Letters between Washington Gladden & Booker T. Washington, July 1912

Documents 11A and 11B:

Letter from Washington Gladden to Booker T. Washington, Columbus, Ohio,19 July 1912

Letter of reply from Booker T. Washington to Washington Gladden, Tuskegee, Alabama, 30 July 1912

The Booker T. Washington Papers, Library of Congress. Published in Louis R. Harlan and Raymond W. Smock, eds., The Booker T. Washington Papers (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1981), 11: 561, 566.


          In July of 1912 Washington Gladden wrote to Washington requesting his opinion on woman suffrage. Interestingly nine years before this, Gladden heard a speech delivered by DuBois and "departed so impressed by DuBois and his work that he wondered in print whether the Tuskegee program deserved its monopoly." [22] Apparently Gladden was still trying to come to an understanding of both men's positions. At first it appeared that Washington had actually provided a heartening response, but in actuality he qualifies his statement to make woman suffrage a secondary cause. Washington was no longer attempting to distance himself from the woman suffrage debate, but he was unwilling to commit himself to an unqualified pro-suffrage stance like the one that DuBois had taken by this point. Woman suffrage was not a truly important cause in Washington's eyes; it was a bothersome movement that interfered with others of greater importance. Beyond revealing Washington's own personal biases, his statement highlighted the increasing activity and impact of suffragists. In his view they had displaced fundamental issues with their agenda.

Columbus, Ohio July 19, 1912
Dear Dr. Washington: Some of your friends here are anxious to know your attitude on woman suffrage I do not know that I have ever read anything you have written about it; and I make bold to write to ask you how it looks to you.
          I expect, myself, to vote for the suffrage amendment to our constitution, but I am not a very strenuous suffragist. My hesitation arises from the unwillingness of many good women to accept the responsibility. On the whole, however, I think that I shall vote to impose that burden on them.
          If you have any delicacy about committing yourself on this question, I shall respect your wishes; but if your mind is clear and you are ready to express it, I think your words would be useful.
          I hope that all is going prosperously with you.
          Remember me kindly to Mrs. Washington. Yours truly

My dear Dr. Gladden: Thank you very much for your kind letter of July 19th regarding woman suffrage. I regret exceedingly I have been so tardy in replying to it.
I think you have expressed my own attitude very fully in your own letter. I have moved rather slowly in this matter, but I think if you care to make any statement regarding my own position, it should be to the effect that I am in favor of woman suffrage. I do not believe that any harm can be done, and I think on the other hand that much good might be accomplished. While I take this position I also feel that there are many other questions of far greater importance before the country for immediate attention than this, but perhaps when we can get this question settled we will then be in a position to move on in the direction of settling some others which are more fundamental. I thank you for writing me.
Mrs. Washington desires to be remembered to you. I hope at some time you can come to see us. Yours very truly,