Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890–1920
Biography of Mahalia “Hala” Jean Hammond Butt, 1874–1948
By Alice Rhea Mitchell, Magnolia, Mississippi
Woman Suffrage Activist
Mahalia “Hala” Jean Hammond was born February 3, 1865, in Kosciusko, Mississippi, to James Theodore Hammond and Charlotte Lewis Hammond. She attended local schools and had additional schooling in foreign languages. She married John S. Butt, an attorney, in 1891 and they had one daughter, Marguerite.
In 1896, Butt founded and established the Clarksdale Challenge—the Coahoma County newspaper. In addition, she organized the first literary club in Clarksdale and affiliated with the State Federation of Women's Clubs. Butt was elected president of the Mississippi Woman Suffrage Association at the 1899 convention, but editing the Clarksdale Challenge occupied most of her time. At the national suffrage convention in Washington, District of Columbia, in February 1900, Butt made presentations as the state president of the Mississippi suffragists as well as the chairman of the Mississippi Committee on Press Work. During the convention, Butt presented a paper entitled “The Changed Intellectual Qualifications of Women of This Century” at a Congressional hearing before the House Judiciary Committee. In May 1900, Butt was again elected president of the state suffrage association. Another state convention was not held until 1906; however, Butt acted as president and conducted meetings around the state to promote women's issues.
Described as one of the strongest editorial writers of the South, Butt helped secure the support of twenty-one Mississippi newspapers for the suffragette movement, e.g., Greenville Democrat, Poplarville Free Press, Yazoo Sentinel, Cleveland Enterprise, MagnoliaGazette, and Greene County Herald. These papers and others reprinted Butt's editorials.
The June 7, 1899, edition of the Magnolia Gazette printed an editorial by Butt, which was first published in Woman's Journal, to illustrate her point that “the work accomplished is the generally conceded test of ability rather than the sex question.” In the article, Butt recounts an illustrative story from a California friend to explain why a woman's suffrage amendment had failed in California. In the friend's story, a young man has been employed as a private secretary, stenographer, cashier, and waiter, only to be replaced successively in each position by a woman. Finally, he has become a painter of church steeples, a field of work where women will not follow, “yet he is honest enough to admit that, were it not for women, there would be few churches to paint.” Butt concludes that the story provides evidence of women's ability to succeed in all departments and says arguing against giving woman a ballot is “illogical since the field of labor is enlarged as the number of laborers multiplies.”
When Butt retired from editing the Clarksdale Challenge, the following statement from the Canton Times summarized the reaction: “This gifted young Mississippian has won an inviable reputation in her chosen work, and her retirement is a loss to the Mississippi Press.” Additionally, Butt's Clarksdale Challenge contains a tribute carried in the Okolona Messenger: “In her capable management of the Challenge as well as with her ready pen on a large range of subjects generally not handled in county papers, she has won for herself a name and position throughout the South.” Butt returned to the helm of the Challenge March 4, 1904, and remained until she sold the paper to Guy P. Clark in approximately 1915.
In February 1902, Butt attended a preliminary meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, with Susan B. Anthony, presiding, to plan the annual national woman suffrage convention. Butt then issued a call for a private meeting of Mississippi women to meet in Jackson in December 1902 regarding suffrage.
Butt attended the annual National American Woman Suffrage Association convention in New Orleans in 1903. In a speech at this convention, Butt asserted the desire for supremacy as the “universal ruling passion and inborn desire of all Anglo-Saxons.” She further claimed that granting the vote to “intelligent southern women would happily lay to rest the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments (the ‘monstrous offspring of Frankenstein's unwise and impious ambition'),” concluding that by such a strategy “white domination is assured.”
Butt also spoke on “The South, Suffrage, and the Educational Requirement.” She petitioned that “If government means the voice of the people, a government created by intelligent suffrage means the voice of reason, the voice of wisdom, the voice of justice. The various forms of suffrage of which we know today have but the one element in common...that the functions of the ballot are exclusively masculine.”
In October 1905, the Weekly Corinthian reported that after reading an article by President Grover Cleveland about woman's suffrage, Butt said “women should ride horses like men, if they want to, and finds nothing immodest about it. It depends entirely on the kind of woman.”
