Votes for Women!: American Suffragists and the Battle for the Ballot

 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
1589 0
Votes for Women!: American Suffragists and the Battle for the Ballot
Age Range
12+
Release Date
February 13, 2018
ISBN
978-1616207342
Buy This Book
      
On August 18, 1920, American women finally won the right to vote. Ratification of the 19th Amendment was the culmination of an almost eighty-year fight in which some of the fiercest, most passionate women in history marched, protested, and sometimes broke the law in to achieve this huge leap toward equal rights.

In this expansive yet personal volume, author Winifred Conkling covers not only the suffragists’ achievements and politics but also the private journeys that fueled their passion and led them to become women’s champions. From Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who founded the suffrage movement at the 1848 Seneca Falls convention; to Victoria Woodhull, the first female candidate for president; to Sojourner Truth and her famous speech, “Ain’t I a Woman?”; to Alice Paul, who was arrested and force-fed in prison, Conkling combines thorough research with page-turning storytelling to bring the battle for the right to vote to vivid life. Votes for Women! also explores the movement’s often powerful, sometimes difficult relationship with the temperance and abolition movements, and takes unflinching look at some of the uglier moments in the fight for the women’s vote.

Votes for Women! is a mesmerizing read perfect for fans of propulsive narrative nonfiction stories like Most Dangerous and The Family Romanov.

Editor reviews

1 reviews

Non-exhaustive, But Valuable
(Updated: January 30, 2018)
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Writing Style 
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
4.0
A candid, comprehensive, and thoroughly researched look at the long fight for women’s rights—spanning nearly a century of history while following select figureheads of the Suffrage movement through their varied efforts, missteps, divisions, and triumphs.

To be up-front honest, let me just say that this was easily the most thorough work I’ve ever read on the Women’s Suffrage movement. Which, sadly, isn’t saying much—as my previous exposure amounted to a History Chanel special, a handful of viral Facebook articles, and a glowing two-page spread on Susan B. Anthony found somewhere in the middle of my high school U.S. History textbook. (Neither of my degrees involved women’s studies.) I requested this book specifically to fill in that unfortunate gap, and to a certain extent, it did a solid job of that.

The preface opens in 1920, with the scene of the defining battle over women’s voting rights. In the Tennessee House of Representatives, the decision over whether or not to support the 19th Amendment all came down to a 24-year-old first-term Republican named Harry T. Burn. He’d already voted with the antis to delay the decision, but there was a fateful letter in his pocket that changed his mind—and ultimately, the outcome for an entire nation. The contents of that letter were, in actuality, a century in the making.

And it’s with that air of anticipation the author pauses the scene, taking readers back to 1826—where 11-year-old Elizabeth Cady endures the death of her only surviving brother, while consoling her Judge/Lawyer father. To her father’s lament that she hadn’t been born a boy, she decides: “I will try to be all my brother was.” And here is our true chosen starting point.

We follow the progress of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s life as she grows into activism, is mentored by Lucretia Mott, and is joined in like-minded cause and friendship by Susan B. Anthony. The first half of the book focuses almost exclusively on Stanton and Anthony. Though other women of the movement are given a page or two of mention and even bios—their lives and works are not followed nearly so closely. And when the book transitions to the next generation of Suffragists, the focus turns to Alice Paul.

What I Learned:

#1. The Quakers took on significant roles with both women’s rights and the abolition movement.

I never realized how the Quakers thought and operated on these issues—being so proactive in the realms of social justice and human rights, while still technically operating as pacifists. (It seems they knew scripture far better than most of their protestant alternatives of the day.) Their women all but took for granted their positions of equality with the males of their somewhat insular subculture. This atmosphere allowed a number of these women to develop an innate ease with public speaking and open discourse, priming them for leadership roles in societal reform work while granting them a supportive domestic partnership. Lucretia Mott being a prime example:
"Mott believed that ‘independence of the husband and wife is equal, their dependence mutual, and their obligations reciprocal.’”

#2. Susan B. Anthony was SAVAGE.

"Well, if in order to please men they wish to live on air, let them. The sooner the present generation of women die out the better. We have jack-asses enough in the world now without such women propagating any more."

