by Maureen A. Flanagan, Michigan State University
Paper presented at the 1995 AHA
[In convering the paper to ASCII, all notes were lost. Anyone interested in the sources will find most of them in a closely related article in the spring issue of _Social Politics_.]
Much of the current discussion of U.S. women and politics in the Gilded Age/Progressive Era, among historians and social scientists, engages a debate over women's influence on the development of social welfare policy. Responding to Theda Skocpol's provocative new work, Protecting Mothers and Sol diers, scholars are also debating her contention that the modified social welfare state that appeared in the New Deal was "maternalist" in conception and intent.
But, beyond the maternalist social policy debate, other significant questions about women and the structures of polit ical power in this time period require serious exploration and analysis if we are to understand women's political history. In her thoughtful recent article, "The Historical Foundations of Women's Power in the Creation of the American Welfare State," Kitty Sklar moved beyond the maternalist/paternalist debate to discuss how the combined efforts of massive grass- roots activism among women and smaller numbers of male "ex perts" secured much social welfare legislation before 1930 that recognized State responsibility for providing a modicum of social welfare. Despite this success, however, Sklar is also forced to a broader conclusion about women's political power. Women, she writes, "could not and did not change the fundamental nature of the state itself or alter the character of the male-dominated polity."
With this conclusion, I absolutely agree. [insert comment re: Perry OAH paper] In my paper today I am exploring Chicago politics from the 1890s to 1920 to see how the male-created and dominated structures of politics and party limited women's political opportunities, power, and prospects for redefining State and polity, both before and after they achieved suf frage.
This local perspective offers two advantages for examin ing the intersection of women, men, parties, and politics in the Progressive Era. First, most women's engagement with politics before the suffrage amendment took place at the local level. It was here that women created their network of women's voluntary organizations that, as Sara Evans describes them, wielded public power in the "free spaces" between the organized politics of men and the private sphere of the home. In Chicago, thousands of women joined citywide, neighborhood, ethnic, working-women's, and African-American women's groups to create by the first decade of the new century a wide-rang ing and interconnected network of women political activists, within which they tried--sometimes successfully, sometimes less so--to cooperate across class and race to create a women's agenda for the city. Furthermore, local-level-poli tics can be more easily scrutinized to uncover the interaction between these women's organizations, the men of the city, and the male world of the political parties.
The second advantage for investigating women's politics on the local level before the federal suffrage amendment is that in 1913 the Illinois state legislature gave women the vote in local and federal elections. And because there was a series of court challenges to this law, vote totals were kept by gender until 1920. Thus, Chicago affords the opportunity and the resources to explore both women's transition from working within their voluntary organizations to active elec toral and political party participation, and to see how men responded to women's new political power within local poli tics.
In Chicago, the interaction between men and women over political issues and public power progressed through four stages from the 1890s to 1920. At the beginning, most men were hostile or dismissive of women's attempts to assert themselves into the public sphere. Then, as progressive reformers sought more support for their proposals for the city and women became more assertive in their public work, male progressives sought women's organizations as allies, believing these women would support male agendas. In both these stages, Chicago men--as I will explain shortly--constantly misperceived women's ideas about and desires for public power. They viewed women as they wanted to see them, not as the women saw themselves and often misunderstood the differences that existed between men and women activists on crucial municipal issues such as education, housing, the environment, political reform, municipal finance, and municipal suffrage. The third stage in male/female political relations came when women received municipal suffrage in 1913. Because no one knew for certain what impact this would have on elections, men indicated a cautious willingness to accommodate women's polit ical demands. Yet, at the same time, Chicago men attempted to limit the scope of women's new political right. Finally, when the results of the municipal elections of 1914-1916 eased male fears of women's new political power, Chicago men, both pro gressives and party politicians, reasserted their political dominance of the city and rejected most of women's political ideas and demands. By the time the federal amendment passed, Chicago men in both parties recognized that significant dif ferences existed between women's and men's political agendas, and men were determined to maintain their political dominance and their political agendas.
I chose the small quote in my title, "They Will Bring Sweetness and Light," to illustrate both the first stage of male/female interaction on public affairs, and to illuminate what I mean by male misperception of women's ideas and de mands. In the 1890s, Chicago women, first through the leader ship of the crossclass organization the Illinois Women's Alliance, and then through groups such as the Chicago Woman's Club and the Chicago Teachers' Federation, challenged male prerogatives to all decision-making on public education. Women demanded new compulsory education laws, representation on the Board of Education, teacher pensions and better pay; women opposed pending legislation to bar married women from teaching in the schools; and women demanded that the financial arrange ments of the school system be thoroughly investigated and reformed. School financing was a particularly sensitive issue. The Board was highly secretive about its finances, it juggled its books through delays in paying teachers, and, because school funding depended so heavily on property tax revenues, any serious investigation of these finances might cost property owners more money. But, in the 1890s men did not take seriously women's intrusion into the public sphere of municipal finances. A Chicago Tribune editorial suggested that a token female appointee to the Board of Education would satisfy women's demands. The major effect of such an appoint ment, the Tribune assured its readers, was that it would bring "sweetness and light" into management of the schools. No women, the paper intoned, would "trouble their heads about routine matters of finance and building." Except, of course, that women were already doing just that. The Illinois Women's Alliance declared that if not enough money was available to build badly-needed new schools, then "it would be better [for the city] to stop at once for a short period all such improve ments as paving, lighting, etc., and turn the whole attention to providing schools for our children." As further evidence of its inability to take seriously women's demands about schools, the Tribune advised appointing a woman to the Board because to fail to do so would upset women, a prospect de voutly to be avoided because women "scratch like cats when mistreated." The Tribune was 100 percent wrong on women's intentions on schools. Far from bringing sweetness and light, women doggedly pursued the issue of school finances until 1902 when they successfully sued to force some of the city's larg est corporations and utilities to pay their property taxes.
Activist men either misunderstood, or seriously underes timated, women's intentions again in 1907 as they placed a new municipal charter before the city's voters. Then, groups as diverse as the Chicago Woman's Clubs, the Chicago Women's Trade Union League, settlement house women's clubs, as well as suffrage organizations had demanded a new charter contain municipal suffrage. The charter convention failed to do write this into their charter, with several "progressive" delegates arguing that "respectable" women neither wanted to be dragged into the muck of politics nor would be interested in "such issues as water, light, phone, etc." In response, prominent clubwoman Ellen Henrotin, waitress and labor leader Elizabeth Maloney, the Teachers' Federation, and Jane Addams, among others, led women in working to defeat the new charter. As suffrage activist Catherine W. McCulloch said at the time, contrary to male proclamations it was precisely the gritty issues of municipal government--police and fire protection, construction of tenements, water, light, heat and telephone service, food inspection, and sewerage and garbage disposal-- that made Chicago women want the vote.
By the second decade of the twentieth century, following several reform failures, male "progressives" moved into a second phase of their relationship with women in public. In 1910, several leaders of the City Club asked their wives to organize a Woman's City Club, rather assuming that the latter would act as an auxiliary to the men's group and help secure the male political agenda for the city. As I have shown elsewhere, the Woman's City Club did no such thing. Activist women followed through on the very issues named by McCulloch during the charter battle. They called for municipal owner ship of garbage collection and disposal, a municipal strike bureau to settle labor disputes, and a new fire prevention bureau within the fire department. Women wanted an elected Board of Education. They called for the city to preserve and develop the lakefront with free beaches and parks. They demanded that the municipal government promptly and completely end smoke pollution throughout the city. And, they sought a municipal solution to the housing and tenement crisis. In 1916, 3000 women met in a mass meeting and codified this municipal agenda into a "Woman's Municipal Platform" for the City.
Activist men in organizations such as the City Club and Civic Federation opposed this women's agenda, primarily be cause it would increase the power of the municipal government, removing power from their own hands and greatly reducing the chance for private profit in the public realm. They urged, instead, that the lakefront be developed for profit-making beaches or commercial enterprise; they steadfastly maintained that planning and building housing had to be a private, not a public municipal, enterprise. They also wanted decision- making on such issues as pollution and fire prevention firmly in the hands of male "experts," not the government.
