Mary Church Terrell

What Colored Women Can and Should Do at the Polls - 1926

Mary Church Terrell
January 01, 1926
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What Colored Women Can and Should Do at the Polls.


My dear Friends:

Sit up and take notice right away. Something is about to happen in politics in your particular State, I know. Each of us must have her lamp trimmed and a burning. In the first place the primary season is about to open. Do you know when the primary opens in your State? If you dont, get busy instantly and find out. When the primary season starts, the States in which Senators, members of the House, governors and other State officials have to be selected, begin to pick and choose their prospects right away. Many of these preliminaries are out and dried long before the primary season opens. Each and every woman who is reading this letter knows that just as well as I do.

In the first place 33 States nominate and elect governors very soon. Is your State on of this number? If so, get busy right away. The gunning for president and Vice President does not begin for another two years, so we wont cross that bridge till we get near it. But if there is to be no election in your State, there is something which should concern each and every one of us as colored women very much. And that is the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill. It has already had a hearing in the Senate, as you know. I attended this hearing and I should like to tell you about it in detail, but I dare not take that much space. Other national chairmen want to address our women about their special departments as well as myself.

Every colored woman in the United States should do her utmost to help the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill pass. There is no better way than to write your Senators. I have asked you to do this in the columns of the Notes before. Every colored woman who loves justice and who abhors injustice and crime should write to the United States Senators from her State and urge them to vote for the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill which we hope will come up in the Senate soon.

I have purposely waited till the Bill had a hearing before writing to you about it. Now is the time to act. Again I beg you before writing to you about it. Now is the time to act. Again I beg you before you close your eyes in sleep to night, write to your Senators insisting and pleading with them to support the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill. I have given Congressman Dyer an article entitled “Lynching from a Negro’s Point of View” which I wrote and which appeared in the North American [Review] in June 1904. I hope some of you will go to your public libraries, call for that number of the magazine and read it.

There is another thing I want you to do. Please write to your Senators and request them strongly to vote against the bill to prevent the intermarriage of white and colored people in the District of Columbia. It was presented by Senator Caraway of Arkansaw and you must refer to it, when you write, as Senate Bill 2160. As a rule, the people who want to enact a law to prevent colored and white people from intermarrying, are perfectly willing that white men should live with colored women as their mistresses, as long as they are not joined together in wedlock. If Senate Bill 2160 should pass, any white man might debauch and ruin any colored woman or girl in the National Capital without fear of being punished, knowing that she would have no redress in the Courts of Law.

Please write to your Senators and urge them to vote against another very objectionable bill which was introduced by Senator Cole Blease of South Carolina. It provides for Jim Crow Street Cars in the District of Columbia. When you write, refer to this as Senate Bill 2979.

As you all know, the World Court recently received the requisite number of votes in the Senate and has become an established fact.

The Sheppard-Towner Bill which was framed to render assistance to mothers and their children passed the Senate four years ago on November 23, 1921. As you know, that enactment provides for the welfare and hygiene of maternity and infancy. Each one of the States matches the sum appropriated by Congress and accepts the provisions of this bill.

If your State has not already voted on the Child Labor Amendment (for it is not a bill) please do what you can to influence your State Legislators to support it. Before this humane and beneficent legislation to protect helpless children can become a law, it must be passed by two thirds of the States. The Child Labor Amendment has been passed by both houses in the following states: Arkansaw, Arizona, California and Wisconsin. It has been passed by one house in New Mexico and Montana.

The Child Labor Amendment has been rejected by both houses in the following States: Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington. Not long ago I read in a newspaper that Kentucky had unanimously rejected the amendment.

The Child Labor Amendment has been rejected by one house in the following states: Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma and Oregon.

In the following states the amendment has been indefinitely postponed: Iowa and Wyoming, while no definite action has been taken in Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island. Each and every woman living in the states in which the Child Labor Amendment has been rejected by only one house, or in which it has been indefinitely postponed or in which no action has been taken at all should write immediately to her State Senators and Representatives urging them to support it.

