by Greta Russell
“’I’m shore glad to see you,’ said Neenie. ‘I was a-thinkin’ this mornin’ that if you didn’t git around this way soon, I’d jist natcherly have to write a story myself. I’ve got it all fixed up in my mind, jist how I would say it, and even have the principal pitcher to go with it – me a-standin’ on the front steps with chickens a-comin’ up, jist as if they was pets.” In May 1918, Alice Curtice Moyer Wing, Missouri suffragette, wrote about her encounter with Neenie in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Sunday magazine section. Neenie is just one of the many characters that would grace the pages of the newspaper through Moyer Wing’s regular column. In Neenie Tells How She Converted Nick To Suffrage, the titular character tells the story of how she turned her boyfriend, Nick, to the suffrage cause.
“Nick’s my feller. We’ve been a-settin’ up for nigh onto a year, now, and I think a heap of him, but I ain’t so blind about him that I cain’t see his faults, and one of ‘em is the way he hates the idee of women a-votin’ and the fool argyments he brings up agin it.” Neenie describes a time when she was trying to move some goats out of a field. Because of their stubborn refusal to move, Neenie became angry: “I was a-stompin’ my feet and cryin’ right out loud like as if I was 6 instead of 16.” Her boyfriend watched her, and “ever since, he’s had ‘temper’ as a argyment again women’ votin’.”
“’Why, if you was to git mad at a man,’ he says, ‘you’d vote agin him just because you was mad at him, regardless of how good a man he might be fer the office he was a wantin’.’”Neenie goes on to describe how Nick talked down to her, questioning her judgment and belittling her. “’It’s shore a great thing to always have control of yourself,’ he says. ‘Why,’ he says, ‘I don’t reckon they’s anything in the world, hardly, that could make me git crazy, cryin’ mad,’ he says, with proud importance jist a-stickin’ out all over him.”
Alice Curtice Moyer Wing campaigned in the Missouri Ozarks as a suffrage activist from 1916-1919, chronicling her adventures in the Post-Dispatch. Her article about Neenie and Nick is typical of her work. Written in an easy, conversational style, Moyer Wing allows her subjects to speak for themselves, and is inclusive of highly emotional elements. Very little dialogue comes from Moyer Wing herself; instead, she presents people as if they are telling their own story, in their own words. Often her articles, like with Neenie and Nick, consist of one party changing the other’s mind, or how an anti-suffragist tried – and failed – to defend their position.
This paper examines Alice Curtice Moyer Wing’s contributions to the larger suffrage movement, by focusing on the thirty-six articles she wrote between July 1916 and May 1919. At the time, she was field secretary for the Missouri Equal Suffrage League, canvassing Missouri to persuade people about the benefits of woman suffrage. She was in her early fifties. Her life and experiences before 1916 had galvanized her support of gender equality and woman suffrage. While the impact of her writings on Missourians is difficult to assess, an in-depth analysis of the articles sheds lights on the arguments she formulated in support of suffrage, and the literary methods she employed to get those arguments across. By looking at the larger suffrage movement in Missouri and nationally, Moyer Wing’s contributions will be given a broader context. This will show that Moyer Wing had extraordinary literary talent and was able to employ her talent to further the suffrage cause and gender equality in Missouri.
Born in Illinois, Alice Curtice Moyer Wing was brought to Dallas County, Missouri by her parents as an infant, just after the Civil War. When he was in his late teens, her father had run away from his family, changed his name, and enlisted in the Civil War. He served for over 4 years, then married and settled in the Missouri Ozarks, homesteading land in Dallas County. Moyer Wing’s early years were spent on her parents’ remote Dallas County farm, which gave her a solid foundation in the pioneer lifestyle of the Missouri Ozarks. When she was 15 years old, her family moved to Buffalo, the county seat, to provide her greater educational opportunities. After gaining what education she could in Buffalo’s school, Moyer Wing began teaching at a small county school.
Her late teens and twenties are difficult to document. By the mid-1890s, she was married to Albertson Moyer and had two children: Selma and Charles. Her husband died when their children were 5 and 3 years old, forcing Moyer Wing to enter the working world around 1897. For middle class women at the turn of the century – and for Moyer Wing specifically – office work held an increasing amount of opportunities for promotion and personal success. She started her career as a stenographer- a fairly common job for a female just before the turn of the century. As the years went on, she steadily increased her duties. She held positions such as, “correspondent, department manager, district manager, and instructor for traveling forces.” In 1900 she was living as a boarder in Salina, Kansas, with her 7 and 9 year old children, where she worked at the Body Brace Company. Her career allowed her to live independently of a man, and still be a devoted single mother of her two children; she was able to balance a career and motherhood long before it became widely popular to do so. The 1910 federal census found her living in Chicago, working as a clerk in a perfume company that also employed her 19 and 17 year old children.
Throughout her business career, she moved from a female dominated job – there were nearly three times as many women stenographers as men stenographers in 1900 – to a male dominated job – 94% of traveling sales workers were men in 1920. She also worked in an industry where “women’s wages were almost always lower than those of men.” The inequity between the sexes as reflected in the world around her prompted much of her writing about gender equality, which was likely based on her experiences.
Alice Curtice Moyer Wing published The Romance of the Road: Making Love and a Living, a novel about life as a woman in the business world in 1912. Partially autobiographical, the book was touted as a romance that would be popular with businesswomen. It chronicles the experiences of Alice Von Moyer, a working woman and mother. Written in the first person, she describes Von Moyer’s struggle to balance work and single motherhood, the dynamics of her office, an in-depth analysis of her female co-workers, the challenges of travelling away from the office on the road for business, and becoming romantically involved with a man. All proceeds of her book were given to the woman suffrage movement. While only one small section of her book discusses suffrage directly, the theme that is present through the book is that men and women are inherently equal and the experiences of women are under appreciated, a theme she will carry into her future writing.
Alice Curtice Moyer Wing moved to St. Louis in February 1913, where she took a position with the Gorman Paint Company. She married her second husband, Turner G. Wing in 1914 and became an active member of the Missouri Equal Suffrage League. With the support of her husband both ideologically and financially, Moyer Wing devoted her efforts to woman suffrage full time.
