The passage of the 19th Amendment guaranteed the right to vote for women — a significant constitutional milestone. But women’s activism has not always united disparate groups into collective action, nor have its aims and achievements always resulted in equity. In this episode, the Briscoe Center’s Dr. Sarah Sonner and filmmakers Ellen Temple and Nancy Schiesari discuss On with the Fight! and Citizens at Last, their recent projects on women’s suffrage and activism. The exhibit On with the Fight! was curated by Sonner and documents 150 years of women’s activism through the Briscoe Center’s collections. Temple and Schiesari are the team behind Citizens at Last, a documentary film that tells the story of the Texas women who organized, demonstrated, and won the vote for women.
[0:00:01 Speaker 3] Mm. And then this is American Rhapsody, a podcast of the Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin. American history is many things, but it is most certainly a rhapsody quilted together from the ragged patches of many disjointed stories and yet somehow still managing to form a coherent whole. I’m Don Carlton, executive director of the Briscoe Center, a repository for the raw materials of the past, the evidence of history that we collect, preserve and make available for use each episode. We talked to the individuals who helped create that evidence to the donors who preserved it, and to the researchers who used those collections in their work. And we keep the American Rhapsody going. Mm yeah, The 19th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution, which granted women the right to vote, is now a century old. Women’s suffrage was one of the most significant political milestones in American history. The campaign for women to achieve voting rights spanned decades and represents a complex story of allies and partnerships. Nevertheless, many women of color remained disenfranchised well into the 20th century, a fact some white women greeted with ambivalence to celebrate the 19th amendment to explore the history of women’s activism more widely and to bring attention to the Briscoe Centers Resources for research on the subject we’ve created. The exhibit on with the Fight On With the Fight was curated by Dr Sarah’s Honor, The Sinners, associate director for Curation. On today’s episode, Sarah interviews Nancy Scott, Sorry and Ellen Temple. Nancy Scott Sorry is a director, producer and cinematographer whose films have been broadcast worldwide. She teaches here at UT Austin, and she’s worked with the center on numerous projects, including serving as director of Cactus Jack. Lone Star on Capitol Hill, The Briscoe Centers PBS documentary on US Vice President John Nance Garner. Ellen Temple is a highly respected student of women’s history and a farmer regent of the University of Texas system. She is the publisher of the book Citizens at Last, which documents the women’s suffrage movement in Texas. Ellen and Nancy are leaders of the team behind a new documentary, also titled Citizens at Last. The film premiered on Austin’s PBS affiliate K L Are You in March 2021. Citizens at Last follows the story of the Texas women who played a vital role in the passage of the 19th Amendment. It’s a story of grit, persistence and tactical smarts. But as a documentary shows, the 19th Amendment was also a problematic victory. Black women in the South continued to be subject to discriminatory Jim Crow laws while to Hannah’s remained under the patrol system in South Texas. Exasperated but undaunted, black and brown women continued their fight for equal voting rights long after 1920 Citizens at last relies on many of the same primary sources displayed in the centres. Exhibit on with the Fight.
[0:03:49 Speaker 1] What follows
[0:03:50 Speaker 3] is a conversation between Sarah Ellen and Nancy on how these historical resources are critical to our understanding of women’s history.
[0:04:01 Speaker 0] Welcome to American Rhapsody. So Nancy and Ellyn let me just start by asking you both to introduce yourselves.
[0:04:08 Speaker 1] My name is Ellen Temple. I live in Lufkin, Texas, but I spend a lot of time in Austin, and I’ve been focused on women’s history in Texas for the past 40 years, and I’m particularly interested in the fight for the women’s vote. You know, it’s been a great experience over all these years to really delve into these stories that nobody seems to know have an undergraduate degree from the University of Texas and a graduate degree from Stephen F. Austin State University, Britain. History published it, and now I am thrilled to be working with Nancy on this film. Citizens of Breast
[0:04:58 Speaker 2] Nancy Scott Sorry, I teach in the RTF department at the University of Texas in Austin. I’ve been making films for about 20 years and often specializing in films about people you’ve never heard of so or subject matter that’s previously not been explored. And I had this wonderful opportunity to work with Alan Temple on the story of women’s suffrage in Texas, based largely on two important books that she published in the eighties. Citizens at Last and the diaries of Jane McAllen and then a number of historians that have been connected to this project through Ellen’s Connections and Nancy Baker Jones. So we’ve been really lucky to be able to explore this subject with some really great people.
