Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

FTR #692 Women in the Klan (“Palin by Comparison,” Part 2)

You can sub­scribe to e‑mail alerts from Spitfirelist.com HERE.

You can sub­scribe to RSS feed from Spitfirelist.com HERE.

You can sub­scribe to the com­ments made on pro­grams and posts–an excel­lent source of infor­ma­tion in, and of, itself, HERE.

Mr. Emory’s entire life’s work is avail­able on a 32GB flash dri­ve, avail­able for a con­tri­bu­tion of $65.00 or more (to KFJC). Click Here to obtain Dav­e’s 40+ years’ work, com­plete through Fall of 2020 (through FTR #1156).

Please con­sid­er sup­port­ing THE WORK DAVE EMORY DOES.

FTR #692  Side 1 

  Note: This web­site is licensed for Fair Use under Cre­ative Com­mons. No mon­ey what­so­ev­er is, has been, or will be made from this web­site by Mr. Emory.  

1. The incor­po­ra­tion of women into the Klan pre­sent­ed a prob­lem for the tra­di­tion­al­ly male-dom­i­nat­ed orga­ni­za­tion. Not only were women offi­cial­ly viewed as infe­ri­or, but some aspects of the wom­en’s Klan ide­ol­o­gy over­lapped the fem­i­nist ide­ol­o­gy of the time and, to a less­er extent, the present.

Wom­en’s entry into the male bas­tion of the Klan pre­sent­ed the men who led the Invis­i­ble Empire with per­plex­ing prob­lems. An orga­ni­za­tion based on prin­ci­ples of fra­ter­nal­ism, pro­tec­tion of white wom­an­hood, and defeat of alien forces–principles that it stead­fast­ly pro­claimed as masculine–now admit­ted women. Clear­ly, finan­cial oppor­tunism and intra-Klan con­flict, not con­cern for wom­en’s rights, prompt­ed male Klan lead­ers to cre­ate a wom­en’s Klan. Klans­men expect­ed their female coun­ter­parts to act as klan­nish sub­or­di­nates, a posi­tion that some women no doubt found accept­able. But in an age in which wom­en’s polit­i­cal rights were expand­ing, oth­er women did not see their place in the Klan in such a lim­it­ed fash­ion.

Women of the Klan; by Kath­leen M. Blee; Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia Press [SC]; Copy­right 1991 by the Regents of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia; ISBN 0–520-07876–4; p. 42.

2. Tak­ing their own direc­tion to an extent, some Klanswomen craft­ed a polit­i­cal agen­da con­sis­tent with some fem­i­nist ideals of their time and ours. This NOT to attempt to imply that fem­i­nism is fas­cist, but, rather, should inform us that ele­ments of a pro­gres­sive agen­da can be man­i­fest­ed with­in a reac­tionary and even fas­cist con­text.

In the mid-1920’s, women and men of the Klan often dif­fered over the idea and mean­ing of “Klanswoman.” Klanswomen sought to inte­grate a wom­en’s rights agen­da with the Klan’s nativist and racist pol­i­tics; Klans­men were averse, een hos­tile, to the attempt. Male Klan lead­ers assumed that the wom­en’s order would func­tion as a sub­sidiary aux­il­iary of the KKK, while at least some WKKK klav­erns (chap­ters) sought auton­o­my from the male Klan. Iron­i­cal­ly, even anti-Klan activists seized on the term of Klanswoman, using it to ridicule Klans­men as effem­i­nate and moral­ly degen­er­ate. To describe the com­plex gen­der ideas and pol­i­tics with­in the sec­ond Klan and among its oppo­nents, tra­di­tion­al clas­si­fi­ca­tions of polit­i­cal move­ments are inad­e­quate. His­to­ry is replete with exam­ples in which issues of gen­der cut across these polit­i­cal cat­e­gories of pro­gres­sive or reac­tionary, con­ser­v­a­tive or lib­er­al, right-wing or left-wing. At times, polit­i­cal move­ments that appear sim­i­lar have had entire­ly dif­fer­ent gen­der pol­i­tics; dis­tinct polit­i­cal move­ments have some­times had a com­mon agen­da on wom­en’s rights. Gen­der ide­ol­o­gy and gen­der pol­i­tics are not infi­nite­ly adapt­able, how­everOther ide­o­log­i­cal posi­tions and agen­das great­ly lim­it the range of gen­der issues and gen­der pol­i­tics that a polit­i­cal move­ment can accom­mo­date. Fur­ther, a stance toward gen­der issues that finds accep­tance in the ear­ly stages of a polit­i­cal move­ment may become prob­lem­at­ic. Pro­gres­sive and left-wing move­ments, for exam­ple, often have dif­fi­cul­ty sus­tain­ing com­mit­ted sup­port­ers with­out pay­ing at least some atten­tion to issues of gen­der equal­i­ty. Sim­i­lar­ly, to sup­port a wom­en’s rights agen­da, a right-wing move­ment like the Klan need­ed to mod­i­fy its orga­ni­za­tion or its ide­o­log­i­cal com­mit­ments. This chap­ter explores how the sec­ond Klan coped with such con­tra­dic­tions over the course of the 1920’s. . . .