After their marriage, the Wings divided their time between St. Louis and their country home in Wayne County, near Greenville, Missouri. The people she would meet in Southeast Missouri would become the inspiration for her most prolific period of suffrage writing. From 1916 – 1919 she traveled the southern half of the state on horseback, bringing the gospel of suffrage to parts of the state that were too remote for railroad travel. She gave speeches in churches on Sundays, raising money to finance her travels. What money was left over, she gave to the Missouri Equal Suffrage League. During these years, she also began her writing for the Post-Dispatch, telling colorful stories of the Ozark natives and presenting her arguments for suffrage.
After Missouri ratified the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote, Alice Curtice Moyer Wing followed a natural progression from suffrage activist to politician. She continued canvassing the state, but her attention in 1920 was in support of the Republican Party and the election of Governor Arthur Hyde. In the eleven months prior to his election in 1920, she, “did organization work in fifty-four counties and made three hundred and forty-three political speeches.” Again she financed her travels by raising money as she went. After Hyde was elected, he appointed Moyer Wing State Industrial Inspector, a position she was reappointed to in 1925. As State Industrial Inspector, she worked to enforce the 9-hour workday for women and to eliminate child labor in entertainment venues, among other reform and regulatory efforts.
In 1924, Moyer Wing ran for the 13th congressional district seat, but was defeated. Her appointment as Industrial Inspector, and her attempt to run for Congressional office, follow a distinct pattern of women who entered politics in the early 1920s. This move into politics pushed the boundaries of gender separation within party politics, as well as the public arena in general. Melanie Gustafson in her work, Women and the Republican Party, 1854-1924 calls attention to the women who stayed active in politics after suffrage was achieved. “These women challenged the idea that women’s struggle for greater political influence stopped at the ballot box, and they paved the way for new efforts within the Republican Party to expand women’s roles and create gender equality.” Moyer Wing was part of a select group of women in Missouri who chose to stay active in the political arena after suffrage, and used her experience to further gender equality in the state.
Jo Freeman, in A Room at a Time: How Women Entered Party Politics, divides former suffragists who entered politics into two camps, separated strictly along party lines – “the Republican Party proved itself more hospitable to feminists, while the Democratic Party became home to most of the reformers.” Moyer Wing straddled both of these worlds, writing prolifically as a feminist – advocating equality between the genders. But at the same time she worked as a reformer, best illustrated by her time as State Industrial Inspector. While she combined both of these worlds, she remained completely loyal to the Republican Party, and was quite comfortable with this seeming contradiction.
At the end of her second State Industrial Inspector appointment, in 1929, she requested other government-appointed work – for positions as various as secretary to the Governor or census supervisor – but it appears she was never appointed. Her political writing in the 1920s and 30s was published in the national magazine Scribners, where she exposed the prejudices she faced from Republican Party men in her 1924 campaign, and from men who opposed her tenure as State Industrial Inspector. Her writing at the time is clearly focused on gender equality. She also wrote short fiction for various publications through the 1930s that highlighted the female experience in life.
Moyer Wing was a suffragist, a feminist, and a politician. She was a prolific writer and speaker, who produced an impressive body of work. She points to various experiences that changed her consciousness about women’s suffrage and gender equality from her youth, contradicting herself at times on the details, but always carrying forward her message.
Alice Curtice Moyer Wing is clearly motivated by a sense of duty. In her writing, she holds herself to a higher standard of duty to her country and those around her. She also expects men to hold themselves to a high standard as well. She’s critical of those men and women who she feels are unjust, and do not live up to their duty. She writes of her father, who changed his name to enlist in the Civil War in order to avoid discovery by his family who was opposed to his enlistment, “I would much prefer that he gave up the name of his father than to have failed for one single moment in what he believed was his duty to his country.” When she describes word reaching her about her appointment to Industrial Inspector she says, “the first emotion I experienced as the telegram was read to me was a feeling of thankfulness that I had done my political work from a sense of duty and the joy of service without ever a thought of reward.” It is this sense of duty that likely fuels her suffrage activism, her entry into the political arena, and her work for gender equality.
Alice Curtice Moyer Wing scaled back her writing in the mid-1930s to care for her ailing husband. She passed away suddenly in 1937, of a heart attack, in her home, Wing Lodge, in Wayne County, Missouri.
Missouri’s Movement for Suffrage & the Missouri Equal Suffrage League, 1910-1919
During Alice Curtice Moyer Wing’s Childhood, in the 1870s and 80s, there was significant activity for woman suffrage in Missouri. But by the turn of the century, the movement had stalled. It was not until March 1910, that the movement was given new life, through the efforts of three women in St. Louis. These women founded the St. Louis Equal Suffrage League, and began organizing speaking engagements in Missouri by prominent figures in the national movement. By the end of 1910, membership in the League had increased to 275. This core group in St. Louis would form the base of a new statewide organization – the Missouri Equal Suffrage League – affiliated with the National American Women’s Suffrage Association. The Missouri League soon included chapters across the state.
The year 1914 would prove pivotal for the suffrage movement in Missouri. 14,000 petition signatures were attained by suffragists in the state, enough to put the issue on the ballot that fall. The completed petitions were wrapped in white tissue paper and tied with a yellow ribbon. When given to the Secretary of State, “the argument most strongly used against suffrage, namely: that the women of Missouri did not want it, was answered by these petitions. In the city, on the farm, circulated by school teachers, housekeepers, college girls, by women of all ages and ranks, just for the love of the cause, these petitions proved the contrary to be true.”
After attaining petitions to put the matter to a general vote, suffragists in Missouri had a long road ahead of them to gain popular acceptance of woman suffrage. Missourians had not come to the idea of women’s rights easily. Even nationally known social reformers were not always welcome in the state. When Jane Addams agreed to speak in support of suffrage in October 1914, University of Missouri authorities were afraid to have her speak in the University Auditorium. Columbia’s Opera House, “had to be hurriedly secured.” Nonetheless, suffragists canvassed the state in 1914. Campaigning for the cause in the weeks leading up to the election, they spoke at county fairs, churches, and election platforms, making as many personal contacts as possible.
