Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Emily Caroline Fitten McDougald, 1848 - 1938
By Anne Mellen, independent historian
Emily Caroline Fitten was born on November 11, 1848 in Augusta, Georgia. She married William Alexander McDougald (1838-1887) and bore four children, with three living to adulthood.
McDougald took an integral part in the suffrage movement in Georgia and was president of the Equal Suffrage Party of Georgia (ESPG) from its inception in 1914 until the women's suffrage amendment was ratified and added to the U.S. Constitution in 1920. ESPG was formed due to the weakness of the suffrage movement outside of Atlanta. According to Elizabeth Stephens Summerlin, ESPG "pursued a more expansive agenda than it predecessors had[,] creating thirteen regional branches in prominent cities" in Georgia. "ESPG circulated thousands of pamphlets, books and printed speeches, and local women raised funds for education campaigns that used parades, plays, movie slides and student essay contests [and debates, while offering prizes for the best,] to reach broad sections of local population."
During 1915, when the Georgia House and Senate committees conducted hearings on the women's suffrage amendment, McDougald and ESPG stocked a table in the corridor of the Georgia Statehouse between the House and Senate chambers with suffrage literature "as well as a map on the wall of the corridor showing the status of women's suffrage across the United States." McDougald declared "that [ESPG's and the table's] presence alone would at least press the issue more forcibly upon the lawmakers." McDougald and ESPG also "circulated a petition in opposition to statements made by members of the legislature who claimed that only a few women desired the right to vote." The anti-suffragists, for example, "connected woman's suffrage to 'negro supremacy' and a 'Yankee scheme' to topple the South's political conservatism." Thus, the suffragists had to overcome racism and state rights advocates in their campaign to obtain women's voting rights.
In McDougald's campaign for women's suffrage, she wrote countless letters to many lawmakers, women's organizations, and influential political leaders. Her letters to women's organizations were especially effective as she highlighted women's suffrage "as an aid to reconstruction work and to effective legislation." Many Georgia women's groups then joined in the campaign because they saw the campaign as allowing women to finally be able to exercise their rights as citizens.
McDougald also testified at government hearings about women's suffrage to the point of convincing key politicians like a Georgia senator and the mayor of Fulton, GA to support it. In 1917, McDougald and the ESPG led a letter-writing campaign to Congress urging them to vote in favor of a bill to create a Women's Suffrage Committee in the House of Representatives. This campaign included letters to newspapers as well. Unfortunately, it was ignored at the time, but set the stage for more overt actions.
After the ratification of the 19th Amendment, on April 3, 1920, McDougald, then 72 years of age, took on a new challenge, helping to form the Georgia branch of the League of Women Voters (LWV). This branch was created by the merging of many of the state's suffrage parties for the purpose of "tirelessly educat[ing] women about voting and attract[ing] women to the polls."
Blackwell, Alice Stone. The Woman Citizen, Volume 3, May 24, 1919, p. 1131.
Harper, Ida Husted, ed. The History of Women Suffrage, Volume 6. [LINK to GA state report]
Summerlin, Elizabeth Stephens. "'Not Ratified but Hereby Rejected:' The Women's Suffrage Movement in Georgia, 1895-1925," Masters of Arts Thesis, The University of Georgia, 2009 (accessed November 7, 2017) https://getd.libs.uga.edu/pdfs/summerlin_elizabeth_s_200912_ma.pdf.
Extending the Right of Suffrage to Women: Hearings Before the Committee on Woman Suffrage, House of Representatives, Sixty-fifth Congress, Second Session on H. J. Res 200. January 3, 4, 5, and 7, 1918. (accessed November 17, 2017) https://books.google.com/books?id=O0kuAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA285&lpg=PA285&dq=emily+mcdougald+atlanta+ga+suffragette&source=bl&ots=wYPmfueMZv&sig=QD6JTc_PwimU1WaUREd8poL3DFE&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwio9pb5g87XAhXDLSYKHQT1CBsQ6AEINTAC#v=onepage&q=emily%20mcdougald%20atlanta%20ga%20suffragette&f=false..
"League of Women Voters of Georgia." (accessed November 18, 2017) http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/government-politics/league-women-voters-georgia.
"Social Movements of the 20th Century: Women's Suffrage Movement." (accessed November 20, 2017) http://georgiahistory.com/education-outreach/online-exhibits/online-exhibits/three-centuries-of-georgia-history/twentieth-century/social-movements/.