Nina Pinckard (ca. 1874-1953), a Montgomery socialite and founding president of the Women’s Anti-Ratification League of Alabama, was one of the state’s principal opponents of the Nineteenth Amendment, a federal law that gave women the right to vote. Largely successful in Alabama, she began a regional campaign to block ratification and traveled to several states in a failed attempt to prevent other state legislatures from voting for the measure.
Nina Pinckard Nina Winter Pinckard was born in March 1874 to Sarah Calhoun Winter and John Gindrat Winter, a judge, in Montgomery, Montgomery County; she had a younger sister. Her father’s family was well-established in Montgomery: his paternal grandfather, John Gano Winter, operated one of the earliest ironworks in the city, and his maternal grandfather, John Gindrat, had entertained the Marquis de Lafayette in his Montgomery home in 1825 during Lafayette’s tour of the United States. Through her mother’s line, Nina Winter was the great-grand niece of John C. Calhoun, the famous South Carolina politician who promoted nullification, the discounted theory that states could ignore federal laws they disagreed with. Her well-connected ancestry made Nina Winter among the most noted young woman to make her debut in Montgomery society. On January 4, 1894, she married James Steptoe Pinckard, a lawyer and developer in Montgomery. The couple had no children.
Nina Pinckard became involved in various organizations, including the Alabama chapter of the National Society of Colonial Dames in America, the Daughters of the American Revolution, and the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Active in several charities as well, she hosted many elaborate events at her home in Capitol Heights. One magazine described her considerable abilities as a hostess, saying she was a selfless and tactful entertainer. She did not become involved in political matters until 1919 when she formed the Women’s Anti-Ratification League of Alabama, which appears to have been her only political cause.
Nina Pinckard and Josephine A. Pearson On June 4, 1919, the U.S. Congress passed the Nineteenth Amendment, which extended the right to vote to women across the nation. In order to become officially codified in the U.S. Constitution, however, the amendment had to be ratified by 36 states. The Alabama Equal Suffrage Association, founded in 1912, began preparations to lobby the state legislature during its 1919 session. Meanwhile, on June 17, a group of wealthy Montgomery women and a constitutional lawyer met at Pinckard’s home and formed the Women’s Anti-Ratification League of Alabama. She was named the executive chair of the league and many other notable Montgomerians sat on the executive committee, including Alice Henderson, Elizabeth Houston Sheehan, Daisie Thigpen, and Marie Bankhead Owen, who would become the second director of the Alabama Department of Archives and History, in 1920. Within three days of their inception, the Anti-Ratification League had 700 enrolled members.
The purpose of the league, a universally white organization, was to block ratification in the Alabama legislature. Their argument against women’s suffrage was threefold: it would threaten traditional gender roles, states’ rights, and white supremacy. Over the next month, the Anti-Ratification League held public meetings, hosted lectures, lobbied legislators, and printed several broadsides and pamphlets outlining the potential “dangers” of women’s suffrage. On July 16, 1919, the Alabama Legislature held a joint session to hear arguments for and against ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. Eight pro-suffrage speakers argued in favor of the issue. The Women’s Anti-Ratification League refused to speak on the floor, claiming they were not seeking to become the political equals of men, and instead submitted a written response that was read aloud by two elected officials, both men.
Within a month of the debate, the Alabama Senate voted against the Nineteenth Amendment by a six-vote margin. The Alabama House of Representatives defeated it with a vote of 59 to 31. Invigorated by this victory, Pinckard expanded the scope of her mission, reforming the state organization into the Southern Women’s League for the Rejection of the Proposed Susan B. Anthony Amendment of the United States Constitution. This new organization sought to make a “solid South” against women’s suffrage, and Pinckard herself became its chief crusader.
Over the next year, Pinckard toured the South to help establish chapters of the league. She maintained communications with local antisuffragists to ensure a successful rejection of the amendment. On July 18, 1920, she traveled to Nashville, Tennessee, to help the local anti-suffrage organization stop the bill in the Tennessee Legislature. After setting up headquarters in the Hermitage Hotel, directly across from the Tennessee Capitol, Pinckard began writing open letters to politicians, urging their support of her movement, and to Carrie Chapman Catt, the president of the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association, claiming that Catt should not be lobbying in Tennessee because she did not understand the “traditions of the Old South.”
The centerpiece of her campaign in Tennessee was an anti-ratification exhibition at the Hermitage Hotel. There, Pinckard claimed that legislators would see proof that Congress had drafted “force bills” that would make southern states undo their voting laws, allowing African American men to register across the South. Similarly, the exhibition had photographs that highlighted Susan B. Anthony’s friendship with African American women and men and woman suffrage’s long relationship with abolitionists and groups seeking to destroy white supremacy in the South. Pinckard also said they had a copy of the Woman’s Bible, written by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and approved by Carrie Chapman Catt, which allegedly proved suffragists had contempt for religion. She hoped this exhibition would provide Tennessee legislators with enough evidence to reject the amendment outright.
As the legislators gathered to cast their votes, observers expected a close margin. At the last second, two legislators changed their vote to “aye,” leaving it at 50 ayes and 47 nays. Tennessee became the thirty-sixth and final state necessary to ratify the amendment. It was officially adopted into the Constitution on August 26, 1920.
After returning to Montgomery, Pinckard attempted to have the decision repealed by the U.S. Supreme Court. Despite her opposition, she encouraged antisuffragists to register and vote in the 1920 elections so that they could oust the men who had forced the vote upon them. She lived the rest of her life in Montgomery and remained active in several organizations, especially an anti-vivisectionist group, which fought to end experimentation on animals. She died on January 4, 1953, dividing her sizable inheritance between family and charities, including the Montgomery Humane Society. Ironically, nine months after her death, the Alabama Legislature symbolically ratified the Nineteenth Amendment, in September 1953, more than two decades after its adoption.
Green, Elna C. Southern Strategies: Southern Women and the Woman Suffrage Question. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000.
Marshall, Susan E. Splintered Sisterhood: Gender and Class in the Campaign against Woman Suffrage. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1997.