A common argument against women’s suffrage was that women should focus on the home and the preservation of traditional family life. In the 1960s women running for statewide office used their experience in the home as evidence of their qualification for public service. For her 1966 state treasurer campaign, Agnes Baggett distributed litterbags printed with the slogan, “YOU KEEP ALABAMA CLEAN AND I’LL HELP KEEP THE CAPITOL CLEAN.” An image on the litterbag showed Baggett in an apron, sweeping up trash, with the caption, “Housewifey Politician.” The campaign for cleaning up the capitol was successful, and Baggett’s later campaigns continued to use the homemaker theme. Additionally, Baggett touched on the housekeeping nature of politics in a 1962 speech for the Democratic Women’s Luncheon. She argued that politics is actually the housekeeping of democracy, and she illustrated that women were instrumental in advancing child welfare and public health initiatives in Alabama.
Currently, two women hold statewide office in Alabama, and twenty women hold positions in the state legislature. (There are ten statewide elective executives and 140 seats in the state legislature.) According to a survey conducted by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, Alabama ranks forty-sixth in the country for women serving in the state legislature.
Dorothy Fouche is head of the government records collections at the Alabama Department of Archives and History. She holds an MA in public history with a concentration in archival management from Middle Tennessee State University and an MLIS from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
This feature was previously published in Issue #120, Spring 2016.