Women’s History Month via the UNK Archives

Written by Laurinda Weisse, University Archivist

Happy Women’s History Month! To celebrate, the UNK Archives will be highlighting some of our women-focused collections on our Flickr and Pinterest pages. The UNK Archives holds a small collection of materials, primarily news clippings from the early 1910’s, on the struggle for woman suffrage. Unlike its neighboring states, Nebraska was not an early adopter of woman suffrage. Instead, although it had a few periods of vigorous activity, women only achieved full suffrage with the ratification of the 19th Amendment. The Journal It's Risky to Want Things - You Wanted to Vote Star gives a good overview of the long suffrage movement in Nebraska.

Strong sentiment on both sides generated a wealth of political cartoons. James Montgomery Flagg, who attained fame a few years later for his Uncle Sam poster, created an ambivalent illustration for Sunday Magazine captioned “It’s Risky To Want Things – You Wanted to Vote”, shown here. Those in favor of women’s suffrage also deployed cartoons to illustrate their issue, including this pamphlet comparing government to housekeeping, produced by the National American Woman Suffrage Association.

Of our Nebraska-focused materials, I was particularly fascinated by the depth of the Nebraska Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA)’s report for 1909. The members involved themselves in many issues related to suffrage. I used their data to map the 1909 vote on suffrage:

1909 Nebraska House Vote on Suffrage

NWSA even conducted a survey of most libraries in the state, asking the librarians about holdings of suffrage-related materials (none, in most places).

The 1910-1921 Blue and Gold Yearbooks mention suffrage only once, suggesting either that there was little interest in the issue here in Kearney or that the yearbook had a no-politics policy. I leave you with the sole suffrage reference from the yearbooks, a gentle    parody of suffragettes, included in the 1917 edition:

A Transformation

As a roaring suffragette,
Bessie is a terror
Helped the dean and council, too,
Stage their chapel error.
Helped them slander all the boys,
Said they were conceited;
With brimstone, fire and sulphur, too.
Her arguments were heated.
Now she’s changed her tune a bit,
Nor says she likes not any, –
Spends her time and money, too,
Autoing with Benny.
Says tho boys are horrid things,
Hardly worth a penny,
She can never live in peace
Till she catches Benny.

scan of transformation text

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