American Women's Suffrage: Voices from the Long Struggle for the Vote 1776-1965 (LOA #332)
by Susan Ware, editor
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Pub Date 07 Jul 2020 | Archive Date 05 Aug 2020
With a record number of female candidates in the 2020 election and women's rights an increasingly urgent topic in the news, it's crucial that we understand the history that got us where we are now. For the first time, here is the full, definitive story of the movement for voting rights for American women, of every race, told through the voices of the women and men who lived it. Here are the most recognizable figures in the campaign for women's suffrage, like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, but also the black, Chinese, and American Indian women and men who were not only essential to the movement but expanded its directions and aims. Here, too, are the anti-suffragists who worried about where the country would head if the right to vote were universal. Expertly curated and introduced by scholar Susan Ware, each piece is prefaced by a headnote so that together these 100 selections by over 80 writers tell the full history of the movement--from Abigail Adams to the 1848 Declaration of Sentiments to the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920 and the limiting of suffrage under Jim Crow. Importantly, it carries the story to 1965, and the passage of the Voting and Civil Rights Acts, which finally secured suffrage for all American women. Includes writings by Ida B. Wells, Mabel Lee, Margaret Fuller, Sojourner Truth, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Frederick Douglass, presidents Grover Cleveland on the anti-suffrage side and Woodrow Wilson urging passage of the Nineteenth Amendment as a wartime measure, Jane Addams, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, among many others.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 3 members
Every American woman (and frankly, every American man) needs to read this book, which I was thrilled to preview with the help of NetGalley, Susan Ware, and the Library of America.
It's hard to believe that 2020 was the first time a major party nominated a woman for President -- although, as this book reminds us, it was far from the first time a woman ran, and a debt is owed to Shirley Chisolm. This book reminds us that the fight for suffrage and equality was long and hard and is far from over. I was especially impressed at this book's impassioned statement right at the outset that this book is necessary because we have yet to read a comprehensive book on women's suffrage that underscores the important role of women of color in this fight. I have been a feminist for a long time but am sad to say that my traditional education and even my own research did not tell me enough about many of the women whose own words are featured here, particularly the women of color.
This book is so well-edited and relies mostly on the writings and recorded works of the suffragists and feminists themselves. These essays and letters are a call to action and will make you want to work with the same passion to make the world a better place. In addition to writings from the Seneca Falls Convention and important writings by feminists I had already read and loved, like Sojourner Truth and Abigail Adams, I discovered many new feminists whose writings I will delve deeper into in the future. I also learned (which I am embarrassed to say I never knew) that some of what I had previously thought were Sojourner Truth's words was actually racist approximations of black dialect circulated, and most likely invented or embellished, by white women. Shocking, but not surprising, and the kind of thing any true women's history buff needs to know, even though it is painful to read about how women of color were continually marginalized in this movement.. I also REALLY appreciate that this book does not end in 1920 but continues on through much of the civil rights movement, and I loved the accounts and recorded works derived from the women's rights debates.
Though this book is extremely educational, it is exciting reading and never feels like a bore. (And this is coming from someone who reads much more fiction than non fiction and usually reads thrillers - the Seneca Falls Convention is enough of a thriller for me!)
After reading this book I was inspired to change my twitter profile to a quote by Abigail Adams featured in this book: "If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion." This book features not only this and other well known quotes from Adams, but the entire piece of writing from which it originates. I think this book should be taught in schools and I'm very glad I had the chance to read it - I suspect I will be reading and rereading it in the years to come. I'm also happy my husband, who is a history buff and a feminist himself, was convinced by my review and is going to read it next!) If I could give this book ten stars, I would. I am also going to purchase a hard copy of this book to have on my bookshelf.
Now if you will excuse me, I am off to foment a rebellion.