Thus, by the decade of the 1910s, activist men and women had developed different agendas for the city. Political theorist Carole Patemen posits that women developed different political agendas because they could never fit comfortably into the democratic political process that had been struc tured, and given its rules of citizenship, by men long before women could participate. According to Pateman, western democ racies operate from a theory that had divorced citizenship from daily life, and made it instead a `political lion skin' (attribution to Marx), "worn occasionally and somewhat reluc tantly." This political lion skin, she argues, "has a large mane and belonged to a male lion; it is a costume for men. When women finally win the right to don the lion skin it is exceedingly ill-fitting and therefore unbecoming." Thus, Pateman insists, we must see that as women came to participate actively in the public process of politics, they brought with them different rules, expectations, and ideas about the State. They believed that meeting the needs of daily life ought to be one of the primary purposes of government.
Male organizations and the political parties had easily deflected women's agenda before suffrage when women had to rely on persuasion, not direct political power. With suffrage in 1913, the relationship between the genders changed as men tried to figure the impact women's vote would have on munici pal affairs after suffrage. The parties, too, had to decide how to approach these new voters and possible candidates for office.
For their part, Chicago women were optimistic about their political chances, prepared and eager to vote and to partici pate in party politics. The Woman's City Club, the Political Equality League, the African-American Alpha Suffrage Club, more than 130 ethnic women's organizations, the Women's Trade Union League, and Wage Earners' Suffrage League pushed a massive voter registration drive and organized a mass outdoor rally that drew more than 10,000 women. Thousands of women, including 500 African-American women led by Ida B. Wells- Barnett, and contingents grouped by political organization, women's clubs, and unions marched in a suffrage parade in May 1914. Prominent women activists, recognizing the structural realities of politics, broke with their pre-suffrage emphasis on nonpartisan politics. They urged women to declare a party affiliation and to vote in the primaries; and they founded and joined women's ward-based and citywide party clubs vowing to work for their party's candidates.
In 1913 and 1914 three political victories heightened women's optimism. In 1913 the City Council heeded women's demands and passed an ordinance providing for municipal owner ship and operation of garbage collection and disposal. Many women attributed this action to their new power as voters. Settlement house director Mary McDowell described the change when she spoke to the City Council after women had suffrage. [I] was "no longer just a philanthropic lady living in an unpleasant district," she wrote. "[I] was a representative of a City full of housekeeping citizens and that which women had been urging for the past years came to pass at a word."
Second, in their first primary in 1914, African-American women of the city's second ward, led by Wells-Barnett and her Alpha Suffrage Club, put up an African-American male chal lenger, W.R. Cowan, to the regular white Republican candidate for alderman. Cowan lost, but the high percentage of women's votes for Cowan --53.4% from women against 40.9% from men -- persuaded African-American men to force the Republicans to nominate Oscar DePriest for alderman of the ward the following year.
Third, in 1914 the Republican party in the city's seventh ward nominated an aldermanic candidate disliked by organized women who then helped run an Independent candidate. This candidate won in the general election, with women's votes providing the winning margin.
Despite these victories, so much political power rested with the two major parties that the crucial test for women's political future would lie with how the parties responded to women suffrage. Unfortunately here, it was immediately clear that the parties did not intend to accept women as equals into the party structure. In 1914, and subsequent municipal elec tions, the parties refused to nominate any women candidates (35 alderman were elected yearly), and those women who ran had to do so as challengers, socialists, progressives, or indepen dents. In the 1914 primary, ten women ran for alderman from the city's 35 wards and female candidates who challenged regular party nominees drew a much heavier vote from women than from men. [In a four-candidate race in the second ward democratic primary, Sara Hopkins received 45.2% of women's vote against 15.6% of men's; in a three -way race in the 23rd, Marie Gerhardt drew 37.3% of women's vote, and 11.7% of men's.] Women running as third party candidates did the same. [In the first ward, Progressive candidate Marion Drake drew 49.5% of women's votes, but just 5% of men's.]
But, in 1914 men did, and would continue to, outnumber women as registered voters. Moreover, only one election was necessary for Chicago men to see that they not only outnum bered women, but that women would not vote as a block. Thus, Chicago male activists and political party leaders immediately realized that by playing practical politics and counting their votes they could either ignore women's political wishes when ever they clashed with those of men, or simply overpower them with male votes. The result for officeholding in Chicago was that in 1915, only one woman attempted to run for alderman; the next year four tried. Chicago did not elect a woman to the City Council until 1971.
Beyond actual officeholding, there are numerous examples across the years from 1914-1920 of male resolve not to treat women as political equals. Sometimes men simply ignored women. No activist men's organizations (or either political party) supported the Woman's Municipal Platform. By the 1916 municipal elections, political activists even ceased to appeal specifically to women voters; it was conspicuous in the news papers that year when only a group of anti-Mayor Thompson aldermanic candidates appealed to women for their votes in the primaries. The year before, Mayor Thompson had ignored the requests of women activists that he name the most "able per son," not a political appointee, to head the city's welfare department. His comment to women at the time was, "Ladies, I am sure that you will be satisfied with my appointment"; he then made a purely political appointment.
At other times, men exercised their political clout actively to oppose women's political efforts. In 1917, the Woman's City Club endorsed the proposal of the newly formed Illinois Women's Legislative Congress for an elected-at-large school Board. Noted progressive activist George Sikes regaled the City Club with all the reasons he believed the Club should oppose the measure, and lack of male support guaranteed that this measure died quickly in the legislature. That same year, the Board of Education dismantled the Chicago Teachers' Federation despite the anguished protest of women throughout the city that this was an unconstitutional infringement of the rights of women workers to organize. Except for the leadership of the Chicago Federation of Labor, activist Chicago men refused to support the teachers.
Chicago men also used the political structures themselves to obstruct women's political power by participating in suc cessful court challenges to limit the extent of suffrage conferred by the state law. In 1916, women were barred from voting for the crucial posts of ward committeemen and for delegates to the party national conventions. Women were also ruled ineligible to stand for Cook County Commissioner, a post that they had particularly coveted because the Cook County Board had authority for much of the social welfare power in the city. And, in a reversal of an earlier ruling, the courts even declared women ineligible to work as poll judges.
Finally, once women had suffrage but clearly could not outvote men, the hostile, or at best skeptical, attitude that Chicago men had once directed toward activist women was now directed against women voters. Here I offer three examples. First, rather than thanking women for the critical roll they had played in securing the nomination of Oscar DePriest for alderman, the male leadership of the second ward in 1914 publicly denounced those women "who worked and voted against" the African-American challenger Cowan, forgetting the greater percentage of men who had not supported him. The following year, women were again not thanked for their votes for DePriest, but chastised for loitering at the polls, saying they "made it look bad for the race."
Second, in the seventh ward, the liberal republicans led by Charles Merriam, urged women not to vote in the 1914 pri mary because they feared women would vote for the regular Republican candidate, whom these men disliked. Women of the ward greatly resented this attitude, and issued a circular calling on women to "lose no time in exercising their right of franchise." Women, in fact, were subsequently responsible for electing the Independent candidate in the general election, voting 43.9% for the Independent (4,006 votes), against 29.8% from men (3,782 votes).
And third, when a female employee in the city's welfare department accused the Mayor's political appointee -- a woman -- of demanding kickbacks, newspapers devoted much space to printing arguments questioning the suitability of women to engage in politics. Even though it was women who had origi nally demanded a better appointee to head the department, and the appointment had been a male political choice.
I would like to close my presentation with two additional examples that epitomize the political gulf that existed in Chicago between women, men and the parties, a gulf not easily bridged both because by the Progressive Era activist women and men had developed significantly different agendas for munici pal reform and because men had no intention of accepting women as equal partners in the public realm of party politics.
In 1919, the Woman's City Club solicited statements from men and women about what kind of person would make the best mayor. Regular democratic alderman Ulysses Schwartz and activist reformer George Sikes both submitted remarkably similar statements. Schwartz and Sikes both wanted someone with administrative expertise; someone to maintain control of administrative tasks and bureaucratic development and work with the City Council to build, grow and maintain the city's prosperity. Social worker and club activist Sophonisba Breckenridge sought something different. She wanted a mayor who would
examine all questions from the point of view of the gen eral interest and the common good...[who recognized] the rights of all children to air, light, clean streets, decent housing, places to play, and a chance of educa tion...the right of all to the protection of an efficient and honest police...[someone with] understanding of the hopes, aspirations, capacities, and limitations of the people.
