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The 19th Amendment

A selection of scholarship from Project MUSE publishers on the women's suffrage movement in the United States and how the struggle for political equality continues.

As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote in the United States, we also must acknowledge that the 19th Amendment’s passage was just one victory in a much larger and ongoing political struggle for women and other marginalized peoples demanding their democratic rights. “MUSE in Focus: Commemorating the 19th Amendment” is a curated selection of content from Project MUSE’s publishing partners and offers a broad range of perspectives about the history of the women’s suffrage movement in the US and its continued relevance to the ongoing struggle for true democracy around the globe.

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The Big Vote: Gender, Consumer Culture, and the Politics of Exclusion, 1890s–1920s
Gidlow, Liette
Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007.
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Low voter turnout is a serious problem in American politics today, but it is not a new one. Its roots lay in the 1920s when, for the first time in nearly a century, a majority of eligible Americans did not bother to cast ballots in a presidential election. Stunned by this civic failure so soon after a world war to "make the world safe for democracy," reforming women and business men launched massive campaigns to "Get Out the Vote." By 1928, they had enlisted the enthusiastic support of more than a thousand groups in Forty-six states. In The Big Vote, historian Liette Gidlow shows that the Get-Out-the-Vote campaigns—overlooked by historians until now—were in fact part of an important transformation of political culture in the early twentieth century. Weakened political parties, ascendant consumer culture, labor unrest, Jim Crow, widespread anti-immigration sentiment, and the new woman suffrage all raised serious questions about the meanings of good citizenship. Gidlow recasts our understandings of the significance of the woman suffrage amendment and shows that it was important not only because it enfranchised women but because it also ushered in a new era of near-universal suffrage. Faced with the apparent equality of citizens before the ballot box, middle-class and elite whites in the Get-Out-the-Vote campaigns and elsewhere advanced a searing critique of the ways that workers, ethnics, and sometimes women behaved as citizens. Through techniques ranging from civic education to modern advertising, they worked in the realm of culture to undo the equality that constitutional amendments had seemed to achieve. Through their efforts, by the late 1920s, "civic" had become practically synonymous with "middle class" and "white." Richly documented with primary sources from political parties and civic groups, popular and ethnic periodicals, and electoral returns, The Big Vote looks closely at the national Get-Out-the-Vote campaigns and at the internal dynamics of campaigns in the case-study cities of New York, New York, Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Birmingham, Alabama. In the end, the Get-Out-the Vote campaigns shed light not only on the problem of voter turnout in the 1920s, but on some of the problems that hamper the practice of full democracy even today.

Woman Suffrage and Women’s Rights:
DuBois, Ellen Carol
NYU Press, 1998.
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An essential examination of the woman suffrage movement

In recent decades, the woman suffrage movement has taken on new significance for women's history. Ellen Carol DuBois has been a central figure in spurring renewed interest in woman suffrage and in realigning the debates which surround it.

This volume gathers DuBois' most influential articles on woman suffrage and includes two new essays. The collection traces the trajectory of the suffrage story against the backdrop of changing attitudes to politics, citizenship and gender, and the resultant tensions over such issues as slavery and abolitionism, sexuality and religion, and class and politics. Connecting the essays is DuBois' belief in the continuing importance of political and reform movements as an object of historical inquiry and a force in shaping gender.

The book, which includes a highly original reconceptualization of women's rights from Mary Wollstonecraft to contemporary abortion and gay rights activists and a historiographical overview of suffrage scholarship, provides an excellent overview of the movement, including international as well as U.S. suffragism, in the context of women's broader concerns for social and political justice.

Forging the Franchise: The Political Origins of the Women's Vote
Teele, Dawn Langan
Princeton University Press, 2018.
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The important political motivations behind why women finally won the right to vote

In the 1880s, women were barred from voting in all national-level elections, but by 1920 they were going to the polls in nearly thirty countries. What caused this massive change? Why did male politicians agree to extend voting rights to women? Contrary to conventional wisdom, it was not because of progressive ideas about women or suffragists’ pluck. In most countries, elected politicians fiercely resisted enfranchising women, preferring to extend such rights only when it seemed electorally prudent and in fact necessary to do so. Through a careful examination of the tumultuous path to women’s political inclusion in the United States, France, and the United Kingdom, Forging the Franchise demonstrates that the formation of a broad movement across social divides, and strategic alliances with political parties in competitive electoral conditions, provided the leverage that ultimately transformed women into voters.