[0:05:46 Speaker 0] So thank you so much for joining us 2020 marks the Centenary of the 19th Amendment. So we’re at a natural point to examine this history. And so I wanted to ask you about the genesis of this documentary film project. What sparked the motivation to put this history on film?
[0:06:05 Speaker 1] Well, I start and then we you know, Nancy and I have been working together now for two years, and so we can finish each other’s sentences. But you know, I published those books back in the 1987 and 1988. And other scholars have written great work on the women’s suffrage movement in Texas, especially, um, Judy MacArthur and Hal Smith. But I did kind of an informal survey with friends, and I say I asked, You know, Do you know who many fish are? Cunningham is, and nobody knew. Do you know who have Et Dar is? No. Do you know who Christina Aguilera is? Miriam Folsom? And no, And so somehow the story has not gotten into the mainstream narrative of Texas history. But it has all the elements that Texans love to know. You know, they love heroes. They love persistence. They love victory. They love. So to me, it’s a very exciting story, and that’s how I really wanted to do it. And Nancy and I met for coffee two years ago in Austin, and I said, You know, I’d like to do a documentary, and she said, Well, how about a documentary on the women’s suffrage movement? That’s been something you’ve worked on for a long time, and at our very first meeting, we decided to do this. We agree that it’s an important story, that the vote is one of the most fraught issues of our time, and everybody wants it, and some people want to deny it, and it’s all about power. And the importance of this story and what it teaches us and how it inspires us is a reason that I wanted to do it.
[0:08:06 Speaker 0] I wonder if you could say a little bit about how the scope of the project developed and changed over the course of your research and of assembling the documentary itself.
[0:08:15 Speaker 2] Well, it was a long process because it’s a long history and we didn’t want to leave out the key players. But that makes it difficult. It’s a lot easier to make a film about one person or a biopic or just one particular theme, but we had to weave together the stories of three or four major players in this history, and that was spanned over late 18 hundreds through the 1920 so a 40 year period as well, and it took a while to build. So we built it pretty much section by section, starting with Marianne, a fulsome coming down into Texas. The northern suffrage just knew that they had to have Texas as part of the number of states that to ratify a federal amendment. And Mariana Folsom was a Quaker and a Universalist minister was sent to test the waters. So she came down as a as a speaker, well known as A as a very good powerful speaker. And she did toward the whole Texas giving talks and about suffrage, and so that that’s really our introduction to the film. And it allows us to come into Texas when it was extremely rule and these towns were separated like island communities connected by railroads. But still, communication was slow and a lot of people hadn’t heard these ideas on suffrage. So women are much more tentative in the south, and they came forward and, you know, started becoming interested in suffrage. And then Marianne, a fulsome, realizes that it’s not enough to go town to town and talk to audience by audience. They need to move their campaign to Austin to where the power is to influence legislators to try and, you know, get something through an amendment. So then around the turn of the century, it shifts and you know the search or the campaign really comes into the capital. And then we you know, we talked about that period for a little bit, and we introduced many Fisher Cunningham who comes into the history through Galveston right after the storm. So the storm gives us an opportunity to to break with the late 18 hundreds and come into the 20th century and the reform period, which was when suffrage really took off not only in Texas but all over the country and manufacture. Cunningham happened to be a pharmacy student at the University of Texas when the storm happened, when the famous storm happened, and she soon after gets married, comes back to Galveston with her husband and starts connecting with women’s clubs that were very important to where women learn to organize and becomes an activist in the reform movement. Trying to change all the things that were wrong with the food system, women became became more active as reformers at that time than his suffragist. They started off feeling that many Fisher Cunningham describes. And also our scholar Judy MacArthur describes that the difference between suffrage at the beginning with women tend to emphasize their rights. What was there in the Constitution should apply to them. They are humans. They deserve the right there. Citizens. They got citizenship with the 14th Amendment. But still, there’s not enough traction around women getting on board with just the rights argument. But the turn of the century, when women were experiencing, they no longer had a cow to feed their Children fresh milk. And they depended on industrialization, for for food, for, for housing, for sanitation and saw so many things lacking in that system that they started forming organizations to take that on. And that worked very well with suffrage to bring so many thousands of women into the movement. That’s kind of where we started.