In fact, these clashing political priorities had been apparent in 1913 during a City Club debate on the upcoming elections in which women were to cast their first vote. Jane Addams then declared that women's task in their first election would be to "translate human needs into political action." City Club activists George Sikes and Charles Merriam, on the other hand, stressed that elections were about legalities and gov erning structures.
My final example is from 1923, after passage of the national amendment. In that year liberal, activist republi cans wanted desperately to challenge Mayor "Big Bill" Thomp son, with whom they were thoroughly disillusioned. But, liberal republican leadership fairly choked when activist Louise DeKoven Bowen asked them to support her bid for mayor. While these men sputtered about how a woman would find it difficult to handle such administrative tasks as dealing with the police department -- an absurd notion regarding Bowen considering she had spent years dealing with the police de partment over juvenile justice, care for women prisoners, etc. -- Bowen herself identified the problem: "It was amusing to see how much the men resented the possibility of having a woman for mayor," she wryly observed. Chicago newspapers captured perfectly the male perspective on women's new politi cal power as they responded to Bowen's political overtures. It was not women's job to run for office, the newspapers declared. Rather, women's role in politics was to help the party to "discover the right man."
From: IN%"H-SHGAPE%UICVM.BITNET@UBVM.cc.buffalo.edu" "H-Net Gilded Age and Progressive Era List" 31-JAN-1995 13:27:22.41
To: IN%"H-SHGAPE@UICVM.UIC.EDU" "Recipients of H-SHGAPE digests"
Subj: H-SHGAPE Digest - 29 Jan 1995 to 30 Jan 1995
Date: Sun, 29 Jan 1995 23:01:38 -0800 From: Robert Cherny <email@example.com> Subject: SHGAPE papers, number 2
[This is the second paper of the AHA session sponsored by SHGAPE. Remember, please do not cite or quote without the permission of the author. The third paper will be posted tomorrow.]
REDEFINING THE POLITICAL: SOCIALIST WOMEN, PARTY POLITICS, AND SOCIAL REFORM IN PROGRESSIVE-ERA CALIFORNIA
Sherry Katz, University of California, Berkeley
On June 1, 1915, Los Angeles journalist Estelle Lawton Lindsey became the first woman elected to the city council of a major metropolis in the United States. Lindsey belonged to a well-organized network of socialist women that operated as an influential political tendency within California's radical and woman's movements during the Progressive Era. Backed by socialists, the labor council, and women's clubs, Lindsey ran as a candidate dedicated to the empowerment and welfare of women, children, and the laboring classes. Committed to bringing the "woman's point of view...the humanitarian point of view" to state policymaking, Lindsey argued that the "habit" of "men holding all government positions...won't be broken till women get in and do their share of it." In urging other women to run for office, she suggested that "suffrage without holding office [was] like apple pie with the apples left out."1
Lindsey's election epitomizes the determination of a new breed of partisan women to "redefine the political" in the early twentieth-century, through activism in newly gender-integrated political parties and institutions, as well as through female voluntary associations and social reform coalitions.2 As members of the Socialist party and as candidates for elective office, California's socialist-feminists attempted to combine the traditions of middle-class women's political culture with those of male partisan politics. Throughout much of the nineteenth century, gender represented a significant division in American politics. Men engaged in formal partisan politics focused on the ballot, while women devised a "domestic politics" based on "indirect" political influence through female voluntary associations and on their socially-constructed concerns for the health and welfare of women, children, and the poor.3 Radical women championed a reorientation of the Socialist party's constituency, goals, and methods in keeping with the conventions of white, organized womanhood. They sought to expand the conception of the political to include the equal participation of women, the incorporation of gender-specific concerns in the agendas of parties and the state, and the full integration of partisanship with coalition-building in social policymaking.
The activities of these partisan women help to expand our analysis of the factors that undergirded the partial convergence of gendered political cultures, and the "two track system" of public policymaking they generated, during the Progressive Era. As women's social welfare services began to be taken over by the state, thereby "domesticating politics" and spurring the adoption of woman suffrage, men began to supplement their partisan activism with the pressure group politics women had long employed.4 The experiences of Lindsey and her comrades demonstrate that, in addition, partisan women played important roles in transforming the political landscape through their activism in political parties and their campaigns for office. That they achieved only partial success in expanding the base and agenda of male-dominated political institutions reveals the resiliency of gendered political traditions in the twentieth century.5
Before I explore socialist women's campaigns for office in the period between 1912 and 1917, I want to provide a brief sketch of their backgrounds and political activities. During the 1890s, several generations of "premature socialist-feminists," active in suffrage and temperance crusades, found in the "Cooperative Commonwealth" the basis for an egalitarian society guaranteeing women's freedom. These women were largely native- born and Protestant, relatively well-educated with backgrounds in professional and clerical occupations, and able to attain stable working-class or middle-class status. Nurtured by a political climate congenial to radical proposals to ameliorate the economic inequalities engendered by California's speedy capitalist development, and by a social context in which radicals shared the native-born and Northern European backgrounds of the majority of the state's political activists, they created a vigorous socialist women's movement. After the turn of the century, local activists built a network of independent socialist women's clubs, under the umbrella of the Woman's Socialist Union of California (1902-1911), and worked within both the male-dominated socialist movement and the mainstream woman's movement. An effective political strategy that combined autonomy with integration helped them to achieve enormous influence in left-wing communities, feminist organizations, and social reform coalitions.6
From 1902 to 1911, WSU activists worked to legitimize women's presence in partisan politics by recruiting women to the Socialist party and creating a strong voice for them in the organization. They attempted to expand the Socialist party's agenda to include the feminist and "maternalist" concerns central to their political vision, especially women's enfranchisement. Their relentless campaign to convince the party to actively participate in the struggle for woman suffrage finally paid off in 1911 when the organization pledged itself to the fight just as victory seemed near. Meanwhile, WSU activists established an influential left-wing tendency within the state's suffrage coalition that expanded the movement's base among the working class, devised new arguments linking economic and political emancipation, and introduced modern methods of "militant" agitation.7
Socialist women responded to the victory of the state's suffrage amendment in 1911 with great optimism about expanding their political influence within the party, the woman's movement, reform coalitions, and public policymaking. The party's rising popularity, combined with competition from the state's progressives, prompted them to dissolve the WSU in favor of a party woman's committee, but their traditions of independent activism continued. As newly enfranchised voters, they embarked on a more ambitious effort to reshape their party's priorities in keeping with their political vision and activist traditions.8
One of the principal ways socialist women expanded the boundaries of the party, and partisan politics more generally, was through their campaigns for elective office. I will highlight electoral campaigns in Los Angeles County, where one quarter to one third of all state party members resided and where women constituted an unprecedented 30 to 42 percent of the membership from 1911 through 1914. Los Angeles was also a center of the "reformist" wing of the party, a stronghold of the WSU, and the region in which female activists achieved the greatest influence both before and after 1911.9
The Los Angeles local had run women for the board of education since 1902; after 1911 women ran for many other state and local positions, including city council and state assembly. Two women ran for state assembly in 1912 and 1914, including Estelle Lawton Lindsey, who was narrowly defeated in the later year but rebounded to win her city council bid in 1915. In 1913, five women ran on a municipal slate of twenty, including Frances Nacke Noel and Mila Tupper Maynard for city council, and Emma Wolfe for the board of education. All of these candidates represented the socialist-feminist constituency within the party, as activists in the Woman's Socialist Federation, the semi- autonomous woman's committee rooted in the WSU. They were also all leaders of a left-wing network within the white, woman's movement. Noel, a German immigrant, was, by 1908, a prominent clubwoman, suffragist, and the most influential women in the county's labor movement. Maynard, a former minister and journalist, had been active in the suffrage movement during the 1890s and had returned to Los Angeles in 1911 to rejoin the suffrage campaign and local woman's clubs. Wolfe, a former nurse, dedicated herself to the "service of children" after her only daughter died in 1906; by 1912 she was the leader of child labor department of the California Congress of Mothers.10
Female candidates proudly asserted their qualifications for elective office as both the intellectual and political equals of men, and as a group possessed of unique, socially-constructed qualities essential to the establishment of a genuinely humanitarian society. But the need for such affirmations of women's legitimacy as political actors indicated that socialist women were, after ten years of party activism, still working to challenge "manliness" as the essential quality of "stern determined" party members. Fighting the stereotypes of women as incompetent in political affairs, "light-headed" thinkers prone to follow "sentimental humbugs," and focused on petty reforms rather than revolution, they simultaneously promoted women's socially-constructed "maternalism."11
Mila Tupper Maynard and Frances Nacke Noel, party candidates for the Los Angeles city council in 1913, issued a joint statement which spoke to men's apprehension of voting for women who might prove to be "impractical 'figureheads,'" by emphasizing both the human competency and the special skills and concerns women possessed. Maynard and Noel stated emphatically that they were nominated for office because they were "Socialists of long established conviction" and "individuals believed to be capable of doing the work required and not merely because of [their] sex." They also discussed at length "why [they] believe[d] that women as women would be particularly valuable members of the Council." Women, they argued, had long taken the initiative in "progressive city affairs" and possessed the social housekeeping skills, common sense, and business ability to successfully manage their municipality.12
