Why They Marched: Untold Stories of the Women Who Fought for the Right to Vote

Susan Ware. Belknap, $26.95 (350p) ISBN 978-0-674-98668-8
Historian and biographer Ware (American Women’s History: A Very Short Introduction) crafts a smart, eclectic collection of 19 mini-biographies of Americans who worked for women’s suffrage. Ware’s take is fresh; she includes subjects in less-discussed locales (such as Massachusetts “farmer suffragettes” Molly Dewson and Polly Porter, or Utah Mormon suffragette Emmeline Wells), and analyzes cultural artifacts such as newspaper cartoons by women cartoonists and buttons worn by activists to highlight the various ways movement ideas were communicated. The first of the book’s three sections, “Claiming Citizenship,” opens with Susan B. Anthony voting in the 1872 election in Rochester, N.Y., justifying doing so with her interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment: as citizens, women had the right to vote. In the second part, “The Personal is Political,” Ware’s subjects illustrate how the suffrage movement changed women’s private lives; Illinois activist Ida Wells-Barnett, for instance, backed a losing Chicago mayoral candidate in 1915, which cost her her job as a probation officer. The final section, “Winning Strategies,” focuses on a new generation of suffrage supporters’ dramatic tactics, as when, in 1909, Dr. Cora Smith Eaton climbed Washington’s Mount Rainier to stake a “Votes for Women” banner. Though heavily reliant on stories of white women, Ware’s excellent compendium expertly shows there are new ways to tell the suffrage story. This is a must-read for those interested in women’s and American history. Illus. (May)
Reviewed on : 03/13/2019
Release date: 05/05/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
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