Memoirs from suffrage activists and biographies of historic as well as contemporary political trailblazers offer an intimate perspective on women’s engagement in the public sphere.
Simon & Schuster is reissuing Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s memoir Eighty Years and More (Mar. 2020), with a new introduction by suffrage scholar Ellen Carol DuBois and an afterword by Ann D. Gordon, who served as a historical adviser to the National Archives for its exhibit Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote, on view through January 2021. Gordon also edited the six-volume Selected Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony (1997).
Suffragist Doris Stevens worked alongside Alice Paul in the militant National Woman’s Party, whose members picketed Woodrow Wilson’s White House and were arrested, imprisoned, and while in prison staged hunger strikes and endured force-feeding. Black Dog & Leventhal is publishing the 100th anniversary edition of Stevens’s memoir Jailed for Freedom, with a new introduction by Remember the Ladies author Angela P. Dodson, in March 2020. “It really was the militant suffragists who pushed it over the line,” says publishing director Becky Koh. “[Stevens] is not only a really good writer, she’s also so forthright and wry.”
Miriam Michelson, a feminist activist and journalist in 1890s San Francisco, wrote about suffrage leaders including Susan B. Anthony and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and also tackled such subjects as police corruption and the treatment of Native Americans. In May 2020, Wayne State University Press will publish the first collection of her work, The Superwoman and Other Writings. Edited by Boston College professor Lori Harrison-Kahan, it includes a foreword by Michelson’s great-great niece, Joan Michelson, who writes that her relative “personally and persistently kept the women’s suffrage movement and its key players front and center in the news of the day.”
Another pioneering journalist, the prolific editor and political adviser Marie “Missy” Mattingly Meloney, began her career with the Washington Post in the late 1890s while in her teens. She centered women’s voices and championed their rights in the publications she later edited, including the women’s magazine The Delineator and later the Sunday magazine of the New York Herald Tribune. In American Queenmaker (Basic, Jan. 2020), historian Julie Des Jardins credits Meloney with creating the concept of the female voting demographic.
“A lot of biographies of women are celebrations of things that we associate with men—out in front, go get ’em, seizing the day—that kind of masculine energy,” says Basic Books editor Claire Potter. “One of the things that’s incredible about Missy is that she leaned in to what was stereotypically considered feminine. She was comfortable outside the spotlight working as a connector, an advocate, rather than someone who was in the limelight herself.”
At Skyhorse, a new series on contemporary women in leadership aims to “strike a balance between presenting lessons from their professional lives and from their personal lives as well,” says editor Julie Ganz. The series kicks off with the November publications of The RBG Way by journalist Rebecca Gibian and The Nancy Pelosi Way by Christine Pelosi, the Speaker’s daughter. January brings The AOC Way by Caroline Fredrickson, president of the American Constitution Society, who wrote a New York Times op-ed championing the freshman congresswoman’s strategy during Michael Cohen’s appearance in front of the House Oversight Committe.
It’s not the only tribute to the freshman representative: St. Martin’s Press will publish journalist Lynda Lopez’s AOC: A Celebration of the Fierce Brilliance of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in June 2020, and Workman announced in August that it’s rushing to market AOC: Fighter, Phenom, Changemaker by Prachi Gupta, a journalist who covered the 2016 election for Cosmopolitan’s website. The book will publish at the end of November, as the 2020 presidential race, not to mention suffrage commemorations, ramp up.