Oregon klanswomen of the 1920s : a study of tribalism, gender, and women's power Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/d217qv169

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  • The fraternal order of the KKK, originally founded in the 1860s, reemerged in 1915, to present itself as an organization committed to the Cause - a dangerous reactionary political ideology to protect white, native born, Protestant, middle class values from all outsiders. Concomitantly, the Ladies of the Invisible Empire (LOTIE5) and the Women's Ku Klux Klan (WKKK) were women who rallied to the Cause, by oppressing outsiders who were considered the real enemy that generated lies in order to bring the Klan down. Klan loyalty required patriotic pledges to America, religious pledges to Protestantism, and, importantly, moral pledges to protect the purity of manhood arid womanhood. As the 1920s Ku Klux Klan struggled with its own masculine ideology concerning the 'woman question' to determine Klanswomen's place within Klan culture, Oregon Klanswomen themselves redefined gender norms, challenged male hegemony, and acted in accordance with their own interpretation of their feminine roles as mothers and as citizens within the Klan. The focus of this thesis, then, is to understand how Oregon Klanswomen stretched normative gender boundaries within the patriarchal dominion of the Klan itself, and to understand their participation in the Ku Klux Klan in terms of their access to power and authority. As Klansmen defined women's power within the confines of gender normative boundaries, women took advantage of the power and authority given to them to create and self define themselves as a group. The emergence of Klanswomen forming identifiable tribal groups such as the LOTIEs and the WKKK emanated from the highly masculinized fraternal group of the KKK. These women led other white Protestant women into a campaign against outsiders including other women. Klansmen may have set the gender boundaries to restrict Klanswomen under their power, only to have the women undermine male Klan authority and redefine the gender norms themselves. Women do not always agree with societal dictation of their roles as women, and when a tribal group such as the Oregon LOTIEs grew in political autonomy, male hegemony was militantly challenged. Hence, Oregon Klanswomen were not invisible, nor were they influencing politics from their homes, instead they played several important political roles within the Klan. Whether women hid KKK terrorism by bringing normalcy to the campaign, acted as hostesses at events, or contributed financially, they exemplified autonomy and fierce tribalism as women within the Ku Klux Klan.
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