Renounce: To give up, to resign, to surrender; esp. to give up in a complete and formal manner.

Laura Clay ran the Kentucky Woman Suffrage Assoc. from its founding in 1881 until 1912. Kate Gordon, left, ran Louisiana’s suffrage association from 1904-1913. [Renunciant 🧵]

They were both officers of the National American Woman Suffrage Assoc. for nearly 20 years.

Yet in 1920, as suffragists fought to win the final states needed to ratify the 19th Amendment, Clay and Gordon joined the anti-suffragists.

They shared their deep knowledge of suffrage strategy with the opposition campaign, strategizing to block states from ratifying.

Why on earth? In a word, racism. In two words, white supremacy.

At the turn of the century the two women were instrumental in persuading the national suffrage movement to embrace a states’ rights approach. Unsatisfied, they later began to insist that all proposed legislation include whites-only clauses. That far NAWSA wouldn’t go.

So in 1913 Clay and Gordon created the Southern States Woman Suffrage Conference. The Southern States Conf. was committed to white-only, state-only suffrage laws.

Elaine Weiss recounts Clay & Gordon's dismay at the revival of the federal amendment, and the denouement:

“On the day the US Senate finally passed the amendment in June 1919, Clay resigned from both the National Association and the Kentucky suffrage organizations, and she and Gordon turned their energies toward thwarting ratification.” @efweiss5

I struggle to understand their renunciation - really, their betrayal.

@JonathanMetzl's book Dying of Whiteness has helped me grasp why racism prompts people to undermine their own interests. He profiles people whose relatives have died by gun suicide but refuse safety reforms, who are literally dying without health insurance but reject coverage that might help others.

Kate Gordon & Laura Clay are orders of magnitude more disturbing. They devoted their lives to women’s right to vote - they were state and national leaders of the movement.

And they turned on it. In the end, when it mattered most, they preferred that no woman vote at all than share that right with Black women. #Suffrage100 


Daily Suffragist




To me, this story👇 is the worst of the final push in Tennessee. Laura Clay & Kate Gordon - former NAWSA board members - use what they know about the movement to lobby against it. It reflects profound racial hatred. These are women for whom white supremacy is their core.




Daily Suffragist, “Renunciants,” Daily Suffragist, accessed December 4, 2023,

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