Ann Cox, MLS, Collection Development Librarian, Ingram Library Services
The centennial of the passage of the 19th Amendment on August 18, 1920 (which guaranteed and protected the constitutional right of American women to vote) is a milestone that has long been anticipated for celebration in 2020. It is a day, month, year to reflect on the long fight for women’s suffrage and the strides and struggles that have continued in the years since. According to the website of the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission, more than 68 million now vote thanks to the tireless work of those who paved the way. Commemorations are planned for this summer, and with dozens of books available on the subject, your library collection can also highlight this monumental achievement.
Women’s Suffrage: Resources and Stories for Adults
With the celebration of the centennial of women’s suffrage landing in 2020, many people don’t realize that the 19th Amendment was passed in Congress in 1919, kicking off a year of continued fighting for the required 3/4 of states to ratify the amendment. Here in Tennessee, the fact that we were the final state to ratify the amendment is a point of pride, and that astonishing history is told in The Women’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote by Elaine Weiss. The inspiring tale is framed by the larger battle between suffragists and the people (often women) who opposed them for 72 years, down to the final nail-biting moments in the Tennessee State Capitol. Flipped alliances, political threats, and a fortuitously-timed telegram from a state representative’s mother created a movie-worthy finish. It is an incredible story sure to inspire readers.
The years leading to the passage of the 19th Amendment were no less fraught with drama. In Eighty Years and More: Reminiscences 1815-1897, Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote of her lifelong work, along with Susan B. Anthony, toward equal rights for women. Her autobiography has been reissued in conjunction with this year’s centennial with new content by leading scholars and remains relevant to the concerns of women today. One such scholar, Ellen Carol DuBois, has also released this year Suffrage: Women’s Long Battle for the Vote, which provides an excellent overview of the entire process that began officially at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848. With appearances by critical players like Stanton, Anthony, Lucretia Mott, Ida B. Wells, and Alice Paul, it contains the full breadth of the experiences of suffragists. Women’s Suffrage: The Complete Guide to the Nineteenth Amendment, edited by Tiffany K. Wayne, provides primary documents, speeches, and significant legislation for a comprehensive reference source for your collection.
The suffrage movement has often – rightly – been criticized for ignoring or trivializing the rights of Black women within its philosophies. Thankfully, several books have been published that draw attention to the significant and essential work by Black suffragists to ensure voting rights for all, regardless of race and ethnicity. In Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote and Insisted on Equality for All, Martha S. Jones demonstrates that for Black women, suffrage has never been only an issue of gender equality. She highlights the remarkable efforts by Black women, from the earliest days of the suffrage movement through the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the work of women like Stacy Abrams today.
Adele Logan Alexander’s Princess of the Hither Isles: A Black Suffragist’s Story from the Jim Crow South adds a personal perspective – her grandmother’s. As a multiracial woman, Adella Hunt Logan used her privilege as a white-passing woman to work with prominent Black leaders of her time to combat the dual-threat of racism and sexism. These intersectional accounts add a much-needed viewpoint to the story of the fight for women’s equality.
So, where have we come since 1920?
Suffrage at 100: Women in Politics Since 1920 collects writings from twenty-two scholars to assess the state of women’s equality in politics. While historic numbers of women were elected in 2018, they are still underrepresented in Congress, and it has taken longer to achieve even that number than it did to fight for the vote formally. As women have become vital to the success of both parties, this volume examines the many issues surrounding equity in political power.
As we celebrate the centennial of the 19th Amendment, we are in the midst of a historic fight for equality on many fronts in our own time. The books our ipage list of stories and resources on women’s suffrage provide collection inspiration to remain diligent in fighting for equal rights for all.
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