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FTR #692 Side 1 
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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.
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. . . .
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.
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