Patti Ruffner Jacobs
Pattie Ruffner was born in 1875 in West Virginia. She was educated at Ward's Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee, but was unable to continue her studies during the economic crisis of the 1890s. Her parents' marriage dissolved in that period and Pattie moved with her mother to Birmingham to stay with an older sister's family.
Ruffner married Birmingham businessman Solon Jacobs and took advantage of his means to travel and to enroll in voice classes in New York City. Over time, she became more politically active in the swirl of Progressivism which was reshaping Birmingham as a New South city of industry. She joined the fight against child labor, convict leasing, and prostitution which were all endemic in the Birmingham District. She was an active member of the Salvation Army and the Jefferson County Anti-Tuberculosis Association. Her increasing national standing led to her participation in the campaign for the sale of Liberty Bonds during World War I.
It was after several failed efforts toward improving public schools, that Jacobs concluded that women's suffrage was necessary in order to achieve social reforms through the political process. She founded the Birmingham Equal Suffrage Association in 1910, followed by the Alabama Equal Suffrage Association a year later. In 1913, Jacobs spoke on behalf of Southern women's suffragists at the Annual Convention of the National Woman's Suffrage Association in Washington D. C.
She and her colleagues nearly succeeded in putting a statewide suffrage referendum on the ballot in 1915, but opponents played up fears that giving women the vote would increase the political power of African Americans. The AESA then turned its efforts toward promoting a national suffrage amendment.
Jacobs was elected as an officer in the National Equal Suffrage Association in 1915. After the passage of the 19th Amendment, she led the transition of her local organizations into Leagues of Women Voters. She also became national secretary for the National League of Women Voters.
Jacobs led efforts toward other socially-progressive laws, as well, such as a failed attempt to establish an 8-hour work day. Presidents Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt recognized her leadership with appointments to various commissions, such as the Consumer Advisory Board of the National Recovery Administration and as a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Valley Authority. In 1933 she was the first woman appointed to the Democratic National Committee from Alabama, a position she held until her death two years later.
Jacobs is buried at Elmwood Cemetery.
- Wheeler, Marjorie Spruill (1993) New Women of the New South: The Leaders of the Woman Suffrage Movement in the Southern States. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-1960-8245-1
- Goodrich, Gillian (January 1978) “Romance and Reality: The Birmingham Suffragists 1892-1920.” Journal of Birmingham Historical Society. No. 5, pp. 4-21.
- Thomas, Mary Martha, editor (1995) Stepping Out of the Shadows: Alabama Women, 1819-1990. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press. ISBN 0-8173-0756-7
- Dalyrymple, Dolly (April 30, 1930) “Mrs. Solon Jacobs Will Represent Alabama at Suffrage Annual Anniversary.” The Birmingham News
- “Funeral Is Held for Mrs. Jacobs.” (December 24, 1935) The Birmingham Post.
- "Suffragists Urged to Worry Congress: 335 Delegates to Washington Convention Settling Down to Real Business." (December 2, 1913) The New York Times.
- Gallitz, Shenandoah (2005) "Bossie O'Brien Hundley and the Alabama Equal Suffrage Association's Campaign for Women's Suffrage, 1914-1915".