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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 >>

Establishment of the Equal Rights Association at Randolph-Macon Woman's College

In this excerpt, Howorth explains her role in the establishment of the Equal Rights Association at Randolph-Macon Woman's College during the 1910s. When Howorth arrived in 1912, there were no organizations on campus devoted specifically to issues of women's rights, including suffrage. Howorth was instrumental in founding the group, which she describes as "subversive," and in earning its recognition within student government. Her work here was a harbinger of her involvement in law, politics, and women's organizations throughout the rest of her life.

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

A question came to my mind when we were talking about your Randolph-Macon days. In 1912, Dr. Shaw wasn't permitted to speak to the student body assembled.
LUCY SOMERVILLE HOWORTH:
No.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
But in 1915, a chapter of the collegiate Equal Rights Association had formed?
LUCY SOMERVILLE HOWORTH:
That's right.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
A lot of transformation had taken place on that campus. When did this happen?
LUCY SOMERVILLE HOWORTH:
Well, we formed that as soon as I hit the campus!
CONSTANCE MYERS:
Yes, but it had to be chartered by the administrators.
LUCY SOMERVILLE HOWORTH:
Oh no, not then. This was a simple day. (laughter) We were a subversive group, but we operated and I set out part of the bulletin board for announcements, a big cardboard poster where you put announcements of meetings of the Mississippi Club and the Literary Club and this, that and the other. So, I got a corner of that and I kept news items up there steadily and of course, there were a group of girls.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
You were behind the organizing?
LUCY SOMERVILLE HOWORTH:
Yes.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
But there were others?
LUCY SOMERVILLE HOWORTH:
Yes, we had quite a nice group.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
I mean, that initiated this project, that set up that chapter?
LUCY SOMERVILLE HOWORTH:
And of course, I had a legal turn of mind, I didn't know what it was, but anyhow, I wanted to get us officially established. I knew that we were subversives, you see. But the student government at Randolph-Macon, they had a very strong student government association and so it adopted a rule that organizations should be set up on a points system and that one person could only have an office in so many points. In other words, if an organization rated one point, being president of it would be one point and the rule was that you couldn't have more than ten points. That prevented one particular person from holding all the offices.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
And diverting too much attention from school work, too.
LUCY SOMERVILLE HOWORTH:
Well, it was one of these kind of democratic moves and equalizing things in distributing honors and responsibilities. Of course, if one girl was president of everything, none of them got any attention from her. So, I had gotten on the student government by that time and when they drew up the list of what would have so many points, I got the Equal Suffrage group, whatever they called it, to be put on that list. So, from then on, we were a legally recognized group by the student government and the faculty could go hang as far as I was concerned, because we would fight to the death for the right of the student government to recognize organizations.