1 month ago

History professor looks back on four Alabama suffrage leaders and their fight for the vote

Alabama women today hold political office at local, state and national levels. In 2018, Alabamians elected Gov. Kay Ivey as the state’s second female governor, raising her to the top leadership post.

But it has not always been that way. More than 100 years ago, a woman’s place was in the home. She had no legal rights, and it was considered by many unnatural for her to take part in political affairs.

That began to change with the passage of the 19th Amendment giving American women the right to vote. This year, Alabama and the nation will celebrate the centennial of that pivotal, life-changing moment.

Alabama history professor shares importance of 19th Amendment from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Alabama women stand up and fight

The women’s suffrage movement in Alabama began in 1892 in Decatur and later became a statewide crusade. It was launched by women who were battling social issues, such as wiping out child labor and eradicating alcohol consumption and the ills associated with it.

“These women all realized they would never be able to change these social problems until they could vote,” said Valerie Pope Burnes, associate professor of history at the University of West Alabama in Livingston. “They knew that instead of trying to do cleanup once the damage had been done, they had to vote for the people who made the laws and stop the problems before they start.”

Burnes pinpointed four Alabama women who were most instrumental in bringing about change. Frances Griffin, a teacher from Wetumpka, led the way. She was the first woman to address a legislative body in Alabama when she spoke at the state’s Constitutional Convention in 1901.

During her speech, Griffin effectively shot down the men’s excuses for refusing to give women the right to vote, such as they were not educated and didn’t want to vote. She pointed out that more women attended secondary schools and colleges in 1901 than men, and women “neither steep themselves in tobacco nor besot themselves with liquor, so that whatever brains they have are kept intact.”

Griffin spoke out against men’s actions in the political arena.

“Frances Griffin told the audience that ‘politics is corrupt because women have been kept out of it, and women will clean it up,’” Burnes said.

Burnes said there was one short-lived victory for women during the convention. The delegates voted to give women the right to vote on municipal bond issues. But the men changed their minds the next day and rescinded the decision.

Griffin took her message outside the state, speaking to the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). She ran the suffrage movement in Alabama during 1903-1904. Griffin then stepped back from the fight in 1905, temporarily slowing down the movement in Alabama.

The women’s suffrage movement was renewed in 1910 with the founding of the Selma Equal Suffrage Association (SESA). Another activist, Hattie Hooker Wilkins, who later became a state legislator, was one of the movers and shakers in SESA, and helped spread the word by setting up a traveling library with suffrage books and pamphlets.

Pattie Ruffner Jacobs was both a state and national leader in the movement, founding the Birmingham Equal Suffrage Association (BESA) and later serving on the NAWSA board.

Believing that women could accomplish more by working together, the Birmingham and Selma groups joined forces to create the Alabama Equal Suffrage Association (AESA) on Oct. 9, 1912. The new organization aligned its views with those of NAWSA.

AESA held “voiceless speech demonstrations” in Birmingham department store windows. Members stood in the windows and turned the pages of suffrage pamphlets, making it easier for passersby to read them. AESA opened a tearoom downtown where working women could eat lunch and take a break.

“The suffragists were upper-class white women, but they didn’t want voting to be a class issue,” Burnes said. “The tearoom was a place where girls who worked in the factories and shops could come and read suffrage materials while they took their lunch break.”

Burnes said along with class, race played a role in the movement. “Many Southern white women who advocated the right to vote did so at the expense of African American women,” she said.

Adella Hunt Logan, an African American writer and educator at Tuskegee Institute and another Alabama crusader, was the woman who made the biggest impact in fighting the racial battle, Burnes said. Logan fought for universal suffrage for all women, no matter their race. She joined NAWSA after being inspired by a speech given by women’s rights advocate Susan B. Anthony at the 1895 convention in Atlanta.

AESA members persuaded Joseph Greene, a Dallas County state representative, to bring forward a suffrage bill in the Alabama House in 1915. When the representatives began to debate the issue, he gave a speech against his own bill and withdrew his support. Although the gallery was full of suffragists and legislators wearing yellow roses in support of the issue, the bill to add an amendment to the next ballot granting women the right to vote failed.

The suffragists nicknamed Greene the Dallas County Acrobat because he “flip-flopped” his position. In a twist of fate, Wilkins later defeated him when she was elected in 1922 as the first female Alabama legislator.

In 1919, the issue had moved to the national front when a federal suffrage amendment was sent to the states for ratification. Alabama led the drive in the South to ratify the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. But the state legislators refused to pass it, rejecting any infringement on their authority by the federal government.

“People were really watching Alabama. They figured if Alabama could break open the ‘Solid South’ for suffrage, the rest of the Southern states would follow,” said Burnes. “Alabama women had called and written their legislators, and packed the gallery in the house on the day of the vote. But they were ignored.”

Despite opposition from Alabama legislators, the federal amendment was ratified by two-thirds of the states, giving women nationwide the right to vote. It was officially adopted on Aug. 26, 1920. It was not until 1953 that Alabama ratified the amendment, although it was simply a formality by that time.