As Dawn Teele shows, in competitive environments, politicians had incentives to seek out new sources of electoral influence. A broad-based suffrage movement could reinforce those incentives by providing information about women’s preferences, and an infrastructure with which to mobilize future female voters. At the same time that politicians wanted to enfranchise women who were likely to support their party, suffragists also wanted to enfranchise women whose political preferences were similar to theirs. In contexts where political rifts were too deep, suffragists who were in favor of the vote in principle mobilized against their own political emancipation.

Exploring tensions between elected leaders and suffragists and the uncertainty surrounding women as an electoral group, Forging the Franchise sheds new light on the strategic reasons behind women’s enfranchisement.

Why Movements Succeed or Fail: Opportunity, Culture, and the Struggle for Woman Suffrage
Banaszak, Lee Ann
Princeton University Press, 1996.
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Wyoming became the first American state to adopt female suffrage in 1869--a time when no country permitted women to vote. When the last Swiss canton enfranchised women in 1990, few countries barred women from the polls. Why did pro-suffrage activists in the United States and Switzerland have such varying success? Comparing suffrage campaigns in forty-eight American states and twenty-five Swiss cantons, Lee Ann Banaszak argues that movement tactics, beliefs, and values are critical in understanding why political movements succeed or fail. The Swiss suffrage movement's beliefs in consensus politics and local autonomy and their reliance on government parties for information limited their tactical choices--often in surprising ways. In comparison, the American suffrage movement, with its alliances to the abolition, temperance, and progressive movements, overcame beliefs in local autonomy and engaged in a wider array of confrontational tactics in the struggle for the vote.

Drawing on interviews with sixty Swiss suffrage activists, detailed legislative histories, census materials, and original archival materials from both countries, Banaszak blends qualitative historical inquiry with informative statistical analyses of state and cantonal level data. The book expands our understanding of the role of political opportunities and how they interact with the beliefs and values of movements and the societies they seek to change.

Are All the Women Still White?: Rethinking Race, Expanding Feminisms
Janell Hobson
State University of New York Press, 2016.
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Provides a contemporary response to such landmark volumes as All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave and This Bridge Called My Back.

Citizens at Last: The Woman Suffrage Movement in Texas
Ellen C. Temple, Ruthe Winegarten, Judith N. McArthur, Nancy Baker Jones, Anne Firor Scott
Texas A&M University Press, 2015.
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“There is so much to be learned from the documents collected here. . . . Where better than in this record to find the inspiration to achieve another high point of women’s political history?”—from the foreword by Anne Firor Scott

Citizens at Last is an essential resource for anyone interested in the history of the suffrage movement in Texas. Richly illustrated and featuring over thirty primary documents, it reveals what it took to win the vote.

No Votes for Women: The New York State Anti-Suffrage Movement
Goodier, Susan
University of Illinois Press, 2012.
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No Votes for Women explores the complicated history of the suffrage movement in New York State by delving into the stories of women who opposed the expansion of voting rights to women. Susan Goodier finds that conservative women who fought against suffrage encouraged women to retain their distinctive feminine identities as protectors of their homes and families, a role they felt was threatened by the imposition of masculine political responsibilities. She details the victories and defeats on both sides of the movement from its start in the 1890s to its end in the 1930s, acknowledging the powerful activism of this often overlooked and misunderstood political force in the history of women's equality.

Women and the Republican Party, 1854-1924
Gustafson, Melanie
University of Illinois Press, 2001.
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Acclaimed as groundbreaking since its publication, Women and the Republican Party, 1854-1924 explores the forces that propelled women to partisan activism in an era of widespread disfranchisement and provides a new perspective on how women fashioned their political strategies and identities before and after 1920. 

Melanie Susan Gustafson examines women's partisan history against the backdrop of women's political culture. Contesting the accepted notion that women were uninvolved in political parties before gaining the vote, Gustafson reveals the length and depth of women's partisan activism between the founding of the Republican Party, whose abolitionist agenda captured the loyalty of many women, and the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. Her account also looks at the complex interplay of partisan and nonpartisan activity; the fierce debates among women about how to best use their influence; the ebb and flow of enthusiasm for women's participation; and the third parties that fused the civic world of reform organizations with the electoral world of voting and legislation.

