Statistical Summary of the Women Who Paid the 1920 Poll Tax

The Houston Suffragists Project has tabulated the names of over 3,000 women who registered for the poll tax ensuring their right to vote in the November 1920 national election.

Statistical descriptions provide a canvas for the stories of these women, telling us about their marital status, age, race, occupations, and places of employment.

Racial Composition of Women

The “Fourteenth Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1920, Volume III, Population 1920, Composition and Characteristics of the Population by States” includes counts of women living in Houston and its ward who are citizens and 21 years of age and over.

For this Census, the term “white” refers “to person understood to be pure-blooded whites”. For the Houston area, all women who weren’t “white” are classified as “Negro”. The 1920 Census did not report white women of hispanic heritage as a separate racial category.

As is shown in the following chart, white women disproportionately paid the poll tax as compared to Negro women.

Marital Status of Women

The women who paid the 1920 poll tax for the poll tax were predominately young and middle-aged married women but all ages as well as single, divorced, and widowed women were well-represented.

Woman’s Occupations and Places of Employment

The women from the 1920 poll tax list practiced a perhaps surprising large number of trades or professions.

Woman’s Occupation by Marital Status

Single women were much more likely to be employed in business occupations such as clerks and stenographers by businesses or as teachers by public schools, while married women were homemakers usually indicated on the census by the occupation of “None”.

Women’s Occupation and Place of Employment by Race

The segregation in 1920 Houston is clearly reflected in the occupations and places of employment of the women on the 1920 poll tax list, as shown in the following charts.

Women’s Occupation and Place of Employment by Ward

Although Houston’s wards had been formally abolished in 1915, they still continued to be used as geographic reference points in 1920. As is shown in the charts below, most women lived in the third and fourth wards. Given the transportation system available at that time, its likely they also worked in these wards.

Husband’s Occupation and Place of Employment

Since so many of the married women did not work, some characteristics of their circumstances might be inferred from those of their husbands.

Husband’s Occupation and Place of Employment by Ward

As seen in the data for Women, the third and fourth wards were the largest and seems to be where most businesses were located.

Husband’s Occupation and Place of Employment by Race

The same racial segregation that is seen in the women’s occupation and place of employment is also seen in the men’s.

Home Ownership

Home ownership does not vary much by race or by husband’s occupation or place of employment,