These female candidates certainly ran as representatives of the working-class and emphasized the economic issues that remained central to the party, including support for organized labor, municipal ownership of public utilities and transportation, and eventual state ownership of the means of production. An appeal, issued collectively by the five female candidates who campaigned in 1913, asked women to vote for the party because it promised to act on behalf of "the workers and plain people." Los Angeles Socialists, they promised, would encourage the growth of a non-violent labor movement committed to social change through the electoral process. Only the party could secure a brighter economic future for working-class breadwinners and their families through the eventual elimination of the profit system.13
The party's female candidates also emphasized the need to elect women to office as representatives of their sex, in order to further gender equality and to ensure that women's socially- constructed concerns would find representation and serious consideration in policymaking bodies. While Noel and Maynard established that they sought election as socialists first, and as representatives of "woman's distinctive interests" second, they appealed specifically to women voters, stressing their commitment to representing the interests of "all women of civic spirit," and especially of working-class women who lacked time to devote to municipal affairs. In her bid for state assembly in 1914, Lindsey maintained that the election of women to office was an important consequence of woman suffrage and a measure of female political equality, for "as 50 per cent of the voters are women, there should be women in the legislature to represent the sex." All of these candidates argued that only by "admit[ting] women to a share in the government" would the needs of women and children be addressed and humanitarian legislation be passed.14
Socialist women strongly underscored a number of woman- centered, or maternalist, goals in their campaigns. These issues were all ones they simultaneously championed as activists in the woman's movement during the post-suffrage period: mothers' pensions, protective labor legislation, anti-prostitution measures, and safe public amusements.15 As a left-wing of both the woman's movement and broader social reform coalitions, they advocated reforms they believed would prove "underminingly ameliorative," able to empower women and/or the working class and prefigure a socialist-feminist state. They reshaped the boundaries of organized womanhood by broadening discussions of the meaning and purpose of proposed reforms and by making some issues greater priorities. They became the leading proponents of labor legislation and unionization, the most outspoken advocates of a redistributive social welfare state, and the earliest supporters of birth control. In fact, socialist women's influence on the legislative proposals advocated by mainstream women's groups helps explain why California was at the forefront of social welfare legislation for women during the Progressive Era. Socialist women's activism appears to offer an important reason why California devised better protection for women workers than most other states and debated more comprehensive and less oppressive mothers' pension programs than were considered elsewhere.16
The platform on which socialist women campaigned not only challenged the legislative priorities of their party, but also the ways in which their male comrades conceptualized the state and its functions. Socialist women insisted that the humanitarian concerns traditionally championed by women should be vitally important to all citizens and should become a major component of social provision guaranteed by the state. Mila Tupper Maynard proposed that the significance of all public issues lay in their bearing on private lives and personal happiness. "After all, what are the harbor and municipal ownership and all that but efforts to enable the people in the homes to live fuller, better lives and to be better citizens?" Maynard argued that the social concerns of women, viewed as "side issues" by most men, were as significant to society as the traditional issues of male-dominated public life. Men had to realize, as did women, that the "function[s] of government" included providing for the moral, physical, and economic well- being of the nation's youths and children. If the female electorate and their representatives failed to make men understand "the really big problem[s]" confronting society and the state, she feared for the moral and physical health of the next generation.17
In running as representatives of the woman's movement, organized labor, and the Socialist party, these female candidates encouraged the combining of male and female political strategies: partisan loyalty and pressure group based coalition politics. In Lindsey's 1914 bid for assembly, organizational support came from the party's campaign committee and from a non-partisan ad-hoc organization of local clubwomen. Always keen on bringing together what they considered the two great social movements of their day, the feminist movement and the labor/socialist movement, radical women constructed campaigns that attempted to further that goal. They believed that their multiple identities and commitments, their unique positioning between the feminist and socialist movements, and their long history of operating as a distinct tendency within larger political formations made them skillful coalition-builders in the service of social reform, and eventual social revolution.18
Although partisan women, they sought to transcend the boundaries of class, ideology, and party affiliation in political activism. More devoted to socialist-feminism than the party itself, they occasionally bolted from the party if they felt partisan constraints bound them too tightly. Ironically, when Estelle Lawton Lindsey finally won election in 1915, becoming the first city councilwoman of a major metropolis, she did so as an independent. Refusing to be bound by party discipline in matters related to her service on the council, she nevertheless captured the support of the socialist rank-and-file, as well as of the labor and woman's movements. Frances Noel and Emma Wolfe also resigned from the party, in defiance of the party's stipulation that members never vote for candidates from other parties. Both believed that in some cases casting votes for progressives who had a chance of victory was the best way to further their political goals. Noel went on to serve on progressive Governor Hiram Johnson's Social Insurance Commission, which drafted a universal health coverage initiative defeated by the state's voters in 1918.19
As an independent political tendency with the party, socialist women certainly enlarged debate about the appropriate political concerns and strategies for a left-wing political organization. Still, the party seemed to be operating on two gendered tracks in the post-suffrage period. Many of the feminist and maternalist issues socialist women championed were incorporated into party planks at election time. During the 1913 campaign, an "open letter" to the "women voters of Los Angeles" declared the party's support for equal pay for men and women, living wages for women, and opposition to child labor, white slavery, and "vice in any form." While the public ownership and control of utilities dominated the 1913 campaign, the party repeatedly emphasized its commitment to ending prostitution and to improving the wages and working conditions of wage-earning women. And at the opening meeting of the campaign, mayoral candidate Job Harriman demanded the election of women to public office on the grounds that their "different psychology," would "put mother-love into our laws[,]" making them "more humane, less brutal."20
But such actions appeared to have been motivated more by the initiatives undertaken by socialist women and a desire to capture the allegiance of newly enfranchised female voters, rather than a genuine shift in priorities. The party's three representatives in the assembly from 1912 to 1916, all from Los Angeles county, focused primarily on the passage of universal labor bills and measures to democratize voting and jury service, and on the defeat of proposals designed to extend non-partisan elections. Clearly, gender-specific reforms continued to be secondary to measures regarded as more fundamental to working-class empowerment and economic transformation.21
In contrast, during her term of the city council, Lindsey focused on measures intended to empower and protect women, as well as the "great working masses of society," and she attempted to gradually bring her fellow council members "around to the woman's point of view." As a leader of three social welfare committees she championed public health measures, pressed enforcement of the state's anti-prostitution law, fought for greater city services for impoverished women, and secured the appointment of several female deputies assigned to investigate crimes against women and children. Along with fellow councilmember Fred Wheeler, a prominent labor leader who had also resigned from the party over issues of party discipline, Lindsey pressed for improvements in the wages and working conditions of municipal employees and fought the municipal employment bureau's attempt to furnish strikebreakers to private employers. Although defeated for reelection in 1917, Lindsey once again had the support of organized labor and the woman's movement.22
In addition, while socialist men certainly participated in the labor movement and occasionally collaborated with middle- class progressives in advancing social reform, their engagement with pressure group, coalition politics tended to be more circumscribed and limited. For men, coalition-building carried negative connotations associated with the "betrayal" of party purity or class interests. In 1915, for example, the two male party members elected to the assembly refused to caucus with progressives, and introduced their own bills rather than unite with others in drafting likeminded proposals. Socialist women, by contrast, viewed themselves as loyal socialists even as they worked closely with non-socialists, and they regarded coalition- building, especially with other women, as one of the most useful strategies for social change. After their breaks with the party, both Lindsey and Noel continued vigorous participation in the mainstream woman's movement as a part of a left-wing tendency dedicated to expanding the political analysis and reform proposals of organized womanhood. Interestingly, many of the men who more freely crossed the boundaries of class and party, such as Job Harriman and Fred Wheeler, either played leadership roles in organized labor or possessed particularly close ties to socialist-feminists and other women reformers.23
As partisan activists and candidates for office, socialist women participated in "redefining the political" in Progressive Era California. Through their campaigns for office, they attempted to integrate women, gender-specific concerns, and the concept of a "maternal" welfare state into partisan politics. As political candidates, they also sought to build bridges between partisan electoral activity and the pressure group strategies of organized womanhood. Although their efforts to transform partisan politics through the Socialist party were cut short by the onset of World War I and the subsequent decline of the organization, their activism suggests the significance of women's experimentations in partisan politics to the partial convergence of gendered political cultures in the early twentieth century.
