The year 2020 marks the centennial of the 19th Amendment that extended the elective franchise to women. Alabama’s story of suffrage is complicated, as even suffragists disagreed on who should ultimately be allowed to vote. There were organizations and individuals across the state that lobbied tirelessly for women’s right to vote, including in the Wiregrass, where Scottie McKenzie Frasier made her mark.
Besides being a suffragist, Scottie was an influential writer, newspaper editor, and socialite. She was born September 7, 1884, in Talladega. A bright student, upon graduating from Talladega High School in 1901, she attended the Judson Female Institute, where she received her degree and teaching certification in 1903. She taught in Talladega, at the Albertville Agricultural School, and with Greenville Public Schools before being elected faculty in 1908 at what had by then become Judson College. However, she never assumed that position, as she married Dr. Alfred Smith Frasier in October 1908. The young couple soon moved to New York City for Dr. Frasier to complete his residency at the New York Postgraduate Hospital, where they remained for several years.
Scottie became active as a writer and suffrage advocate during this time. She began writing a recurring series for the “Montgomery Advertiser” around 1912 entitled “Alabama People Who Have Made Good in New York,” profiling Alabamians who had made some mark on New York society. She also continued her education at the Columbia University School of Journalism, honing the craft she pursued for the rest of her life. Scottie used these skills to support woman suffrage in Alabama newspapers, even while still in New York.
Scottie and Dr. Frasier both advanced their careers in New York, but the potential of the medical field in Alabama was too much for them to ignore. In 1915, the Frasiers moved to Dothan, an up-and-coming city. There, Dr. Frasier and partner Dr. John Ellis opened Frasier-Ellis Hospital, one of the growing municipality’s first. In addition to assisting with the hospital’s day-to-day operations, Scottie continued her writing and suffrage work.
She usually presented her forthright views on suffrage moderately, as she hoped to convert nonbelievers with logic rather than emotion. On the meaning of suffrage, she wrote in a February 1918 article in the “Dothan Home Journal”: “Do you know that woman suffrage does not mean the tearing up the foundation of our society; it does not mean overthrowing our government; it does not mean a revolution; it means an evolution—and evolution means going from a good thing to a better.” Scottie also leveraged America’s First World War patriotism, arguing that anything less than full suffrage for women was akin to aiding the Kaiser of Germany. She served as the General Chairperson and a founding member of the Dothan Equal Suffrage Association and was also the District 3 Chairperson on the statewide organization’s Executive Committee. While she lobbied for suffrage, she contributed to the war effort. She was one of the only women who participated in the Four Minute Men Conference in Birmingham, an initiative designed to deliver wartime related information from the Committee on Public Information.
After woman suffrage became the law of the land, Scottie was still a cornerstone of Dothan and Alabama society. She regularly participated in the meetings of the Alabama Federation of Women’s Clubs, Alabama Literary Association, and the Alabama League of Women Voters. She remained a prolific writer, ultimately authoring three books of poetry and serving tenures as editor for the “Alabama Digest” and briefly for the “Dothan Eagle.” In 1930, a local book club, of which she was a member, honored her by naming the club for her. The Wiregrass Archives holds a small collection of materials from this organization. Scottie McKenzie Frasier continued to be involved with her local community through her writing and lecturing, work with the hospital, and commanding social presence until her death in November 1964.
You can find the guide to the Wiregrass Archives Scottie McKenzie Frasier Study Club Collection at https://www.troy.edu/about-us/dothan-campus/wiregrass-archives/inventories/025.html.
Today’s guest author is Dr. Hayden McDaniel. A native of Dothan and graduate from Troy University’s Dothan Campus, her master’s degree in history is from Auburn University and her doctorate in history is from the University of Southern Mississippi. She is an Education Curator at the Alabama Department of Archives and History and resides in Prattville.