Publication Date

Spring 2018

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dorothea Browder (Director), Jennifer Hanley, and Patricia Minter

Degree Program

Department of History

Degree Type

Master of Arts


This examination of the southern suffrage campaign focuses the movement through the eyes of three prominent southern women within the political movement: Kate Gordon, Sue Shelton White, and Josephine Pearson. The merged National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) planned and organized a focus on the South during the second half of the suffrage campaign, which presented new challenges. The Nineteenth Amendment passed through Congress in 1918 and consequently set the stage for a raging political battle between suffragists and anti-suffragists. The suffrage campaign prompted women to question how the political platform of suffrage should be addressed. Women argued over the issue of suffrage and its application; a universal amendment, state legislation, or no suffrage rights at all. The question over appropriate political tactics often revealed the social and cultural prejudices of the campaign leaders.

The cornerstone of my research focuses on the history of the southern campaign and incorporates three southern women who shared distinct political views of woman suffrage. The bulk of my research focused on the primary documents from the Josephine Pearson Collection at the Tennessee State Library and Archives and the loaned papers of Sue Shelton White from Knoxville, Tennessee. I also used the Louisiana newspaper, the Daily Picayune, for information about Kate Gordon as well as her correspondence with Laura Clay.

Through this examination, a more direct focus is applied to the southern suffrage movement, which further complicates separate accounts of racial prejudice and exclusion in southern women’s politics. Furthermore, my thesis will create a framework of southern culture by incorporating the national issue of suffrage from a regional perspective to expose commonalities and themes that muddles southern women’s history and patriarchal loyalty in the South. Carefully analyzing the suffrage and anti-suffrage leadership in the South, particularly Tennessee, helps develop a well-defined understanding of the cultural and political factors influencing southern politics as well as assist in constructing a scholarly historiographic perspective on social and cultural influences of the southern campaign within the separate groups of suffragists and anti-suffragists.


Law and Gender | Legal | Political History | Women's History | Women's Studies