[0:11:56 Speaker 0] Do you think that focus on reform? And on those particular, like you mentioned many Fisher Cunningham’s campaign about food safety? Do you think that was something that differentiated the suffrage movement in Texas from the national one? More broadly,
[0:12:10 Speaker 2] I don’t think so. I think that this was a national movement. It happened everywhere. It happened in New York. It gave women an excuse to use the maternal mystic argument that they care about their Children and they do, and they care about their families. And they turned those maternal instincts outwards. So for the first time, they had a real excuse to get out and campaign and go into the streets and to try and affect society around them, because before they were more, the private home was based at women occupied. So this got them out, and they realized very soon at the turn of century that they needed the vote. These women that were reformers realized we need to vote because we need to influence legislators to do good and, you know, to to take these concerns into hand. So it was a huge push, really helped them. Then in our film, we have Another big challenge was to show that in the Deep South, the Federal amendment was not popular because of what had happened in the civil war was reconstruction. There was a white supremacy that was like a blanket over the deep South. Men didn’t want suffrage and They certainly didn’t want a federal amendment coming in that would bring any kind of interference to give women the vote that had any pressure on it from the federal government. So it was very hard for women to make the argument for an amendment.
[0:13:30 Speaker 0] One of the things that we found in the collection that we put in the exhibit was an issue of the suffragist that as an article making the argument that women’s suffrage will help maintain white supremacy in the South. So in your research, did you start to see this argument emerge?
[0:13:48 Speaker 2] Oh, absolutely. It was there with Kate Gordon. She focused on starting the Southern Southern Convention of Women’s Suffrage is, and she comes to Galvez. She comes the hotel Galvez. She comes to Galveston at the Texas Women’s Suffrage Convention, and she makes a case for women joining her movement as well as the Texas movement. And her movement was a movement of white Southern women who use the argument that if more white women are given the vote, we can. If we can get our male legislators to swallow this, they will realize that if more white women are given the vote then that will add to the white population of voters. And, you know, we’ll always keep blacks in their place at the bottom. That was about very openly. That didn’t surprise a lot of people. Many Fisher, Cunningham and her mentor, Annette Finnegan, who was the president of the Texas organization before many became president, really didn’t want to have anything to do with that argument. In fact, the newspaper reported Kate Gordon’s talk at the convention and got in Galveston and also mentioned that The Net Finnegan said, We don’t want to have anything to do with that here, and we don’t have a place for that. Basically, And many Fisher cunning how much he became president never invited Kate Gordon back again. They did not appreciate that argument ever, and they’re the arguments that they made for suffrage,
[0:15:14 Speaker 0] and it sounds like they openly pushed back against it as well.
[0:15:18 Speaker 2] Well, they did, But then they were also politically expedient. They realized that if they opened the doors and encouraged African American women to join the suffrage movement in Texas, it would make it very hard to get these male legislators that still wanted to preserve the status quo on their side. So we have an example of the film where Mark Sampson, who was the wanted to affiliate with the national movement, is actually rebuffed. Carry Cat, who is the president of the National Movement National Association of Women’s Suffrage Association, says No, please tell her if she can just wait. We’re going to get the vote for everybody. But if we let her in, if she affiliates, it will embarrass the Southern women and just ask her to be patient. She gives that job too many Fisher Kanye Ham, who then writes the letter. We’ve covered that in the film, and we were kind of dramatized that little moment. So you understand that this was the decision. They made
[0:16:19 Speaker 0] a political decision to weigh these considerations against each other at the time, and this was certainly not unique to Texas. I don’t think right,
[0:16:30 Speaker 2] that’s right. That’s right, Alice Paul said to Ida B. Wells when Ida B. Wells wanted to march in the march yes, march at the back, and she refused to in the 1913 demonstration when Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated. It was part of this understanding that to get the Federal amendment through. They needed three Southern states. They needed the South. They needed some Southern states to get a federal amendment through. And they knew that if they became too democratic, it would jeopardize their chances. So they made a political calculation.