100 Years of Women's Suffrage: A University of Illinois Press Anthology
Radke-Moss, Andrea G, Lytton, Lady Constance, Lizotte, Mary-Kate, Jensen, Kimberly, Huddy, Leonie, Hewitt, Nancy A., Green, Barbara, Gallagher, Julie A., Dubois, Ellen Carol, Dill, Bonnie Thornton, Daniels, Carolyn, Conway, M. Margaret, Chapman, Mary, Cassese, Erin, Behling, Laura L., Hewitt, Nancy A., Durante, Dawn
University of Illinois Press, 2019.
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100 Years of Women’s Suffrage commemorates the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment by bringing together essential scholarship on the women's suffrage movement and women's voting previously published by the University of Illinois Press. With an original introduction by Nancy A. Hewitt, the volume illuminates the lives and work of key figures while uncovering the endeavors of all women—across lines of gender, race, class, religion, and ethnicity—to gain, and use, the vote. Beginning with works that focus on cultural and political suffrage battles, the chapters then look past 1920 at how women won, wielded, and continue to fight for access to the ballot.

A curation of important scholarship on a pivotal historical moment, 100 Years of Women’s Suffrage captures the complex and enduring struggle for fair and equal voting rights.

Contributors: Laura L. Behling, Erin Cassese, Mary Chapman, M. Margaret Conway, Carolyn Daniels, Bonnie Thornton Dill, Ellen Carol DuBois, Julie A. Gallagher, Barbara Green, Nancy A. Hewitt, Leonie Huddy, Kimberly Jensen, Mary-Kate Lizotte, Lady Constance Lytton, and Andrea G. Radke-Moss

For the Freedom of Her Race: Black Women and Electoral Politics in Illinois, 1877-1932
Materson, Lisa G.
The University of North Carolina Press, 2013.
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Grounded in the rich history of Chicago politics, For the Freedom of Her Race tells a wide-ranging story about black women's involvement in southern, midwestern, and national politics. Examining the oppressive decades between the end of Reconstruction in 1877 and the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932--a period that is often described as the nadir of black life in America--Lisa Materson shows that as African American women migrated beyond the reach of southern white supremacists, they became active voters, canvassers, suffragists, campaigners, and lobbyists, mobilizing to gain a voice in national party politics and elect representatives who would push for the enforcement of the Reconstruction Amendments in the South.

The Myth of Seneca Falls: Memory and the Women's Suffrage Movement, 1848-1898
Tetrault, Lisa
The University of North Carolina Press, 2014.
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The story of how the women's rights movement began at the Seneca Falls convention of 1848 is a cherished American myth. The standard account credits founders such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Lucretia Mott with defining and then leading the campaign for women's suffrage. In her provocative new history, Lisa Tetrault demonstrates that Stanton, Anthony, and their peers gradually created and popularized this origins story during the second half of the nineteenth century in response to internal movement dynamics as well as the racial politics of memory after the Civil War. The founding mythology that coalesced in their speeches and writings--most notably Stanton and Anthony's History of Woman Suffrage--provided younger activists with the vital resource of a usable past for the ongoing struggle, and it helped consolidate Stanton and Anthony's leadership against challenges from the grassroots and rival suffragists.

As Tetrault shows, while this mythology has narrowed our understanding of the early efforts to champion women's rights, the myth of Seneca Falls itself became an influential factor in the suffrage movement. And along the way, its authors amassed the first archive of feminism and literally invented the modern discipline of women's history.

2015 Mary Jurich Nickliss Prize, Organization of American Historians

The Weight of Their Votes: Southern Women and Political Leverage in the 1920s
Schuyler, Lorraine Gates
The University of North Carolina Press, 2008.
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After the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, hundreds of thousands of southern women went to the polls for the first time. In The Weight of Their Votes Lorraine Gates Schuyler examines the consequences this had in states across the South. She shows that from polling places to the halls of state legislatures, women altered the political landscape in ways both symbolic and substantive. Schuyler challenges popular scholarly opinion that women failed to wield their ballots effectively in the 1920s, arguing instead that in state and local politics, women made the most of their votes.

Schuyler explores get-out-the-vote campaigns staged by black and white women in the region and the response of white politicians to the sudden expansion of the electorate. Despite the cultural expectations of southern womanhood and the obstacles of poll taxes, literacy tests, and other suffrage restrictions, southern women took advantage of their voting power, Schuyler shows. Black women mobilized to challenge disfranchisement and seize their right to vote. White women lobbied state legislators for policy changes and threatened their representatives with political defeat if they failed to heed women's policy demands. Thus, even as southern Democrats remained in power, the social welfare policies and public spending priorities of southern states changed in the 1920s as a consequence of woman suffrage.

