Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which finally recognized women as participants in democracy, historian DuBois (History/UCLA; co-author: Through Women’s Eyes: An American History With Documents, 2018, etc.) offers a lively, deeply researched history of the struggle for suffrage.
From 1848, when Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott convened a women’s meeting in Seneca Falls, New York, to Aug. 26, 1920, the official date of ratification, the political and social climate of the nation changed, as did the suffragists’ leadership, membership, and strategies. “The Declaration of Sentiments,” issued at Seneca Falls, modeled after the Declaration of Independence, attested to women’s “social and religious degradation” and deprivation of legal, civil, and economic rights. Nearly 30 years later, at the nation’s centennial celebration, Susan B. Anthony, Stanton, and Matilda Joslyn Gage, representing the National Women’s Suffrage Association, issued an even stronger statement, the “Declaration of the Rights of the Women of the United States,” enumerating the “Articles of Impeachment,” the major injustices—such as the right of trial by a jury of one’s peers—resulting from disenfranchisement. By 1876, suffragists had been so thwarted in achieving a constitutional amendment that they decided to work state by state, succeeding first in Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah; by 1911 in Nevada and Arizona; and by 1914 in Oregon and Montana. In 1917, Montana voters made Jeannette Rankin the first woman seated in Congress. DuBois animates her well-populated history with vivid portraits: Victoria Woodhull, “the most scandalous, disruptive, and transformative figure to enter the suffrage ranks”; “society queen” Alva Belmont, whose largesse funded much suffrage work in the early 1900s; beautiful young pacifist Inez Milholland Boissevain, whose death, at age 30, elevated her to martyrdom; and the defiant Alice Paul, whose prison hunger strike brought wide attention to the suffragists’ tenacious fight against virulent opposition from “conservative clergy, stubborn congressmen, nasty newspaper coverage, and the many women who feared venturing beyond their homes.”
An authoritative, brisk, and sharply drawn history.