A collection of inspiring stories of the women who fought for the 19th Amendment.
Refreshingly, Ware (American Women’s History: A Very Short Introduction, 2015, etc.), the honorary women’s suffrage centennial historian at the Schlesinger Library, focuses on many of the lesser-known but equally audacious, talented women who joined the fight, profiling 19 courageous individuals who thought for themselves and brought their husbands willingly with them. “To bring the story of the…movement to life,” writes the author, “I have organized the narrative as a prosopography featuring nineteen discrete but overlapping biographical stories.” Many suffragists were abolitionists first, which both strengthened and weakened their cause, as the same arguments against granting votes for black men were applied to women. The feminist movement merged with the suffragists in the early 1900s, and feminism brought a broader commitment to economic independence, sexual emancipation, and freedom from the need to marry. Individual states began to give women the vote slowly, beginning with Utah in 1870, although it was temporarily repealed in 1887 in an attempt to control polygamous marriage. By 1896, Colorado, Wyoming, and Idaho had given women the vote. Those who fought for enfranchisement were often writers, artists, and cartoonists, and their work was put to good use in designs for banners, buttons, and posters and in publications like Alice Stone Blackwell’s Woman’s Journal and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Forerunner. There were also those who were practically a one-woman show—e.g., Claiborne Catlin, who raised awareness in Massachusetts during her long unfunded pilgrimage on horseback. Ware also discusses the experiences of black women, like Ida B. Wells and Sojourner Truth, who faced not only sexism, but racism as well. Mary Church Terrell, the daughter of wealthy ex-slaves, not only traveled to Europe, but also addressed the Berlin International Council of Women in 1904. By 1919, most of the Western states had granted women the vote; the next fight would take all their talents to gain ratification of the amendment.
Important American history that is also timely given recent attempts at voter suppression.