cover image The Women’s Suffrage Movement

The Women’s Suffrage Movement

Sally Roesch Wagner, ed. Penguin Classics, $17 trade paper (560p) ISBN 978-0-14-313243-1

Women’s studies scholar Wagner (She Who Holds the Sky: Matilda Joslyn Gage) assembles a hefty and somewhat idiosyncratic compendium of primary source documents that charts the long road to the passage of the 19th Amendment, the 100th anniversary of which will arrive in 2020. Wagner explains in the volume’s introduction that it’s impossible to create a definitive collection from such a large movement; instead, as editor, she functions as a “tour guide pointing out some high spots along the way.” Most of the sources come from white women, especially movement leaders such as Susan B. Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The selections are sometimes odd: part one, “Women Voted Before the United States was Formed,” contains no documents from the colonial period nor any generated by Native American women, and the last chapter, on the final suffrage victory, contains only one source describing the amendment’s ratification in Tennessee. Selections in the intervening sections better illuminate the struggle for suffrage, including Stanton’s foundational “Declaration of Sentiments,” Anthony’s call for universal suffrage, and Mary Church Terrell’s examination of the 15th Amendment. Despite its length, this is—just as Wagner explains—not a comprehensive history of the movement, but the documents contained within are valuable and illuminating. (Mar.)