[0:17:04 Speaker 1] They needed 36 states to ratify. If all the Southern states had voted no, it could not have passed. And so that’s why Texas became so important because it was the first Southern state to ratify. Of all the Confederate states, it was the first. That was a major breakthrough. Yeah,
[0:17:29 Speaker 2] and we we got the vote here for white women. Because of many official Cunningham’s political prowess, she was able to exploit a very important division between the Democratic Party, between the progressives and the Conservatives and the governor of the time. James Ferguson was incredibly corrupt. He was taking money from the liquor industry. He was not giving any space to women’s suffrage. He wouldn’t even entertain a state amendment, which the Democratic Party did approve of in the Democratic convention in ST Louis. There was no chance that he was ever going to come around, and she found a way to make a deal because he was basically impeached and she was behind a lot of that. So we explore that in the film. But before that, I just wanted to say as far as the rights to vote. So when the 19th Amendment was passed, everybody all women, got the opportunity to vote. That was in the Constitution. Now it was, It said sex is not an obstacle. But in the Deep South, there were already Jim Crow laws in place that had been left over from the days when Reconstruction, when the 15th Amendment was black men were disenfranchised when the looks of clan was active. So between legislation and terror, there was no way that the 19th Amendment could apply to black women as well. In the Deep South, some tried to vote and some were turned away. And the great part of it really is that, well, white women got the vote in 1920 African American women in Texas, then took the baton that had been passed from one generation to the other and took it further and actually have one us what we can call ourselves a democracy today. It was because they went on and challenged the white primary to the NAACP and got Thurgood Marshall on board to represent their cause. And we won the right to vote outside of the white primary. Everyone
[0:19:26 Speaker 1] you know, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was a major milestone in this expansion of suffrage to women because because of those restricted Jim Crow laws, black women were denied the vote, even though in the Constitution they should have it. It was state restrictions that kept them from voting until the passage of the 1965 Civil Rights Act. And Texas women played a big role in rescinding the white primary law in abolishing the poll tax, which took a constitutional amendment and then in the passage of the Civil Rights Act.
[0:20:11 Speaker 2] And we pretty much in the film with the vanguard of black women in Texas taking it further, taking it to where we can call ourselves a democracy. That’s something that kind of came late in the film. I didn’t know I would end it like this, and it was so great when it’s quite clear, African Americans are often portrayed as victims in our history, but they’re actually the vanguard in our history. If we want to call ourselves a democracy. It’s thanks to people like Lulu be white that we’ve we talked about at the end of the film. Barbara Jordan. All these women that kept on fighting kept on pushing the definition of what it is to call ourselves a democracy. And it’s thanks to them, you know, because in the sixties, half the United States was under apartheid and we were fighting a war in Vietnam against Communists, and the Communists were always pointing out. America calls itself a democracy and, you know, people in the Deep South front vote. And so that argument, you know, we’ve been able to come closer to a perfect union. And so when we don’t end the film on the 20th Amendment, we ended with these other pieces of legislation that have to be one by going upwards through the law through the Supreme Court. And that was led by black women from Texas. So we’re excited about that. I mean, that wasn’t clear at the beginning, and I think with black lives matter, I mean, this all came much more to focus. We’re just really excited that it ends on that note. Yeah,
[0:21:36 Speaker 1] yes, it’s wonderful.
[0:21:38 Speaker 0] It really strikes me how you can trace a line from reconstruction through the fight for women’s suffrage all the way up to the Voting Rights Act. Through this archival evidence. And I wanted to ask you, I’m curious if there were any specific things that you found, even things that show maybe the negative space or things that leave out information where that absence becomes evidence, I wondered if you could talk a little bit about particular things from the archives that helped bring that to life
[0:22:10 Speaker 2] right? Well, we tried in the film. We have our narration that sets things up and and tries to give historical context. But as much as possible, we’ve used real archives to let them say in their own words, we don’t need to say, you know, this happened in the Deep South because it was said by people. And towards the end, when ratification was being challenged by the anti suffragists who came down in full force into Austin at the moment when the ratification was on the books on the board, you know, we used some of their arguments and there was this one. Representative Mandel. Actually, he made this argument earlier. But he says that all he doesn’t want to open up suffrage because it would mean his daughter and his wife would have to go down to the polls and elbow their way through hordes of black women. He actually ends. His talk, which he was giving, was saying, and our women wouldn’t really know what to do with the vote anyway if they got it. So he’s both, on the one hand, infantilizing these white women and keeping them on a pedestal and at the same time using the racist argument that, you know, we don’t want them to mix or even to have all the courts of black women coming to vote, which would threaten everything. Yeah, it’s great when we came across these moments, and also we have this wonderful, incredible talk that many Fisher Cunningham gave in Galveston to labor women. She comes in and says, When I first joined this movement for me, it was all about rights that somehow taxation without representation was horrific. How could that be? It was so unjust and over time I realized that women who are affluent will fare much better unfairness because they have property that they can rely on. But women like you in the audience who are working women who are working in the cotton mills have nothing but your body to rely on. You need right so that you can preserve your capital, which is your labour that comes from you standing every day over these mills. And she said, And look at our sisters in the in the West who have really got suffrage. They’ve been able to attack child labor laws. They’ve been able to bring in a more civilized working day instead of a 16 hour working day, maybe 10 or eight. Who knows? But she made these labor arguments that were phenomenal because she understood injustice,
[0:24:33 Speaker 0] and she also understood how to speak to people about it as well in a way that was really effective. We have some transcripts of her radio addresses, too. Her later radio addresses. Oh,
[0:24:45 Speaker 2] really? Oh, yeah. She was
[0:24:48 Speaker 0] running for governor as
[0:24:49 Speaker 1] well.