At first, I found her delightfully ornery. But the more I read, the more I also gleaned the sense she was also bitterly judgmental and lacking in empathy. Decidedly single her entire life, Anthony disapproved of women within the cause getting married or having children—as it took time and energy away from suffrage work. When suffragette Lucy Stone (who’d initially decided against marriage) eventually found an exceptional man who won her over, Anthony took her change of heart as a personal betrayal—one which she long held over the woman’s head. I’d never seen Susan B. Anthony depicted as anything but a heroine—an unparalleled juggernaut of the women's rights crusade. I didn't realize she also caused so much splintering and alienation within her own organization and their allies.

#3. The Women’s Suffrage Movement was split into two main conflicting branches.

*The National Women Suffrage Association. Headed by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, this branch was more extreme in its views and approach; focused on Federal-level changes.

*The American Women Suffrage Association. Headed by Lucy Stone and Julia Ward Howe, this branch was more moderate; largely focused on state-level changes, with the goal of gradually turning the socio-political tide of the entire country.


#4. Women’s Suffrage and Black Suffrage were initially a more joint human rights cause.

In the book, it's admitted that the more radical wing of the Women’s Suffrage movement, headed by Anthony and Stanton, inadvertently set the women's rights efforts back by perhaps 20 years. In their desperation to achieve faster, more dramatic results, they made repeated and massive strategic errors. It began with them seeing the Black Suffrage cause as competitive with their aims. Some social reformers thought it wisest to fight one battle at a time, deciding to focus on first attaining voting rights for freed slaves. (Anthony and Stanton took an all-or-nothing stance, while more moderate suffragists felt they’d rather see someone attain rights rather than no one.) The Suffrage division widened as Anthony and Stanton began using racist and elitist language, conveying offense at the idea of illiterate black men being given the right to vote ahead of educated white women. They then went so far as to embrace a notorious racist, simply because he offered them financial support.

"Although Train was infamous for making hateful remarks about African Americans, ... some suffragists, including Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, were so eager to rally support for their cause that they were willing to overlook his bigoted fearmongering and forge an alliance with him."

What Didn’t Work For Me:

A keen effort was made to liven the prose beyond the sterile confines of textbook information, which made for a well-paced and surprisingly engaging read. However, there was also a fine line being walked—one that should rightly call readers to caution. A trading of pure objectivity for adjective spice and the risk of misattributing emotion. As a result, the author's voice and opinions are sometimes unobtrusive and sometimes intrusive. For example: I didn't mind when she called the MAOFESW "awkwardly named;" and readers are provided at least some witness claims and diary-based justification for conveying the thoughts of Anthony or Stanton. But there are also occasions like the one in which we’re given the presumed knowledge of a random audience member's thoughts. To some, this may feel like nonfiction overstep—bordering on mind-reading.

My greatest regret over this book is that it seemed to disproportionately spotlight Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Alice Paul. (Granted, they were also shown in a light that didn’t hide what would now be considered glaring white-supremacy related flaws.) As a result, women like Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, Lucy Stone, and Ida B. Wells-Barnett felt more like minor historical footnotes within the women’s right’s movement.

Considering Lucretia Mott helped write the Declaration of Sentiments and had so much to do with Stanton’s growth and development into the Suffrage movement, it was strange to completely lose her thread of involvement at the point she was elected president of the American Equal Rights Association. I had to look up the end of her life’s story from other sources outside of this book, and there learned that Mott actually resigned from the AERA in 1868 when Stanton and Anthony allied themselves with George Francis Train. Clearly there was a great conflict of ideals there, to say nothing of the strain it must have caused in Mott’s relationship with Stanton. But unfortunately, this isn’t an aspect Votes For Women chooses to go into.

While primarily centered on only the more radical contributors to women’s suffrage, this book is an eye-opening chronological look at nearly a century of struggle. A valuable resource for anyone looking for a more palatable and honest explanation of motives and events leading up to and including the passage of the 19th Amendment.
Report this review Comments (0) | Was this review helpful to you? 1 0

User reviews

There are no user reviews for this listing.
Already have an account? or Create an account
Powered by JReviews

FEATURED GIVEAWAYS

Latest Book Listings Added

Imposters
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
Frey and Rafi are inseparable . . . but very...
Better Than the Movies
 
4.7
 
0.0 (0)
Liz Buxbaum has always known that Wes Bennett was not...
African Icons: Ten People Who Shaped History
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
Meet the ten remarkable kings, queens, inventors, scholars, and visionaries...
Count to LOVE! (A Bright Brown Baby Board Book)
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
Cuddle up with your little one and get ready to...
The Mystery of the Meanest Teacher: A Johnny Constantine Graphic Novel
 
4.5
 
0.0 (0)
THE MYSTERY OF THE MEANEST TEACHER: A JOHNNY CONSTANTINE GRAPHIC...
 
