On August 26th, HNY launched Amended, its first podcast. Amended travels from the 1800’s through to the present day to show us a quest for women’s full equality that has always been as diverse, complex and unfinished as the nation itself. For our ongoing Online Community Conversations series we will be using brief excerpts from Amended to open a conversation about the past, present, and future of the struggle for gender equality.
To complement this online conversations, we have curated a brief selection of readings that examine the complex legacy of the suffrage movement. You do not have to read the following list to participate in the conversation.
In this essay posted on the HNY Blog, historian Lisa Tetrault, author of The Myth of Seneca Falls: Memory and the Women’s Suffrage Movement, 1848–1898, takes us beyond uncomplicated commemorations of the suffrage movement to show us the movement’s complicated maneuverings and, arguably, even more complicated legacy.
“Ida, Maya, Rosa, Harriett: The Power in our Names,” by Martha Jones
In this abundant, eloquent essay, historian Martha Jones traces how names and naming have often been used as tools of liberation in the struggle for racial and gender equality.
“The Black Women Who Paved the Way for this Moment,” by Keisha Blain
Our country’s ongoing protests may be uniquely situated – against the backdrop of a global pandemic – but that does not mean that they are not deeply informed and inspired by the United State’s robust history of social protest. In this essay, Keisha Bain, an historian at the University of Pittsburgh, places our contemporary struggles within a historical context.
“How Queer Woman Powered the Suffrage Movement,” by Maya Salam
Recent scholarship as well as work around the suffrage centennial by HNY and other organizations has gone a long way to remind people of the contributions of women of color to the movement. But there are still stories to learn, such as those told here. In this piece, Salam examines how this “broader, more accurate picture is also increasing our understanding of queerness in the movement.”
“The Unfinished Business of Women’s Suffrage,” by Melissa Gira Grant
Supported in part by scholarship from Lisa Tetrault and Martha Jones, this essay connects the partial success of the century-long suffrage movement — mostly white, mostly wealthy — to continued 21st century disenfranchisement of women of color.
Audio & Video
Amended, a podcast from Humanities New York hosted by Laura Free
Most Americans learn one, specific version of the history of woman suffrage: that a few bold, white women led a movement for equal voting rights and achieved victory 100 years ago, when the United States ratified the 19th Amendment. That, we’re told, enabled all American women to vote. But history is never as simple as the stories we tell about it. Amended travels from the 1800’s through to the present day to show us a quest for women’s full equality that has always been as diverse, complex and unfinished as the nation itself.
Twenty-six comprehensive and engaging biographical videos about suffrage activists, accompanied by a website offering extensive educational resources and biographical information on over 200 other little-known and extraordinary women from the turn of the twentieth century.
The Vote from PBS’s American Experience
This essential episode of American Experience explores “how and why millions of 20th-century Americans mobilized for — and against — women’s suffrage. The Vote brings to life the unsung leaders of the movement and the deep controversies over gender roles and race that divided Americans then — and continue to dominate political discourse today.”
Recent & Forthcoming Books
Several new and forthcoming books will soon be indispensable for a comprehensive understanding of the complexities of the suffrage movement.
Picturing Political Power: Images in the Women’s Suffrage Movement by Allison Lange
Lange’s book explores the interconnectedness of politics, gender, and visual representation, highlighting ways in which suffrage activists deployed images — pictures, pamphlets, posters — to challenge accepted gender norms and to change society’s prevailing assumptions about female frailty and political naivete.
Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All by Martha Jones
Scheduled to be published early next month, this book reframes American history by highlighting the essential role Black women played in the development of our democracy. As Henry Louis Gates Jr. wrote about this book, “Jones gives us a sweeping narrative for our times, grounded in the multi-generational struggle of black women for a freedom and equality that would not only fulfill their rights but galvanize a broader, redemptive movement for human rights everywhere.”
Recasting the Vote: How Women of Color Transformed the Suffrage Movement by Cathleen Cahill
Cathleen Cahill’s book also deftly probes the robust, multi-faceted history of the suffrage movement that has traditionally taken a back seat to the myth of Seneca Falls. Recasting the Vote highlights a multiracial group of activists that pressed for greater inclusiveness in the suffrage movement.
Unceasing Militant: The Life of Mary Church Terrell by Alison Parker
In this book, the first biography of Mary Church Terrell, Parker shines a bright and inspiring light on one of the most powerful — and, today, most overlooked activists in US history. Terrell was the first president of the National Association of Colored Women and a founding member of the NAACP, and she collaborated closely with the likes of Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells, and W. E. B. Du Bois.
Still craving more?
Check out “Suffrage and Beyond: 19 Books for Women’s History Month” and the “Votes for Women” collection, which includes more great reads on women’s struggle for the vote.
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Reading list compiled by Michael Washburn, Director of Programs, with help from fellow HNY staff members.