(1)Letter from Estelle Lawton Lindsey, dated March 28, 1917, in the Los Angeles Citizen, March 30, 1917; Lindsey quoted in Bertha H. Smith, "Interesting Westerners," Sunset (January 1916), 28.
(2)I am borrowing the phrase "redefine the political" from Eileen Boris, who uses it in a different context in her "The Power of Motherhood: Black and White Activist Women Redefine the `Political,'" in Seth Koven and Sonya Michel, eds., Mothers of a New World: Maternalist Politics and the Origins of the Welfare State (New York: Routledge, 1993), 213-245.
(3)Paula Baker, "The Domestication of Politics: Women and American Political Society, 1780-1920," American Historical Review 89 (June 1984), 620-647; Nancy F. Cott, "Feminist Theory and Feminist Movements: The Past Before Us," in Juliet Mitchell and Ann Oakley, eds., What is Feminism? (New York: Pantheon Books, 1986), 49-60; William H. Chafe, "Women's History and Political History: Some Thoughts on Progressivism and the New Deal," in Nancy A. Hewitt and Suzanne Lebsock, eds., Visible Women: New Essays on American Activism (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993), 102-108.
(4)Chafe, "Women's History and Political History," 103; Baker, "Domestication of Politics," 639-644. See also Kathryn Kish Sklar, "The Historical Foundations of Women's Power in the Creation of the American Welfare State, 1830-1930," in Koven and Michel, eds., Mothers of a New World, 43-93.
(5)On the resiliency of gendered traditions in voluntary and partisan politics, see Nancy F. Cott, The Grounding of Modern Feminism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987), esp. chapt. 3; Louise A. Tilly and Patricia Gurin, eds., Women, Politics, and Change (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1990); Linda Witt, Karen M. Paget, and Glenna Matthews, Running as a Woman: Gender and Power in American Politics (New York: The Free Press, 1994).
Although 12 states enfranchised women before 1917 and 18 more between 1917 and 1920, very little is known about women's involvement in partisan politics and their campaigns for office during the Progressive Era; we have somewhat more information on those developments in the 1920s. See Witt, et al, above, 29-35; Kristi Andersen, "Women and Citizenship in the 1920s" and Evelyn Brooks Higgenbotham, "In Politics to Stay: Black Women Leaders and Party Politics in the 1920s," in Tilly and Gurin, above, 177-220; Carole Nichols, Votes for Women and More: Suffrage and After in Connecticut (New York: The Haworth Press, 1983); Felice D. Gordon, After Winning: The Legacy of the New Jersey Suffragists, 1920-1947 (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1986).
(6)For a full discussion, see Sherry Jeanne Katz, "Dual Commitments: Feminism, Socialism, and Women's Political Activism in California, 1890-1920" (Ph.D. diss., University of California, Los Angeles, 1991). For more on the congenial political and social context, see Michael Kazin, "The Great Exception Revisited: Organized Labor and Politics in San Francisco and Los Angeles, 1870-1940," Pacific Historical Review 55 (August 1986), 376-396.
(7)Katz, "Dual Commitments," chapts. 2-4; Sherry Katz, "Stretching the Boundaries of the Suffrage Movement: Socialist Women, Cross-Class Coalition-Building, and Militant Tactics in the California Suffrage Campaign, 1900-1911," in Marjorie Spruill Wheeler, One Woman, One Vote: The Woman Suffrage Movement in America (Troutdale, Oregon: New Sage Press, forthcoming, 1995). I have not been able to locate membership lists for the WSU. But evidence suggests that the organization represented at least 300 women, approximately half of all female party members in the period before 1911, when women constituted about 10% of the 6000 party members. The WSU certainly exercised far more influence than these statistics indicate; it served as the collective voice for socialist-feminists in the state.
(8)Katz, "Dual Commitments," chapts. 5-6.
(9)Katz, "Dual Commitments," 179-203; 418. From September 1912 to March 1914, state party membership peaked at approximately 8000 and the percentage of women increased to about 20% of the total.
(10)Katz, "Dual Commitments," 68; 183; n. 15, 226-227; 273; 288- 289; 299; n. 70, 329-330; 408-415; n. 78, 463-464; n. 100, 476- 477.
(11)For the stereotypes of women, see Thomas Bersford, Tactics and Strategy: Economic and Political (San Francisco: Press of Eastman & Mitchell, 1903), 55-56. Bersford went so far as to propose that women be excluded from the party; his suggestion was fought by WSU activists, who initiated a successful party resolution to declare such ideas "contrary to Socialist principle." For this battle, see Los Angeles Socialist, June 13, August 8, September 12 and 26, 1903; and Katz, "Dual Commitments," 197-198.
(12)Frances Noel and Mila Tupper Maynard, "Women Tell What They Will Do If Put In Council," California Social-Democrat, April 26, 1913. See also Mila Tupper Maynard in Estelle Lawton Lindsey, "City Should Provide Joys of Life and Save Girls From Preying Men," Los Angeles Record, April 23, 1913; Estelle Lawton Lindsey, "People Will Have True Champion On City Council in Mrs. Frances Noel," Los Angeles Record, June 2, 1913; Frances N. Noel, "Why a Woman in City Council?" unidentified clipping, Knox Mellon Collection [a collection of Frances Nacke Noel materials held privately by historian Knox Mellon; hereafter cited as Mellon Coll.]
(13)"Socialist Women Appeal to Women," Los Angeles Record, May 5, 1913. The five women running in Los Angeles were Maynard, Noel, Emma Wolfe, Bertha Wilkins Starkweather, and Ella l. Merriam. See also Frances N. Noel, "Why a Woman in City Council?" unidentified clipping, and campaign card of Estelle Lawton Lindsey, , Mellon Coll.; Estelle Lawton Lindsey, "People Will Have True Champion On City Council In Mrs. Frances Noel," Los Angeles Record, June 2, 1913.
(14)Frances Noel and Mila Tupper Maynard, "Women Tell What They Will Do If Put In Council," California Social-Democrat, April 26, 1913; Estelle Lawton Lindsey in "Socialist Nominees For The Assembly See Victory Ahead," Los Angeles Record, October 27, 1914; Mila Tupper Maynard in Estelle Lawton Lindsey, "City Should Provide Joys of Life And Save Girls From Preying Men," Los Angeles Record, April 23, 1913. See also Estelle Lawton Lindsey, "People Will Have True Champion On City Council In Mrs. Frances Noel," Los Angeles Record, June 2, 1913.
(15)Estelle Lawton Lindsey in "Socialist Nominees For The Assembly See Victory Ahead," Los Angeles Record, October 27, 1914; "Mrs. Lindsey Is Endorsed By Labor Council," Los Angeles Record, October 5, 1914; Frances Noel and Mila Tupper Maynard, "Women Tell What They Will Do If Put In Council," California Social-Democrat, April 26, 1913; Mila Tupper Maynard in Estelle Lawton Lindsey, "City Should Provide Joys of Life And Save Girls From Preying Men," Los Angeles Record, April 23, 1913.
