Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Simmons


During a constitutional history course, I chose for a research project the passage of Nebraska's woman suffrage law in 1917. As I began to collect sources, however, it quickly came to my attention how few secondary sources existed, and that those sources were quickly becoming outdated. I did find, in that first search, manuscripts in the State Historical Society Archives. As I began to ponder a topic for a thesis, my aborted research provided a starting point to my question: when most western states had passed female suffrage amendments by 1913, including all of Nebraska's neighbors to the north, south, and west, why did Nebraskans continue to reject proposed amendments? A search for manuscript collections of the Nebraska anti-suffragists, however, proved futile. I then focused my attention on the state supreme court case which granted Nebraska women partial suffrage by nullifying an anti-suffrage referendum. Complete records of Barkley v. Pool were included in the Nebraska Woman Suffrage Association manuscript collection at the state historical society. Reading the testimony record of the court case, I made a serendipitous discovery. The anti-suffrage leadership made fill testimony of their organization, membership, and goals. Along with existing studies of ethnic and religious tendencies in the early twentieth century toward woman suffrage. I was able to respond to the question of why Nebraskans rejected woman suffrage. The study begins with a look at nineteenth century attempts to pass woman suffrage in Nebraska then turns to the first major twentieth century campaign, an amendment brought to the ballot by an initiative in 1913. Its failure is analyzed in terms of the growing anti-suffrage movement, the large German population of the state, and the movement's connection to prohibition. The final stage of the movement begins with the 1917 partial suffrage law, passed only after the beginning of World War I, the referendum filed with the secretary of state by the anti-suffragists, and the nullification of that referendum by the state supreme court.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of History and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Masters of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright Laura McKee Hickman December, 1997

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