1914 was a pivotal year for Alice Curtice Moyer Wing, as well. As the head of the campaign headquarters for the Missouri Equal Suffrage League in St. Louis, she immersed herself in the fight for suffrage. Her pro-suffrage writing was published state-wide, and she made speeches to general audiences, sometimes being jeered at by men, telling her she should be at home caring for her children. She worked to diversify the suffrage campaign by organizing a walk from St. Louis to Springfield in June, and writing a movie, filmed in St. Louis, with the proceeds going to Missouri Equal Suffrage League. She may have adopted this idea from Harriot Stanton Blatch, suffrage activist in New York and daughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Blatch advocated new, diverse activist techniques, stating, “moving pictures represented another new technology with political possibilities.”
Despite the efforts of Moyer Wing and her fellow suffragists, women lost in 1914, with 322,000 of Missouri’s men opposed to women suffrage, and 182,000 in support. Suffragists in Missouri gained popular sentiment, though. They saw a victory in the fact that when the Federal woman suffrage amendment was brought before Congress in January 1915, “eleven of the sixteen Missouri Congressmen voted for the Federal Amendment. Sentiment in the state had so changed that organization was possible and the passing months, which had seemed to bring only defeat in their train, had been building a sound foundation for a later victory.”
The National American Woman Suffrage Association urged suffragists to keep the focus nationally in 1915. The petitioning campaigns were given up by Missouri women. Alice Curtice Moyer Wing, however, continued to campaign in the state to educate women about voting, and took a position as field secretary of the state suffrage organization. She was also one of several editors of the organization’s newly formed periodical, Missouri Woman. She conducted suffrage schools with the intention to educate women on the importance of the vote, stating in 1915, “The work of the last campaign was a constant reminder of the elementary need which helped defeat the suffrage amendment in St. Louis. We do not intend that another campaign shall find us unprepared.”
Toward the end of the 1910s, approaches to suffrage became increasingly divided along political party lines. Work to advance the Federal Amendment was seen as a Republican principle, but active state referendum campaigns were perceived as recognition of a Democratic principle. Suffrage organizations were scrutinized for being involved in one political party or the other, and by the fall of 1916, both tactics were adopted by the national organization: “a more active program in Washington for the Federal Amendment and a continuation of the State Referendum Campaigns.”
Moyer Wing gave several speeches about suffrage throughout 1915. In December of the year, she announced her intention to canvass the Missouri Ozarks in a grass roots campaign for suffrage. The end result was not only increased awareness of suffrage in the Ozarks, but resulted in the articles to “city-folk” that form the basis of this paper. The bulk of Moyer Wing’s articles for suffrage in the Post- Dispatch came during the years, 1917-1919, when popular support for suffrage was essential to its success.
Missouri suffragists supported a presidential suffrage bill in 1917, which was passed by the senate in March 1919 along with a “resolution to submit a constitutional amendment for full suffrage to the electorate.” The state amendment would prove unnecessary, however, when in June 1919, Congress passed the Nineteenth Amendment under President Woodrow Wilson. Missouri ratified the amendment within the first month, but it would take another year before the thirty-sixth state passed the measure, making it law.
The suffrage movement in Missouri had a distinct grass-roots element. As suffrage supporters formed their arguments, they not only argued for voting equality, but for gender equality as well. Alice Curtice Moyer Wing’s arguments for suffrage were similar to arguments used nationally, but were contradictory, as well.
Aileen Kraditor’s work The Ideas of the Woman Suffrage Movement, 1890-1920 outlines arguments used by suffragists, and how those arguments evolveded over time. The founders of the movement argued that women were equal to men – it was their natural born right to have equality in government. The Declaration of Independence gave women as well as men equality in government participation. By the turn of the century, the argument was changing slightly – women needed education and the vote to become equal with men. As individuals, they were not given the same tools to face the world’s challenges, and thus needed the vote to attain equality with men.
As the suffrage argument evolved the idea of difference between the genders would grow more distinct. With the power of the vote, women could change the government and make the world better. The Progressive era thus shifted the argument from what the government could do for women (give them their natural rights), and instead focused on what women could do for the government (make it better for families). The change in suffrage argument reflects society’s change at the time. With more women working outside of the home, more people living in industrial areas, and women at the forefront of social change, suffrage activists had concrete examples of how women had improved conditions for Americans. Men in the government, who were previously against suffrage, could see the logic in an argument that emphasized the social reform that women had spearheaded for years.
Alice Curtice Moyer Wing’s suffrage arguments presents an alternate view from Kraiditor’s assessment of the new suffrage arguments in the Progressive Era. Instead, she emphasizes that men and women are equal, that society would operate better if it involved both genders equally, and that women deserve to vote as their natural given right, the same as men. Within that argument, she explores the idea that women’s natural tendencies may be different than men’s, but, she does not use gender differences as her primary argument. Instead, she argues that women and men manage situations better together.
Moyer Wing’s contradictory arguments are similar to those of the emerging “feminist” of the 1910s that Nancy F. Cott describes in The Grounding of Modern Feminism. Cott describes the paradox present with feminists like Moyer Wing, and the debate over whether women were primarily human (deserving of the same rights as men), or if they were primarily a member of their sex (and should be seen as having separate, naturally occurring differences with men). “These divergent emphases did not cause real fissures within Feminism at the time. Rather, the simultaneous influence … represented Feminism’s characteristic double-ness, its simultaneous affirmation of women’s human rights and women’s unique needs and differences.” Moyer Wing is comfortable with these seemingly contradictory arguments. She repeatedly advocates for a world managed by both men and women equally and yet at the same time acknowledging some difference between the sexes. Her experience as a mother and her 17 years’ experience in the working world likely instilled this duality in her, as it did with other feminists at the time. “Their leaders were secular and educated women used to functioning- though not at the full power they desired- in a world of women and men. They relied on political consciousness and solidarity among women as a group to pursue an even better integrated world of women and men.”
The core of the anti-suffrage argument lies with the division of gender inherent in society. Women were destined to be mothers, wives, and homemakers, not active in politics. To challenge this naturally prescribed role, was to go against an eternal truth that was supported by religion, biology, and social institutions. The religious argument against woman suffrage declared that women were created by God for the home, and man for the world. The biological argument was that women and men were different biologically, and the burden of voting would be too strenuous on the frail and emotional female. Thus, that realm should be left to men, who were biologically more sound creatures. Socially, the argument against suffrage lied in women being peacemakers and nurturers of the home, as well as society at large. If women voted, they would not be attentive to their duties as homemakers and peacekeepers of the family. They would have to become politically informed citizens, which would take their attention away from their husbands and children. Divorce would ensue. To the anti-suffragist, the family was the social unit, not the individual. To allow women to vote would upset the social unit and change how the entire community functioned.