Ibid.; pp. 42–43.

3. More about the Klan’s female branch:

Although vir­tu­al­ly every piece of Klan pro­pa­gan­da from the ear­ly 1920s enjoined Klans­men to pro­tect the virtue of white wom­an­hood, the Klan’s ambiva­lence toward flesh-and-blood women was appar­ent here, also.  When Klans­men swore to defend Amer­i­can wom­an­hood, they want­ed to be sure that the wom­an­hood they guard­ed was sex­u­al­ly monog­a­mous and pre­mar­i­tal­ly chaste. At every occa­sion the KKK remind­ed women of their oblig­a­tions, not­ing “the puri­ty and moral integri­ty demand­ed of woman have proven of price­less val­ue to the race.” Accord­ing to a promi­nent Klan min­is­ter, chaste women (but appar­ent­ly not chaste men) were essen­tial to the preser­va­tion of mar­riage, the home, and the gov­ern­ment. The Recon­struc­tion-era Klan used sym­bols of wom­en’s puri­ty and chasti­ty to mobi­lize white men’s fears of the sex­u­al pow­ers of black men. The sec­ond Klan sought to pro­tect pure wom­an­hood not only against these alien forces but against unla­dy­like con­duct by women them­selves. By roman­ti­ciz­ing the idea of home life while point­ing to wom­en’s untrust­wor­thi­ness, the KKK strength­ened the appeal of the Klan fra­ter­ni­ty as a sub­sti­tute fam­i­ly for Klans­men. The KKK con­sti­tut­ed an offi­cial fam­i­ly, with God the father and all Klans­men as broth­ers. (Where women belonged in this spir­i­tu­al house­hold was unclear.) The Oath of Alle­giance swore mem­bers to fra­ter­nal “klan­nish­ness,” which pro­hib­it­ed defam­ing, defraud­ing, cheat­ing, or delud­ing oth­er Klans­men or their fam­i­lies. More­over, all local KKK klav­erns func­tioned to some extent as men’s clubs, spon­sor­ing speak­ers, social hours, group prayers, and a feel­ing of sol­i­dar­i­ty in a Nor­mal set­ting that often exclud­ed women and chil­dren.

