“Citizenship Schools” (April 1920)


In this article, published by the University of Virginia Record in April 1920, Mary Elizabeth Pidgeon, director of citizenship education for the Extension Bureau of the University of Virginia, makes the case for short-term institutes across the state to educate Virginians about government and their roles as citizens in holding it accountable to their interests.  She was leading this effort in advance of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution, guaranteeing women’s right to vote.


Citizenship Schools.

By Mary Elizabeth Pidgeon,

Director Citizenship Education, Bureau of Extension.

There is today among thinking men and women, a considerable and increasing demand for governmental changes, and a correspondingly widespread lack of knowledge of the legitimate constitutional methods by which these changes may be made. In the constitutional struggle between the progressive and reactionary forces of society, tendencies too frequently arise toward a too violent swing of the pendulum in one direction or the other. More thorough education is the best antidote for the resulting disaster. We have unhappily seen during the past months that in some quarters the suppression of liberal thought and the partial closing of avenues of knowledge have directly resulted in red and unbridled radicalism. Hence, it is peculiarly necessary, in this unsettled period of reconstruction, to foster a wholesome liberalism, based on a knowledge of the methods of government procedure.

Further, there cannot be too frequently recalled to the minds of Virginians the circumstances which shaped the basic principles of their University. Founded in the young America, whose institutions and government were based upon the heights of political idealism; founded for a State which had fathered the practical working out of these ideals; founded upon the broad principles of that Jeffersonian democracy for whose world victory America is today laurel-wreathed; the University must continually respond to the cry of the people for more complete knowledge. It is not sufficient that Virginians of this later day merely boast of the splendors of their past; that glorious past itself but obligates them to further progressive endeavor.

Plans and Purposes.

When, therefore, the University received from various representative quarters, a concrete request to inaugurate through the Bureau of Extension some form of citizenship education,

— Page 6 —

it welcomed the opportunity to dedicate some portion of its energy to satisfying this desire of men and women throughout the State.

The purpose of the Department of Citizenship Education is threefold: to realize more fully Jefferson‘s democratic ideals in the extension of education to the people; to meet the widespread demand of intelligent citizens for an increased knowledge of government machinery; and, by disseminating a fuller understanding of lawful evolutionary methods, to prepare a safe and stable bulwark against the disintegrating forces of revolution.
The Department of Citizenship Education now offers to conduct two day or three day Citizenship Schools or Institutes, in all towns in the State desiring them. The subjects covered will be suited to the desire and need of the town and may include discussions of: Local Government and the Home; Local, State, and National Government Machinery; Virginia Election and Primary Laws; City Government; Legislative Procedure; Growth of Popular Governments; National Reconstruction Legislation; Party Platforms and History; Present Campaign Issues; How to vote in a Presidential Election; etc. An actual demonstration of registration and voting will be a feature of every school.

Speakers for these Schools or Institutes will be from the local community, the University, and other parts of the State, as desired. The expense to the community will be nominal, including railroad fare, entertainment of speakers, and local advertising.

The department further proposes to issue from time to time Bulletins covering various subjects of local, state and national interest, suitable to the needs of communities that desire to take up a fuller study of Citizenship. These will be available for use by Clubs, Community Leagues, and other organizations.

Arrangements as to dates, programs and speakers of Citizenship Schools may be made at any time, and information in regard to the Bulletins to be issued by the Department may be obtained by communication with the Director of Citizenship Education, Bureau of Extension, University, Va.

APA Citation:
Pidgeon, Mary Elizabeth. “Citizenship Schools” (April 1920). (2021, April 22). In Encyclopedia Virginia.
MLA Citation:
Pidgeon, Mary Elizabeth. "“Citizenship Schools” (April 1920)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (22 Apr. 2021). Web. 22 Jun. 2024
Last updated: 2021, April 22
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.