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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Adele Clark, February 28, 1964. Interview G-0014-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

League of Women Voters and state politicians in Virginia

Clark talks about Virginia politicians, notably Harry Byrd and George Walter Mapp. Clark explains that in 1925, the League of Women Voters supported Mapp in the gubernatorial election (he ultimately lost to Byrd), because he had been supportive of women's suffrage as a state senator. Clark explains that Byrd had not supported women's suffrage, although she does explain in detail how he later agreed to sponsor the League's Child Code Commission and its legislative measures.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Adele Clark, February 28, 1964. Interview G-0014-2. 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

I would imagine at that time that the present Senator Harry Byrd was then certainly a beginning force in politics, and could you tell me anything of your relations or the suffragette or League of Women Voters' relations with Mr. Byrd or any other prominent people? Specifically, I was thinking in your mentioning the gentleman from Harrisonburg, was there an attempt in the ordinary political way of doing things to reward one's friends and try to vote your enemies out of office? Could you give us anything of the byplay of personality, in other words, from some of the political leaders of the day?
Yes, I'd be very glad to. You've reminded me particularly about Senator Harry Byrd of two things. The gentleman I mentioned, George Walter Mapp, who was a suffrage leader in the Senate all during the ratification days, ran for the governorship in 1925 against Harry Byrd. And most of us as suffragists supported Mapp very actively. Now mentioning the Byrds, I think, is rather interesting. When Harry Byrd came to the Senate of Virginia in 1916—his son resembles him very strongly; his son is a state senator now—the undercurrent of political talk in the legislature of Virginia was to call him the crown prince. His father was Speaker of the House, Richard Byrd. His son Richard Evelyn Byrd, who was the , was named for his father. And Richard Evelyn Byrd was Speaker of the House of Delegates, and Congressman Harold Flood of Appomattox had been Congressman for a long, long time, and they were the pulse of the Virginia machine. And Harry Byrd was called the crown prince [laughter] when he first came in. He never voted for suffrage. Strangely enough, his father had supported the equal suffrage movement. His father, Richard Evelyn Byrd, had been one of the men who voted for it in 1912 and 1914 when he was Speaker of the House. I don't remember which year he was Speaker, but I know he was in 1912. But his son did not follow in his footsteps on that. But we went to Senator Byrd (then state senator) in 1922 and asked him to be a patron of the Child Labor Bill. Senator Mapp had suggested it, because Senator Byrd was a very strong person in the Senate right from the beginning. And Senator Byrd said that he would be a patron of it. He read the bill, and of course we had exempted children in agriculture, as all child labor bills have done. Because you couldn't regulate that; they worked on the farms anyway. And Senator Byrd said that he would vote for it if we exempted the work of children in orchards. And we pointed out to him that agriculture covered orchards, and he said probably it did, but he would like that specific amendment made, and Mr. Mapp made no objections so we let orchards be put in, feeling anyway that they fell under the term "agriculture." So with that exception—he being a large orchard grower and not wanting to be embarrassed about the employment of underaged children occasionally in his orchards—he was the sponsor of one of the strongest child labor bills in the South, and one that stayed and has never been contested, although the federal bill was. But Senator Byrd had never voted for suffrage. Now Senator Mapp was one of our leaders. As I mentioned, Senator John Paul of Harrisonburg was a Republican. Senator Swanson, who was our United States Senator, was definitely an anti-suffragist. We never could get him to the point of voting. And I went to see him about a federal bill when I was President of the state League of Women Voters. I think it was around 1925. There was some bill in the Senate of the United States we wanted to talk to him about. He was a very genial man, a very pleasant man, and he said to me, "I'm supporting Harry Byrd for Governor of the state. How do you ladies feel?" And I said, "Well, with Senator Walter Mapp running against him, I'm supporting Senator Mapp, and I think most of the women will." And Senator Swanson said, "I understand thoroughly. If we haven't gratitude in politics, what have we? I wouldn't expect you to do otherwise," which I thought was a wonderful sideline on the political attitudes of their day.