By: Sherri Gragg
From Problem Child to Activist
Jessie Daniel Ames was a problem child. Her unwillingness to conform to the strict Victorian societal expectations of her youth prompted her parents to frequently send her away from the dinner table for her poor manners. The fiery child spent many evenings taking her meals in the kitchen alongside the servants. It was there that she first heard about the lynching of a local man in nearby Tyler, Texas. The horrifying account lodged in the heart and mind of young Jessie where it knit together with her indomitable will to shape the course of a nation.
Ames was born in Palestine, Texas in 1883. She entered Southwestern University at the young age of 13 and graduated in 1902. She was widowed at the age of 31, and left to rear her three young children alone. Tragedy and single parenthood did little to get in the way of the once problem child. A life-long Methodist, she grew up to become a prominent leader in the suffragist movement. In 1919, she established the Texas League of Women Voters. However, unlike many of her fellow suffragists, she was also acutely aware of the injustices suffered by African Americans in the years before the Civil Rights Movement. In 1930, she rallied a group of like-minded women to form the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching.
The rest of the story…