In 1924 Denver residents Laurena H. Senter, Metta L. Gremmels, and Dr. Esther B. Hunt incorporated a chapter of the Women of the Ku Klux Klan in Colorado. Senter was a pillar of the Denver KKK community as well as the president of numerous Colorado clubs and organizations. Her husband, Gano Senter, was the Great Titan of the Northern Province (which meant half of Colorado) of the Colorado Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.1
Since 1921, Colorado homeopathic doctor John Galen Locke had grown the Colorado branch of the KKK into an extremely powerful organization of 35,000 to 40,000 members, the second-highest per capita Klan membership of any state after Indiana.2 The Klan had been revived nationally in 1915 and was growing by leaps and bounds.
Papers of University of Wyoming history professor Larry Cardoso contain photocopied documents from the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office indicating that on December 9, 1924, Laurena Senter, along with Gremmels and Hunt, also incorporated the WKKK in Wyoming, with Cheyenne as its headquarters.
Nationally, the Women of the Ku Klux Klan was a relatively new organization, only recently organized in Little Rock, Arkansas in June 1923. Their stated goals upon organizing were respect for law and order, upholding of the constitutions of the U.S. and their resident states, furtherance of American principles, ideals, and institutions, and charitable works.
However, their agenda was also to incorporate racism, nationalism, traditional morality, and religious intolerance into everyday life. To qualify for membership in the WKKK, one had be a native-born, white Protestant woman.3
A women’s auxiliary was a natural component to the KKK in that, as historian Kathleen Blee explains, much of the Klan’s energy went into guarding the home with its members seeking to protect “the interests of white womanhood.”4
When Wyoming Governor William B. Ross died on October 2, 1924, the Cheyenne Women of the KKK sent a sympathy card to his widow, future governor Nellie Tayloe Ross. The WKKK sought always to present themselves as good, charitable, white Christian American women.
By 1925, internal dissension had dissipated the Colorado Klan, which also impacted the area’s WKKK.5
A note on the Wyoming incorporation papers states that the WKKK was revoked as a corporation on July 19, 1927.
Not much is known about the work of the Women of the Ku Klux Klan in Wyoming. In general, the KKK had a wide reach in Wyoming with a chapter (klavern) in many towns and cities. But that is another story to be told…
- Post contributed by AHC Simpson Archivist Leslie Waggener.
1 “Women of the Ku Klux Klan,” Colorado Encyclopedia. Accessed September 18, 2020. https://coloradoencyclopedia.org/article/women-ku-klux-klan
2 John Galen Locke,” Historica Wiki, Fandom. Accessed September 18, 2020. https://historica.fandom.com/wiki/John_Galen_Locke
3 “Women of the Ku Klux Klan,” Wikipedia. Accessed September 18, 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_of_the_Ku_Klux_Klan
4 Blee, Kathleen M. Women of the Klan: Racism and Gender in the 1920s (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009), p. 47.
5 Women of the Ku Klux Klan, Colorado Encyclopedia.
Yikes. The AHC always comes up with the most interesting materials.
I’m very curious about other klaverns in Wyoming in the 20s and 30s. But there doesn’t seem to be much information out there. https://labs.library.vcu.edu/klan/ This map is about all I can find.
Curtis – You’re right that there isn’t much out there about Wyoming’s involvement in the Second Klan. Colorado had much more activity. Based on my own research, I can say that there was a strong Klan presence in Casper with some activity as well in Cheyenne, Laramie, Green River, Riverton, Lingle, and Torrington. From AHC Archivist Leslie Waggener
The new Wyoming Digital Newspaper (Wyomingnewspapers.org) project shows more than 8,000 hits for “Ku Klux Klan”. Those before 1925 or so can be seen on-line. I have to go to the Coe Library to view the later articles, and then to the microfilms to scan them. One of the hits from 1924 (Dec. 26th I believe is the date) is a full-page ad from the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan stating the principles they believe in, one of which is “White supremacy”. But just down the list they say they believe in: “Preventing the causes of mob violence and lynchings.”