(16)For the quote on reform, see Sara [Bard Field] to [Charles Erskine Scott Wood], April 8, 1913, box 270, Charles Erskine Scott Wood Collection, Huntington Library, San Marino, California; for socialist women's activism in the post-suffrage woman's movement, see Katz, "Dual Commitments," chapts. 6-8 and Sherry Katz, "Socialist Woman and Progressive Reform," in William Deverell and Tom Sitton, eds., California Progressivism Revisited (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), 117-143.
(17)Mila Tupper Maynard in Estelle Lawton Lindsey, "City Should Provide Joys of Life And Save Girls From Preying Men," Los Angeles Record, April 23, 1913. See also Estelle Lawton Lindsey in "Tells of Great Task for Women," Los Angeles Record, April 24, 1915.
(18)Frances Noel, "Trade Union Movement Helps to Americanize," [Citizen?],  and "Mrs. Noel's Report on Women's Clubs," n.p., , Mellon Coll. See also Eleanor Wentworth, "The Significance of Women's Organizations," Western Comrade (Los Angeles) 1 (July 1913), 138.
(19)Ralph Edward Shaffer, "Radicalism in California, 1869-1929," (Ph.D. diss., University of California, Berkeley, 1962), 182-183; California Social-Democrat, November 14 and December 12, 1914 and March 6, 1915; "Socialists Put Mrs. Lindsey Out of Party," Los Angeles Examiner, March 20, 1915, box 527, Socialist Party of America Papers, Duke University; clipping on Noel's resignation from the party, Citizen, n.d., Mellon Coll.; Emma J. Wolfe, "Women and Politics," Western Comrade, 4 (November 1916), 19. For Noel's stint on the Social Insurance Commission between 1915 and 1918, see Katz, "Dual Commitments," n. 77, 561.
Gender was certainly not the only variable shaping party members' stands on questions of partisanship. For example, see Agnes H. Downing, "Our Policy for the Second Election," California Social-Democrat, May 29, 1915 and Lillian Bishop Symes, "Shall the Non-Partisan Law Demoralize the Socialist Party? California Social-Democrat, June 19, 1915.
(20)T. W. Williams, "An Open Letter to the Women Voters of Los Angeles," California Social-Democrat, May 24, 1913; Harriman quoted in Arthur R. Andre, "Big Auditorium Rally Opens Socialist Campaign," California Social-Democrat, April 19, 1913. See also "Women Needed in Civic Affairs, Says Harriman," Los Angeles Record, April 25, 1913; "Stamp Out Social Evil At Any Cost," Los Angeles Record, May 2, 1913; "Tells What Socialist Councilmen Could Do For the Workingmen," Los Angeles Record, May 19, 1913; campaign pledge of city council candidates, Los Angeles Record, April 18, 1913; G. Gordon Whitnall, "Campaign Statement Issued By Socialists," Los Angeles Record, May 16, 1913; letter from Geo. W. Downing, dated September 21, 1912, in "Would Like To Introduce Pension Bill," Los Angeles Record, n.d., Woman's Suffrage Scrapbook, compiled by Mrs. M. A. Holmes, Pasadena Historical Society, Pasadena, California; "Friday Morning Name Office," Los Angeles Herald, May 2, 1913, Friday Morning Club scrapbook no. 1, Friday Morning Club Collection, Huntington Library.
Interestingly, the 1913 city platform did not specifically address women's issues as the campaign itself did. See "Harriman Nominated As Socialists Cheer," Los Angeles Record, March 31, 1913; Emanuel Julius, "Los Angeles Platform Clean Cut and Constructive in Every Plank," California Social-Democrat, April 4, 1913.
(21)Ralph Edward Shaffer, "A History of the Socialist Party of California," (M.A. Thesis, University of California, Berkeley, 1955), 124, 129-137, 150-151; Ethelwyn Mills, Legislative Program of the Socialist Party (Chicago: The Socialist Party, 1914), 11- 21, 32, 43, 56-57; Franklin Hichborn, Story of the Session of the California Legislature of 1913 (San Francisco: The Press of The James H. Barry Company, 1913), appendix; Hichborn, Story of the Session of the California Legislature of 1915 (San Francisco: The Press of The James H. Barry Company, 1916), 112, 174-188, appendix; Agnes H. Downing, "Some Things Accomplished by Socialist Representatives," California Social-Democrat, May 22, 1915; Katz, "Dual Commitments," 423-424, n. 96, 473-475.
(22)Zoe Hartman, "A City Mother," Independent, 88 (November 27, 1916), 356; Smith, "Interesting Westerners," 28; Citizen, July 9, September 10, and December 3, 1915, September 3 and December 22, 1916, March 30 and April 20, 1917; Vol. 101, 218, City Council Minute Books, Los Angeles City Council Archives, Los Angeles.
On at least one occasion, male party leaders argued that Lindsey "did not understand the underlying causes of social unrest," nor the best ways to aid the working class, because she advocated what they considered to be frivolous public health measures. See T. W. Williams, "Random Notes," California Social- Democrat, January 29, 1916.
(23)Shaffer, "Socialist Party," 132-140; Katz, "Dual Commitments," chapts. 4, 6-8, and conclusion; Tom Sitton, "John Randolph Haynes and the Left Wing of California Progressivism," in Deverell and Sitton, eds., California Progressivism, 21-23.
From: IN%"H-SHGAPE@UICVM.BITNET" "H-Net Gilded Age and Progressive Era List" 4-MAR-1995 10:15:18.81 To: IN%"H-SHGAPE@UICVM.CC.UIC.EDU" "Recipients of H-SHGAPE digests"
Subj: H-SHGAPE Digest - 2 Mar 1995 to 3 Mar 1995
Date: Fri, 3 Mar 1995 08:49:55 -0800 From: Robert Cherny <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Progressive Era Women and Politics
Kriste raised some interesting questions about how typical it was for women in the public sphere to claim an aura of non-partisanship. I do know that one of the largest women's organizations, the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, which under Frances Willard had become a partisan organization (prompting a split, which I discuss in my book on the Anti-Saloon League), during the Progressive Era reverted to a non-partisan stance.
K. Austin Kerr e-mail email@example.com Professor of History office (614)292-2613 Ohio State University department 292-2674 Columbus, Ohio 43210 USA fax (614)292-2282
Date: Fri, 3 Mar 1995 08:51:41 -0800 From: Robert Cherny <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Progressive Era Women and Politics
From: Daniel Levine <email@example.com>
Of course non-partisanship was a loud cry of male reformers too. The whole "good government" mvt was to rise above "mere party politics," and the "Galveston Plan" was to take city government out of politics into rational administration. "Non-partisan" I would guess was related more to class and education than gender.
Date: Fri, 3 Mar 1995 08:54:23 -0800 From: Robert Cherny <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Progressive Era Women and Politics
In a recent posting in response to the papers from the SHGAPE session at the AHA Kriste Lindenmeyer asked whether we could conclude that women were partisan but not willing to engage in "dirty party politics." I believe the answer to this is largely no. Women were both partisan and willing to engage in politics, as I think all three of our papers were trying to explain. I think we have been misperceiving women's politics earlier in the twentieth century for three reasons. The first is that we keep wanting to attach the adjective "dirty" to party politics. There were many men, as well as women, in the Progressive Era who did not like all of the practices of party politics and wanted to change them. That does not mean that all politics was "dirty" and that women thus did not wish to engage in party politics. Some did and some did not; if women were at times more inclined to want to change the nature of party politics than were men, it was more because they had been excluded from it during its developmental stages and thus had themselves developed different ideas about party politics that they hoped to insert into the system with suffrage, but that is not the same as shunning politics.
The second reason is that we have too long been looking at the wrong women to explain women's political participation. Julia Lathrop may well have shunned politics, but there were thousands of women across the country--I would say especially in cities--who actively engaged in party politics as soon as they had the vote. Those are the women we need to study if we are to develop a better understanding of women's politics.
The final reason is that we have not paid enough attention to how much men tried to thwart women's political desires to participate in party politics. As one example from my paper I used the Republican Women's Club of Chicago led by Louise DeKoven Bowen who supported the entire Republican ticket in the city in return for the party's support of just 1 female candidate, even though these women did not necessarily like all the other candidates. They recognized, however, that this was the nature of partisan party politics. Rather than acknowledging this support, the party continued to deny these women equal access to the party machinery, decision-making, etc. in the coming elections.
