Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Ida May Blount Cheatham, 1890-1977

By Sharon Campbell Waters, Ph.D.

Ida May Blount Cheatham was born February 17, 1890 in Atlanta Ward 6, Fulton County, Georgia, to Carrie G. and Bartow M. Blount. It must be noted, however, that the 1920 United States Federal Census lists her parents as Barton M. and Carolyn Blount. Ida Cheatham, also has two (2) marriage records, both to Mr. Elliott Evans Cheatham, one on May 20, 1914 in Fulton, Georgia, and the other, December 20, 1949 in Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA.

Mrs. Cheatham was a former leader of the Voters' League in the eighth ward during the summer of 1914, having signed up many supporters who joined the League. According to "Caretakers of Southern Civilization: Georgia Women and the Anti-Suffrage Campaign, 1914-1920," popular suffrage supporters and active club women in Georgia-- Dolly Blount Lamar, Mildred Lewis Rutherford, Rebecca Latimer Felton, Mary McClendon, and Ida Cheatham-- politely greeted each other on the grounds of Georgia's state capitol late on the afternoon of July 7, 1914.

Wearing their Sunday best and clutching the well-worn pages of their carefully rehearsed speeches, they climbed the steps of the gold-domed building and walked into the political sanctuary of the Georgia legislature. On any other day, these white Georgia women might have been co- operating on a campaign to prohibit the sale of alcohol, to raise money for a Confederate memorial, to protest the content of high school history texts, or to lobby for some "municipal housekeeping" issue such as public kindergartens. This time, however, they were talking to the House Constitutional Amendment Committee about woman suffrage, and they vehemently disagreed with each other. Lamar and Rutherford denounced suffrage in two lengthy speeches. Felton, McClendon, and Cheatham followed, arguing that woman suffrage was vital to the South's future. The legislators defeated the amendment by one vote and recommended that the House reject the suffrage amendment. On that hot summer day the anti-suffragists won the first of many battles that would, seven years later, culminate in Georgia being the first state to vote against the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment (p. 801).

Ida Cheatham spoke to the House Committee on behalf of the Woman Suffrage League. The argument that woman suffrage would ensure white supremacy in the South because Negro women would not be allowed to vote in white primaries was further substantiated when Mrs. Cheatham asked why women should not help conduct public affairs, since government was "only public housekeeping." Continuing with that argument Mrs. Cheatham emphasized that "women should vote on questions affecting the home and the school system and that they wanted to be enfranchised by the men of Georgia, not by an amendment to the Federal Constitution. What good will it do you politically to reject the amendment? . . . What arguments are you going to use when the women of Georgia are voters by the action of other states, and you are running for office? Are you going to say to us today, 'You are not fit for the ballot/ and tomorrow 'come and vote for me?'"

Ida Mae Cheatham died April 7, 1977 in Atlanta, survived by one sister, Mrs. Dana Belser of Washington, D.C. and several nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by her husband, Elliott Cheatham, who died January 12, 1972.

SOURCES: 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc. 2004. Year: 1900; Census Place: Atlanta Ward 6, Fulton, Georgia; Page: 13; Enumeration District: 0081; FHL microfilm: 1240200 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch. Year: 1920; Census Place: Atlanta Ward 8, Fulton, Georgia, Roll: T625_253; Page: 10A; Enumeration District: 134. Georgia Marriage Records from Select Counties, 1828-1978 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2013. Original data: County Marriage Records, 1828-1978. The Georgia Archives, Morrow, Georgia. New York, New York, Marriage License Indexes, 1907-2018 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Operations, Inc. 2017.

Georgia Health Department, Office of Vital Records; Georgia, USA; Indexes of Vital Records for Georgia: Deaths, 1919 - 1998; Certificate Number: 011633

McRae, E. (1998). Caretakers of Southern Civilization: Georgia Women and the Anti-Suffrage Campaign, 1914-1920. The Georgia Historical Quarterly, 82(4), 801-828. Retrieved October 22, 2020, from

New York City Municipal Archives; New York, New York; Borough: Manhattan; Volume Number: 49

Taylor, A. (1959). The Last Phase of the Woman Suffrage Movement in Georgia. The Georgia Historical Quarterly, 43(1), 11-28. Retrieved October 22, 2020, from

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