[0:24:50 Speaker 2] Nice.
[0:24:54 Speaker 0] So I wonder. There was one primary source that I came across. It was a broadside arguing that women would lose quote superior status by gaining an equal vote with men. And so that seems to speak to what you’re talking about about this kind of dual infantile ization and concern at the same time. It struck me also that there is a parallel there with later anti r A campaigning like I’m thinking of Phyllis Schlafly’s work
[0:25:21 Speaker 2] right? I think you’d have to attack it on class and race. Different groups of women based on class and race all needed suffrage for different reasons. And white educated women also needed suffrage. I mean, there were already two generations of college educated women by the 1915, so women already were educated. They were coming out of good universities with college degrees, and they could not enter any workforce because there were no jobs open to them except the secretarial jobs. Or, you know, one or two became doctors. But basically they needed the vote, too, because they had no place in society other than the home and so forth. And then working class women really needed the vote because they needed to stop being exploited, being paid half of what men workers were being paid and to be mothers and have see Children working and child labor. So they needed the vote to, and African American women needed to vote for two reasons because of their gender and because of their color, they were being discriminated and experience this caste system that existed for them. So the vote was important to give people a voice and to all come into this arena and say, You know, we want things to improve in different ways, all different levels. I don’t buy the argument of these privileged white women. Yes, they were. But people like many Fisher Cunningham. I knew that it was important across and wanted to push what we can call ourselves as a democracy. And she she was really inclusive, an inclusive leader, whereas many of them yes, only dealt with their own class or their own small group of suffrage is kept things pretty elitist. But on the whole, the suffrage movements really important. Half the population did not have the vote when we went to fight in World War, and that was one of the arguments that they used. How can you criticized the Kaiser for not having democracy and call ourselves a democracy? And half the population can’t vote? And then again, in turn of the century under Jim Crow and voting rights act, the same argument could be made, and every time it’s taken people to organize and fight and use the law as much as possible. I mean, we learned so much about the NAACP. I had no idea they were. Their tactics were so great to constantly use the law and say, This is not constitutional or you’re not supposed to deprive people based on color. Let’s take this to court. Let’s go upwards. The black suffrage is when they were excluded from the movement, they didn’t stop. They said, Okay, let’s join the NAACP because the actually has a place for women and let’s push for the law to change. Let’s push for the vote because this was the prize that they wanted. And they went a different route because the white suffragists who were affluent and educated had brothers had fathers, had sons who were in the system who were lawyers and legislators so they could influence through their connections there. Family connections, black women couldn’t. So they went step higher and went to the Supreme Court. Use the constitution towards the end. We have Barbara Jordan’s wonderful piece where she says I was not and we the people when the founders of this country wrote the Constitution. But But I am now
[0:28:35 Speaker 0] let’s go back to the Texas governor’s and Ferguson and what followed? I know that women’s status as voters in Texas women were granted primary suffrage, and Governor Hobby signed that primary suffrage bill into law. And I wondered if you could tell us a little bit about how that worked in Texas and whether that was a unique status at the time.