Maureen A. Flanagan
Michigan State Uni.
Date: Fri, 3 Mar 1995 08:56:28 -0800 From: Robert Cherny <email@example.com> Subject: Progressive Era Women and Politics
I've looked at the history of Philadelphia's Civic Club (whose papers are at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and would be an invaluable source for a dissertation). Civic Club women were quite explicit about their non-partisan stance, until the husband (Rudolph Blankenburg) of one of their leaders (Lucretia Blankenburg) ran for mayor as a reform candidate in 1911. He was a quintessential progressive, running as an independent, eschewing the patronage and spoils system of machine politics, promising professional expertise and efficiency in municipal government. To the amazement of nearly everyone, he won, and the Civic Club greeted the news as if the Millenium had arrived. Unfortunately, he served just the one term (a combination of the onset of WWI, his rejection of patronage, and machine politics as usual did him in) and after their wholesale support for his campaign, the Club's claims to nonpartisanship were deeply damaged.
For the ten years or so preceding Blankenburg's election, the Civic Club concentrated its political efforts on organizing the city's slum residents, on a ward by ward basis that mirrored the political machine's organization. They distributed materials informing people of their rights and responsibilities as voters and also what the responsibilities of politicians were to their constituents. Does this action have a parallel in other cities? It struck me at the time as a unique approach, but this is all based on a paper I wrote for a women's history course in graduate school, c. 1987 or so, and I have not pursued the subject much since.
Julie Johnson-McGrath, Ph.D.
History of Science
Date: Fri, 3 Mar 1995 09:07:04 -0800 From: Robert Cherny <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: REPLIES: Gilded Age Writer
H-SHGAPE immediately received four replies to yesterday's query regarding E.W. Wilcox, a Gilded Age author.
Perhaps the reason June Hopkins is having trouble locating information on Ella Willa Wilcox is that she's actually looking for Ella _Wheeler_ Wilcox, who was known primarily as a poet rather than as a novelist. There may be a chapter on her in Cheryl Walker's _Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century_ (Rutgers UP, 1994?), one of the volumes in the American Women Writers Series.
English, West Virginia University
Morgantown, WV 26506-6296
Perhaps you actually mean Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919), the popular poet? If so, you shouldn't have any trouble finding information on her -- she's in Webster's 1-volume American biographical dictionary, and most other major sources. If this is who you mean, it would be interesting to hear more about where her name appeared as Ella Willa Wilcox.
You must mean Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919), a Wisconsin poet and journalist. Her most famous poem is Solitude, which starts
Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone;
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth, But has trouble enough of its own.
Her stuff is not much to my taste - sorry I can't cite a work about her.
Scott Nelson (email@example.com)
Visiting Lecturer, Dept of History
College of William & Mary
(h) 804-220-1780 (o) 804-221-3761
Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919) wrote poetry and novels; autobiographical examples of the latter include THE STORY OF A LITERARY CAREER (1905) and THE WORLDS AND I (1918). She's most famous for her sentimental poetry, though, of which the best known lines are probably these: "Laugh, and the world laughs with you/Weep, and you weep alone." Look for her temperance poetry in DROPS OF WATER (1872).
Hope this helps.
SUNY College at Buffalo
Date: Fri, 3 Mar 1995 09:11:01 -0800 From: Robert Cherny <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: GA/PE writers on the Web
[In his reply regarding the Gilded Age author E.W. Wilcox, Scott Nelson included some interesting information regarding the availability of texts by Gilded Age-Progressive Era authors on WWW. I removed that part of his message from the collection of responses to that query, so that it could have its own header. Here it is, and thanks to Scott Nelson. --RWC]
For folks interested in online texts of gilded age and Progressive Era writers, I just found a new resource on World Wide Web called the freethought web. There are a few exposes written by (among others) Theodore Dreiser, Clarence Darrow, Chicago's Robert Ingersoll and Upton Sinclair. The full text is available electronically.
Here is the Uniform Resource Locator (URL)
For folks who've not used world-wide-web and are on a Unix machine (usually folks who use pine to get to their mail) just try typing
after you login. Lynx followed by the URL above will get you to the
Scott Nelson (email@example.com)
Visiting Lecturer, Dept of History
College of William & Mary
(h) 804-220-1780 (o) 804-221-3761
Date: Fri, 3 Mar 1995 09:59:45 -0800 From: Robert Cherny <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Progressive Era Women and Politics
Many Western women participated in partisan politics, on both sides of the political fence. I found that Mary C. C. Bradford was a very influential member of the Democratic Party in Colorado from the 1890s through the 1920s. In 1893 she organized the Colorado Women's Democratic Club in a meeting in her home in Denver. That group participated in the meetings of the entire Democratic Party and was even given credit by some for helping to reunite the Colorado Democratic Party after it had split into Silver and Cleveland factions. Bradford was later rewarded for her efforts when the party convention nominated her as the first woman candidate for a state office. She served as state school superintendent from 1913 to 1926. She also organized a Jane Jefferson Democratic Club, which was very partisan as well. Bradford considered herself a Progressive refomer, particularly in education, but you couldn't call her non-partisan.
Appalachian State University
From: IN%"H-SHGAPE@UICVM.BITNET" "H-Net Gilded Age and Progressive Era List" 7-MAR-1995 00:14:13.00
To: IN%"H-SHGAPE@UICVM.CC.UIC.EDU" "Recipients of H-SHGAPE digests"
Subj: H-SHGAPE Digest - 5 Mar 1995 to 6 Mar 1995
Date: Mon, 6 Mar 1995 09:43:45 -0600 From: Kriste Lindenmeyer <KAL6444@tntech.edu> Subject: Partisan Politics
Thanks to everyone who responded to the issue of women and partisan politics.
I think it's evident that many women, welcomed or not, acted in very
partisan ways. I wonder if many of these women identified THEMSELVES
as partisan politicians? For example, In her paper Melanie Gustafson writes:
"Women's activism and their debates in 1912 resulted in a greater acceptance of
partisanship as a political identification for women suffragists and women
activists more generally....But partisanship for women was still meant to be
limited. It was not meant to be a defining characteristic of women's political
culture." Maureen Flanagan argues that "by the decade of the 1910s activist
men and women had developed different agendas for the city." Did promotion of
their agendas also translate to a different self-identification within the
partisan political structure for men and women? To put it plainly, did women
identify themselves as "yellow dog Democrats" or "100% loyal Republicans" as
ardently as men? If not, was this because women cloaked themselves in
the illusion of moral superiority at the same time they acted in very partisan
ways? I think that the presenters at the AHA have clearly shown that women
participated in partisan politics---even before suffrage. But I wonder if
their partisan activism was fundamentally different than that of men? Or did
partisan men who saw themselves working for "morally superior" issues also
claim partisanship as secondary to their main interests? Does this make any
Date: Mon, 6 Mar 1995 08:25:53 -0800 From: Robert Cherny <email@example.com> Subject: Progressive Era Women and Politics (continued)
Re: Progressive Era Women and Politics.
An interesting discussion and one I hope will keep going.
I still maintain that even though many women, the thousands that Maureen Flanagan refers to and especially the western women voters that Lynne Getz mentions, participated in partisan politics the overall political culture of women was nonpartisan. In part that was due to the dominance of the nonpartisan suffrage movement. In part it was due to women's long history of exclusion from electoral and partisan political arenas and their building of a separate benevolent/reform tradition.
I would also be interested in people's attempts to compare the early twentieth century to the late twentieth century. Where do partisanship and nonpartisanship, partisan activism and nonpartisan activism, fit today?
Assistant Professor of History
Department of History
University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05405 (802) 656-4422
Date: Mon, 6 Mar 1995 08:29:23 -0800 From: Robert Cherny <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Progressive Era Women and Politics (continued)
I'd like to weigh in briefly in the debate over women's partisanship. I've just finished my dissertation, "Gender in American Party Politics, 1880-1900," and am in the process of turning it into a book. Unfortunately I couldn't attend the AHA session in Chicago.
