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Excerpt from The Woman's Hour by Elaine Weiss, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Woman's Hour

The Great Fight to Win the Vote

by Elaine Weiss

The Woman's Hour by Elaine Weiss X
The Woman's Hour by Elaine Weiss
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2018, 416 pages

    Paperback:
    Mar 2019, 416 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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About this Book

Print Excerpt


Barely a week before Mother had died in the summer of 1915, in the library of their house on the Methodist Assembly grounds in Monteagle (Father was a retired Methodist minister), Amanda Pearson had grasped Josephine's hand and implored: "Daughter, when I'm gone-if the Susan B. Anthony Amendment issue reaches Tennessee-promise me, you will take up the opposition, in My Memory!" Josephine bent to kiss her mother's brow, to impress the vow upon her forehead, and answered: "Yes, God helping, I'll keep the faith, Mother!"

So when the telegram arrived late Saturday afternoon, it was with a sense of holy purpose that Josephine Pearson quickly packed her travel case, walked from her house to the Monteagle depot, and bought a one-way ticket for the late train to Nashville.

Even before Josephine made the vow to her mother, she had come to the conclusion that suffrage was a dangerous idea; she arrived at this judgment by what she considered empirical and scholarly investigation, as befitted a woman with higher education and intellectual accomplishments. Early in her career she served as a high school principal and went on to teach English and history at Nashville College for Young Ladies and Winthrop State Normal College for Women in South Carolina. In 1909, she assumed the position of dean and chair of philosophy at Christian College in Columbia, Missouri, at a time when Missourians were debating a woman suffrage measure.

She found she often fell into argument with her colleagues and students about woman suffrage and was frequently the sole naysayer at the faculty table. She began to feel isolated, shunned for her resistance against the popular political tide. She came to resent her faculty colleagues who snubbed her and used their positions to coerce their impressionable students with their terrible suffrage ideas. During semester breaks, Josephine undertook her own version of field research to determine whether women in those few western states where females already had the right to vote, such as Wyoming, were really better off for having the franchise. She collected her own data and conducted interviews and came to the conclusion that suffrage had exposed women to the filth of politics without improving their lives at all. She began to give lectures to antisuffrage audiences and found herself hailed as an Anti leader in the state.

Her academic career in Missouri was cut short in the spring of 1914 by the call to come home to care for her ailing mother, and she returned to Monteagle to nurse her mother and aged father. From her sickbed, Mother continued to write her diatribes against the evils of whiskey and suffrage, and after her death, honoring the vow, Josephine continued the work. She sat at her desk, writing deep into the night, sending her missives to the newspapers in Nashville and Memphis and Chattanooga. The publisher of the Chattanooga Times, Adolph Ochs, was especially welcoming to her antisuffrage proclamations; Ochs's editorial pages, in both his Chattanooga paper and its sister publication, The New York Times, were firmly in her Anti camp. Pearson's dedication was recognized and she was eventually tapped to become president of the Tennessee antisuffragists. And now, like the Confederate generals whose brave exploits had been extolled in her family's parlor, whose names and deeds she knew by heart, she would stand in defense of the South.

Excerpted from The Woman's Hour by Elaine Weiss. Copyright © 2018 by Elaine Weiss. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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