Battling Miss Bolsheviki: The Origins of Female Conservatism in the United States
Delegard, Kirsten Marie
University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012.
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Why did the political authority of well-respected female reformers diminish after women won the vote? In Battling Miss Bolsheviki Kirsten Marie Delegard argues that they were undercut during the 1920s by women conservatives who spent the first decade of female suffrage linking these reformers to radical revolutions that were raging in other parts of the world. In the decades leading up to the Nineteenth Amendment, women activists had enjoyed great success as reformers, creating a political subculture with settlement houses and women's clubs as its cornerstones. Female volunteers piloted welfare programs as philanthropic ventures and used their organizations to pressure state, local, and national governments to assume responsibility for these programs.

These female activists perceived their efforts as selfless missions necessary for the protection of their homes, families, and children. In seeking to fulfill their "maternal" responsibilities, progressive women fundamentally altered the scope of the American state, recasting the welfare of mothers and children as an issue for public policy. At the same time, they carved out a new niche for women in the public sphere, allowing female activists to become respected authorities on questions of social welfare. Yet in the aftermath of the suffrage amendment, the influence of women reformers plummeted and the new social order once envisioned by progressives appeared only more remote.

Battling Miss Bolsheviki chronicles the ways women conservatives laid siege to this world of female reform, placing once-respected reformers beyond the pale of political respectability and forcing most women's clubs to jettison advocacy for social welfare measures. Overlooked by historians, these new activists turned the Daughters of the American Revolution and the American Legion Auxiliary into vehicles for conservative political activism. Inspired by their twin desires to fulfill their new duties as voting citizens and prevent North American Bolsheviks from duplicating the success their comrades had enjoyed in Russia, they created a new political subculture for women activists. In a compelling narrative, Delegard reveals how the antiradicalism movement reshaped the terrain of women's politics, analyzing its enduring legacy for all female activists for the rest of the twentieth century and beyond.

Winning the West for Women: The Life of Suffragist Emma Smith DeVoe
Ross-Nazzal, Jennifer M.
University of Washington Press, 2011.
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In 1856, in an opera house in Roseville, Illinois, Susan B. Anthony called for the supporters of woman suffrage to stand. The only person to rise was eight-year-old Emma Smith. And she continued to take a stand for the rest of her life. As a leader in the suffrage movement, Emma Smith DeVoe stumped across the country organizing for the cause, raising money, and helping make the West central to achieving the vote for women.

DeVoe used her feminine style to great advantage in the campaign for the vote. Rather than promoting public rallies, she encouraged women to put their energies toward influencing the votes of their fathers, brothers, and husbands. Known as the still-hunt strategy, this approach was highly successful and helped win the vote for women in Washington State in 1910. Winning the West for Women demonstrates the importance of the West in the national suffrage movement. It reveals the central role played by the National Council of Women Voters, whose members were predominantly western women, in securing the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment.

Winning the West for Women also tells a larger story of dissension and discord within the suffrage movement. Though ladylike in her courtship of male support for the cause, DeVoe often clashed with other activists who disagreed with her tactics or doubted her commitment to the movement. This fascinating biography describes the real experiences of women and their relationships as they struggled to win the right to vote.

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Splintered Sisterhood: Gender and Class in the Campaign against Woman Suffrage
Marshall, Susan E.
University of Wisconsin Press, 1997.
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When Tennessee became the thirty-sixth and final state needed to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment in August 1920, giving women the right to vote, one group of women expressed bitter disappointment and vowed to fight against “this feminist disease.” Why this fierce and extended opposition? In Splintered Sisterhood, Susan Marshall argues that the women of the antisuffrage movement mobilized not as threatened homemakers but as influential political strategists.
    Drawing on surviving records of major antisuffrage organizations, Marshall makes clear that antisuffrage women organized to protect gendered class interests. She shows that many of the most vocal antisuffragists were wealthy, educated women who exercised considerable political influence through their personal ties to men in politics as well as by their own positions as leaders of social service committees. Under the guise of defending an ideal of “true womanhood,” these powerful women sought to keep the vote from lower-class women, fearing it would result in an increase in the “ignorant vote” and in their own displacement from positions of influence. This book reveals the increasingly militant style of antisuffrage protest as the conflict over female voting rights escalated. Splintered Sisterhood adds a missing piece to the history of women’s rights activism in the United States and illuminates current issues of antifeminism.


