Sometimes to get your foot in the door you have to take whatever you can get. As was the case for Rebecca Latimer Felton, the first woman to serve as a US Senator, even if it was for a brief time. She was sworn in as a Senator to cover the seat in between the death of one Senator and the swearing in of the next one after a special election.
Rebecca was a prominent suffragette in Georgia. She openly criticized southern men for their ideas of Chivalry when they refused women’s rights. She said, “They have given the Southern women more praise than the man of the West—but judged by their actions Southern men have been less sincere. Honeyed phrases are pleasant to listen to, but the sensible women of our country would prefer more substantial gifts.”
Men were not the only ones subject to her harsh rebuke. In 1915 she was given the opportunity to debate female anti-suffragettes. The anti-suffragettes were given 45 minutes to speak but Felton only received 30 minutes. Her response? Continue to talk for 15 minutes over the objections for her going over her allotted time.
I almost didn’t write about Felton. You see, for all of her championing for women’s rights she was a devout white supremacist. She pushed for measures that would take funds from black schools and put them into white schools because, in her opinion, the more educated a black person was the more likely they were to commit crime.
I kept her in this April A to Z because we have to remember the importance of intersectionality in women’s issues and history. It’s important to remember that our sister’s problems are our problems, no matter the color of their skin.
Books to read based on Rebecca Latimer Felton:
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee This is one of my all-time favorite books. A coming of age story in the south under the cloud of racism.
- The Help by Kathryn Stockett The story of how three women stood up for themselves and created change in a small southern town.
- Sojourner Truth: Ain’t I a Woman? A biography of the prominent African American Feminist.