REVOLT AGAINST CHIVALRY: Jessie Daniel Ames and the Women's Campaign Against Lynching by Jacquelyn Dowd Hall

REVOLT AGAINST CHIVALRY: Jessie Daniel Ames and the Women's Campaign Against Lynching

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KIRKUS REVIEW

History and biography intertwine in this detailed account of the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching and its determined leader, Jessie Daniel Ames. A ""failed"" female herself, unloved by father or husband and widowed at 31, Ames rejected the model of frail southern ladyhood in favor of independent, responsible citizenship. She made her name first as a Texas suffragist (her town put up with it; she owned the phone company), in the post-suffrage League of Women Voters, and then (thanks to the horror of Klan violence) in the Atlanta-based Commission on Interracial Cooperation, becoming its Director of Woman's Work in 1929 and instituting the anti-lynching program. Until she was forced to resign her work in 1944 by more liberal, more sexist men, Ames headed the single-issue organization of southern white ""ladies"" that exposed real lynch mob motives and repudiated southern ""chivalry."" But Ames was no great radical; she was paternalistic, insular, and intransigent, especially in opposing federal anti-lynch laws. With careful detachment, Professor Hall (History, Univ. of No. Carolina) weaves these varied strands--feminism, anti-racism, ladylike elitism, womanly independence--into the picture of a movement eclipsed by the Sixties civil rights struggle and only now being understood as a back burner of the women's movement. Ames herself, though well documented in these pages (through previously unavailable family papers and thorough research), never quite emerges from professorial prose: ""Although she could read the handwriting on the wall, she refused to admit defeat."" Still, Hall's account--particularly her analysis of the interlocking social controls: lynching and rape--is a useful contribution to the history of women and civil rights.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1979
Publisher: Columbia Univ. Press