Journal of Arizona History
Volume 61, Number 2, Summer 2020
Arizona Historical Society
New York History
Volume 98, Number 3-4, Summer/Fall 2017
Cornell University Press
Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism
Volume 19, Number 1, April 2020
Duke University Press
Journal of Women's History
Volume 32, Number 1, Spring 2020
Johns Hopkins University Press
Ohio Valley History
Volume 20, Number 1, Spring 2020
The Filson Historical Society and Cincinnati Museum Center
Canadian Review of American Studies
Special Issue: Suffrage
Guest Editor: Mary Chapman and Angela Mills
Volume 36, Number 1, 2006, supplement
University of Toronto Press


Becoming Postcolonial: African Women Changing the Meaning of Citizenship
Patricia McFadden
Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism Volume 6, Number 1, 2005: 1 - 18.
Gender, Sovereignty, and the Discourse of Rights in Native Women's Activism
Joanne Barker
Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism Volume 7, Number 1, 2006: 127 - 161.
Making Democracy Real: African American Women, Birth Control, and Social Justice, 1910–1960
Joyce C. Follet
Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism Volume 18, Number 1, April 2019: 94 - 151.
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This essay offers a historical overview of African American women's efforts to gain access to contraception, from the early stirrings of the campaign to legalize birth control in the 1910s to the eve of mass movements for racial equality and women's rights in the 1960s. The birth control struggle becomes a window on the racial, gender, and economic structures black women negotiated in pursuit of sexual and reproductive self-determination at that time. Taking us back a century, and with emphasis on resilience and resistance, their story reminds us of the deep roots and broad vision of black women's leadership in what has become a women-of-color–led human rights movement for reproductive justice today.

An International Comparison of Women’s Suffrage: The Cases of Finland and New Zealand in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century
Irma Sulkunen
Journal of Women's History Volume 27, Number 4, Winter 2015: 88 - 111.
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The international history of women’s suffrage carries an intriguing paradox: the process of democratization that crossed the gender line was first set into motion in geographical peripheries. This article analyzes this paradox. Rather than building on generalizing ideological factors, the approach is guided by the actual order of events, which prioritizes an analysis of geographical peripheries, the small nations of New Zealand and Finland. By examining the social, cultural, and political factors of these two countries and taking the experiential reality of ordinary people, this study introduces new interpretations of the underpinnings of women’s suffrage and democratization in the Western world.

"The White Women All Go for Sex": Frances Harper on Suffrage, Citizenship, and the Reconstruction South
C. C. O'Brien
African American Review Volume 43, Number 4, Winter 2009: 605 - 620.
Following the Money: Wealthy Women, Feminism, and the American Suffrage Movement
Joan Marie Johnson
Journal of Women's History Volume 27, Number 4, Winter 2015: 62 - 87.
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The fortunes donated and estates left by wealthy women played a significant, yet controversial role in recharging the woman suffrage movement and passing the Nineteenth Amendment, a story historians have just recently begun to explore. “Following the money” traces priorities, tactics, and strategies of the movement through a focus on donors and donations and explores the resentment caused when a small number of wealthy individuals wielded the power to shape strategy and decisions. Their experience with the power of money (and its limitations) helped them understand that economic independence and political equality was crucial for all women, whether working-class wage earners, educated professionals, or inheritors of large fortunes. Their donations funded new tactics and strategies, including headquarters in New York and Washington, DC, salaries for traveling organizers, and a publicity blitz, as well as Carrie Chapman Catt’s “winning plan,” ultimately making passage and ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment possible in 1920.

In Their Places: Region, Women, and Women’s Rights
Susan Klepp
Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies Volume 82, Number 3, Summer 2015: 343 - 356.
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Was there a distinct Mid-Atlantic region for either women or gender relations? An examination of women and politics between the early eighteenth century and the early twentieth century suggests the answer is no, there was not. A regional definition for politically active women encompassed the entire northeast, not just the mid-Atlantic and became the center of the suffrage movement. As late as 1915, however, the anti–women’s rights forces were dominant and it was the far west that led in the movement for the vote.

Woman Suffrage is a Midwestern Story: Gender, Region, and Nativism, 1880–1920
Sara Egge
Middle West Review Volume 4, Number 2, Spring 2018: 1 - 18.
Women's Suffrage and Confederation
Heidi Macdonald
Acadiensis: Journal of the History of the Atlantic Region / Revue d’histoire de la region atlantique Volume 46, Number 1, Winter/Spring 2017: 163 - 176.