Primary Sources & Lesson Plans
By 1920, the womens rights movement had been active in the United States for more than 70 years. Despite early differences with respect to strategy, after 1900 most advocates for womens rights agreed that gaining the right to vote (suffrage) would be the most effective means of improving political and economic conditions for American women. In the 1910s, the suffrage movement devoted all its energies to the passage of a womens suffrage amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which would require ratification by three-fourths of all State legislatures in order to become law.
Both the idea of womens suffrage and the strategy of a Constitutional amendment encountered significant opposition. In the South, racial prejudice and issues of states rights combined with hostility to womens rights to heighten opposition to the 19th Amendment. As president of the North Carolina Equal Suffrage League, Gertrude Weil was in frequent contact with Carrie Chapman Catt, president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, the leading suffrage organization in the United States. In this letter, Weil identifies the forces blocking ratification in her state, most notably those opponents who attempted to use the race card by playing on the fears of some white citizens that granting the vote to women would increase the power of the region's black population.
For more information on Gertrude Weil or efforts to ratify the 19th Amendment, go to JWA's Women of Valor exhibit.
1. What local political issues must Weil address in her efforts to ratify the 19th Amendment?
2. How do these local issues threaten the goal of ratification?
3. The ratification of the Amendment required efforts on the local, state, and federal level. How is this need for coordination of activities apparent from this letter?
4. What is the tone of this letter? How does Weil create and convey this mood?
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