HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — The fight to allow women to vote in Alabama, an issue that became snarled in white supremacist efforts to bar Black people from the polls, will be recalled in a series of historical markers across the state.
The first “Votes for Women” marker was dedicated Wednesday in downtown Huntsville, and additional ones are planned in Birmingham, Decatur, Mobile, Selma and Tuskegee, al.com reported. The markers are white with writing in purple, which was the color of the women's suffrage movement.
The markers are funded by the William Pomeroy Foundation, a New York-based organization that promotes and preserves local history.
Congress approved the 19th Amendment in 1919, and it took effect the following year after Tennessee became the 36th state to vote for ratification. Alabama didn't officially vote in favor of the amendment until 1953, but thousands of women already had registered and were voting in the state by then.
The Huntsville Equal Suffrage Association formed in 1895 when Susan B. Anthony and Carrie Chapman Catt spoke in the city. The movement suffered “fits and starts” because of the concerns about Black votes, said Donna Castellano, chief executive of the Historic Huntsville Foundation.
Some of the problems were linked to the 1901 Alabama Constitution, which was designed to prevent Blacks from gaining voting rights and political power.
“Since Alabama had spent so much time and energy disenfranchising its Black citizens in 1901, the last thing they wanted to do was open a door that would allow more Black people to vote through an equal suffrage amendment,” said Castellano.
After a period of dormancy, she said, the Huntsville Equal Suffrage Association reformed in 1912 at the old downtown YMCA, where the Pomeroy monument is located.
Once women achieved the right to vote they began altering Alabama by supporting measures that including restricting the employment of children in coal mines and textile mills and funding education and teacher training. They also supported an end to Alabama's system of leasing inmates to industry, "which was a form of institutionalized slavery through Alabama’s prison system.”
“Things began to change when Alabama women got the vote,” Castellano said. “They certainly made an impact.”