Maryland Women and the Transformation of Politics, 1890s-1930
Weaver, Diane E.
Callcott, George H.
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This is a study of the involvement of Maryland women in politics from the 1890s to 1930. It builds on previous studies to support an expanded conceptualization of politics. Elite white activists in the late nineteenth century, building on their concern for the home, extended their interests as wives and mothers to their interests as citizens, and both reflected and shaped the rising Progressive movement in Maryland. They formed local and then statewide organizations, and they worked to replace traditional politics with activist, efficient, and expanded government. As they brought their concerns to the public agenda, they created an increased public role for themselves, choosing at the same time to work cooperatively with male leaders. Black women activists were reformers in their communities as well, and while for the most part segregated from white women's organizations, created and participated in cooperative ventures with white women. The suffrage movement in Maryland grew out of this activism and also extended it. White suffragists differed over strategy and tactics, but they maintained unity in an agenda that combined social goals with the advancement of women. World War I offered white women activists, already part of a statewide network, the opportunity to assume a greatly expanded role in the burgeoning wartime government. During the war, black women activists expanded their influence as well, but they also expanded and their independence from white women's organizations. After the adoption of women's suffrage in 1920, white women activists continued to pursue an agenda that combined social reform and women's advancement. Black women remained apart as they formed the base for the civil rights movement of a later day. White activists, meanwhile, continuing their practice of cooperation, established a conscious partnership with political parties and local and state governments, and tailored their agenda to conform to their perception of political reality. While their continuing cooperation resulted in losses as well as gains, this study supports others that have concluded that the activism of white women resulted in a new politics of interdependence, with an expanded citizenry and an expanded social consciousness.