4. The adap­ta­tion of women to this male bas­tion is an inter­est­ing devel­op­ment.

When con­tend­ing KKK lead­ers resolved to enlist women in the Invis­i­ble Empire, their deci­sion threat­ened the male fra­ter­ni­ty of the Klan. Although the deci­sion was prag­mat­ic, not ide­o­log­i­cal, the real­i­ty of female mem­bers con­tra­dict­ed the Klan’s image of itself as an orga­ni­za­tion of and for mas­cu­line white Protes­tant men. Often in the Klan press and in their speech­es Klan lead­ers wres­tled with this prob­lem. How could the Klan define a polit­i­cal role for women that was both sub­or­di­nate and activist? How could it main­tain the Klan’s male fra­ter­ni­ty and mas­cu­line image in the face of this fem­i­nine onslaught? The deci­sion to cre­ate the WKKK as a dis­tinct orga­ni­za­tion for women was part of the answer. In the WKKK women could be enlist­ed in the Klan’s efforts with­out direct­ly con­fronting men in the orga­ni­za­tion. A nation­al Klan min­is­ter-lec­tur­er expressed the sen­ti­ments of many Klans­men when he demand­ed sep­a­rate groups for men and women, with the wom­en’s order clear­ly sub­or­di­nate: “It isn’t because women can’t keep a secret. We know they can. It was Adam, not Eve, who did the talk­ing. We will nev­er admit women because they can­not do some of the work we have to do.” Resolv­ing the ques­tion of wom­en’s place in the Klan also required ide­o­log­i­cal change. Klans­men argued that white Protes­tant women func­tioned best in pol­i­tics as the help­mates of men. Good Klanswomen, the Fiery Cross pro­claimed, were “the ally of good men.” The Fel­low­ship Forum argued that unlike men, women were not self-inter­est­ed and would there­fore act for the com­mon good, pre­sum­ably fol­low­ing the polit­i­cal lead of 100 per­cent Amer­i­can men. Like oth­er KKK lead­ers, Evans por­trayed the WKKK as an adjunct to the real (male) Klan: “Our women are aid­ing us ... let your hearts beat in the wom­en’s order also.” At the same time the KKK defined wom­en’s polit­i­cal role as sep­a­rate and sub­or­di­nate to that of men, it sup­port­ed wom­en’s legal and polit­i­cal rights, issues that would increase its female mem­ber­ship. The Fiery Cross report­ed favor­ably on the launch­ing of the Nation­al Wom­en’s par­ty cam­paign for women in the U.S. Con­gress, call­ing it a search for jus­tice for women; it cheered a move­ment for wom­en’s equal rep­re­sen­ta­tion in leg­isla­tive bod­ies of the Pres­by­ter­ian church. The Fel­low­ship Forum applaud­ed the actions of a woman who obtained a pass­port in her own, rather than her hus­band’s, name and reg­u­lar­ly fea­tured “The Amer­i­can Women,” a page that mixed reports on wom­en’s rights’ dri­ves with recipes and fash­ion news. The KKK’s views on white wom­an­hood reflect­ed these con­flict­ing con­cerns and the ten­sion between image and polit­i­cal real­i­ty. The Ku Klux Klan Kat­e­chism asked Klans­men: “What is the atti­tude of the Klan toward women?” To which they were to reply: “The Klan believes in the puri­ty of wom­an­hood and in the fullest mea­sure of free­dom com­pat­i­ble with the high­est type of wom­an­hood includ­ing the suf­frage.” The KKK insist­ed that it advo­cat­ed the polit­i­cal rights of white Protes­tant women, but it clung to white wom­an­hood as a cen­tral sym­bol of white suprema­cy. In the words of the “Bright Fiery Nor­mal Cross,” a pop­u­lar Klan hymn of the 1920s sung at ral­lies and parades to the tune “March­ing to Geor­gia,” these con­cerns merged: Nor­mal “Yes, and there were women folks who lined up with them, too. For they felt there was some work that they would need to do. Since they have the right to vote, they’d help to put it through. And we go march­ing to Vic­to­ry.”