[0:29:00 Speaker 1] You know, when Carrie cap and chat? Because I think one of the outstanding features of the archives is this correspondence that we have between cat and many fish are Cunningham and Cat came up with a plan. You know, they kept failing in getting the states to ratify State Amendment. And so the plan was for some states to go ahead and try to get that primary vote. If they couldn’t pass an amendment, maybe they could pass a law because only the legislators have to vote on it, whereas to pass a state amendment, the whole population of the state has to vote on it. And you kept failing, so she and her brilliant way was able to maneuver through this impeachment of Ferguson and then the the lieutenant governor will hobby, you know, stepped up and she helped. She just worked the political angle and convinced them that they needed the women’s vote to hold onto the governorship. And I’ll let Nancy take it from there because she’s so immersed in these details. But it was a
[0:30:17 Speaker 2] brilliant move, right? Carrie Catt reveals the winning plan in Atlantic City, and in their one of their conventions, she calls all the leaders from different states together and many Fisher Cunningham represented Texas. Very important. She shows him a map. There’s this meeting in the basement of the hotel in Atlantic City, and she reveals this map on the wall, and she says, This is going to be the winning plan. The states that are close to getting suffrage or state amendments will go forward. But the states, especially the ones in the South, we don’t want to waste any more time and money and energy because they’re not budging. The Southern legislators are not budging, so those states like Texas, like Tennessee, maybe in Kentucky, other states, if you can get a primary law passed, in other words, if you get the right to vote in the primary. You have a say in electing the leaders in the primary from your party who could be sympathetic to suffrage. So as we know, Texas was a one party state Democratic Party represented the party of the Deep South, and so it was pretty much a monolithic party. And whoever emerged as leaders in the Democratic Party would then go on to leave the state and many Fisher Cunningham realized this was quite a prize if they could win that, and she realized that she could do a backroom deal with Hobby, who had come into governorship because Ferguson quit, he was about to be impeached, so he resigned. So theoretically, he wasn’t impeached. He resigned right before he was going to be kicked out of office, and that would allow him to come back and run a second time. So Hobby is made governor, and he then, when it’s time for re election, Ferguson turns up and runs for governor. And so that’s when many Fisher Cunningham went to the speaker of the House Metcalf, and says to him, Well, you know, we have something to offer here I can bring you women voters. If you allow us to vote in the primary, if you give us the primary right, we will reward you. I was bringing women to vote. So he said, Are you sure? And she said, Yeah, and they went for it. And Hobby signed the primary in place. And then many official, Cunningham and the rest of these tests leaders went to work and form these hobby clubs and ended up bringing 360,000 women voters to vote for William Hobby in the primary. And he was made governor
[0:32:44 Speaker 0] effective political
[0:32:45 Speaker 2] deal and
[0:32:47 Speaker 1] set it up, you know, so that he would be willing to also vote before ratification when that came up, because that was in the works all this time, the fight for ratification of the national minimum.
[0:33:01 Speaker 0] I wonder if the map that you mentioned is similar or the same one to the one we have on display in the exhibit, which shows Texas having achieved primary status and depicts liberty marching across the United States eastwards across the south. The wave of suffrage coming
[0:33:19 Speaker 2] right?
[0:33:20 Speaker 1] That is a great image. Yeah,
[0:33:25 Speaker 2] about the film. I think Ellen told me that It was interesting that Tennessee was, you know, the big story about Tennessee being the last. They needed Tennessee and everyone. But if Tennessee hadn’t voted for the amendment, I think Connecticut would have come along and made up the number of states that they needed to ratify. And I was surprised. I thought, Connecticut, why weren’t they early suffrage is Why did it take New York so long to adopt a suffrage amendment? And it was because the North exploited women, labor and child labor, too. So they while the South was exploiting black labor and Mexican labor, the Northern States were Some of them were afraid of suffrage because they would change labor laws. So it was interesting. That was something I hadn’t ever thought about. Suffrage intersects with so many things in history. Yes,
[0:34:16 Speaker 1] Nancy has totally immersed herself in this story, and it’s been a beautiful thing to watch because Nancy is drawn on from the historians, drawn from the historians, drawn from the documents you know, drawn from the written record and put this together this narrative together. And so, you know, I’ve read that documentary Filmmakers are historians, you know, they’re storytellers. They love a good narrative. Nancy Scott Sorry is the epitome of that kind of documentary filmmaker. It’s been really amazing thing to witness and to be a part of
[0:35:00 Speaker 2] thanks. As you know, any film was made with many people and I’ve got a great team. Were all every single person is bringing their best to this project, and that’s what collaboration really means. It’s when each person brings their best and understands the story and wants to tell the same story, and they feel passionate about it. So the editors bring their, you know, their skills to bear, to tell the story and the musicians that are composing music. I mean, everybody takes the story, and then they use their particular talents and skills to hone in on it through what they can do. Yeah, sometimes I just feel like I’m conducting a bunch of great musicians,
[0:35:41 Speaker 3] but
[0:35:43 Speaker 2] yeah,
[0:35:43 Speaker 1] it’s great. I had no idea, because I mean, I’ve been immersed in the words for so long, you know, on paper. But when I witnessed a recording of an actor reading those words, it just brought tears to my eyes. You know, it moved me in a way that just words on a page cannot do. That is the power of filmmaking. And Nancy is this amazing ability to not only present the facts but to capture the feelings. And I’m very excited about the film. As you can tell, one thing I think we ought to do is recognize the scholars that we interviewed throughout the film. Yeah,
[0:36:29 Speaker 0] I was actually going to ask about your researcher that you had working in our archives. Could you say a little bit about what her specialty is and what she found?
