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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Mabel Pollitzer, June 16, 1974. Interview G-0047-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

The Equal Suffrage League in Charleston, South Carolina, divides in 1917

Pollitzer recalls the 1917 meeting of the Equal Suffrage League in Charleston, South Carolina, when it split over the issue of national versus state suffrage. According to Pollitzer, the group split along lines similar to those drawn between the National American Woman Suffrage Association and the National Woman's Party four years earlier in 1913. As Pollitzer describes it, the split was amicable and little animosity existed between the factions. Instead, she emphasizes that the split symbolized different approaches and views on how to best earn the right to vote for women.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Mabel Pollitzer, June 16, 1974. Interview G-0047-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

CONSTANCE MYERS:
I'd like to hear, too, about that dramatic meeting in December 1917 when the Charleston group split in two. You were there.
MABEL POLLITZER:
You want me to tell you my recollection of that meeting?
CONSTANCE MYERS:
In as great detail as you can possibly summon up.
MABEL POLLITZER:
1917 is many decades back from 1974, isn't it? I remember distinctly the room in which we met at the old Young Women's Christian Association. I remember, strange to say, just about where Carrie and I - Carrie my sister, you know - where we sat. I believe Anita was not there. I think she was working in Washington. She graduated from Columbia University in 1916. I know Miss Frost was the Chairman, probably self-appointed, because she was so interested. Chairman of the group. And I remember Miss Frost presenting the fact that there may be two ways in order to get the result of voting rights. One would be state by state, as was wanted by Carrie Chapman Catt and her group. The other way would be the method suggested and being carried out, if possible, by the great Dr. Alice Paul, who broke away from Carrie Chapman Catt's group in 1913. Then, after explaining the difference and the advantages of the National Women's Party course of action that would work directly through federal action, and requiring only the ratification of the different states, than working state by state and then having a future legislature make null and void the improvements of justice made by the previous legislature. * * There were those who thought that a decision to split would be the best course of action. I think only Miss Frost's group (NWP) survived. I remember distinctly. Those who were in favor of a National Woman's Party stood. Carrie and I stood. We acclaimed our leader for presenting it so successfully. Who were the others who broke away, I don't know. But on a telegram, which I have shown to you, are the names of those who wanted -
CONSTANCE MYERS:
I have the list of those who broke away and shortly I would like to ask you something about these women.
MABEL POLLITZER:
Then you may continue your next thought. But it was a very, very important meeting.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
Did it go on into the wee hours of the evening?
MABEL POLLITZER:
Oh no. It was an afternoon meeting as I remember.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
Was it an amicable split?
MABEL POLLITZER:
Oh yes. I think there might have been a little bit of excitement on the part of some.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
No denuncitaory speeches?
MABEL POLLITZER:
I can't remember if the others said anything that was not amicable. It was a question of do you think this or do you think that?
CONSTANCE MYERS:
But a split resulted. A breach in the movement! This would suggest some acrimony.
MABEL POLLITZER:
I can't remember that. Maybe so. It didn't affect me in any way, except that Carrie and I and the others who joined The National Woman's Party were doing the right thing.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
Was the press there?
MABEL POLLITZER:
I don't know. Press articles would be shown in Anita's scrapbook.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
The paper reported this. I didn't know whether your party members recorded it themselves and gave the report to the paper or whether the press sent its own representatives there. When you formed the Equal Suffrage League in Charleston in 1913, when Sue Frost did it, did she form it separately from the Equal Suffrage League in the state as a whole, form it as a separate entity from the state Equal Suffrage League?
MABEL POLLITZER:
You know the amazing part? I never heard about the state league. I felt it was a local affair. I never knew about these people, these very wonderful women I suppose, who were dedicated to that movement. I just didn't know about them. I just felt it was here in Charleston. We were helping and wanted to help, you see. We might say to give our approval of having suffrage for women.