5. The Tem­per­ance Move­ment was impor­tant to the Wom­en’s Klan.

As the tem­per­ance and moral reform move­ments of the ear­ly twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry did, the Klan saw wom­en’s inher­ent­ly moral natures as key to cam­paigns for clean gov­ern­ment and con­trol of vice since women would vote for can­di­dates promis­ing to rid the coun­try of liquor, pros­ti­tu­tion, and gam­bling. With­out ques­tion, the KKK assured its mem­bers, bring­ing white Protes­tant women into the elec­toral are­na would result in less cor­rupt pol­i­tics: “A woman has con­vic­tion and ideals and she is will­ing to sac­ri­fice par­ty and her own polit­i­cal aspi­ra­tions for the com­mon good of the coun­try and Amer­i­can ideals.” Its endorse­ment of wom­en’s suf­frage and the expan­sion of wom­an’s legal rights, how­ev­er, threat­ened to under­mine oth­er aspects of the Klan’s agen­da. A par­tic­u­lar dif­fi­cul­ty arose from the Klan’s empha­sis on Chris­tian­i­ty as the vehi­cle for wom­en’s equal­i­ty. In Klan doc­trine the spread of Chris­tian­i­ty, espe­cial­ly Protes­tantism, ele­vat­ed the sta­tus of women through­out the world. But the Klan also argued that in the Unit­ed States — a nation found­ed on Protes­tant beliefs — women had only recent­ly began to assume the place in the world that was right­ful­ly theirs. One way the Klan han­dled the appar­ent lag in gen­der equal­i­ty in a Chris­t­ian nation was to rein­ter­pret U.S. his­to­ry to empha­size wom­en’s hid­den pow­er. As the Impe­r­i­al Night-Hawk explained in an edi­to­r­i­al, “the Amer­i­can woman has had as much to do with the shap­ing of the des­tiny of Amer­i­ca as the Amer­i­can man.” Women oper­at­ed through indi­rect chan­nels, using their con­trol over the home to exer­cise pow­er in the out­side world. As moth­ers and wives, women had a role in the world that was at least as influ­en­tial as men’s, even if their for­mal rights were lim­it­ed. Anoth­er approach was to argue that both paid employ­ment and Chris­tian­i­ty were nec­es­sary for women to achieve full equal­i­ty. “Wom­en’s eco­nom­ic free­dom,” accord­ing to the Klan press, “which has slum­bered for ages, awakes.” With women in the work force came a strug­gle “to bal­ance and read­just sex ... an entire­ly new con­cep­tion of the mean­ing of sex and the rela­tion of men and women to each oth­er is being born out of this strug­gle.” Chris­tian­i­ty was unable to lib­er­ate women while they lan­guished in eco­nom­ic bondage to men. Only when women gained a mea­sure of eco­nom­ic inde­pen­dence could the Chris­t­ian mes­sage of gen­der equal­i­ty be heard. Not every­one in the sec­ond Klan, of course, had such a pos­i­tive opin­ion of wom­en’s paid employ­ment. A woman wrote the Kouri­er Mag­a­zine to com­plain that since women had entered the ranks of wage earn­ers, they no longer gave prop­er atten­tion to the rear­ing of chil­dren. The prop­er place for women with chil­dren, she insist­ed, was in the home, not in the work­place. Oth­ers in the Klan, how­ev­er, scoffed at this, argu­ing that such ideas were the lega­cy of an ear­li­er, less enlight­ened time: “No longer will man say that in the hand of woman rests the neces­si­ty of rock­ing a cra­dle only. She has with­in her hand the pow­er to rule the world.” Klanswomen approached the ques­tion of wom­en’s sta­tus dif­fer­ent­ly than their male coun­ter­parts did. While always assert­ing the cen­tral­i­ty of home life to women and to the nation, the WKKK dis­sent­ed from the ide­al­ized view of home and fam­i­ly that was such a pow­er­ful sym­bol in the men’s Klan. Instead, Klanswomen described the home as a place of labor for women, the site of “monot­o­nous and grind­ing toil and sac­ri­fice.” The life of a home­mak­er, the WKKK insist­ed, was held in “low esteem” by the larg­er soci­ety and women received too lit­tle cred­it for their efforts. It also pic­tured mar­riage as a dou­ble-edged sword for women — at once wom­en’s crown­ing glo­ry and the bur­den they bore. As one Klanswoman com­ment­ed, mar­riage had always pre­sent­ed prob­lems to Amer­i­can women: “Pil­grim moth­ers not only endured the hard­ships of the Pil­grim fathers, but what was a greater bur­den they had to endure the Pil­grim fathers.” Even moth­er­hood — whether the moth­er­ing of chil­dren or the nur­tu­rance of a nation — the WKKK described as wom­en’s work. While men por­trayed child rear­ing as wom­en’s “glo­ri­ous mis­sion,” Klanswomen called it wom­en’s “bur­den.” A mas­sive WKKK cel­e­bra­tion of Moth­er’s Day addressed the issue of moth­er­hood: Throw­ing off her hood to reveal a mod­ish bob, and employ­ing a brogue,  ... the leader of the fem­i­nine hosts in the realm of New Jer­sey cried “I’m glad to be here to speak today with all these girls present, because the girls of today are the moth­ers of tomor­row! ... When you see a lady that acts a lit­tle pecu­liar don’t ridicule her. Just remem­ber she’s some­body’s moth­er, and she’s work­ing 24 hours a day while you’re work­ing 8.” Some wom­en’s Klan lead­ers pro­posed actions that Klanswomen could take to change their predica­ment. One klea­gle encour­aged Klanswomen moth­ers to cam­paign col­lec­tive­ly for an eight-hour day for the job of moth­er­ing. Cur­rent­ly, she argued, women were forced to shoul­der a twen­ty-four-hour respon­si­bil­i­ty while men were required to work only one-third as much time. The ulti­mate solu­tion for Klanswomen lay in polit­i­cal action. By safe­guard­ing the priv­i­leges of all white Protes­tants, the WKKK insist­ed, white Protes­tant women would gain bet­ter work­ing con­di­tions in the home and more recog­ni­tion of their con­tri­bu­tions as wives and moth­ers. Like most Klan pro­pa­gan­da, the argu­ment pro­vid­ed no fur­ther details.

Ibid., p.

6. Analy­sis of the wom­en’s KKK fea­tures the insights and ide­ol­o­gy of Rob­bie Gill, among oth­er female Klan mem­bers.

