Susan as Political Strategist

July 4, 2016 § 1 Comment

In response to an inquiry by Dr. John Arthos, I described in a recent post a speech that Susan gave shortly after she was appointed legislative chair of the Illinois branch of the National Woman’s Party (NWP). However, she soon realized that public speaking was not her strength. She had other skills to contribute to the campaign for women’s equal rights in Illinois. In a letter to Alice Paul, vice president of NWP, dated March 8, 1923, Susan listed those skills. The spelling and punctuation are Susan’s.

To meet and conquer the opposition amongst men in the legislature is one of our smallest problems.  The copy of a wire I had this morning shows me there is a very nasty element in the ladies represented in the League of Women Voters.

Dear Miss Paul I am no speaker.  I can work, but I am not well enough informed on these law discriminations to get up and answer the questions they are sure to ask me.  I would weaken our cause before them.  I have my hands too full here to do it.  I have been planning and getting out all the printed matter doing all the press work–seeing these men–arranging for the hearing–informing Senator Dailey all I can–presiding at a meeting in Chicago and two board meetings & for ten days while in Chicago I had not more than 3 or 4 hours sleep out of 24–I have been answering the enclosed letter’s attack by Julia Lathrop [then state president of the League of Women Voters] to enquiring men in these last few days session.  This was put out last Sat afternoon.  I talked to 27 men yesterday and removed the effect from them.  I have not been able to get anyone here to help me see these men–no one that I know that has joined the Party has ever done any lobbying.  I never did before myself.

Susan further explains in the letter that the League of Women Voters was planning a meeting of local chapters of the League to attack the equal rights legislation Susan was promoting. She pleaded with Alice Paul to send Maude Younger (then Legislative Chairman of NWP) or Burnita Shelton Matthews (then Legal Research Secretary of NWP) to Chicago to address the meeting. To Susan’s relief I’m sure, both women came to Illinois and spoke to various groups as well as in legislative hearings. Susan was willing to do the “grunt” work, lobby, and strategize for the campaign, but she was not at ease as a public speaker.

I welcome the inquiry from Dr. Arthos because it expanded my admiration for Susan on two new fronts. First of all, I note how comfortable she was in a man’s world during her brief experience as a political strategist. Secondly, Susan worked closely with some of the most famous pioneers in this country’s women’s movement, and from their letters to her, it is obvious that she was highly respected. I found two more clues to solve the enigma that is Susan!

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