Alice Curtice Moyer Wing describes many anti-suffrage arguments in her travels canvassing the Ozarks for votes. At the heart of the arguments she faces, is what Kraiditor outlines: women and men are different; men were made for the world and politics, and women for less important duties involving the home. This manifests itself in religion, with men often telling her they are opposed to suffrage for “Bible reasons.” It also shows in the arguments she faces about how women should be in the home, nurturing their family and keeping house. As Kraditor describes, the anti-suffrage argument was one that relied on pointing out how separate and different women’s role was from men’s – she was relegated to the home, not politics.
“Winning Votes for Women in the Ozarks”: Alice Curtice Moyer Wing’s Arguments for Suffrage
Alice Curtice Moyer Wing’s articles in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch chronicle her crusade into the Ozarks as a suffragist. Her articles follow a general pattern – she assumes the reader is enlightened (pro-suffrage), and writes about her encounters with people in the Missouri Ozarks. In a relaxed manner, she narrates conversations between people. Sometimes she is a participant in the conversation, and other times she is simply an observer. Articles are typically 2,500 – 3,000 words in length and are accompanied by pictures taken by Moyer Wing of the people she encounters, and herself. After reading the articles, one feels immersed in Ozarks culture. The fact that some encounters could be fictional, or partially fictional, because of their similarity, does not lessen the importance of her literary talent, or her work to further the suffrage cause.
Moyer Wing encounters anti- and pro-suffragists, all willing to express their opinions and their perceptions of a suffragist. In every instance, she gives examples of her own core arguments. At times she makes her opinions very clear, and other times they are simply implied. She uses her constant companion, her horse La Belle, as a hook in her stories. Often La Belle diffuses uncomfortable situations as strangers ask about her, inquire about riding her, or try to trade for her. Moyer Wing communicates with and refers to La Belle as if she is an enlightened creature, knowing the way to civilization when she is lost, or comforting her after a rough day. The reader becomes naturally endeared to the team – woman and horse – a force facing the unknown and pushing for woman suffrage, a powerful literary tactic to seize and retain readership.
An overarching theme in the thirty-six articles that Alice Curtice Moyer Wing wrote for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is that men and women are equal. She presents several sub-themes and arguments throughout her articles, but at the core of her thought is the idea that the genders are inherently equal. Thus, women deserve the vote as a natural born right. Other arguments that come through clearly and repeatedly in her work are: the value of all women to society, women are not superior to men, city and rural people are different, men have historically been controlling and prejudiced, and suffrage is destined to happen. At times, she presents seemingly contradictory elements within her arguments, as an expedient way to further her cause. In essence, taken together, these form the core of her arguments for woman suffrage and gender equality.
An important element to Moyer Wing’s writing is the emotional level that she attempts to evoke in the reader. She is open with her own feelings at times: describing her frustrations after a day of encounters with anti-suffragists who will not let her converse, or when she describes her joy at encountering people who give her faith in the future of her cause. At other times she lets her subjects engender emotion in the reader, and provides little or no commentary about her own opinions. This emotional element diversified her audience by not relegating suffrage to the strict political arena. This tactic was advocated by Harriot Stanton Blatch, who said, “we learned … as we toiled in our campaign, that sermons and logic would never convince … human beings move because they feel, not because they think.”
Alice Curtice Moyer Wing’s intention to campaign in the Ozarks was announced nationally in December 1915, when a photograph of her and La Belle ran in newspapers across the country. Her first story, Winning Votes for Women in the Ozarks, appeared six months later. Accompanied by several pictures and illustrations, the article begins by announcing that she, field secretary of the Missouri Equal Suffrage League, “has had many diverting adventures lately while ‘spreading the light’ among the natives of the Ozark country, in Southeast Missouri, who live so far from a railroad that she was compelled to make her campaign on horseback.”
“The Woman’s Place is in the Home … But so is the Man’s”: Women and Men are Equal
In her first article, Alice Curtice Moyer Wing describes her “day of stunts.” Men she meets throughout the day challenge her to hoe corn, drive a nail, make biscuits, and bait a fishing line to show her sex’s fitness for voting. The men agree to listen to her discussion about suffrage if she completes the challenges. After refusing her last challenge, she’s told that she isn’t fit to vote. An argument ensues about the division of work between men and women – the man telling her that woman’s place is in the home, and Moyer Wing responding, “Yes, it is. But so is the man’s.” She goes on to accuse him of fishing while his wife is at home doing all of the house and farm work.
Moyer Wing continually argues for equality between genders. Not only in instances like above, where she calls out men who are at fault for being lazy creatures relying on women to do all of the physical labor, but also for females to push the boundaries of their prescribed gender role. Her August 12, 1917 article, The Homely Philosophy of an Ozarks Woman Who Believes in Suffrage, highlights Moyer Wing’s philosophy for gender equality. She speaks to a pro-suffrage homemaker in the Ozarks who describes a new model for women, one where their opinions are respected by the government, and where they would not have to choose between having a career and a marriage. “Oh, I know what people would say to that. They would tell me that my career is makin’ the home and raisin’ the children and the good Lord knows I wouldn’t want to be without them, but there ought to be a way, somehow, fer women with ideas to carry them out and have the home and the husband and children the same as men.” She goes on to say the job of the housewife is important, “It’s a good job, but it ain’t any more possible fer all women to want to do it more than any thing else in the world than it is possible fer all men to be plumb crazy about farmin’ or doctorin’. What I’d like to see is it possible fer women to have something else in their lives, if they want it, without havin’ to stay single.” Moyer Wing is highlighting the importance of both genders in this article, advocating an equal opportunity for a family and career for both men and women.
Moyer Wing, like other suffragists, addresses the “clinging vine” female several times in her articles – the type of woman who cannot function independently of a man. In her arguments, she applies pressure to these women by advocating that they pull their own weight in relationships. In her April 22, 1917 article, she meets a woman who describes a friend, who is only concerned with finding a husband, and what he can do for her. “She jist dotes on bein’ a clingin’ vine like she reads about, where the girls don’t know a blessed thing ‘cept what the feller tells her and when they git married, she jist keeps on wantin’ to be a helpless doll, without gumption enough to understand his trials ner backbone enough to help him out of ‘em.” Moyer Wing continually criticizes these women, and advocates a model of equality in relationships.
