The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 100, July 1996 - April, 1997

"Throw Aside the Veil of Helplessness":
A Southern Feminist at the 1893 World's Fair
SYLVIA HUNT*
YES, THE NEW WOMAN'S DAY HAS DAWNED IN THE SOUTH-LAND. AND
though the product of the evolution has not yet assumed the exact
counterpart of the progressive woman of the East, still it has bidden
every daughter of the South throw aside the veil of helplessness and walk
forth into the sunlight of independent labor. ... In the new South the
bars of all professions and industries are thrown down, and women
roam at will the pleasant fields of all forms of activity."' Sue Huffman
Brady, a Texas schoolwoman, delivered this message to the Congress of
Women at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago.2 The fair was held to
observe the four-hundredth anniversary of the "discovery" of America,
and women made a place for themselves in this celebration by construct-
ing a building dedicated to their history and achievements. Women
made up a prominent part of the World's Congress Auxiliaries. These
auxiliaries, a series of meetings held in conjunction with the fair, gave
women the opportunity to publicize their demands for equal rights,
* Sylvia Oates Hunt has taught in the history department at Eastern Michigan University since
1992 when she received her Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Arlington. She is currently
serving on the executive board of the Michigan Council of Social Studies. Her research interests
include the history of women educators and the effects of patriarchy and domesticity on their
work and lives. She thanks Kathleen Underwood of the University of Texas at Arlington and To-
by Edson of the University of Oregon for their comments, and Leon Mitchell of the Fort Worth
Public Library and Stephen C. Stappenbeck of the Center for American History, University of
Texas at Austin, for their research assistance.
SSue Huffman Brady, "The Changing Ideals in Southern Womanhood," in The Congress of
Women, ed. Mary Eagle (Chicago: American Publishing House, 1894), 308, 309 (quotation),
310.
2 The term "feminist" was not used in this country until shortly after the turn of the century
(see Nancy F. Cott, The Grounding of Modern Feminism [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987]),
and therefore Sue Huffman Brady would not have referred to herself as a feminist in 1893.
Nevertheless, I am using the term to refer to anyone who exhibits consciousness of, discomfort
concerning, or even anger over institutionalized injustice toward women as a group by men as a
group, and who advocates the elimination of injustice by challenging such notions, through
efforts to alter prevailing ideas and/or authority that uphold male prerogatives. I am indebted to
Karen Offen ("Defining Feminism: A Comparative Historical Approach," Signs: A Journal of
Women in Culture and Soczety, XIV [Autumn, 1988], 152) for providing this definition.

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 100, July 1996 - April, 1997. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101218/. Accessed May 3, 2015.