“During the latter half of the 18th century, women’s suffrage associations formed across the Union; however, one did not form in North Carolina until 1894. That year, 45 women and men convened in Buncombe County at the courthouse and established the North Carolina Equal Suffrage Association (NCESA).
“For the first 20 years, NCESA remained almost inactive, but when it became part of the National American Woman Suffrage Association in 1913, the association became a political influence…. In 1915, NCESA found sponsors to introduce a bill allowing women to be notary publics. The bill passed both houses, but the state Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional. NCESA also found sponsors to introduce an Equal Suffrage Bill. Both houses defeated the bill….
“In 1920, Tar Heel women obtained suffrage because the necessary number of states (36) had ratified the [19th] Amendment and made it part of the U.S. Constitution. North Carolina, as historian William Powell writes, ‘in a meaningless action, finally ratified the amendment in 1971.’ ”
— Entry on NCESA from the North Carolina History Project
This flyer from Raleigh is undated but similar to one, circa 1915, attributed to the National American Woman Suffrage Association. For whatever reason the North Carolina version omits the passage addressing “Women of Leisure.”
Here’s how the Charlotte Observer reported “Suffrage Folks” opening their Raleigh office (July 23, 1920).
“A professor of history at the university in Chapel Hill believes [Tar Heel] should be two words….and he has been campaigning quietly to get the matter corrected and standardized….
“William Powell has petitioned Merriam-Webster… whose definition in Webster’s Third Unabridged Dictionary reads: ‘tarheel, also tarheeler: from Tarheel State, nickname for North Carolina; a North Carolinian — a nickname.’
“Frederick Mish, joint editorial director for Merriam-Webster, says the spelling as one word is not likely to change for a while.
” ‘We have to weigh evidence from North Carolina as well as evidence from other places. There has to be a clear-cut preponderance one way or another as to spelling….'”
— From “Tarheel or Tar Heel?” by the Associated Press in the Wilmington Star-News (Dec. 11, 1977)
However long it took Merriam-Webster to find its requisite “clear-cut preponderance,” today the online Unabridged refers to “Tar Heel or Tarheel also Tarheeler.”
“Tarheeler”? A topic for another day….
As a nonacademic I’m unsure how to frame this question, but let me bumble ahead: Who these days is studying North Carolina as North Carolina?
Of the 23 U.S. History faculty at UNC Chapel Hill only Harry Watson and James Leloudis include North Carolina as a special interest apart from broader topics such as the South, civil rights and the Civil War.
Are there contemporary historians who still see the study of North Carolina as a calling in itself? Or have Bill Powell and H. G. Jones retired that trophy?