 Klanswomen also framed their sup­port of white Protes­tant wom­en’s polit­i­cal and legal rights in dif­fer­ent terms than Klans­men did. The men’s posi­tion was instru­men­tal, intend­ed to aug­ment the polit­i­cal mus­cle of white Protes­tant men with a cadre of enfran­chised female fol­low­ers.  The WKKK, how­ev­er, insist­ed that women need­ed the vote for two rea­sons: to main­tain a moral white Protes­tant nation and to ensure wom­en’s rights. Even while shoul­der­ing oner­ous fam­i­ly respon­si­bil­i­ties, women kept the “spir­i­tu­al fire of the nation burn­ing” and act­ed as the “con­science-keep­er of the race.” Wom­en’s efforts inspired “every moral law, every law regard­ing san­i­ta­tion, prison reform, child labor, and con­trol of liquor.” Klanswomen wor­ried that men’s sup­port for wom­en’s rights would wane over time and urged women to “hold fast” to the fran­chise and push for addi­tion­al guar­an­tees of equal treat­ment with men. The speech­es of WKKK Impe­r­i­al Com­man­der Rob­bie Gill show the devel­op­ment of the WKKK’s posi­tion on gen­der equal­i­ty. Soon after tak­ing office in 1924, Gill addressed a KKK Klon­voka­tion on “Amer­i­can Women,” an address fre­quent­ly reprint­ed in the Klan press. Gill appro­pri­at­ed the Chris­t­ian empha­sis of the Klan and used it to sup­port an agen­da of wom­en’s rights. “It has nev­er been the pur­pose of God,” she declared, “that woman should be the slave of man.” Wom­en’s sub­or­di­na­tion was the lega­cy of “prim­i­tive” the­olo­gies; in a Protes­tant nation women (i.e., white Protes­tant women) were enti­tled to “edu­ca­tion, refine­ment, and hon­or.’ Gill’s analy­sis of women in pol­i­tics dif­fered sig­nif­i­cant­ly from Klans­men’s use of images of help­less white Protes­tant women to incite racial and nation­al­is­tic hatred. Until women gained the vote, Gill argued, they were forced to exer­cise pow­er by influ­enc­ing men: “The great­est strength of wom­an’s pow­er lies in the way in which men depend upon her and are for the most part absolute­ly, or near­ly so, help­less with­out her.” In the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry the sit­u­a­tion changed. Wom­en’s enfran­chise­ment gave them pow­er that was direct and inde­pen­dent of men. More­over, wom­en’s numer­i­cal major­i­ty in the pop­u­la­tion meant that women held the bal­ance of elec­toral pow­er. To Gill, it was not implau­si­ble that white Protes­tant women might be per­suad­ed to vote as a bloc since wom­en’s vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty to the excess­es of men gave them inter­ests in com­mon: “She knows who will suf­fer most if her hus­band or son or broth­er or sweet­heart becomes a drunk­ard or a drug addict ... if gam­bling grips the life of her loved one ... if some sil­ly, irre­spon­si­ble ‘affin­i­ty’ breaks up her home.” The right to vote would not make indi­vid­ual women less vul­ner­a­ble to irre­spon­si­ble or dis­solute hus­bands, Gill con­ced­ed, but a uni­fied effort by women could elim­i­nate the vices that led men astray. Gill dis­missed the con­cern raised by anti­suf­frag­ists (and some Klans­men) that female suf­frage would cre­ate dis­sen­sion if hus­bands and wives held dif­fer­ent polit­i­cal views. It was impor­tant, she argued, that men rec­og­nize women as their polit­i­cal com­rades, not their fol­low­ers. Gill set the terms of a new gen­der bar­gain: women would main­tain the home as a sanc­tu­ary for men, raise men’s chil­dren, and assist them in busi­ness but in turn expect­ed polit­i­cal rights and respect. Two years lat­er the heady opti­mism of Gill’s first address was gone. Wom­en’s suf­frage was six years old, but the expect­ed polit­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion had not come about. Many women did not vote at all; those who did often vot­ed as their hus­bands did. More dis­turb­ing to Gill Com­er (now mar­ried), the WKKK had not been able to orga­nize women into a vot­ing bloc. Women did not nec­es­sar­i­ly cast their polit­i­cal weight behind Klan can­di­dates or even behind can­di­dates sup­port­ing tem­per­ance or oppos­ing vice. Cleav­ages of social class, race, and region split wom­en’s elec­toral strength as it did men’s. For Gill Com­er, the chal­lenge in 1926 was to jus­ti­fy the need for wom­en’s Klan and the impor­tance of the Klan’s atten­tion to wom­en’s issues in light of the dis­ap­point­ing record of the female elec­torate. As she often did, Gill Com­er turned to his­to­ry for expla­na­tion and pre­dic­tion. Through a wom­an’s eyes, Gill com­er argued, all world his­to­ry was char­ac­ter­ized by cycles of advance and retreat on wom­en’s rights; advance coin­cid­ing with Protes­tantism and retreat with alien and sav­age doc­trines. Ear­ly pre­his­to­ry, what Gill Com­er called the peri­od of “sav­agery,” was a time when women “sat back out­side the