[0:36:40 Speaker 2] Oh, yeah. We wouldn’t have a film without our researchers, and everybody stepped up an amazing way. But Professor Jackie Jones from the History Department recommended a number of students who would probably be looking for summer work her doctoral students. And we had Gabrielle Esparza and Ashley Garcia come on board and Oh, my God, they are amazing. They just go into the archives, find us what we need, send us stuff that we didn’t know existed. So they’ve been terrific and really very fast. I don’t know if you do it, but they’ve been great collaborators, these two young women and are one of our editors. Daniel, Ernie who’s also a coordinating producer, also just discovered this incredible talent he has at doing archival work, and he’s produced all these amazing images from visual archives that go well in the film.
[0:37:32 Speaker 0] What kinds of particular things did they locate?
[0:37:34 Speaker 2] Ashley and Gabriella found amazing newspaper articles about the Democratic convention and the women suffragists who had formed something called the Golden Line. They lined the streets on the way where the delegates would pass and just wonderful descriptions from newspapers that brought these moments to life. And we wanted to have a little section on the pandemic that was going on while when we were trying to get the vote. There was millions of people suffering from the misnamed Spanish flu because they originate in Kansas. But they found this extraordinary material there. And also the letters between Carrie Cat and many Fisher Cunningham allowed us to create. I think something that even people don’t know about saying this incredible documentary series, The Vote. You know there’s the two heroines. There are Carry Cat and Alice Paul, but Carry Cat was such an amazing general, she was called she. Her relationship with state leaders was extremely important because of her winning plan, but she seems to have a special relationship with many Fisher Cunningham and the two women are are similar and that they didn’t come out of society women. They were kind of self made women that came up through the ranks of hard work, and they both understood strategy really well. And they communicate in letters over the referendum that failed in Texas, first over the victories, and our co writer Laura’s Furman, who I I really just have appreciated so much working with her. We’ve gone through the script and co wrote lots of it, and she added this touch about the women. This struggle was so long and so hard that if they didn’t have friendship between them, it probably wouldn’t have been as easy. And, you know, we show an example where there’s a letter where it starts with cordially. Yours from Carrie Cat, Too many Fisher Cunningham to her last letter, lovingly, yours. May God be with you. Bless you and all these really touching kind of words between them. So yeah, that’s something the archives gave us and that our archival researchers brought to us so
[0:39:42 Speaker 0] you can see the evolution of their relationship kind of blossoming over the course of their work on this. Yes, that’s great that this project could bring all of these things together. And, I think, show how archives can really trace these lines and illuminate things that we didn’t know about before and provide this kind of mentorship and lineage. We have a suffrage banner and flag in our collection, and those are both yellow and colour. And we also have other objects that really speak to a visual language for the movement. So I wondered if you could talk a little bit about how you saw these groups getting their message out. How did they visually use tactics to raise awareness and make themselves more visible?
[0:40:27 Speaker 1] I read something really interesting about the 1916 Democratic Convention in ST Louis. I think there’s a book about it, actually, and the women wore white so that they would show up in the newspapers, you know, so there would be that contrast, so they use the tools of their clothes and their colors. The color yellow is my understanding is the color for courage. So I think those symbols, you know, resonated across the board and inspiring people to get involved in this struggle.
[0:41:06 Speaker 2] And a lot of the struggle was they got the word out through petitions, though in pamphlets they would print 100,000 leaflets. I don’t know how they did it, but they did, and they would distribute them. So a lot of it was through handing out leaflets. The Texas suffer just didn’t stage large demonstrations or anything that would really draw attention to accept many. Fisher Cunningham did something similar in Galveston when she wanted to attract people to suffrage. She she got suffered just in cars because cars were pretty new at the time novel and she had people go up and down the boardwalk and make a lot of noise. And but on the whole they were. It was a lot of lobbying and petitioning and handing things out.
[0:41:47 Speaker 1] That’s right. I mean, it was for the final push that final five years, from 1915 to 1920 it was grassroots organization. The suffrage is in Texas. They didn’t have the big parades and demonstrations and all, but they organized down to the precinct. Every county had a suffrage leader and she had people in the towns or in the cities in the precincts who reported to her. And then she reported many Fisher Cunningham, so their organization was the key. I think that grassroots organization was the key to victory in Texas because she could mobilize them. She mobilized them again and again. You know, she mobilized him because they only had 14 days to turn out that 360,000 votes margin for a hobby. And that was because she could call on them, you know, they were all set up. She could do the same when it came to, uh, influencing legislators to vote for ratification, vote at the national level. And then when it came to the States, So that was so impressive. And I think that kind of sets Texas apart a little bit from the national, you know, from the Alice Paul kind of demonstration. In all, Texas was a grassroots triumph.
