Tag Archives: suffrage

It Ain’t Easy Being a Woman

Alice Hegan Rice

Alice Hegan Rice

Or is it?  Are women loved?  Hated? Revered?  Feared?  Pampered? Oppressed?  All of the above?  It depends on where you look in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives collections of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  For this International Women’s Day, here are a few examples:

It is my sad lot to write you that it is a girl instead of a boy. Bill Gossedge of Louisville, announcing the birth of his daughter in 1939.

I was liberated on the day I was born–in 1920!  Women have always been able to do what they wanted to if they wanted it enough–and have a family as well. Martha Mauldin of Bowling Green, responding to a 1996 “Rush Limbaugh Position Poll” to show “that feminists are out of step with most Americans.”

Woman is the embodiment of soul, romance, beauty and delicacy, that gives refinement to society, delight and enjoyment to the senses, and happiness to the mind. Byron R. Gardner, decrying supporters of woman suffrage “as if it were a greater boon to act with wicked men than to influence them.”

This will could never be recorded, as your wife was a married woman. — Bowling Green lawyer Daniel Webster Wright, returning to Simon P. Morgan his deceased wife Cassandra’s 1871 will.  She had left everything to her husband, but marriage deprived her of her legal identity and property rights, so the will was meaningless.

And, of course, on this “Day Without a Woman,” it’s worth remembering that some of the fondest words spoken about women come after they’re dead.  Here’s Rev. Benjamin S. McReynolds of Butler County, writing on the death of his wife Elizabeth in 1816:  My dear Elizabeth is gone / To inherit an immortal crown. / Reserved for her in heaven above, / Where she’s inflamed with joy and love.  Or this from poet Cale Young Rice, in a letter to his brother eleven months after the death of his wife:  My life seems to have run into a blind alley at present.  The loss of Alice and my home, the feeling that I have finished my work . . . leaves me desireless.  “Alice” was Alice Hegan Rice, author of the classic story of life in a Louisville slum, Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch.  Two weeks later, Cale took his own life, unable to cope “without a woman.”

Click on the links to access finding aids for these collections.  For more, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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The Apple and the Core

Smiths Grove College was established in 1875 and operated as such until 1901, when it became the Vanderbilt Training School and then Warren Baptist Academy.  Today, North Warren Elementary School is located on the site.

As Women’s History Month draws to a close, let’s look at some notes, probably from the 1890s, of a debate at Smiths Grove College on “a question that is agitating the whole nation,” namely whether “it is right to give to women the same right[s] as we do to men.”

Listing the arguments in favor, our anonymous scribe was both principled and practical.  Times had changed, and as the barriers to women’s property ownership and entry into the professions were disappearing, so too should their political disabilities.  “Suppose some woman owns a farm and she would have a hired hand.  This hired hand would be allowed to elect the officers of the country and she would have no voice whatever although she is paying taxes,” observed our proponent.  Contrary to fears that politics would corrupt the female sex, the grant of suffrage would allow women to “purify politics.”

"Should Women Vote?" wonders a harried husband (from a 1903 postcard, WKU Library Special Collections)

“Should Women Vote?” wonders a harried husband (from a 1903 postcard, WKU Library Special Collections)

But no consideration of the issue was complete without addressing Biblical notions of women’s roles, to which our writer responded wryly and dismissively.  When the Apostle Paul called upon women to be obedient and “keep silence in the churches,” his admonition came at a time when “there were about a dozen women in the country and all they knew was to have some fried meat & bread ready when the men got hungry.”  True, it was Eve who gave Adam the apple to eat, “but I’ll venture to say,” concluded our debater, “that he helped her up in the tree and then gave her the core.”

Click here to access a finding aid for the collection of Smiths Grove College materials containing these righteous feminist arguments, housed in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives section of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  For more collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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