cir­cle of their mas­cu­line supe­ri­ors and took the less­er pieces.” A wom­an’s respon­si­bil­i­ty in sav­age times was great (as keep­er of the fire), but she could expect only cru­el revenge if she failed and no acknowl­edg­ment if she suc­ceed­ed. When the time of sav­agery gave way to one of bar­barism, wom­en’s work (although not their sta­tus) changed. A woman was respon­si­ble for hew­ing wood and draw­ing water but remained to men noth­ing but “a slave, a chat­tel, a beast of bur­den.” A third his­tor­i­cal stage in West­ern civ­i­liza­tion — that of chival­ry — brought a slight ele­va­tion of wom­en’s sta­tus to a “pedestal of rev­er­ence and respect” but women con­tin­ued to be sub­or­di­nate to men. In Gill Com­er’s chronol­o­gy the turn­ing point for women came with the Chris­t­ian set­tle­ment of Amer­i­ca. Ear­ly in the Chris­t­ian his­to­ry of the new nation, women still lacked legal and polit­i­cal rights — a lega­cy of chival­ry, which exalt­ed women but kept them from learn­ing the “seri­ous respon­si­bil­i­ties” nec­es­sary for rul­ing the coun­try: How could we be expect­ed to know the intri­ca­cies of pol­i­tics when we had nev­er been trained to under­stand them? If ... women do not stand togeth­er where they should ... does not the expla­na­tion lie some­what in the fact that until yes­ter­day she was allowed to have no inter­ests save pet­ty ones? By the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry, how­ev­er, white Protes­tant women had attained polit­i­cal rights and were on their way to gain­ing eco­nom­ic and social rights as well. Men in the Klan, Gill Com­er coun­seled, should not be dis­cour­aged that women lacked polit­i­cal savvy to rec­og­nize and act on the inter­ests of white Protes­tant Amer­i­cans. Women need­ed addi­tion­al time and train­ing to com­plete their polit­i­cal edu­ca­tion. The Klan move­ment would even­tu­al­ly ben­e­fit if it con­tin­ued to cul­ti­vate its female con­stituen­cy. Gill Com­er’s next print­ed address, in 1928, not­ed that women had enjoyed equal­i­ty of oppor­tu­ni­ty for only a cen­tu­ry and the fran­chise for less than a decade. Again she defend­ed women against the charge of polit­i­cal inep­ti­tude: “Some men speak sneer­ing­ly of the fact that we have not yet learned how to use it any BETTER than they, when the depend­able thing is that we are using it as WELL.” In pre­vi­ous speech­es, Gill Com­er cred­it­ed enlight­ened men with giv­ing women the oppor­tu­ni­ty to advance. By 1928, how­ev­er, Gill Com­er shift­ed cred­it for increas­es in wom­en’s sta­tus from men’s largess to the imper­son­al advance of tech­nol­o­gy and eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment. Time-sav­ing inven­tions for the house­hold, she argued, released women from the slav­ery of many kinds of house­hold drudgery, and the auto­mo­bile less­ened the iso­la­tion of many women, espe­cial­ly those in rur­al areas. Women were now freed to pur­sue the social, polit­i­cal, and intel­lec­tu­al con­cerns that men’s lives had always allowed. Women had the time and the means to meet oth­er women, exchange infor­ma­tion, and pon­der mutu­al con­cerns. More­over, increas­ing employ­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties for women meant that they were no longer depen­dent on the eco­nom­ic benef­i­cence of men. Cast­ing in pos­i­tive terms an out­come deeply feared by men, Gill Com­er declared: “Woman does not now have to accept the first man who asks her hand in mar­riage.... She may choose her time for mar­riage, or, if she wish­es, she may choose not to mar­ry at all and endure no reproach from the world” Gill Com­er spoke of the need for women to have equal pow­er with men in mar­riage, to be free to stay unmar­ried, and to be treat­ed as equals in polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic life. Draw­ing on her per­son­al expe­ri­ences, Gill Com­er even spoke of ten­sions in her role as head of the wom­en’s Klan: Man, by habit, speaks his mind freely on great ques­tions. Woman often hes­i­tates to do so....I feel my lim­i­ta­tions, I believe, far more than could any man of equiv­a­lent posi­tion and expe­ri­ence. I hes­i­tate to say the things that are in my heart lest I may not be tak­en seri­ous­ly, lest I may be mis­un­der­stood by men and women alike....It is my her­itage as a woman. Gill Com­er’s sup­port for wom­en’s rights did not pre­clude sup­port­ing gen­der inequal­i­ty when it would ben­e­fit women. Like lead­ers of wom­en’s labor unions and con­sumer leagues at the time, Gill Com­er argued that women need­ed to hold fast to exist­ing doc­trines that grant­ed spe­cial pro­tec­tion to women, even if these were based on anti­quat­ed notions of gen­der inequal­i­ty. Tak­ing pains to sep­a­rate her­self and the wom­en’s Klan from fem­i­nist “extrem­ists,” Gill Com­er insist­ed that women