Don’t let the end of Women’s History Month be the end of reading and research about women’s history! The Maryland Suffrage News is now available online at Chronicling America, and it is full of information about how women built up the suffrage movement in Maryland from 1912 to 1920. A weekly newspaper that was published out of Baltimore, the Maryland Suffrage News was edited by its founder, Edith Houghton Hooker, and managed by Dora G. Ogle.
Maryland suffrage news. (Baltimore, Md.), 15 Jan. 1916. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn89060379/1916-01-15/ed-1/seq-1/>
As an activist newspaper, the Maryland Suffrage News focused on grassroots organizing, announcing and reporting on such actions as meetings, petitions, and parades. One distinctive strategy was suffrage pilgrimages across the state. The newspaper informed readers of upcoming events and related what had happened at previous events. You can search the name of your county to see what activities were taking place there: where the meetings were held, who were the speakers, how many attended. Activists would have been able to read remarks made in meetings on the other side of the state, or even in other states, as they strategized to win Maryland over to their cause county by county.
In looking at the names of the people and groups involved in such actions, you can see who were the allies of the local suffragist groups. The women’s suffrage movement was deeply connected to the temperance movement. Suffragists also found allies within government and religion. They pushed politicians and political candidates to speak on their cause and reported what they said to hold them accountable. Certain ministers, rabbis, and priests feature among the prominent supporters.
Opponents of women’s suffrage, known in this newspaper as “antis,” appear in political cartoons and meeting reports as ignorant foils for the enlightened suffragists. The editors loved to report a takedown of an “anti” in a public meeting and gleefully describe how he or she was outwitted by the suffragist speakers. There are many different kinds of antis. The anti might be a privileged woman who fails to understand that not all women have the same advantages and protections she does. Or the anti might be a foolish man who believes that voting undermines a woman’s femininity. Check out the front page of each issue for an illustration or cartoon, some of which feature these antis (and some of which are pretty humorous).
Maryland suffrage news. (Baltimore, Md.), 11 May 1912. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn89060379/1912-05-11/ed-1/seq-1/>
Because it was a newspaper founded to support a cause, the Maryland Suffrage News frequently reported on its fundraising efforts. Donations of various sizes to the newspaper were acknowledged. Advertisements for subscriptions were more than just a way to sell the newspaper; they were a way to promote the movement. Readers were encouraged to buy additional subscriptions so that they could circulate copies among their communities. Advertisements for pro-suffrage literature were also more than just advertisements. They helped activists raise money, distribute their ideas, and give those who purchased the books the arguments and strategies that would win more support for their cause.
Maryland suffrage news. (Baltimore, Md.), 13 July 1912. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn89060379/1912-07-13/ed-1/seq-4/>
The Fifteenth Amendment, ratified in 1870, officially extended the vote to African-American men, promising that “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged…on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” The reality of African-American voting was more complicated, but formally, African-American men could vote, while women of any race could not. Some contributors are angry that African-American men, whom they see as inferior, are already allowed to vote. Some express support for African-American women’s right to vote, but their tone is condescending. When the subject arises, the editors are quick to point out that enfranchising women of all races does not give one race more votes than another. For a better understanding of the racial attitudes and racism within the white suffragist movement, you can search for “negro” and “colored,” terms of the time period.
Six western states (Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Washington, and California) had already granted women the right to vote before 1912, and so from the first issues of the newspaper, writers used these states as case studies for comparison. Votes for women was a state-by-state battle, and activists focused both on changing minds at national and state levels. Writers also compared the United States to countries where women already had the right to vote. If you want to look beyond Maryland, you might try searching “Australia” and “New Zealand” to see how women’s suffrage was an international movement.
Maryland suffrage news. (Baltimore, Md.), 03 April 1920. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn89060379/1920-04-03/ed-1/seq-1/>
The Nineteenth Amendment required ratification by thirty-six states, of which Tennessee was the final in August 1920. Once ratification was achieved, the Maryland Suffrage News turned its attention to voter registration and education and in October 1920 re-named itself the Maryland Women’s News, which also is available in Chronicling America.The Maryland state legislature had rejected the Nineteenth Amendment in February 1920, and Maryland was not part of the thirty-six. But Maryland suffragists continued to work toward a greater participation of women in government.
To find out more about women’s history in the newspapers, visit the Chronicling America newspaper database, and be sure to follow @HistoricMDNews on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for more informative content!
This is a guest blog post featuring the Historic Maryland Newspapers Project and Chronicling America. The Historic Maryland Newspapers Project at University of Maryland Libraries is the Maryland state awardee of the National Digital Newspaper Program. National Endowment for the Humanities and Library of Congress developed this program for state partners to digitize historic newspapers from across the country and make them freely accessible in the Chronicling America newspaper database.
Bridget Jamison is a student assistant for the Historic Maryland Newspapers Project and in her second semester in the History and Library Science program in the College of Information Studies. Additionally, Jamison is a Graduate Assistant in the School of Public Health.