Saturday, November 27, 2004

Feminists in the South

The Nation's Ashley Sayeau writes:
"The South has a long history of stifling dissent and leaving women with few alternatives to traditional roles. The suffrage movement there was decades late, and it never gained the momentum it did in other regions. Nine of the ten states to vote against the Nineteenth Amendment were below the Mason-Dixon line. And the image of the chaste and devoted Southern white woman has been used to justify everything from patriarchy to lynching. Women who defied this ideal were accused of nothing short of treason. Said one Alabama state senator in 1917 of Southern suffragists, "[They] have allowed themselves to be misled by bold women who are the product of the peculiar social conditions of our Northern cities into advocating a political innovation the realization of which would be the undoing of the South…if they succeed then indeed was the blood of their fathers shed in vain." Fidelity of this sort is difficult to escape – it's a loyalty that still today slips quickly into a fear so profound that a grown woman might not tell her family she's in town to write a piece on feminism, but only to check out a conference about women at a church."

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