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Overview

The impact of women's political activity throughout American history has been the focus of increasing scholarly attention over the past two decades. For the most part, however, the scholarship has been grounded on national leaders and on national women's organizations. This new series of microfilm publications, Grassroots Women's Organizations, expands the research possibilities in American women's history through the selection of well-chosen organizational records on local women's organizations from the 19th and 20th centuries. Women's Suffrage in Wisconsin: Part 2: The Papers of Ada Lois James, 1816_1952 In 1911 Ada Lois James (1876_1952) became president of the Political Equality League of Wisconsin, an organization newly formed in response to the introduction of a state suffrage bill. The objective of the league was to organize campaign committees in every county of the state in an attempt to reach voters. Despite an extensive campaign, the bill was defeated in 1912. Ada Lois James continued to serve as president of the Political Equality League until 1913, at which time the league merged with the Wisconsin Woman Suffrage Association (WWSA). The new organization retained the WWSA name (changing Woman to Women_s), and Theodora Youmans remained president, having taken the office in 1911 from Reverend Olympia Brown in a controversial change of leadership. Although Ada James was active in the WWSA and a colleague of Theodora Youmans, she remained a close personal friend of Olympia Brown. These papers contain scores of letters from Olympia Brown before, during, and after the leadership change of the WWSA. James became a key supporter in 1924 of the La Follette-Weaver Progressive campaign for the presidency, and her correspondents of the time include the wives of leading Progressives such as Meta Berger, Cora Older, and Belle La Follette. Aside from politics, after 1920 James_s career was devoted largely to professional work with the mentally ill, which led her to become an outspoken advocate of birth control and sterilization of the mentally deficient. James_s papers are also rich in personal and family materials that shed light on courtship and family patterns of her own time and that of her parents. Her own diary spans the years from 1893 to 1947; her mother_s diary, 1865_1902, is supplemented by her courtship letters with Ada_s father, and Ada_s own correspondence with her father, David James, a state politician and women_s suffrage advocate. Material related to suffrage in this publication comprises three-quarters of the documents in the collection.

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