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Suffs vs Antis: The Long History of the Nineteenth Amendment (June 2020): General Histories

by Duncan R. Jamieson

General Histories

Eleanor Clift’s Founding Sisters and the Nineteenth Amendment is a brief, fast-paced overview of the movement, from Abigail Adams’s 1776 plea to husband John to success 144 years later. Similarly, Robert P. J. Cooney, Jr.’s Winning the Vote: The Triumph of American Woman Suffrage Movement provides a well-illustrated history of the three generations of women who accomplished the goal, capturing and conveying their legacy through photographs. 

Charting the evolution of suffrage after the Civil War, Allison L. Sneider in Suffragists in the Imperial Age: U.S. Expansion and the Woman Question, 1870–1929 argues that while suffrage grew from the abolitionist crusade, it later became enmeshed in expansion and imperialism.

Considering black women within the fight for woman suffrage, Rosalyn Terborg-Penn’s African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote, 1850-1920 examines how they transformed from illiterate slaves to educated, skilled, and professional workers like their white, middle-class sisters. Unfortunately, however, the Nineteenth Amendment did not guarantee them access to the voting booth, denied by de jure segregation. Thus, despite advances to overcome sexism, racism continued to impede black women’s rights until the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Focusing on the century leading up to the Nineteenth Amenment’s passage, The Ideas of the Woman Suffrage Movement, 1890–1920, by Aileen S. Kraditor, concludes that the movement had no overarching ideology until the 1890s when a new generation took the reins, using a more systematic approach. Though still predominantly white and middle-class, these women expanded into the South and recruited immigrants and working-class women. They learned, however, that the hoped-for revolution failed when little changed in the social, economic, and political structures.

David Morgan’s Suffragists and Democrats: The Politics of Woman Suffrage in America examines the movement in political discourse, studying how Woodrow Wilson used the campaign for the vote in his 1916 reelection bid, conveying passage as a Democratic achievement.

In The Rise of the New Woman: The Woman’s Movement in America, 1875–1930, Jean V. Matthews demonstrates that many suffragists never supported a socially radical movement, illustrating the difficulties in advocating for political and social change. They had difficulty overcoming the constraints of marriage and family, and then divided over what the victory meant. Matthews examines the new leadership and ideas that moved the campaign from its low point in 1895 to eventual victory.

Edited by Jean H. Baker, Votes for Women: The Struggle for Suffrage Revisited connects suffrage to constitutional issues, States’ Rights, and other movements in eleven essays. Reflecting on the challenges faced when campaigning in different regions of the US, it illustrates the complexity of American society and politics.

In Iron-Jawed Angels: The Suffrage Militancy of the National Woman’s Party, 1912–1920, Linda G. Ford recounts how NWP members from all socioeconomic backgrounds took to the streets, parading, picketing, and going to jail to force a favorable resolution.

Works Cited