Although Moyer Wing believes men and women are equal, and should forge equality in relationships, she still acknowledges that there might be differences inherent in the genders. She comes to terms with this contradiction in The Ozarks’ Prime Defender of Women and How Sally Convarted Him to Suffrage, an article from January 28, 1917. She meets a pro-suffrage farmer, converted by simple observation of his wife. Moyer Wing describes their conversation, about his sassafras farm handed down to him from his father, and the hardships of trying to make a living off of the land, and the hardships his wife has endured. The whole time, they watch a hawk circle over a group of chickens. As he discusses women and their role in the family, he draws a correlation to the hawks preying on the chickens. He points out that the rooster was the first to run and hide while the chickens fought off the hawk. “Now, ‘course, we ain’t all that a way. If we was, the world would a been a heap wuss-off than it is. But it’s the mother sect that fights the varmits the hardest. It’s jist the nature of things.”
Summing up this encounter, Moyer Wing recalls Rudyard Kipling’s poem, The Female of the Species, in which females are portrayed as the “deadlier” of the sexes, being formed solely for motherhood. She says “all of the sudden I quit hating Kipling. I was even glad of the deadliness of The Female of the Spieces, and Kip could say it again if he wished.” She uses this contradiction and her reaction to it as a powerful way to reach readers and expedite her argument. The Prime Defender concludes, “the human mother don’t feel safe with things like they air, varmints with. She wants the home a safer place fer the children and the world a safer place fer the home, so to speak. And if I know anything about what the vote is fer, it’s to lick varmints with.”
Moyer Wing accepts that there could be a difference in the genders in one instance – that mothers fight off the enemy to protect their family and home, and in essence work for social reform – but she clearly does not accept it in other cases. When the difference between genders is presented as one where women are beneath men, or are angelic and put on a pedestal, deserving of special treatment, she is quick to downplay the argument.
She often flips disparaging remarks that are made against one gender and applies them to the other gender. In Lareda Texas of the Ozarks and How She Downed Her Pappy in an Argument, she meets Lareda Texas, a 15 year old girl who advocates for suffrage to her anti-suffrage father. He tells her that women have vain bad habits, and therefore should not be allowed to vote. After careful thought, Lareda tells her father that she is going to see about getting his vote taken away, because of his little vain needs like tobacco. Moyer Wing continually flips arguments given against women and applies them to men throughout her articles, which not only diffuses the current debate, but for her readership, provides a different model of thinking about gender relations – one that blurred the lines between the genders and advocated equality.
Another, more powerful theme than conflict and disconnect, is her attempt to show that the genders work best together. She clearly advocates that management is better if both genders are on equal footing and both work hard and pull their own weight. The Ozarks Fairmont, an article from January 1918, illustrates this point well. Moyer Wing is riding on a single car train, the Fairmont, which had to be pushed up hills by the passengers intermittently. Accompanying her on the trip were three men and a conductor. None of the men are willing to come right out and say that they are for woman suffrage, but all illustrated examples of situations where situations improved when women and men were given equal opportunities to participate. One man illustrates this point when he describes courting his wife as a teenager walking to school, “’Your place,’ I says, ‘is up alongside of me,’ And that’s the way it got started with Susie and I. I’ve always noticed that the double team can go a heap furder than the single driver.” Each man goes on to illustrate specific times in their lives when involving women in a situation made it more successful.
In Moyer Wing’s November 18, 1917 article, When Emmie Caught the Wild Fox in the Ozarks, she camps with four couples who each describe their ideas of the other gender. Ultimately one woman states, “The fact is jist this … it takes the judgment of both the men and the women to make things right. They’ve jist natcherly got to stand up side by side and work together. Why, the men cain’t no more git along without us, and git along right … and we cain’t no more git along without them.” This overarching theme – men and women are both equally important – umbrellas her other arguments and pulls them together in one unified message.
“The mother-in-law never gits a hearin’”: All Women are Valuable
Moyer Wing clearly advocates for the value of all aspects of womenhood to society. She highlights the roles women naturally experience throughout their lives and elevates them in importance to those of traditional, masculine roles. The diverse roles that women play – mothers, step-mothers, mothers-in-law, older women, younger women, unmarried women, and grandmothers — get mention in her work. This was likely a very personal aspect of Moyer Wing’s fight, having been a young widow and single working mother. By 1916, she was a grandmother, which she uses in one article argue for suffrage, convincing one woman that, “if women can vote an’ be grandmothers, too, I’m fer it.”
Her July 8, 1917 article, Bringing the War Home to an Ozarks Suffragist, finds Moyer Wing at the home of a mother of 21 year old twin boys. She converses with the mother who describes her interaction with an anti-suffrage man, challenging the woman to produce bullets for ballots. She retorts to him that women, “don’t only furnish the soldiers, but we shoulder the burdens the men lays down when they leave us and carry ‘em right along with the loads we already had.” She also addresses the fact that she’s reluctant to send her sons to war, which she knows will be an unpopular opinion and urges Moyer Wing not to paint her as unpatriotic. The human experience of a mother is highlighted by Moyer Wing as an important one, that should be looked at as equally important to traditionally male roles.
In her March 10, 1918 article, Angelina of the Ozarks, Talks on Mothers-in-law, Stepmothers and Grass Widows, Moyer Wing highlights how women in society are categorized and looked down upon. Namely, she mentions mothers-in-law: how often they are seen as overly controlling; how they are perceived as starting arguments in the family, when often times there is no conflict at all; how other members of the family are just as much to blame, and everyone should be working together to get along. In the discussion of the different roles played by women in society and their perceptions, Moyer Wing highlights the categorization of women and how illogical it is. “You git lambasted by purty nigh everybody if you don’t have children. Then if you do have ’em, you can know they’s a lambastin’ a-coming anyhow. Your son-in-law will make light of you, because it is all the style fer a feller to complain about his mother-in-law, and your daughter-in-law will hate you because you air her husband’s mother … the mother-in-law never gits a hearin’.”