should have spe­cial safe­guards in indus­try to com­pen­sate for their phys­i­cal lim­i­ta­tions and allow them to com­pete eco­nom­i­cal­ly with men and that they should be excused from the mil­i­tary. Although she sup­port­ed white Protes­tant wom­en’s rights, Gill Com­er main­tained a strict view of wom­en’s and men’s sep­a­rate respon­si­bil­i­ties for the home and fam­i­ly. Her analy­sis of the caus­es of soci­ety’s moral decay is a case in point. Men con­tributed to moral decline with their drink­ing, gam­bling, and sex­u­al exploits, actions that lined the pock­ets of the pur­vey­ors of vice and set a bad exam­ple for future gen­er­a­tions of men: “What boy may be reproved for intem­per­ance when he steals his whiskey or gin from his own father’s ille­gal pock­et flask?” Women were assessed blame for a dif­fer­ent kind of action. Women con­tributed to moral decline when their paid employ­ment made them unavail­able to mon­i­tor their delin­quent chil­dren. Men erred by actions of vice. Women erred by depar­ture from their tra­di­tion­al roles: “What daugh­ter may be reproved for remain­ing with wild com­pan­ions into the late hours away from home, when it is a home to which her moth­er only returns dur­ing the day to change her clothes and late at night to sleep?” In 1929 the Klan’s immi­nent col­lapse did not pre­clude a pos­i­tive note in Gill Com­er’s address. Answer­ing male crit­ics of wom­en’s suf­frage, she not­ed that her faith in women had been vin­di­cat­ed by the deci­sive influ­ence of wom­en’s orga­ni­za­tions in the defeat of Catholic anti-Pro­hi­bi­tion pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Al Smith. Smith’s mis­take was to under­es­ti­mate the clout of orga­nized women: “Smith ought to have remem­bered that cra­dles have gone out of style, and that the hands which once rocked them are now free to cast bal­lots for decent can­di­dates.” The WKKK, Gill com­er boast­ed, swayed women against vot­ing for Smith whether or not they were mem­bers of the Klan. The wom­en’s Klan had “awak­ened the con­science” of women and edu­cat­ed them about their respon­si­bil­i­ties to ensure the strength of Protes­tantism and Amer­i­can­ism, result­ing in a large turnout of women at the polls to vote against Smith. Rob­bie Gill Com­er gave a final klon­voka­tion speech in 1930 when both the wom­en’s and the men’s Klans were dis­in­te­grat­ing. In this address she reflect­ed on the his­to­ry of her wom­en’s order and summed up its accom­plish­ments and weak­ness­es. The WKKK, she argued, had suc­ceed­ed in its mis­sion to pro­vide polit­i­cal edu­ca­tion to white Protes­tant Amer­i­can women. The trou­bles of the Klan move­ment need not inter­fere with the polit­i­cal momen­tum that white Protes­tant women had achieved. Yet much of the polit­i­cal agen­da of the wom­en’s Klan remained undone. Women should con­tin­ue to fight for their rights — as whites, as native-born Amer­i­cans, as Protes­tant Chris­tians, and, espe­cial­ly, as women. Gill Com­er con­clud­ed with a poet­ic admo­ni­tion to her female fol­low­ers. Be strong!                                        We are not here to play, to dream, to drift;                                We have hard work to do, and loads to lift;                                Shun not the strug­gle — face it; ‘tis God’s gift. Be strong!                                                Say not, “The days are evil. Who’s to blame?”                        And fold the hands and acqui­esce — oh shame!                        Stand up, speak out, and brave­ly, in God’s name. Be strong!                                                It mat­ters not how deep entrenched the wrong;                        How hard the bat­tle goes, the day how long;                                Faint not — fight on! Tomor­row comes the sun. The con­tra­dic­tions and ambi­gu­i­ties of gen­der ide­ol­o­gy were nev­er resolved with­in the WKKK, just as they remained unre­solved with­in the men’s Klan. Gill com­er and her Klanswomen, many attract­ed to the wom­en’s Klan because it sup­port­ed wom­en’s rights along with white and Protes­tant suprema­cy, con­tin­ued to press for wom­en’s equal­i­ty in soci­ety — if not with­in the Invis­i­ble Empire itself — even when sup­port for wom­en’s rights fit uneasi­ly with tra­di­tion­al Klan beliefs in Chris­t­ian progress and female help­less­ness. Yet they were not will­ing to endorse any polit­i­cal agen­da that seemed to link them with fem­i­nist “extrem­ists.” The Klan prin­ci­ples of white Protes­tant fam­i­ly life and the cre­ation of the wom­en’s Klan by and with­in the ear­li­er men’s Klan tem­pered Klanswom­en’s full endorse­ment of wom­en’s equal­i­ty. Klanswomen sought rights equal­i­ty between white Protes­tant women and men. in pol­i­tics, the econ­o­my, mar­riage, and the law.  But they stopped far short of sup­port­ing full