Burnes said the suffragists faced many challenges throughout the movement, but the biggest hurdle was the men and their attitudes about women.

“Women had to go through men to get the right to vote,” she said. “The legislators and the citizens who were voting were all males. The women weren’t voters, so the legislators didn’t have to pay attention to them. They didn’t care.”

Of the four women who played instrumental roles in the movement, Burnes believes Griffin had the biggest impact. She died in 1917 and never saw her dream become a reality.

“Frances Griffin is my hero in this whole thing,” said Burnes. “She was smart, witty and broke through the barriers, and she honestly didn’t care what anybody said about her.”

Alabama is celebrating this momentous milestone for women with many centennial events across the state. Vulcan Park and Museum kicked off the celebration in January with a year-long exhibit, “Right or Privilege? Alabama Women and the Vote.” To check out other events on tap this year, visit the Alabama Department of Archives and History Women’s Suffrage Centennial website at alabamawomen100.org.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 hour ago

Yellowhammer connects your business to Alabama consumers

After nine years, our mission remains the same: reflect our state, its people and their values. As the state’s second-largest media outlet, Yellowhammer connects your business to the people of Alabama.

Online, on the radio, podcasts, events and more. What can Yellowhammer do for you?

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2 hours ago

State Sen. Chambliss: Ivey doing ‘a great job’ on coronavirus — ‘I applaud her for just hanging in there and making those tough decisions’

The coronavirus pandemic has prevented a set of unforeseen challenges that almost no government official in the upper echelons of an executive could have imagined. Included among those are challenges deciding the whats and when of closures, which could have profound economic impacts.

In Alabama, State Sen. Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville), while acknowledging his reluctance to be critical, credited Gov. Kay Ivey for taking on those challenges stemming from the COVID-19 breakout.

Chambliss told Huntsville radio WVNN’s “The Jeff Poor Show” that he thought Ivey was acting in good faith, putting what was best for Alabama in front throughout her decisionmaking processes.

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“As a past chairman of a county commission, which is obviously small compared to this situation — you know, I was in situations where I had to make decisions about closures and that kind of stuff — and those were just for a day or two, nothing like she has done,” he said. “There is no way it is the time for us to look at that — should we do this, should we do that. I think she is doing a great job. She is doing what she thinks is best. Obviously, she has every bit of the information she can in making those decisions.”

“And you and I are a level or two removed from all that information in real-time,” Chambliss continued. “So, I applaud her for just hanging in there and making those tough decisions. After the fact, I’m sure she’ll say to herself, ‘I wish I had done this,’ or, ‘I wish I had done that.’ But now is not the time for me to do it, specifically. But there’ll be plenty of time to look at that kind of thing later, and learn from it — and do better next time.”

As to whether or not Alabamians were adhering to the guideline set by policymakers, the Autauga County Republican legislator said it took some time, but now most appear to be on board.

“I don’t think they were initially, especially some of the initial discussion was that it primarily affects older people,” Chambliss said. “We now know, at least in the United States, I think the numbers are around 40% or greater that are younger than 65. I think that gave them a false sense of invincibility, and that’s not going to be a problem for me. We see that it has been a problem for some. More importantly, they spread it around, and then it causes problems for their loved ones. I think that’s starting to sink in with people now — even the younger generation, kind of now are, ‘I need to be a little bit more careful than I was.’ I think it is starting to sink in now, although I don’t think it was initially.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly and host of Huntsville’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN.

Get back on the road to recovery — $350 billion is now available to small businesses

Business Council of Alabama is the go-to resource to ensure your small business gets its share of the relief funds.

Join Business Council of Alabama president and CEO Katie Boyd Britt and a panel of experts Thursday night for the Small Business Exchange on Alabama Public Television.

They’ll take your phone calls and answer your questions.

“We have to make sure that Alabama’s small businesses get the loans and support they deserve in these tough economic times,” Britt emphasized. “The first step in getting Alabama back to work is to get this loan money flowing to our businesses.”

The Small Business Exchange will air Thursday on APT from 7:00-8:00 p.m. Call 1-833-BCA4BIZ (1-833-222-4249) from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Thursday and from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Friday to talk to a small business expert.

Let our experts help you get back on the road to recovery. We’re all in this together.

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3 hours ago

7 Things: Guidelines on reopening the economy could come soon, everyone wants the coronavirus stimulus check, Biden the Dem nominee and more …

7. Apparently, the coronavirus only strikes at night

  • Mobile has put out a city-wide curfew from 10:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m. that prohibits anyone who isn’t going to their essential job from being out. Fairhope’s city council voted on whether to adopt this same curfew but voted it down. 
  • Council President Jack Burrell said he had “real concerns” about issuing a curfew, and the council saw that a curfew could cause raise the chances of law enforcement being exposed to the coronavirus if they have to pull over more people for violating a curfew. Councilman Robert Brown argued that he’s against “further restrictions on personal freedoms.”

