I wrote this essay in March of 2012 for an online religion magazine, but it was never published. One of the editors was afraid that the comparison between the WKKK and Michelle Bachmann was “too dicey.” Just associating Bachmann with the Klan seemed like dangerous territory. The editor had me add a disclaimer about how I wasn’t calling Bachmann a racist or white supremacist, but rather I was just “comparing” their use of Christian motherhood as a political strategy. Even with the disclaimer, the magazine passed on the article. Now, five years later, we are in a moment in which we can’t dodge the discussions of white supremacy and politics (politicians), so I thought I would publish this essay here at my site. It’s lightly revised with disclaimers and previous hedging about white supremacy removed.
In 1924, Robbie Gill, the Imperial Commander of the Women of the Ku Klux Klan (WKKK), gave a speech entitled “American Women” at the annual Klonvocation (Klan speak for convention) of the Ku Klux Klan (1915-1930). She proclaimed:
We women of America love you men of America….We will mother your children, share your sorrows, multiply your joys and assist you to prosper in the way of this world’s good. In return, we expect you to recognize our power for good over your lives, and in the nation….We pledge our power of motherhood to America….Our knees can be the altars of patriotism to them.
For Gill, just as mothers parented children, they could also parent the nation. Maternity functioned as a claim to authority in public spaces, and she let Klansmen know that women as mothers could change the nation for the better. Gill, however, was not satisfied to let men (even Klansmen) dictate national politics and policies. (more…)