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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Lucy Somerville Howorth, June 20, 22, and 23, 1975. Interview G-0028. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Description of Anna Howard Shaw's leadership

In this excerpt, Howorth describes the leadership of Anna Howard Shaw, president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association from 1904 to 1915. Howorth had met Shaw at a suffrage meeting she attended with her mother; later when Howorth was a student at Randolph-Macon Woman's College, she helped organize an invitation for Shaw to speak at the school. Howorth describes Shaw as "charming" and "witty" and lauds her leadership skills. In the mid-1910s, however, Shaw's leadership style came under attack. As Howorth describes it, Shaw willingly stepped down from her position in the NAWSA so that the organization might remained unified and achieve its goals.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Lucy Somerville Howorth, June 20, 22, and 23, 1975. Interview G-0028. 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

Do you remember suffrage meetings after the movement was reborn in 1911 or 1912? You were about the age to be aware.
LUCY SOMERVILLE HOWORTH:
Oh, I went to several of the state conventions and acted as a page and then in the year before I went to college, the spring of 1912, Dr. Anna Howard Shaw came and I went to the state convention where she spoke and then she came . . . well, maybe the convention was in Greenville, but anyhow, she spoke in Greenville. Then when I went on to college that fall, she came to Lynchburg to a meeting and spoke and I arranged, freshman girl that I was, I stirred them up and arranged to have her come out to the college. Now, there's where I began to run into this narrow minded business that really burned me up. They wouldn't let Anna Howard Shaw speak in the college auditorium.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
Well, it was a touchy issue. This was in about 1912?
LUCY SOMERVILLE HOWORTH:
This was the fall of 1912 and I found out, or somebody helped me out, because I was a freshman, that the rule of the college was that the seniors could entertain anybody that they wanted in what was called the Senior Parlor. So, some of the seniors agreed that Dr. Anna Howard Shaw could speak in the parlor and we had a reception for her and we had them hanging out the windows.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
You used your influence with the members of the senior class, I guess.
LUCY SOMERVILLE HOWORTH:
Well, my sister had graduated the year before, so I didn't go up there as an unknown. I am still thrilled to this day that when the car came up with Dr. Shaw and she stepped out, I came up and started to introduce myself, she said, "Why child, I know you." You see, she remembered from Greenville.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
Can you characterize her? Somehow, can you give a little descriptive paragraph?
LUCY SOMERVILLE HOWORTH:
Oh, she was one of the most charming people that I have ever known. She was witty and friendly and warm and eloquent. She was the eloquent voice of the suffrage movement so far as I am concerned.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
I think that others concur with this.
LUCY SOMERVILLE HOWORTH:
And then. . . .
CONSTANCE MYERS:
There has been some critcism of her organizing ability.
LUCY SOMERVILLE HOWORTH:
Yes, that was the argument used to get her to step down and let Mrs. Catt come in to do the final victory.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
Was this a good decisiobn in your view?
LUCY SOMERVILLE HOWORTH:
Well, I think that it was, because it was one of those things where Mrs. Catt's friends wouldn't follow Dr. Shaw and therefore to prevent a schism . . . you see this thing time and again in public life, that one leader is not . . . well, Lyndon Johnson, he said that he couldn't bring unity to the country and I think that he was correct. So, he stepped aside. What we got in return was something else, but we will skip that. (laughter) So, that was the thing about Anna Howard Shaw.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
It was a strategic move politically?
LUCY SOMERVILLE HOWORTH:
Yes.