Ibid. pp. xx — xx 7.  Bar­r’s Appoint­ment...

Steven­son brought Barr into the Klan as head of the Queens of the Gold­en Mask (QGM), a female coun­ter­part of his Indi­ana KKK. Insist­ing on tight con­trol of her orga­ni­za­tion, Barr hired field rep­re­sen­ta­tives to trav­el Indi­ana to recruit for the QGM.

Ibid.; pp. xx — xx 8.  More about Bar­r’s ide­ol­o­gy:

Both as evan­ge­list and polit­i­cal orga­niz­er, Barr empha­sized the effects of all social vices on the lives of women. Of spe­cial con­cern were the temp­ta­tions faced by young work­ing girls in the city. Lone­li­ness, pover­ty, and con­tact with unsa­vory ele­ments in fac­to­ry life, Barr warned, lured young women into a life of pros­ti­tu­tion. To com­bat these temp­ta­tions Barr orga­nized a Young Wom­en’s Chris­t­ian Asso­ci­a­tion (YMCA) in Muncie, to sup­ple­ment the branch of the Young Men’s Chris­t­ian Asso­ci­a­tion (YMCA) estab­lished ear­li­er by the local elite. Barr advo­cat­ed rights as well as pro­tec­tion for women. She used her fame as an evan­ge­list to encour­age advo­cates of wom­en’s equal­i­ty to join the church. One ser­mon told of a woman who was inter­est­ed in wom­en’s progress and who was brought back to spir­i­tu­al faith when she entered Bar­r’s taber­na­cle to sup­port the female min­istry. Barr was adamant in her call for the admis­sion of women to the min­istry. In an arti­cle in the wide­ly cir­cu­lat­ed Indi­anapo­lis News, she was insis­tent: One can hard­ly imag­ine, under our present day progress, that most of the reli­gious denom­i­na­tions in our own coun­try still refuse the rite of ordi­na­tion to women appli­cants. Women have entered the pro­fes­sions of law, med­i­cine, teach­ing, art, music and even are wrestling with the sci­ences.... And yet the rel­ic of our bar­barism and hea­thenism [sic] dog­mas, when the belief was cur­rent that women had no souls, is still evi­dent in the fact that oth­er doors are open, while the holy min­istry still bars her free entrance. When local news­pa­pers in Muncie agreed to reprint her ser­mons Daisy’s polit­i­cal for­tunes soared. The com­bi­na­tion of pul­pit and news­pa­per gave Barr a pow­er­ful forum for her views, which includ­ed denun­ci­a­tion of the Sun­day retail trade, oppo­si­tion to the sex­u­al dou­ble stan­dard, and a dia­tribe against church mem­bers who used racial slurs.

Ibid.; pp. xx — xx


No comments for “FTR #692 Women in the Klan (“Palin by Comparison,” Part 2)”

Post a comment