Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Sake Delong (Mrs. John T.) Meehan, 1871-1963
By Alexandra Schoen, undergraduate student, Tulane University
Moderate suffragist who supported a federal suffrage amendment. Organized the Woman Suffrage Party of Louisiana in 1913. Elected chairman of the Party in 1915. Wrote a book of short stories and a book about the occult.
Sake Delong Meehan was born September 1, 1871, to Adrian Delong and Emma Russell. She had a brother, Russell Delong. She married John Thomas Meehan, Jr. (September 18, 1880-January 10, 1925) in Citronell, Alabama, on December 28, 1904. She died on March 26, 1963, and was buried in Chesterfield Cemetery in Chesterfield, South Carolina.
Sake Meehan was a supporter of a federal suffrage amendment. When Meehan was a member of the Southern States Woman Suffrage Conference (SSWSC), her desire for this approach to a federal amendment caused her to feud with Kate Gordon, leader of the SSWSC (later known as the Equal Rights to All Association - ERA). Meehan disliked the approach of Kate Gordon and the SSWSC, whose motto included "Make Southern States White." In a letter to fellow Louisiana suffragist Grace Chamberlain, Meehan wrote that "I don't think that 'states rights' will do anybody much good." Meehan rejected the racist, states' rights approach, and in 1913, broke from the conference to form the Woman Suffrage Party of Louisiana.
In April 1913, Sake Meehan organized the Woman Suffrage Party of Louisiana (WSPL), based in New Orleans. The WSPL grew rapidly, and was soon awarded affiliation with Carrie Chapman Catt's National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) and attracted the Teachers' Political Equality Club and the Newcomb College Suffrage Club, both of which became branches of the Party.
The splintering of Louisiana's suffrage organizations did not aid the cause of suffrage in the state. In 1918, a state suffrage law came close to ratification, but ultimately failed. Sake Meehan and Kate Gordon had a strained relationship. Meehan believed that silencing Gordon would benefit the cause of suffrage in Louisiana, while Gordon viewed Meehan's organization, the WSPL, as a personal attack on her leadership status. In a 1913 letter to her ally Grace Chamberlain, Meehan explained the reasons she believed women were leaving Gordon's organization. Meehan claimed Gordon created an "atmosphere of jealousy and dominant authority" and was "selfish" and "arrogant." In October 1913, in New Orleans's Gibson Hall, members of Gordon's ERA voted to expel women who were also affiliated with the WSPL.
In April 1915, the first state convention of the WSPL was held in Baton Rouge, where Meehan was elected chairman. During her tenure as chair, Meehan lived at 1620 Louisiana Avenue, New Orleans. During the summer of 1915, Meehan and her fellow suffragists campaigned across the state of Louisiana for the recognition of woman suffrage in the state constitutional convention, but the proposal was voted down in the polls. Meehan also traveled extensively to Tennessee, Georgia, and the nation's capital to campaign for the WPSL.
Along with her contributions to the suffrage movement, Sake Meehan wrote two books during her lifetime. Her first book, To All Who Aspire to Wisdom's Plane, was published in February 1921 in the Occult Magazine of America. The second book, a collection of allegorical stories titled The Magic Coin, was published in 1925.
Bachman, Linda Sharon. "Uncompromising Sisters: The Woman's Suffrage Movement in Louisiana 1900-1921" (B.A. thesis, Tulane University, 1981).
Brown, Yvonne. "'Kill That Snake': Anti-ERA Women and the Battle Over the Equal Rights Amendment in Louisiana, 1972-1982" (LSU Doctoral Dissertation, 2014). http://digitalcommons.lsu.edu/gradschool_dissertations/636
Green, Elna C. Southern Strategies: Southern Women and the Woman Suffrage Question (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000).
Hutson, Ethel. Ethel Hutson papers, 1879-1957. Louisiana Research Collection.
McConnaughy, Corinne M. "Conditional Impossibilities," in The Woman Suffrage Movement in America: A Reassessment (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013).
Meehan, Delong Sake. The Magic Coin. New York: Crimson Hill Press, 1925).
Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, and Gage, Matilda Joslyn, Eds. History of Woman Suffrage, 1881, 226.
Smith, M. Armantine. "The History of the Woman's Suffrage Movement in Louisiana," La. Law Review, 62 (2002).
Tyler, Pamela "Woman Suffrage" knowlouisiana.org Encyclopedia of Louisiana. Ed. David Johnson. Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, 8 Mar 2016. Accessed online, 20 May 2017.