One Woman, One Vote: Rediscovering the Women’s Suffrage Movement

This anthology of essays serves as a companion piece to the documentary celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment. The nineteen essays start from the early days of the republic (from Abigail Adam’s reminder to husband John to “Remember the Ladies” when writing the new code of laws, to New Jersey’s 1776 Constitution allowing women’s votes), to the famous Seneca Falls convention declaring women’s rights, uproar over the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, through the 1920 ratification (thank you, Tennessee), and to present day activism. I was most intrigued by the division that happened post-Civil War as women were told they needed to wait because it was the black man’s hour. One section of the suffragists supported the new amendments (despite the first inclusion of the word “male” in the Fourteenth), while the other opposed the Fifteenth because they wanted universal suffrage, not just for black males. Stanton and Anthony welcomed the cash infusion from “harlequin and semi-lunatic” (and also racist) George Train; as Stanton explained, “If the Devil himself had come up and said ladies I will help you establish a paper I should have said Amen!”
No anthology would be complete without the black stain of Victoria Woodhull and her speeches about “free love,” which were ahead of their time and served to set the movement back a few decades; on the bright side, Woodhull was the first woman to announce a presidential candidacy, with Frederick Douglass as her vice president. Another area I was exposed to for the first time was the NWSA militant strategy pursued in the 1870s of claiming the right to vote under the Fourteenth Amendment, blatantly ignoring the second section’s specification of “male” and focusing on the “all persons born or naturalized in the United States… are citizens of the United States and … no State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens…” The ladies voted, were arrested, took it to the Supreme Court which ruled against this strategy (New Departure).
Other sections deal with how the Western states gradually allowed suffrage, black women’s participation in the suffrage movement, Jane Addams’ role, Francis Willard and the importance of the temperance activists, and the militancy of the early twentieth century activists like Alice Paul. It’s a comprehensive and well-researched glimpse into the various stages of the century-long struggle to attain the right to vote.