A particularly interesting argument she makes for the worth of all women is in her article, Why the Pulling of Jimmie’s Leg Was Postponed, where she spends a night in the woods with a female osteopathic doctor, on her way to give treatment to a man (Jimmie). The doctor lays out her pro-suffrage views: that women’s opinions will be greater respected after they have the vote, and that women will eventually be able to exist without the pressure of marriage. The value of older, unmarried women is discussed. All the while they are talking; the doctor is readying their camp for the evening, explaining to Moyer Wing the challenges of camping in the Ozarks woods, taking precautions against wolves and snakes. The article concludes as the two head to bed, and the doctor states, “don’t pay no ‘tention to me gittin’ up ever’ little while to tend to the fire. I won’t pretend that they ain’t no varmints around, but they won’t do nothing’ wuss than shine their eyes at us … I ain’t lived among ‘em all these years without learnin’ to beat ‘em at their own game.” Moyer Wing is advocating for older women’s value to society, highlighting here that their life experience can help fight off wolves and snakes – a metaphor for those anti-suffrage forces working against the cause for women’s rights.
“We’re a Heap More Useful as jist human bein’s.”: Women are not Angels
The woman’s natural human experience is important to Moyer Wing. In her February 10, 1918 article, Ettabell, Maudie and Lillian, on Dress Reform, Marriage and the Writing Game, she feels that she hasn’t been able to reach other women. She concludes her article with frustration – her connections did not happen as expected. She did not get a quick answer from a woman, who went on about a topic Moyer Wing isn’t interested in. Ultimately, she concludes that the woman’s responses were, “humanly natural.” And she accepts them at that.
She often meets women who are pro-suffrage, who advocate for women to be involved in the political arena, as well as other areas of life, simply because they are human, just like men. They have faults that make them human, and in that way are just as valuable as men.
Moyer Wing is an advocate for the complexities of women’s lives, but she does not elevate their status to that of super-human, or even that of the social reformer. In her October 8, 1916, article Janey and Pansy, Ozark Suffrage Agents, she describes meeting a woman who is taking chicks to town to sell. When she asks the woman if she is pro-suffrage, she says, “You jist bet I want to vote. They must be somethin’ in it er they wouldn’t be so mighty anxious to keep it all to theirselves.” The next woman she meets tells her some of her girlfriends are afraid of being pro-suffrage because it will lessen their chances of marriage. She then explains to Moyer Wing, “I have figured it that if feller is wuth shucks, he will think all the more of a girl fer havin’ ideas of her own, even if he don’t agree with her, and as fer the other kind, it don’t matter about them, nohow.” Moyer Wing states, “Glory be! Another believer and another unique reason uniquely given.” She is celebratory of women finding their own ideas about supporting suffrage, and reflects that there are as many unique reasons as there are unique humans.
She often encounters the anti-suffrage argument that women should not vote because they should be given special treatment, and worshipped like angels. To vote would be to carry a burden that special beings should not have. Often she disputes this by pointing out that men who say this are making their wives (the angels) do most of the house and farm work while the men relax. In her October 14, 1917 article, The Gobbler Hunter, The City Feller and Luke Hoosier, she hears about Luke Hoosier, a man who professes that women are angels, and should be worshipped, not made to vote. The Gobbler Hunter retorts, “If there’s anything to that about their bein’ angels, they’re shore needed at the polls about as bad as any place … A little angelic goodness would come in mighty handy in a voter.” She goes on to describe how Luke Hoosier’s wife does most of the work around the farm and house.
Angelina, of the Ozarks addresses the issue as well, when Angelina advocates for woman suffrage, saying, “you can put me down as bein’ fer it. And it ain’t that I think women is angels, nuther, because I know they ain’t – and I reckon we’re a heap more useful as jist human bein’s.”
Moyer Wing is also opposed to chivalry. She highlights it as another way that women should not be set aside, or elevated as angelic creatures, because chivalry is nothing when it is not backed up with equal rights. She illustrates this well in her article from October 28, 1917 – Suffrage Crusader’s Day Among Ozark Patriots, where she talks to several people about the war, and wartime work at home. The last man she meets acknowledges that men have not treated women and children fairly when making laws. He states that many men want to just keep women elevated and blinded to society’s laws and their equal rights. He says, “chivlyry without justice ain’t chivlyry at all. The vote is a power to git things with and it ain’t nothin’ but fair that all citizens has it.”
“You’re frum Sent Louis, ain’t you … if I was you I’d never go back.”: The City Versus Country
Moyer Wing is in a unique place to compare the city and the country, her youth spent in the Ozarks, and her adult life in large cities like Chicago and St. Louis. She uses her experience with both places to highlight the differences between city and country people, at times presenting contradictory messages to expedite her cause.
In some articles, like her first article Winning Votes for Women in the Ozarks, she bonds with an anti-suffragist by painting the Ozarks as a place where enlightened people dwell – that country men are more open-minded than city men, and uses this to prod him to become pro-suffrage. In other articles, like A Black Day in the Campaign for Suffrage in the Ozarks from November 26, 1916, she presents the opposite view. She meets an anti-suffrage man, arguing that women are not smart enough to vote. She says, “I had heard such logic before – and it hadn’t always been in the backwoods.” She then meets an anti-suffrage woman in the same article, noting that she does not have to vote because she has everything she needs and does not care about other women who do not. “Her city prototype would be shocked to hear her … but they’re twin sisters when it comes to self-centeredness. They may express themselves differently but it means the same thing, exactly the same thing.” In this article she is saying in essence that city and country people are the same, and she has heard similar arguments against suffrage from both regions of the state.
Sometimes, Moyer Wing presents a unifying view of city and country dwellers, like in her article from January 19, 1919, The Way of an Artist-Gal With an Ozark Swain. She meets a man who starts out prejudiced against city women. He says, “I shore didn’t want to see any votin’ done by them there silly, gigglin’, card-playin’ city gals like I’d heerd you all was.” After an artist stays at his house, though, he describes being converted to woman suffrage, but getting to know her and that she did not live up to his perception of city women. He eventually described his change of heart, saying, “whenever I diskiver that I am up the wrong tree … I jist natcherly climb down and look for another.”
