Ragland, Martha Ragsdale, 1906-1996

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Civic worker, political campaigner, and advocate of civil rights, birth control, and women's rights, Martha (Ragsdale) Ragland was born in Paducah, KY in May 14, 1906, the daughter of Joseph Senter Ragsdale and Viva Jane (Troutt) Ragsdale . MRR graduated from Vanderbilt University (B.A. 1927, M.A. Economics 1928). From 1929 to 1933 under a grant with the National Records Council, MRR was a researcher in Washington D.C., for Ellsworth Huntington, and co-authored a book on eugenics with him. She returned to Tennessee and married Thomas Ragland in 1932; they had two children: Thomas, born November 24, 1934, and Sandra Jane (married David Demson ), born October 28, 1937. Thomas, Jr. graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1957 and Sandra from Radcliffe College, magna cum laude, in 1958. Thomas Ragland, Sr. was president of the Mountain City Mill Co. while the family lived in Chattanooga, Tennessee. In 1950 when TR became the manager of the Knoxville branch of the Ragland Bros. Co., a state-wide family wholesale grocery, the family moved to Knoxville . A year later, they moved to Nashville . TR was active in Americans for Democratic Action, a liberal political group. In 1946, MRR taught economics at the University of Chattanooga to a class of 150 freshman war veterans.

During the 1930s and early 1940s MRR helped organize Planned Parenthood groups at the local and state levels, and in 1938 organized a speaking tour for Margaret Sanger in Tennessee . She was a very outspoken proponent of women's participation in politics. MRR and Dorothy Stafford were responsible for reviving the Tennessee League of Women Voters (LWV), which had disbanded in 1920 after women received the vote. She held offices in the LWV at the local, state, and national levels (president, Tennessee LWV, 1945-46; Nashville LWV, 1946-47), where she worked for better housing and health services, children's issues, and for tax equalization and reform of the Tennessee constitution.

MRR headed the women's division of the Democratic Party in the 1948 general election, and chaired the women's division in the Estes Kefauver (1948) and Albert Gore (1952) campaigns for U.S. Senate. In the 1956 presidential campaign she was vice-chair of National Volunteers for Stevenson-Kefauver. MRR was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention and member of the Platform Committee in 1952, a member of the Democratic National Committee (1952-56), and Tennessee delegate to the National Women's Conference in Houston (1977). MRR was president of the Tennessee Political Caucus ; and, with the help of Carleen Waller, organized the Volunteer Women's Roundtable (VWR) which spawned the Women's Political Caucus (WPC). MRR worked tirelessly to promote women, motivating and encouraging many to work in politics or run for office. She often suggested names of women she thought were good candidates for positions in politics.

MRR was also very interested in civil and human rights, education, and women's rights. She served as a U.S. delegate to the Atlantic Congress of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries in London (1959); a delegate to the White House Conference on International Cooperation (1965); the Tennessee Citizens Committee for Better Schools (board member, 1949-50); Tennessee Commission on Children (vice chair, 1950); Tennessee Library and Archives Commission (chair, 1951-52); Federal Advisory Council on Employment Security (1963-69); Tennessee Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (chair, 1963-69); Southern Regional Council (board member, 1965-); Citizens' Research Foundation (trustee, 1976-83); Tennessee United Organizations for Education ; Tennessee Representative of the National Committee for Support of the Public Schools ; Tennessee Council on Human Relations ; and the Tennessee Friends of the Libraries . MRR was also a member of the American Library Association and the American Political Science Association. In 1995, MRR was inducted into the YMCA's Academy of Women of Achievement. Still active in her 80s, she died on Jan. 18, 1996.

From the guide to the Papers, 1928-1996, (Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute)

Civic worker, political campaigner, and advocate of civil rights, birth control, and women's rights, Martha (Ragsdale) Ragland was born in Paducah, Ky., in 1906, the daughter of Joseph Senter and Viva Jane (Troutt) Ragsdale. She graduated from Vanderbilt University (A.B. 1927, M.A. in economics, 1928). During the 1930s and early 1940s she helped organize Planned Parenthood groups at the local and state levels, and in 1938 organized a speaking tour for Margaret Sanger in Tennessee. She held offices in the League of Women Voters at the local, state, and national levels, and worked for better housing and health services, tax equalization, and reform of the Tennessee constitution. In 1948 Ragland headed the women's division of the Democratic Party in the general election, and chaired the women's division in the Estes Kefauver (1948) and Albert Gore (1952) campaigns for the U.S. Senate. A delegate to the Democratic National Convention and member of the platform committee (1952), she was a member of the Democratic National Committee (1952-1956). In the 1956 presidential campaign she was vice-chair of National Volunteers for Stevenson-Kefauver. Other affiliations include the Volunteer Women's Roundtable, the Tennessee Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights; Tennessee Council on Human Relations; Tennessee Women's Political Caucus; and the Tennessee Commission on Children. She married businessman Tom Ragland in 1932; they had two children.

From the description of Papers, 1926-1996 (inclusive). (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 122611740

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Papers, 1893-1978 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Ragland, Martha Ragsdale, 1906-1996. Papers, 1926-1996 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Records, (inclusive), (bulk), 1959-2002, 1966-1998 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn National Organization for Women. Records: Series I-XVI, 1961-1999 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn McKinnon, Edna Rankin, b. 1893. Papers, 1893-1978 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Papers, 1928-1996 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
correspondedWith Abernathy, Virginia person
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associatedWith Derian, Patricia M. person
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correspondedWith Douglas, Paul H. person
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associatedWith League of Women Voters (Tenn.) corporateBody
associatedWith League of Women Voters (Tennessee) corporateBody
correspondedWith Lee McLean person
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associatedWith Tennessee Democratic Women's Council corporateBody
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correspondedWith Theodore Brown, Jr. person
correspondedWith Thomas L. Stokes person
correspondedWith Tom Ragland person
correspondedWith Volunteer Women's Roundtable corporateBody
correspondedWith William Clinton person
correspondedWith Wilma Dykeman person
correspondedWith Winston Churchill's person
correspondedWith Women's Political Caucus corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Tennessee
Palestine
Tennessee
Southern States
Subject
Education
Birth control
Birth control
Campaign management
Political campaigns
Civic leaders
Civil rights
Mayors
Overpopulation
Political refugees
Politics, Practical
Presidents
School children
School milk programs
Women
Women
Occupation
Activity

Person

Birth 1906

Death 1996

Birth 1906

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Ark ID: w63c6r72

SNAC ID: 87317040