Southern Lady Activism
This chapter examines the first generation dealt with in the book, mainly represented by churchwomen's groups, the YWCA, the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching, and League of Women Voters. Up to the Brown decision, these women worked against segregation without openly advocating its elimination. They apparently conformed to racial and gender norms but undermined male white supremacy without seeming to do so. Inspired primarily by Christian principles, they gradually evolved from mission work to racial reform, and from cautious bi-racialism to open support of desegregation. Using their status and manners, these ladies rejected the segregationist discourse as immoral, in particular the rhetoric of chivalry that placed white women at the center of the white supremacist doctrine. During the Great Depression and World War II, many also became involved in politics, supporting the New Deal and federal measures in favor of economic, political, and racial equality. Focusing on a variety of emblematic individuals and organizations, the chapter shows that throughout the pre-Brown period, these women asserted themselves as a unique brand of reformers, built extensive networks, and developed a sense of sisterhood, paving the way for the post-Brown generation.
Keywords: Churchwomen, Young Women Christian Association, Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching, League of Women Voters, Segregation, Christian, Racial reform, White supremacist doctrine, Sisterhood
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