In Artymissie Ward, Feminist of the Ozarks from June 17, 1917 her main character, Artymissie Ward, begins their dialog by making her disgust for the city clear, she says, “you’re frum Sent Louis, ain’t you … if I was you I’d never go back.” Moyer Wing is critical of city women in the article, as Artymissie describes her encounter with women on a visit to St. Louis, and facing their prejudices about country women. She overheard the city women say, “city women will make good voters, but I am not so sure about the women in the out of the way corners, the backwoods, and places like that.” Artymissie confronts the city women about what she sees as their ridiculous habits – their constant race to keep up with the latest clothing styles, the pressure they put on men to pay their bills, and their judgment of country women without taking the time to get to know any. In the end, Artymissie and the city women parted, “better suffragists than ever and that the vote was jist one thing more to bring women closer together.”
Alice Curtice Moyer Wing is writing for a St. Louis audience – enlightened city dwellers, she often meets people in the Ozarks who have prejudices about people who live in the city – that they are part of the political boss system, they are foolish, they are more closed minded and opposed to progress, among other things. Because she is writing for the city audience, she uses this city versus country tactic to challenge them about how enlightened they really are – based on the perceptions of others. In her contradictory arguments, she is reaching a wider audience of people, and employing whatever tactic is necessary at the time to get her message across.
“And to Think That I Must Ask Creatures Like You for This Privilege of Exercising My Rights of Citizenship.”: Men who Oppose Suffrage are Tough, Controlling, Hypocritical and Prejudiced Toward Women
A theme that runs through Moyer Wing’s articles is that men control women because they, historically, have been tougher and have simply taken power and control from women. In The Homely Philosophy of an Ozarks Woman Who Believes in Suffrage, Moyer Wing meets a woman who describes the anti-suffrage arguments as the same arguments that have been used historically to keep women oppressed, “They said the same sort of foolish things when women asked to own their own property and the same thing when they asked for control of their own wages … I reckon they said the same things when women got up the courage to ask fer souls. I read that there was a time when men had a corner on souls and wouldn’t allow that women had ‘em, and said that if women ever got to heaven it would be through the godliness of their husbands … it all dates back, I reckon, to the time when men discovered that they could handle the biggest clubs and hit the hardest licks and just took all the world for theirselves and give the women the crumbs.”
The Ozark Statesman, Who Thinks Women Can be “Jollied” Out of the Vote, is one article where Moyer Wing describes men’s controlling attitude and prejudices very explicitly. She meets the Ozark Statesman as he is fishing, and he tells her he was in the Legislature because he was good at “jollying.” The whole article consists of his pride in being able to fool people into believing something as a vehicle of control. Her frustration with the man grows as he describes the lazy approach he had to his job in politics, and how he wasted a lot of time while he was in office avoiding work. He tells her that women need to stop joking themselves and they would be able to take control of themselves. “The trouble is, you women don’t know your power. Onct up in St. Louis I stood watchin’ a feller abusin’ his hoss, and I says to myself, if I was that hoss, I wouldn’t stand fer no sich treatment. I’d jist up and kick that fool driver’s head off. But there was the driver a holdin’ him with the bit and line because the hoss didn’t know he could stand up for hisself. It’s jist that a-way with women. Men has always controlled ‘em. Sometimes with a curb as hard as the iron bit: sometimes with words as sweet as the honey comb, as the feller says. But control ‘em we do – handed down to us, I reckon, from the old, old times when we discovered that we could swing the biggest club and hit the hardest licks.”
After agreeing to go to his house and meet his wife, Moyer Wing gets disheartened because the Ozark Statesman has been lounging at the pond while his wife was doing all of the house and farm work. Instead of acknowledging this, he tells his wife that he was thinking about her the entire time, and she forgives him. As Moyer Wing leaves, she says, “I can’t help it, La Belle … this is the first time I’ve been weepy. You ought to forgive me this once. I suppose it’s because – well do you remember what the preacher said to us the other day about the ‘cussedness of things?’ I guess that’s the reason for it: just the ‘cussedness of things.’” She’s illustrated here one example of a man who is controlling and prejudiced towards women, and ends on a highly emotional note, which draws the reader into Moyer Wing’s story and cause.
Later, she meets an anti-suffrage man whose wife is sick, but he has instructed her to work in the fields anyway. In A Black Day in the Campaign for Suffrage in the Ozarks, he tells Moyer Wing that he would not let his wife vote, because it would take too much time away from her other duties. He describes the long month it took him to sell his vote to the highest bidder. She is appalled at his controlling nature, “and you elect lawmakers to legislate for me and for your wife and for other women. You – you’re a citizen! A voter! … And to think that I must ask creatures like you for this privilege of exercising my rights of citizenship.”
An Ozark Holler-Eve Frolic and How it Proved Women Shouldn’t Vote is about men’s hypocritical prejudices against women. In it, she describes an evening spent with a group of people who are describing superstitions. The bulk of the article is the dialogue between two men about superstitions – the right sign from the moon to kill hogs, predicting the weather based on animal’s behavior, the right time to plant based on the moon, and so on. After going on and on about superstitions, one describes the teenage girls in the house who got spooked one night. “It was jist another proof that women is too superstitious to vote, as I was a-tellin’ the lady, here, this evening,” one man said to the other. As one gets up to leave, he states, “Well, I guess I better be gittin’ along. The old woman’ll be gittin’ uneasy about me. She had a bad dream about me ‘tother night and is skeered fer fear somethin’ is a-goin’ to happen to me. Quare about how superstitious women is. They’re plumb skeery.” The other man responds, “They shore air. I don’t never worry none over bad dreams. ‘cept about muddy water. I ain’t superstitious, but I shore do hate to dream of muddy water. I always happen to a piece of bad luck ever time I do.” The other man agrees, and goes on to share other signs of bad luck. Moyer Wing never points to the hypocritical statements made by the men in this article. In fact, she gives no dialogue other than the conversation between the men. She and all the women present are silent. But her message comes through clearly – men are putting pressure on women that they do not apply to themselves.
