Jessie Daniel Ames

Jessie Daniel Ames (1883-1972)

Jessie Daniel Ames photo AR.E.004(009), courtesy of the Jane McCallum Papers, Austin History Center, Austin Public Library

To get Congress to pass the 19th Amendment, suffragists endured beating, imprisonment and the torture of forced feedings. Still, that was just the first step. Getting states to ratify the measure seemed just as daunting a task. That was especially true in the old Confederacy where the amendment faced its strongest opposition.

Jessie Daniel Ames, a graduate of what is today United Methodist-related Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, was among the fearless suffragists on the case.

The lifelong Methodist played a key role in getting Texas to become the first state in the South (and the ninth overall) to ratify the women’s vote. A few months later, she became the founder and first president of the state League of Women voters. Ames, a widow, did all this while helping her mother run the telephone company in Georgetown, Texas.

Her activism did not stop there. She worked to end the most pressing terrorist threat of her day — lynching. As founder of the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching, she recruited white Southern women to persuade law enforcement to pledge to protect African Americans from lynching.

“She was a torchbearer for women who would later hold executive offices in the state,” said Jason Dean, director of special collections and archives at Southwestern University.

March is Women’s History Month. Activists today may be inspired to hear the stories of six historic figures who advocated for women’s voting rights as part of their Christian calling.   Jessie Daniel Ames was a Wesleyan women who helped form a more perfect union even as she was going on to Christian perfection.

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This article is written by Heather Hahn and published by the United Methodist News Service on Nov. 3, 2016.
Hahn is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service. Contact her at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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