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Women and the Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1965$
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Davis W. Houck and David E. Dixon

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9781604731071

Published to University Press of Mississippi: March 2014

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781604731071.001.0001

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Martha Ragland

Martha Ragland

June 29, 1965, Tuskegee Civic Association, Tuskegee, Alabama

(p.296) Martha Ragland
Women and the Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1965

Davis W. Houck

David E. Dixon

University Press of Mississippi

Born on May 14, 1906 in Paducah, Kentucky, Martha Ragsdale Ragland was dubbed the “first modern-day feminist” of Tennessee. Ragland became involved in activism by working with Planned Parenthood and the Birth Control League in Knoxville. In 1938, she embarked on a speaking tour of Tennessee in an effort to convince public health officials to offer birth control education in public clinics across the state. She also became active in the state’s League of Women Voters and served as its president in 1945. On June 29, 1965, Ragland addressed the Tuskegee Civic Association in Alabama. This chapter reproduces Ragland’s speech, which came just weeks before the Voting Rights Act was passed into law. Despite the passage of the Voting Rights Act, Ragland argued that the “unfinished business of democracy” remains and had moved beyond desegregation to include a host of thorny problems. She also lashed out at the “Far Right” for its attempts to consign women to an exclusively private sphere and to discredit the federal government.

Keywords:   speech, Martha Ragsdale Ragland, Tennessee, activism, Tuskegee Civic Association, Alabama, Voting Rights Act, democracy, desegregation, Far Right

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