“Ever’ time somebody comes along with a anti-sufferage ax and cuts its head off, it jist sprouts up purtier than before”: Suffrage is Destined
The promise of youth – what young people will do for the future – is a theme that comes up repeatedly in Alice Curtice Moyer Wing’s articles. Within her discussion of youth lies the argument that suffrage for women is destined to happen, that it is only a matter of time before justice will prevail. In her article from December 2, 1917, Taking the Ozarks Preacher at His Word, she meets Dorothy, a little girl who tells of her plans for the future. She wants to make laws advocating for children who, “don’t have good mothers and daddies like mine and the laws will be for them.” Moyer Wing does not take this argument down the social reform path explicitly, but after leaving the little girl, she says to La Belle, “once upon a time somebody told of his reverence and respect for the boy, because one never knows what possibilities are buttoned up under his jacket. Might it … be reasonable to wonder about the possibilities of the girl’s equal mental attributes, her warm heart and her humane tendencies, and to consider them in a broader sense than people have been in the habit of doing? Who can fathom the changes the next 25 years will bring to this country – and women’s part in it?” Moyer Wing is not only highlighting the fact that change will happen, but is also giving importance to women’s contributions to society as women.
The “Gobbler Hunter” that appears in three of her articles likens suffrage to a gum tree stump that he has tried to cut the sprouts off of to kill, but to no avail. “Ever’ time somebody comes along with a anti-sufferage ax and cuts its head off, it jist sprouts up purtier than before … that there stump jist natchelly refuses to act like other stumps. It jist sends up dozens of sprouts and flourishes like a bay tree … that’s the way with worman sufferage. You cain’t kill it. It would a-died a unnatural death long ago, if it could a-been killed. It jist goes on growin’ and bloomin’ bigger and purtier every year.”
In A Black Day in the Campaign for Suffrage in the Ozarks, one of the very first articles Moyer Wing writes, she describes a dream where she rides La Belle to judgment day, and is passed right through to heaven. The saint tells her, “Ah, Alice, the Ozark suffragist. My boy, pass her in, pass her in – and no questions asked.” In her mind, she feels that she is doing destiny’s work. Though she may face trials and setbacks, her work is noble, and her cause will ultimately be judged righteous.
When Neenie asked Nick what he was going to do the next day with his new prize mules from St. Louis, Nick said, “Plowin’ that piece of new ground I sprouted off this winter.” Neenie continued, “’Nick is plumb proud of that piece of new ground.” He said, “‘I’m goin’ to jist natcherly tear them roots up by the heels with the mules, and I’ve got to be gittin’ along home right now.’”
“I didn’t say nothin’ else, but I jist skirmished around by that new ground to see how Nick was a-gittin’ along. I jist had a hunch about them prize mules of his’n, somehow. ‘Well, I skirmished around and hid in a fence corner where they was some blackberry brairs and peeked through between the rails. Law-zee! I wisht you could a-seen them mules. They was city broke and would pull a wagon, I reckon, but they hadn’t never seen a plow since they could remember till one was hitched onto ‘em that evenin’ in Nick’s new ground … they was off quicker’n scat, and the capers they didn’t cut! Some of the time they was a-standing on their heads, a-wavin’ their tails in the air. Some of the time they was a-tearin’ up and down the field with the plow a-jumpin’ along behind ‘em.”
“Nick shuck his fist at ‘em and kept on talkin’ and promisin’ ‘em what he would do and when he was so mad he couldn’t say another word, he jist drapped down in a fence corner and cried and kicked like a kid, jist frum nothin’ but temper … after he commenced to cool down a little I poked my hand through a crack and patted his hot forehead. He just laid there fer a little bit and then he tuck hold of my hand and says: ‘Neenie, you won’t rub it in too awful hard, will you?’ ‘No,’ I says, … ‘I’m so glad you know that I know that you cain’t put on no more airs over me about temper, and votin’, and bargains and judgment and self-control,’ I says. ’I’ve been a regular cuss for doing’ that.’ He owns …’and when we get to votin’ we’ll make it again the law fer – ‘When WE git to voting,’ I says, with a accent on the we.’ ‘Shore,’ says Nick, ‘You shorely don’t reckon,’ he says, ‘that I’d ever go to the polls without you.’ He says.”
Alice Curtice Moyer Wing’s arguments for suffrage came at a pivotal time in Missouri for suffrage. In 1914, Missouri suffragists had waged a difficult campaign, to put women suffrage on the ballot, but had failed at the polls. By 1916, suffragists were attempting to change minds about women’s involvement in the political process. Changing popular sentiment proved to be a long, hard road.
When Alice Curtice Moyer Wing started writing her articles for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, she was in her fifties. She was a mother, a grandmother, and a business woman who had spent seventeen years balancing motherhood and a career. She came from humble beginnings in the Ozarks, but had moved to the city, and eventually found financial stability with her second husband. Her writing shows that she had a deep understanding of humanity, and could recognize similar traits and motivations in people. Her life experiences had led her to the belief that women and men were inherently equal.
Her understanding of humanity, her dedication to gender equality, and her literary talents all combined to produce thirty-six articles advocating woman suffrage in the state from 1916 to 1919. The impact of her articles on the people of Missouri is impossible to gauge, and no one can know if she fictionalized some of the characters. That said, the articles reveal Alice Curtice Moyer Wing to be a woman who was incredibly dedicated to the cause of woman suffrage, and committed to using her literary talent to further gender equality in Missouri.
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—. “Taking the Ozarks Preacher at His Word.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch Magazine, December 2, 1917: 13-14.
—. “The Homely Philosophy of an Ozarks Woman Who Believes in Suffrage.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch Magazine, August 12, 1917: 5.
—. “The Ozarks’ Prime Defender of Women and How Sally “Convarted” Him to Suffrage.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch Magazine, January 28, 1917: 13-14.
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—. “The Gobbler Hunter, the City Feller, and Luke Hoosier.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 14, 1917: 4.
—. “The Ozark Statesman, Who Things Women Can Be ‘Jollied’ Out of the Vote.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 25, 1917: 9.
—. “The Way of an ‘Artist-Gal’ With an Ozark Swain.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 19, 1919: 7, 13.
—. “When Emmie Caught the Wild Fox in the Ozarks.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 18, 1918: 9-10.
—. “Why the Pulling of Jimmie’s Leg Was Postponed, A Nocturne of the Ozark Country.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 29, 1918: 13-14.
—. “Winning Votes for Women in the Ozarks.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 16, 1916: 5, 14.
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