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Post suffrage

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Lecture: Women and Politics in the 1920s

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Post suffrage

  1. 1. Women and Politics in the 1920s HIUS157/Prof. Rebecca Jo Plant
  2. 2. Post-Suffrage Developments • Expectations of a “woman’s bloc” • Congressional victories – Woman’s Bureau (1920) – Cable Act (1922) • Gave married women their own nationality – Motivated in part by reluctance to naturalize immigrant wives – Women only guaranteed independent citizenship if they married foreigners “eligible for citizenship” (non-Asians) – Child Labor Amendment sent to the states (1924) • Background: Keating-Owens Act (1916) declared unconstitutional – Sheppard-Towner Act (1921)
  3. 3. Children’s Bureau, 1912 • Background: Many of the accomplishments of the early 1920s had long been championed by the Children’s Bureau • Branch of the Dept. of Commerce and Labor – Govt agency run by women in pre-suffrage era – Adm. bureaucracy, but also the embodiment of a grassroots movement • Stressed scientific knowledge – But maternal knowledge produced and by women
  4. 4. CB’s activities • Conducted studies on infant and child mortality • Promoted birth and death registration • Fought against child labor • Published pamphlets on childrearing; responded to letters – Infant Care, 1914 (Mrs. Mae West, mother of 5) • Importance of schedules • Emphasized relief for the mother – After World War I • Pamphlets increasingly written by male professionals • Growing concern over infant/child psychology
  5. 5. Making a poster for the Children’s Bureau, 1923
  6. 6. A Children’s Bureau chart, 1923
  7. 7. Sheppard-Towner Act (1921-29) • Funded educational efforts to improve maternal and infant health • Visiting nurses, exhibits, pamphlets • Supported by WC and MC women • Administered by volunteers • Denounced as “socialized medicine” by the AMA; as “bolshevism” by the far right
  8. 8. Conservative Backlash • General context: Red Scare – 1924 “Spider Web” chart • Adkins v. Children’s Hospital (1923) – Struck down minimum wage laws for women • National Women’s Party supports decision • Child Labor Amendment fails • Congress kills Sheppard-Towner Act (1929) – DAR reverses itself • Diminishing concern about women voters – Not voting as a bloc; voting in smaller numbers than men
  9. 9. Anti- Child Labor Amendment Cartoon (1924)
  10. 10. Rise of a grassroots, right-wing women’s movement • Women’s Patriotic Committee on National Defense (1925) – National umbrella organization of many women’s patriotic and conservative groups – Anti-internationalist; pro-militarist – Also attacked social welfare legislation – Chilling effect on women’s movement • Mainstream women’s groups become reluctant to support reform
  11. 11. Split in the prewar coalition of progressive women • 1921 National Women’s Party hosts convention – Alice Paul argues for removing all laws that restricted women’s freedom – Florence Kelley and others are alarmed • 1923 NWP introduces an Equal Rights Amendment – “Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction” – Virtually all women’s groups opposes it
  12. 12. ERA: Pros and cons • Pro ERA position – “Protection” classed women with children – Laws did not really protect women • Mandatory maternity leave; kept them from earning more money • Con ERA position – ERA would imperil all legislative victories based on the recognition that women were different than men
  13. 13. Fundamental differences • ERA supporters valued – Individual/competition – Attacked emphasis on sexual difference – Stressed the right of married women to work – Women won’t gain equality until they’re treated equally—the same as men • ERA opponents stressed – Needs of families and communities – Idea of women’s double burden – Need for a family wage – Belief that “equal” treatment led to further oppression of women
  14. 14. Gold Star Mothers’ Pilgrimages • Bereft mothers of WWI dead organize after the war • GSM lobby for government-funded pilgrimages • Congress passes bill in 1929 – Same year that Sheppard Towner Act killed – Government honors “patriotic mothers,” but not the programs of progressive maternalists – Reflects shift to a more conservative political climate • Program sends more than 6,000 to Europe for two- week stays (1930-1933)
  15. 15. Gold Star Mothers Grant Park, Chicago, 1918

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