The women living in those thirty three states which will soon choose their governors should get busy right away, if they have not already taken time by the forelock. Run in on the ground floor. Keep your ear always to the ground. Know what is going on. Find out which men likely to run for either a national or a state office stands up for justice and opportunity against injustice, Lynching, Jim Crow Cars and cruel, racial discrimination. Then you will know how to use your vote wisely, when you cast it. Hold meetings. Go after indifferent women, Educate them up to their duty to themselves and to their race, then they will learn what duty to their country means.

Nominations for the primary in Indiana must be filed between March 4th and April 4th, On May 4th the primary will be held. Two Senators are to be elected in the State this year. Sisters of Indiana, it behooves you to roll up your sleeves and go to work. No one outside of the State knows better than you do for whom you should vote. Study the situation and act accordingly.

The primary in Illinois will be held April 23rd and there is a brisk figh[t] between Senator William B. McKinley who voted for the World Court and who introduced the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill in the Senate and Frank Smith who has been chairman for the State Central Committee for the Republican Nomination. The women of Illinois will certainly do their duty in this case, I know.

In Pennsylvania the primary will be held May 18th. Both a Senator an[d] a governor will be chosen in that State, and in rockribbed Republican Pneesylvania a nomination is equivalent to an election. Colored women should see to it, therefore, that the right man is nominated.

On May 21 Oregon will hold its primary and then elect a senator from the six or more men who are presenting themselves as candidates.

Seven States will hold their primaries in June as follos: North Carolina, June 5th; Iowa, June 7; Florida, June 8; New Jersey, June 15; Maine, June 21; Minnesota June 21; North Dakota June 20. Florida’s Democracy will probably elect Senator Fletcher. No governor is to be elected there. In North Carolina Senator Simmons will probably succeed himself. No governor is to be elected.

Senator Cummins of Iowa will probably succeed himself and a governor must be elected also. No senators will be elected in New Jersey, Maine and Minnesota, but full delegations to the House must be nominated and elected. Both Maine and Minnesota elect governors this year.

In August there will be primary elections in the following sixteen States West Virginia, Kansas, Missouri Oklahoma, Virginia, Montana, Tennessee, Nebraska, Kentuc[ky] Alabama, Arkansaw, Ohio, Mississippi, Wyoming, California, South Carolina in the order named. Seven of these States, Kansas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Arkansaw, Ohio, California, and South Carolina will elect both Senators and governors. Senators are to be elected in Missouri and Kentucky, but no governors. The other States where governors are to be elected but no Senators are Tennessee Senator Curtis, Republican leader will undoubtedly be reelected, and Ben Paulen, Republican governor will probably succeed himself. Some people think that if Mayor Victor Miller, St. Louis Mator should decide that he wants to be a Senator, he would make it very interesting for both Senator Williams, who is filling the late senator Spencer’s place and W.T. Atkinson. Senator Willis will probably be renominated and reelected in Ohio.

The twelve States which held their primaries in September are Nevada, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Arizona, Massachusetts, Maryland, Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan, Vermont, Washington, and New York. Senators are to be elected in each of these States except in Michigan. Governors are to be elected in all of these States except in Louisiana and Washington.

The chances of the election to the Senate of Senator Butler of Massachusetts, chairman of the Republican national committee are said to be exceedingly good,

The campaigns of Senator Wadsworth who is the outstanding figure in Republican politics of New York, Senator Lenroot of Wisconsin and Senator Moses of New Hampshire will be watched with great interest.

The following six States select their candidates in a convention instead of by the primary: Idaho, Connecticut, Delaware, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Utah. Idaho, Connecticut and Utah elect Senators. The four which elect governors also are Idaho, Connecticut, New Mexico and Rhode Island. There is little doubt that both Senator Bingham of Connecticut and Senator Smoot of Utah will be re-elected. At present there are in the Senate 56 Republicans, 29 Democrats and 1 Farmer-Labor.

Now, my dear sisters, I have given you all the information concerning your respective States which I could crowd into a short article. You see how the political ground lies, I beg of you to go to work and work just as hard as you possibly can.

Faithfully yours,

Mary Church Terrell,

1615 S St., N.W.

Washington, D.C.

Terrell, Mary Church. “What Colored Woman Can and Should Do at the Polls.” Mary Church Terrell Papers. Library of Congress. 1926.