From March 1881, until November of 1882, Nebraska suffragists traveled the state agitating for passage of a constitutional amendment that would remove the world "male" from the state's voting requirements. Because passage of the amendment was dependent on a popular vote, Nebraska suffragists had to appeal to a diverse (and highly dispersed) male electorate. Although the referendum was defeated, it carried eleven counties and earned the highest percentage of votes cast for suffrage in a popular election up to that point. This project introduces the campaign and points to many of the important factors in organization and activism in Nebraska.
Such an election result in a state of 452,400 inhabitants (eighty-seven percent of whom were living outside of important cities or towns) spread out over sixty-six counties and 76,000 square miles is a measure of the hard work of Nebraska suffragists. Nebraska supporters organized across the state and coordinated their efforts with national speakers and organizers, many of whom spent significiant time in the state. Crucial to the campaign was travel by organizers and guests lecturers to all parts of the state and, in most instances, suffragists relied on the railroad; because Nebraska was in the midst of a growth spurt, with new rail lines and towns springing up, access to parts of the state changed in the midst of the campaign.
Issues of space, movement, and education were paramount as the campaign developed and Nebraska's leaders, who understood settlement patterns and railroad development in the state, worked to overcome the obstacles of wide spaces and limited resources with their knowledge of Nebraska and its inhabitants. Good Soil for Reform is an ongoing project exploring their efforts through two frequently converging lenses: