Speaker Series: by Judge Bill Stubblefield & Deborah Moran

Judge Bill Stubblefield and Deborah MoranThe Last Suffragette, Jessie Daniel Ames: Summary of Presentation by Judge Bill Stubblefield & Deborah Moran

The Williamson County Historical Commission sponsored the second event of a series labeled "A Toast to our Past" at the county courthouse in Georgetown on February 27, 2020. The title of the event was Railroads and Suffragettes. This presentation, the second of the evening, consisted of Judge Stubblefield acting out the role of reporter Bill Copeland and Ms. Moran playing the part of Jessie Daniel Ames.

In 1969, 1970, Bill Copeland was a reporter for the Williamson County Sunday interviewing Jessie Daniel Ames, who was in town donating part of her personal library to her alma mater, Southwestern University.

Jessie was born in 1883 in Palestine, Texas. Her railroad station-master father was not a "believer," arguing how could a loving God inflict horrid contagions on his followers. He did, however, frequently thrash her brother, Charlie, who finally ran away to California, never to be seen again by Jessie. Her mother, who could often be witnessed in prayer, and her four children would occasionally sneak off to a tent revival, but it wasn't until they moved to Georgetown that her mother became brave enough to join a church.

Jessie's father was strict at the dinner table, as well, and Jessie was frequently banned to the kitchen. Here she would hear their black housekeeper and cook talking about the frequent lynching of innocent black men. These conversations of social injustice no doubt contributed to shaping her adult life.

The attractive older sister of Jessie attended Southwestern University, but with disappointing results. Jessie, a big boned, big everything girl convinced her unsupportive father to allow her also to attend, though she was absolutely not allowed to attend any social events. Instead, she discovered the library and books became her total pastime. In 1902, she graduated at 19, having never been kissed.

The family moved to Laredo, which was exciting for Jessie because of the border intrigues. Her younger brother, Jamie, however, who was an excellent athlete, was beaten to death during a post baseball-game melee. There were so many people on the field, no one knew who had beat him with a bat. That left another dark cloud on the family.

A year later, Jessie's father introduced her to a Laredo friend, an Army doctor named Roger Ames. She was immediately smitten and they were married in 1905. She was proud of having been attractive to a man and she was proud of her sheepskin from Southwestern. Continuing to prove her self-worth, she began growing as a reformer of social injustice.

The unsupportive husband was assigned by the Army to Central America and died of a plague in 1911, leaving Jessie with three children. Her father died in 1912. Jessie actually felt liberated by the losses. Left with controlling shares, Jessie and her mother returned to Georgetown and took over running Georgetown Telephone Company Co-op.

At Southwestern, Jessie had read about suffrage and Susan B. Anthony. Her mother had even given her a pin stating "Votes for Women," and she became determined to help achieve the 36 states needed for a constitutional amendment. Men had to be shown that they could not run roughshod over the other half of the population.

Given the opportunity to speak, people listened to Jessie and the Texas League of Women Voters was founded. The league influenced the impeachment of Governor Ferguson and in short order in 1918, convinced Texas to became the first southern state to ratify the 19th Amendment. Tennessee required a concerted effort to finally become the needed 36th state to ratify.

With the support of women like Georgetown's Jessie Daniel Ames, women gained the right to vote. Jessie continued to lead the fight against social injustice across the South.

Related Documents