Friday, February 22, 2013

The Family History Writing Challenge - Women in the KKK

The Family History Writing Challenge Day 22.  Tonight's story is one I really wish I had more details on and hope to find out more in the future.  It is a controversial topic, but it is in the family history.  I don't understand what people were thinking or going through in those years, so I can't have a true understanding of how they could have been involved in an organization like this.  Since this was such a secret society I may never be able to document this story.

My dad had three older half-sisters, their mother died when they were young.  They were Dollie, Margaret, and Virginia (Vergie).  They all were born in Kentucky before the turn of the century.  Dollie was born in 1886,  Margaret in 1891, and Vergie in 1894.  

My cousin had told me at one time she had a picture of Dollie, but that she had burned it.  I had no idea what would make her burn a picture of her dad's half-sister.  Recently she told me why she burned it.  The picture was of a woman in her casket.  That's not so unusual, it's what the woman had in her casket that upset my cousin. She was wearing a Ku Klux Klan robe and had other Klan items in her casket.  I'm not sure how she knew, but she said the women had something in the casket that indicated that she was an Imperial Leader.

I have also made contact with an extended cousin, Margaret's granddaughter.  As we were talking she said that she remembers a picture of her grandmother in her casket and that she had KKK things in her casket.  She believes her mother destroyed the picture after her father died.  She was young the last time she saw the picture and wasn't really sure of the details.

Now, my question is, were both women involved or was there a mis-identification of one of the pictures.  I don't know if that is something we will ever be able to figure out.  I have another cousin that says that the original picture that my cousin burned had been copied and she believes a copy still exists.  I am still hoping to find the copy.

Since getting this information I have done some reading on the WKKK.  I had never really known that women were involved with the KKK, but it seems they were.

I found there was a huge explosion of clan membership in the mid-1920's, which would have fit right with their ages.  They were both living in Cincinnati, Ohio during that time period.

Published in 1921

I also found more information on the WKKK that I didn't know about before.  They were involved with giving lots of money to charitable organizations.  The major areas of work for the WKKK  was for Americanism, education, public amusements, legislation, child welfare and delinquency, civics, law enforcement, disarmament, peace, and politics.  Nationwide as many as a half-million women were in the Klan.  There duty was to uphold "the sanctity of the home, and the chastity of womenhood."

Margaret died in 1927, at the age of 36, and Dollie died in 1930, at the age of 44.   

When looking back through family history you never know what you will find, there will be things that you are proud of and things that are harder to understand.  

I hope we can find the picture, it is a part of our ancestry, even if we don't approve of it. 

I don't have any pictures of any of the women, I wish I did.  I believe Margaret's granddaughter has pictures and I hope to meet her someday, maybe she will share.  I have talked to her on the phone.


  1. Wow! I don't support the negative aspects of the Klan. Yet, it's amazing at what the organization of women did in the early 1920s. It seems when we dig a little deeper, we can learn something knew. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I know. I have always had horrible thoughts about the KKK. I just could never imagine anybody thinking that way. I was surprised at their good deeds, although it doesn't begin to excuse the bad.


  2. Betty, it is never easy sharing details that contain such controversial information. When we research we have to take the rough with the smooth regardless of where that path leads us. I appauld you for sharing, what I am sure caused you some concern.

  3. Further consideration of your post. Perhaps this was the original function of the WKKK. To be almost a female type of Mason organisation. Then somehow, a spin off group became the organisation with the history we know. For example, not all people of a particular faith are planning atrocities, it is simply the extreamists that do, and then of course the group become known for the bad stuff & the good intent is forgotten. I will be interested to see where your research with this takes you.

  4. Julie, In my reading I believe the women's original intent was to protect home and family. All of the good things they were doing was in that direction. There prejudices tainted all of their good works. I was surprised by my reading, but I still find the entire organization highly offensive. I wasn't sure whether I should post something like this. I do not want people to think I would ever be connected with anything of this sort. One of the things I have so enjoyed in visiting Paris is the total accepting of people for whoever they are. You don't always find that in the U.S.