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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 >>

Mississippi as progressive in women's education, but not for women's suffrage

Here, Howorth explains how during her upbringing in Mississippi during the early twentieth century, very few Mississippi educators were supportive of women's suffrage. Despite this, however, Howorth explains how Mississippi was actually quite progressive in terms of women's rights in other areas. For instance, according to Howorth, the University of Mississippi was the first state university to allow women students in the early 1800s. In addition, Mississippi was a forerunner in granting married women control over property. Her comments demonstrate the ways in which despite advances in some areas, convincing legislators to support women's suffrage in the early twentieth century was still a formidable task.

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

CONSTANCE MYERS:
How did Mississippi educators stand on the question of suffrage?
LUCY SOMERVILLE HOWORTH:
A few of them were friendly, but most of them were not.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
The President, for example, of Mississippi State College for Women?
LUCY SOMERVILLE HOWORTH:
Of course, Whitfield, when he went in, was more friendly and eventually very friendly. He was president for six or eight years, but I don't think that they looked upon him for much help.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
I wonder if the national leaders were permitted to speak there and how often, if at all?
LUCY SOMERVILLE HOWORTH:
I don't know. I do know that a good deal of effort was made to try and get an invitation to somebody to try and speak at some of the colleges, but I don't recall.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
When were women first admitted to 01e Miss? I was going to ask you about the views of the Chancellor of 01e Miss and then I thought that I had better see if women were students there at that time.
LUCY SOMERVILLE HOWORTH:
It is my recollection that the University of Mississippi was the first state university to admit women. If it was not the first, it was the second.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
I have a notion that Mississippi was the first state to open a state college for women.
LUCY SOMERVILLE HOWORTH:
Mississippi State College for Women, which was originally named I&C, Industrial Institute and College, was the first state supported institution for college education for women. [Presently Missippi University for Women]
CONSTANCE MYERS:
That's what I thought.
LUCY SOMERVILLE HOWORTH:
And Mississippi was the first state to charter an institution to grant degrees to women and that was in 1819 and the compilers of one of these encyclopedias of education couldn't believe their eyes when they read that. So, they wrote it up as Missouri and Missouri was not a state at that time.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
That's quite a joke on them.
LUCY SOMERVILLE HOWORTH:
I ran into that when I was working up a speech in Washington, and I went over to the AAUW headquarters, where I spent a good deal of the time anyhow, and I knew they had this encyclopedia and I wanted to verify it and they had it wrong. (laughter)
CONSTANCE MYERS:
That's a real joke.
LUCY SOMERVILLE HOWORTH:
Isn't it. (laughter)
CONSTANCE MYERS:
Mississippi has another first for women and this is married women's control over property.
LUCY SOMERVILLE HOWORTH:
Oh yes, and there too. . . .
CONSTANCE MYERS:
It always surprises people when I make reference to this fact in talks.