In December 1906, Butt answered the call for women suffragists to meet in the parlor of the Edwards House in Jackson. The four women in attendance included Butt, Miss Belle Kearney, Mrs. Edward Sloan, and Dr. Delia Randall. The purpose of meeting was to reorganize the State Suffrage Association. In addition, Mrs. Nellie Somerville of Greenville was in touch with the conference by telegraph; and Mrs. Lily Wilkinson Thompson of Jackson received reports via telephone. The following officers were elected: Kearney, president; Sommerville, vice-president; Thompson, treasurer.
Butt's active involvement in the Mississippi woman suffrage movement concluded when she moved with her daughter Marguerite to South Dakota around 1910, and then Oklahoma, where her daughter married C. J. McAdams in Muskogee in 1916. However, she continued to support suffrage. At some point, Butt divorced her husband and reverted to using her maiden name of Hammond. In the late 1920s, she began working for the Five Civilized Tribes Agency in Muskogee, Oklahoma. She also wrote children's stories and poetry.
Butt died August 14, 1948, in Amarillo, Texas, and is buried there in Memorial Park Cemetery.
1900 U. S. Census, Mississippi, Coahoma County, p. 6, Enumeration District 25. Digital images. FamilySearch.org.
1910 U.S. Census, South Dakota, Sioux Falls Ward 8, Minnehaha County, p. 6A, Enumeration District 34. Digital images. Ancestry.com.
“A Dearth of Servants—Why?” The Grenada Sentinel. (Grenada, Mississippi) December 8, 1900, p. 2. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85034375/1900-12-08/ed-1/seq-2/
“A Deserved Tribute.” Clarksdale Challenge (Clarksdale, Mississippi), September 24, 1903, p. 1. http://cplclarksdale.advantage-preservation.com/viewer/?k=hala%20hammond&i=f&d=01011759-12312017&m=between&ord=k1&fn=clarksdale_challenge_usa_mississippi_clarksdale_19030924_english_1&df=41&dt=50
“Call for the Thirty-Fifth Annual Convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association.” Proceedings for Annual Convention National American Woman Suffrage Association 2, 1903. Miscellaneous Notes.
Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 08 April 2019), memorial page for Hala Jean Hammond (3 Feb 1865–14 Aug 1948), Find A Grave Memorial no. 57113819, citing Memorial Park Cemetery, Amarillo, Potter County, Texas, USA ; Maintained by Stonefinder-Deb (contributor 47312618) .
“Former Local Girl Weds in Oklahoma.” Daily Register (Clarksdale, Mississippi), January 29, 1916, p. 1. http://cplclarksdale.advantage-preservation.com/viewer/?k=hala%20hammond&i=f&d=01011759-12312017&m=between&ord=k1&fn=daily_register_usa_mississippi_clarksdale_19160129_english_4&df=1&dt=2
Hala Hammond Butt, “Postcard from Hala Hammond Butt to Emma Smith DeVoe, November 11, 1910, Side 1 and Side 2,” PRIMARILY WASHINGTON, accessed April 9, 2019, https://primarilywashington.org/items/show/36646 and https://primarilywashington.org/items/show/36647
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Power, Kate Marham. “Mississippi Matters.” The Canton Times. (Canton, Mississippi), April 25, 1902, p. 6. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86074075/1902-04-25/ed-1/seq-6/
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“Proceedings of 35th Annual Convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association.” New Orleans, Louisiana, March 19-25, 1903.
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“Susan B. Anthony.” The Semi-weekly Leader. (Brookhaven, Mississippi), March 28, 1906, p. 2. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86074065/1906-03-28/ed-1/seq-2/
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“Visit the White House.” The Times. (Washington, District of Columbia), February 13, 1900, p. 5. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85054468/1900-02-13/ed-1/seq-5/
Weekly Corinthian. (Corinth, Mississippi), Oct. 4, 1905, p. 4. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn87065046/1905-10-04/ed-1/seq-4
“Woman's Suffrage.” The Magnolia Gazette. (Magnolia, Mississippi), June 7, 1899, p. 2. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85034447/1899-06-07/ed-1/seq-2/
“Woman's Suffrage Advocates.” Hattiesburg Daily Progress. (Hattiesburg, Mississippi), November 29, 1902, p. 2. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn87065165/1902-11-29/ed-1/seq-2/
“Woman Suffragists.” The Kemper Herald (Scooba, Mississippi), December 27, 1906, p. 1. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn87065599/1906-12-27/ed-1/seq-1/
“Woman Suffragists Meet.” Bisbee Daily Review (Bisbee, Arizona), February 8, 1902, p. 1. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84024827/1902-02-08/ed-1/seq-1/