Women were very actively involved in party politics during the 1880s and 1890s. Frances Willard helped jump-start the Prohibitionist Party and thousands of women served as local, state, and national delegates. Women were active as stump speakers, delegates, and candidates in the Western Populist movement (not so much in the South). In response, the GOP funded a National Woman's Republican Association which had chapters nationwide. Democratic women attemped to form a similar organization but party leaders resisted their efforts. But in 1896, when Bryan ran on both Populist and Democratic tickets, there was a National Women's Silver League as well as (on the GOP side) a National Women's Sound Money League.
It's my contention that these efforts diminished after 1896, for a series of complicated reasons, the most important being the decline of party competition. During an era when Presidential elections were won and lost by a few key votes, and when third parties posed a threat to the GOP especially, parties welcomed support from all quarters. After the realignment of 1894-1896, when Republicans dominated the White House and Congress and both third parties faded, they had little incentive to accept women's aid.
Thus in the Progressive era, women turned to a more maternalist mode, depicting themselves as reformers and un-self-interested mothers rather than as partisans. This is an overgeneralization, of course--there was much maternalist rhetoric in the Gilded Age and many partisan women in the Progressive Era, especially after about 1910. But I think women's strategies have to be seen in the context of changing political structures and party dynamics.
I have gone on too long already--anyone who wants to discuss this further is welcome to contact me publicly or privately.
University of Virginia
[Editor's note: I hope you reply through H-SHGAPE. This sounds like a very interesting study, and I'm certain H-SHGAPE subscribers will be interested in reactions to it. --RWC]
Date: Mon, 6 Mar 1995 08:34:29 -0800 From: Robert Cherny <email@example.com> Subject: Progressive Era Women and Politics (continued)
[The remarks of Loomis Mayfield that follow are in specific response to the question posed by Julie Johnson-McGrath:
> For the ten years or so preceding Blankenburg's election, the Civic Club > concentrated its political efforts on organizing the city's slum > residents, on a ward by ward basis that mirrored the political machine's > organization. They distributed materials informing people of their rights > and responsibilities as voters and also what the responsibilities of > politicians were to their constituents. Does this action have a parallel > in other cities?
From: Loomis Mayfield, PRAG <LMAYFIE%LUCCPUA@UICVM.UIC.EDU>
The work of Sam Hays, Walter Dean Burnham, Paul Kleppner, and Michael McGerr (among others) refers to the relationship between Progressive era reformers and anti-party feeling.
I refer to some of their works in this context in "Voting Fraud in 20th Century Pittsburgh," Journal of Interdisciplinary History Summer, 1993. I also refer to examples from Pittsburgh history of this.
From: IN%"H-SHGAPE@UICVM.BITNET" "H-Net Gilded Age and Progressive Era List" 10-MAR-1995 00:58:08.87 To: IN%"H-SHGAPE@UICVM.CC.UIC.EDU" "Recipients of H-SHGAPE digests"
Subj: H-SHGAPE Digest - 8 Mar 1995 to 9 Mar 1995
Date: Thu, 9 Mar 1995 18:59:39 -0800 From: Robert Cherny <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Progressive Era Women and Politics (continued)
I have a few more thoughts to contribute on this thread about women and partisan politics. I think Kriste put her finger on something important in her last message when she asked whether women may have developed a different self-identification within partisan politics. That is certainly what I see with many Chicago women, and I think this gives us a way of understanding how women could engage in partisan politics and yet still have their politics differ in certain ways from that of men. Because women had to come to partisan politics from outside the structures of party and political institutions, once inside the structures with the vote they maintained ideas about politics they had developed as outsiders. This did not negate partisanship, but it did reshape it. So, for instance, the largest Republican women's group in Chicago in the 1920s declared that its purpose was both to organize Republican women, and to "bring about better conditions in the Republican party and to stand for candidates who will tryly represent the fundamental principles for which the party stands." My evidence for Chicago indicates that politically engaged women supported the party candidates almost as faithfully as men (the significant gender difference appears in primary balloting), but they would ultimately draw the line if the party's male candidate violated what they believed their party's principles should be--as they began to do with Mayor "Big Bill" Thompson. Of course, there is the vast majority of women from the early 20th century about whom we will never know their politics. But appropos this let me relate what my 98 year old great-aunt told me. The first time she could vote she went to her precinct where the woman poll judge asked whether she was a democrat of a republican. My great-aunt replied that she did not know, and the woman told her "you're a democrat just like the rest of us," handed her the democratic ballot and my great-aunt voted democratic thereafter. Whether she was a "yellow dog" democratic by conviction or habit I don't know, and I'm not sure she knew after awhile. Since I'm currently writing a book on Chicago women and politics I have lots more information, so if anyone wants to pursue this individually you can also write to me directly.
Maureen A. Flanagan
Michigan State University
From: IN%"H-SHGAPE@UICVM.BITNET" "H-Net Gilded Age and Progressive Era List" 11-MAR-1995 09:54:19.03 To: IN%"H-SHGAPE@UICVM.CC.UIC.EDU" "Recipients of H-SHGAPE digests"
Subj: H-SHGAPE Digest - 9 Mar 1995 to 10 Mar 1995
Date: Fri, 10 Mar 1995 09:21:16 -0800 From: Robert Cherny <email@example.com> Subject: Progressive Era Women and Politics
From: rm87 <Robyn_MUNCY@umail.umd.edu>
I wanted to get in on the discussion of women's partisanship at the turn of the century, beginning with Kriste Lindenmeyer's question about whether women identified themselves as "yellow dog Democrats" or "100% Republicans." The question is extremely interesting because it suggests that partisanship might not have been an all-or-nothing proposition in the Progressive era but that there might have been degrees of partisan identification.
I think that's precisely right and want to illustrate the point from some research I've been doing just this week. I've been studying the very passionate and highly contested election of 1912 in Denver, Colorado. As several of you have pointed out, women in Colorado had been voting for nearly two decades by this time and were officially integrated into the political parties, especially at the level of ward committees. By this time, several women had served in the state legislature, and women were the only candidates even put up for state superintendent of public instruction. I say all of this to recognize the uniqueness of Colorado's situation in 1912.
In this context, many women not only identified as Democrats, Republicans, Progressives, or Socialists but more specifically as members of various factions within each party. Denver's Democratic women, for instance, divided into several factions during the summer and fall of 1912--regulars, Platformists, Progressive Democrats. Here, there was no place to hide from partisan identification.
But, some women among these diverse Democrats clearly held their party identification dearer than others, as I think I can show with a long-winded anecdote. Because Colorado still elected U.S. Senators indirectly (i.e. through the state legislature) and legislators had wanted to make some concession to agitators for the direct election of senators, Colorado allowed candidates for the state senate and state legislature to register a formal statement of intent as to their vote for U.S. Senator should they be elected. Candidates for the state legislature in the primary election in 1912, consequently, had the option of formally announcing their intent either to vote for the U.S. senatorial candidate ultimately nominated by their party in the primary or to vote for the U.S. senatorial candidate who received the highest popular vote in the November elections irrespective of party. (Yes, U.S. senators were on the popular ballot even though they were not legally elected by that vote.)
Among Denver's Democratic women candidates for the state legislature, only one announced her intention to vote for the senatorial candidate who received the highest number of popular votes. All other women candidates for the legislature (I believe there were 14 from Denver) either made no statement of intent or stated that they would vote for the candidate nominated by their party. This suggests to me that some female party activists identified more fully with their party than others--just as men did at the same time.
Finally, some Denver women stated in interviews that they were Democrats at the national level but not at the local level. Some identified with a local or third party in state and local elections. This suggests to me that partisan identification was sometimes--at least in Denver in 1912--fractured, that some women--and probably men--had multiple partisan identifications, depending on the context. And, why couldn't non-partisanship be an option for these same people in different contexts? Some women and men certainly identified themselves as non-partisan in some situations and as partisan in others, which complicates further the issues raised in this conversation.
University of Maryland--College Park
As previously announced, here is the first of the three papers and one comment that formed the session sponsored by SHGAPE (the Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era) at the AHA meeting. The session title was "Before the 19th Amendment: Women, Men, Parties, and Politics in the Progressive Era: A Session Marking the 75th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment." Please consider that these papers enjoy all the same copyright protection that a paper delivered at the AHA would enjoy: do not quote or cite without specific permission of the author. After all four papers have appeared, we welcome your comments, just as if we were all at a professional meeting. --RWC
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Patrick D. Reagan
Tennessee Technological University
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