[0:43:17 Speaker 0] So the archives really show how she was able to build that network and bring all of that together through this gradual work.
[0:43:27 Speaker 1] Yeah, they went up against a machine, You know, the anti prohibitionists, You know, the liquor lobby, the white supremacists. I mean, there was so many obstacles, and they just did it through hard work, organization and political skill, they said. Many Fisher later in an interview that you have there, I think Ronnie Dugger did an interview with her in the 19 forties, interview with many Fisher Cunningham in the 19 forties that it’s in the Briscoe archive, which she said, You know, we weren’t some starry eyed. We were the best politicians of our day,
[0:44:08 Speaker 2] she says. We went up against the most ruthless machine in the history of Texas politics, and we won because we were the best politicians in the room kind of thing. And this was as a response to an article that the Houston Houston Chronicle had come out with an article on the on the 20th anniversary of suffrage praising women for their self sacrificing work during World War two, which they had done and portraying them as noble and self sacrificing. And many Fisher, Cunningham replied to her friend, It’s time we stop this kind of image, you know, we need to. We went up against the most ruthless machine and we won. We were the best politicians, so it was interesting that she was also countering. You know, the kind of stereotype of the self sacrificing
[0:44:57 Speaker 1] all right and also just the idea that they gave women’s suffrage. That was a false narrative. She wanted to dispel it.
[0:45:07 Speaker 0] Yeah, it’s really great that she describes it as as you battle against a machine rather than martyrdom for a cause. So you mentioned that that one archive, too. I wondered if you could just quickly name the Briscoe Center archives that you drew on in the film.
[0:45:25 Speaker 2] Well, we have Ashley, Garcia and Gabrielle as far as they would probably know best. What, exactly they would be the best people to say exactly which archives? But I know some of the archives that I remember using were the There were some very important letters from Carrie Catt two, I think Tessa. And there was also a vast amount of information about Ferguson and impeachment, and we included in the film the way that impeachment proceedings were galvanized through the support from alumni from Texas because Ferguson made a big mistake of taking on the University of Texas and firing, you know, trying to get faculty fired who were pro suffrage and pro prohibition, and that backfired on him. So the Briscoe archives are brilliant. They have that all covered, and we were able to use photographs and archives that are there about this particular battle with the university. So that was something new that we wouldn’t have had without the archives and all our film is based on archives. There’s nothing we made up. It’s all coming from the archival work of all the people that work in archives that are so vital to history. And to be able to make films or websites are all the things that we rely on. And the Briscoe Center was so helpful, Margaret. Everybody there were. If we needed something, they would. They knew exactly where it was or they knew they could find it. And they helped us so much
[0:46:51 Speaker 1] just to add to what Nancy said. The Austin Women’s Suffrage Association records are there in the Briscoe collections of letters from Oscar Coal quit. You know the governor who are so much against suffrage. There’s a Cunningham file at the Briscoe Alexander Caswell Ellis papers are there, and, of course, the James Ferguson papers and scrapbooks. Mary gearing, you know who was the home economics department chair at the University of Texas. Her papers are there and the will hog papers are so valuable. So Ashley and Gabrielle mind the papers at the Briscoe and to just to echo what Nancy said. We could not have done this film without archives and the archivists and historians. They’re just vital to historians and two documentary filmmakers. So we thank you and appreciate all the support that you’ve given. This work would not have been possible without your involvement and support.
[0:48:02 Speaker 0] Oh, you’re very welcome. We really appreciate you saying that
[0:48:15 Speaker 3] today’s episode was made possible by the papers of Ann Richards, Francis Sissy Farrant, though Molly Ivins, Alice Embree and Frida Worden, as well as the Women’s Commonwealth Archive, the Lesbian Issues Collection, the Labor Movement of Texas Collection and the Texas Woman’s Christian Temperance Union scrapbook. These collections join others at the Briscoe Center in helping to illustrate the achievements, contradictions and complexities of women’s activism in Texas and across the United States over the past 150 years. To view the online version of the on with the Fight exhibit, please visit our website at Briscoe center dot org. People across America have entrusted this evidence to us, and it is used by people from across America. In addition to inspiring their work, it inspires our own books, documentaries, exhibits, online repositories and digital humanities projects by collecting, preserving and making available these materials. We helped keep the debates and arguments about who we are rooted in evidence, and we keep the American rhapsody going