923.  Keep in mind that she was able to accomplish all of this while raising 5 children!

            Mary Elliot Flannery was one of the most influential women of Kentucky and the civil rights and women’s suffrage movement.  Researching the life and work of such a prominent figure will help to highlight a hero and progressive leader of both the commonwealth and women’s history.

Laura Clay: Kentucky Suffragette

September 23, 2010 in 1920s-30s, Political history

Laura Clay was born into a wealthy family and was well educated but this did not separate her from leading a life of advocacy for all women during the sufferage movement.  Laura Clay was the daughter of Cassius Marcellus Clay, a prominent politician and was educated at the University of Michigan and the University of Kentucky.  It wasn’t until after her parents divorced leaving her and her sisters homeless that she decided to join the women’s rights movement.

So in 1888 she and a woman named Josephine K. Henry founded the Kentucky Equal Rights Association.  Clay served as the association’s president until 1912 before being succeeded by her cousin and also well known Kentucky women’s rights activist Madeline McDowell Breckenridge.

During her time with the Kentucky Equal Rights Association Clay was able to establish some great milestones for women in the state of Kentucky.  Some examples are  protecting married women’s wages and property, requiring state women’s mental hospitals to have female doctors on staff, getting  Transylvania University and Central University to admit women students, raising the age of consent for girls to 16 from 12, and establishing juvenile courts. They also inspired the University of Kentucky’s first women’s dormitory.

However, there are some contradictions associated with Ms. Clay.  Although she brought some great things to the women’s movement in Kentucky through her activism, one could also make the argument that she actually impeded some progress when she opposed the nineteenth amendment to the Constitution citing that it violated state’s rights.

The amendent still passed and Ms. Clay was still praised and liked among most women activists.  She was even nominated for President by the Democratic party, and although she didn’t win the nomination, she made American history as being the first woman to ever be nominated by a major political party and still remains an important part of women’s rights and the history of women’s suffrage today.

by bmwexl2

Becoming the First in Woman’s Politics

September 17, 2010 in 1920s-30s, Political history

Mary Elliott Flanery

Mary Elliott Flanery

From the research one does on the topic of woman’s suffrage and women in the 20th century it is easy to spot a number of amazing figures.  For example, Emma Guy Cromwell and Mary Elliott Flanery — both women were firsts in holding public office.  Although it was an amazing stride for women, it is truly hard for us today to grasp what it took and what it was like to be there.

Emma Guy Cromwell, Kentuckiana Digital Library

Emma Guy Cromwell

Rebecca S. Hanly’s article, “Emma Guy Cromwell and Mary Elliott Flanery: Pioneers for Women in Kentucky Politics” gives us a little more insight to what being the first really meant. Hanly points out in the article, “Most people simply were not ready for women in public office. Even leaders of the woman’s suffrage movement were ambivalent about the issue.”  These thoughts make the feats of these women in my opinion even more impressive.

This is the definition of a true pioneer. To be able to push through and persevere when even the people fighting on your side with you aren’t truly sure that the ultimate goal you are setting out for, is indeed the right thing.  In my life as I am sure in many others I have let others words change my thoughts and actions.

In psychology there is a study where a person is put in a room with a group of people (the control) who will all raise their hand for the wrong answer on purpose to sway the lone individual.  Although the person knows his answer is right, because everyone is telling him otherwise he goes along with the pack in choosing the wrong answer.

I feel that this goes along with what might have been going on in these two’s minds.  They knew what they were doing was right, but they had been told otherwise for so long and so repeatedly that it would have been easy to give up and believe that they indeed did not belong in politics.

Resource: 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), 287‐301.

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