3.0
 
0.0 (0)
A shocking thriller about a group of friends who go...
Bird Boy
 
4.5
 
0.0 (0)
Take flight in this heartwarming story about a boy who...
Love You By Heart
 
4.5
 
0.0 (0)
Acclaimed creator of The Word Collector, Happy Dreamer, Say Something,...
Fa-La-La Llama (Touch-and-Feel Board Book)
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
Get ready to deck the halls with these joyful, singing,...
The Oddmire, Book 3: Deepest, Darkest
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
The third adventure in the beloved fantasy series full of...
The Oddmire, Book 2: The Unready Queen
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
Human-raised brothers Tinn and Cole join forces with Fable, daughter...
The Oddmire, Book 1: Changeling
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
Magic is fading from the Wild Wood. To renew it,...
Our Way Back to Always
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
To All the Boys I've Loved Before meets Morgan Matson...
The Last Gate of the Emperor
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
From Kwame Mbalia and Prince Joel David Makonnen comes an...
Traitors Among Us
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
World War II may be over. But two sisters are...
The Devil Makes Three
 
4.3
 
0.0 (0)
When Tess and Eliot stumble upon an ancient book hidden...

Latest Member Reviews

Imposters
 
4.0
"IMPOSTERS by Scott Westerfeld is a YA dystopian novel, set in the future after many different and unique time periods..."
Breeder
 
4.0
"BREEDER by Honni van Rijswijk is a YA Dystopian, Post-Apocalyptic novel in which natural disasters and war have killed off..."
Better Than the Movies
 
4.7
"BETTER THAN THE MOVIES by Lynn Painter is just about the cutest YA Rom-Com to ever exist. The story follows..."
Made in Korea
 
3.7
"MADE IN KOREA by Sarah Suk is a YA Contemporary that follows Valerie, a young entrepreneur, who’s obsessed with the..."
Mary, Will I Die?
 
3.0
"It started off as a prank among friends five years ago. All they had to do was say Bloody Mary..."
Small Favors
 
4.0
"Amity Falls is a small, quiet, religious town surrounded by forests. Ellerie Downing lives there with her sisters, brother, and..."
 
3.0
"WHAT I LOVED: Thanks to my brother being big into Dungeons & Dragons, I have some familiarity with tabletop gaming..."
Our Way Back to Always
 
5.0
"OUR WAY BACK TO ALWAYS is a beautiful YA contemporary romance about two best friends, Sam and Lou. After a..."
Poison Ivy: Thorns
 
4.3
"POISON IVY: THORNS is an intriguing graphic novel that takes us back to the origin story for Poison Ivy. Pamela,..."
The Devil Makes Three
 
4.3
"THE DEVIL MAKES THREE is a dark YA horror that creeps up on you. The book follows two teens, Eliot..."
Poison Ivy: Thorns
 
4.3
"Let me start with the artwork. This was so beautifully done and I loved every single panel. It really pulled..."
Lies My Memory Told Me
 
4.7
"What I Loved: In Lies my Memory Told Me, Nova is the daughter of the people who created Enhanced Memory...."
The Dead and the Dark
 
5.0
"THE DEAD AND THE DARK is a deliciously creepy paranormal thriller/horror. Logan lives with her two fathers, who co-host a..."
The Great Destroyers
 
3.3
"THE GREAT DESTROYERS is an intriguing alternate history that brings robot fighting into the Cold War. Jo is a teenager..."
Fresh
 
4.3
"FRESH is an entertaining and thought-provoking coming-of-age story. Elliott is a middle child, heading to college far from home at..."
Illusionary (Hollow Crown, #2)
 
5.0
"ILLUSIONARY is a beautifully written sequel in a strong YA fantasy duology. The book begins after the first ended, with..."
Bluebird
 
5.0
"It's 1946 and Eva and her friend Brigit leave behind destroyed Berlin for New York City. Eva carries a deadly..."
Incendiary (Hollow Crown #1)
 
4.3
"INCENDIARY is an intriguing YA fantasy with rebellion, magic, and intrigue. Renata was stolen from her parents as a child..."
Love and Other Sins
 
5.0
"Read it in one sitting and can’t wait to read the next one!!"
 
4.3
"This was definitely an interesting book. I really enjoyed all of the witchy aspects of the book! It starts off..."