6. Hyundai plant extends its shutdown

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  • Hyundai has decided to keep their Montgomery production plant closed until at least May 4 after being suspended on March 18. 
  • The Montgomery plant has about 3,000 employees. There will be new safety measures when work does resume, but for now, the shutdown “is in the best interest of protecting the health and well-being of team members and communities, and to align vehicle production with current consumer demand.”

5. It wasn’t China, it was Europe or something

  • The American media is selling a narrative Thursday morning that the coronavirus didn’t come from China, but it came from Europe. The hook is that the travel ban to China was worthless while the travel ban to Europe came far too late.
  • This ignores a few obvious things. The coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China, the Chinese and the World Health Organization lied about the spread, and when the travel bans were implemented, these same outlets screeched like banshees about how wrong travels bans are.

4. Aderholt wants us to “Buy America”

  • In a letter sent to President Donald Trump, U.S. Representative Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) advocates for more “Buy America policies,” adding how this pandemic has shown how important is it for the United States to not rely so heavily on other countries. 
  • Aderholt wrote that “we must prevent foreign control over the supply and price of health-related commodities in the United States.” He also noted the push to have more American-made medical supplies is being brought up by former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. 

3. It’s Biden, it was Biden all along

  • U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has admitted that “Vice President Biden will be the nominee” after deciding to suspend his 2020 Democratic presidential Campaign. 
  • Even though his campaign is suspended, Sanders has said he will “stay on the ballot in all remaining states and continue to gather delegates.” He insisted that his “movement” isn’t over and is still about “justice.”

2. Everyone wants the checks to come quicker

  • The coronavirus stimulus package that would pay many Americans $1,200 has already been approved and signed, so now everyone is waiting for their money. U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) wants the checks sent out quickly. 
  • Jones and U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) are suggesting that the Treasury Department send out debit cards to people instead of paper checks since there were plans to likely not send checks until late April. Jones said, “A slight lag between Congressional action and the support arriving to workers is understandable, the Treasury Department must act expeditiously to get these funds to their intended recipients.”

1. CDC could start relaxing guidelines soon

  • The media and the elites got it very wrong and now Americans want a chance to get back to some form of normalcy. Now, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention is considering relaxing restrictions. Trump wants to give leeway to the states with “red zones” and “green zones” within the country to show where the government believes it’s safe to reopen. 
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci has also said that if social distancing rules already in place successfully flattens the curve, then we need to “at least plan what a re-entry into normality would look like,” and we need to “be prepared to ease into that.”

3 hours ago

House Majority Ldr Ledbetter: ‘The people in our state are strong — They’re going to come back better than ever’

In recent days, some of the doom and gloom resulting from the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on Alabama has given way to optimism.

Among those with an optimistic disposition regarding the state’s handling of COVID-19 and the state’s economy is Alabama House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville).

During an interview with Huntsville radio’s WVNN on Wednesday, Ledbetter laid out why he sees the state turning a corner in its fight against the coronavirus outbreak.

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“I don’t think there’s any question about it,” Ledbetter said of a perceived change in trends for the better. “The models indicate that. When you put everything in that they ask for — once you do that, it shows up dropping in numbers. At one time, some of the models were showing us at 5,000 deaths. I think now it has decreased down into the hundreds, and maybe even lower than that. That’s certainly been important for the people in our state. The things we look for — you know the question today was what will see when we start going back to normal?”

“That was one of the things — fewer cases and deaths, and more tests we’ll get out, the better off we’ll be,” he continued. “The curve that everybody’s talked about — hospital capacity, we’re actually in pretty good shape right now, the state of Alabama. We’ve got about 50% of our beds available. Somewhere around 36% of our ICU beds are available. We’ve got about 800 ventilators, which has increased pretty significantly. When we started out, we had 1,333 ventilators in this state, and I think we’re up to some 1,800 ventilators.”

Ledbetter credited many institutions around Alabama for getting the ventilator count up, from nursing school to the veterinarian school at Auburn University, and pointed to an effort to refurbish some ventilators that were in disrepair.

He also credited State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris.

“I’ve got to give credit to Dr. Harris,” he said. “I think he has done a tremendous job — him and Dr. [Don] Williamson, in my opinion very fortunate to have those two. Dr. Williamson over the hospital association, and of course, Dr. Scott Harris is over [the Alabama Department of Public Health]. Those two have worked in tandem, and I really truly believe they’re one of the main reasons we’re where we are at today and have been hit no harder than what we have been hit.”

The Dekalb County Republican lawmaker insisted the state would rally back to an even better position economically.

“If we can get this behind us, and get our economy growing — you know, our Alabama economy as growing better than it ever has in my lifetime,” he explained. “Unemployment was 2.7%. We had added some 24,000 jobs and $14 billion into the economy. You know, it almost hit a brick wall. We’ll see how it comes out, and listen — the people in our state are strong. They’re going to come back better than ever. I really believe that.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly and host of Huntsville’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN.