Note from Feminist Reading Group facilitator Ellen Miller:
Just a reminder that our next meeting will be Friday, February 7, starting at 5:15 p.m. at the West Tisbury Free Public Library in the program room.
We will continue our discussion of the three books we are reading on suffrage: The Women’s Suffrage Movement by Sally Roesch Wagner, Why They Marched by Susan Ware, and The Woman’s Hour by Elaine Weiss, as well as short reports from members on topics of interest in regards to the suffrage movement.
P.S. from website admin Susanna J. Sturgis:
I reviewed both Woman’s Hour and Why They Marched on Goodreads and highly recommend them both. I’ve also been reading up on Matilda Joslyn Gage, a 19th-century suffragist whose writings – notably her Woman, Church & State – piqued my interest decades ago. The first general-interest (as opposed to scholarly) biography of her, Born Criminal: Matilda Joslyn Gage, Radical Suffragist, appeared only in 2018. I reviewed that too. (Click the links to see the reviews.)
2020 is the centennial not only of the 19th Amendment but of the League of Women Voters. There are plans afoot to commemorate these events all year long. So watch this space for updates!
This bibliography is very much non-exhaustive and in process. If you’ve got a title or two to recommend, either use the contact form at the end or leave a comment. The 19th Amendment, giving U.S. women the right to vote, was ratified in 1920. Many books have been published or reprinted with the 2020 centennial in mind. At the same time, let’s not forget that most women of color in the South and elsewhere didn’t get real access to the ballot until the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and that the right to vote is currently under attack in too many states.
This list includes a couple of YA (Young Adult) books, but nothing for younger readers. My plan is to compile a companion list for them, so feel free to use the contact form to recommend titles for this too — and if you’d like to take this on as a project, let me know.
And finally — don’t miss the marvelous “Bad Romance – Women’s Suffrage” video at the end. It’s inspiring, and it’s contagious.
– Susanna J. Sturgis
General histories of the suffrage movement and “the Woman Question”
Bernadette Cahill, Alice Paul, the National Woman’s Party and the Vote: The First Civil Rights Struggle of the 20th Century (McFarland, 2015)
Carrie Chapman Catt, Nettie Rogers Shuler, et al., The Inner Story of the Suffrage Movement (Madison & Adams Press, 2018)
Doris Stevens, edited by Carol O’Hare, Jailed for Freedom: American Women Win the Vote (1920; New Sage Press, 1995). [SJS note: This and the following entry are the same book, but the different subtitles suggest that the two editors had somewhat different takes on it. Stevens herself participated in the events she wrote about.]
Doris Stevens, edited by Marjorie J. Spruill, Jailed for Freedom: The Story of the Militant American Suffragist Movement (1920; Lakeside Press, 2008)
Eleanor Flexner & Ellen Fitzpatrick, Century of Struggle: The Woman’s Rights Movement in the United States (Harvard University Press, 1996). First published in 1959; paperback edition with intro by Ellen Fitzpartrick, 1996.
Ellen Carol DuBois, Feminism and Suffrage: The Emergence of an Independent Women’s Movement in America, 1848–1969 (Cornell University Press, 1978; reissued with preface 1999)
Ellen Carol DuBois, Suffrage: Women’s Long Battle for the Vote (Simon & Schuster, 2020)
Elaine Weiss, The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote (Random House, 2018; paperback 2019).
Lisa Tetrault, The Myth of Seneca Falls: Memory and the Women’s Suffrage Movement, 1848–1898 (University of North Carolina Press, 2014)
Mari Jo Buhle & Paul Buhle, eds., The Concise History of Woman Suffrage (University of Illinois Press, 2005). Selections from the 6-volume History compiled by Gage, Stanton, Anthony, and Harper.
Martha S. Jones, All Bound Up Together: The Woman Question in African-American Public Culture, 1830-1900 (University of North Carolina Press, 2007)
Sally Gregory McMillen, Seneca Falls and the Origins of the Women’s Rights Movement (Oxford University Press, 2009)
Sally Roesch Wagner, ed., The Women’s Suffrage Movement (Penguin, 2019). An anthology of writings, speeches, and other documents.
Winifred Conkling, Votes for Women! American Suffragists and the Battle for the Ballot (Algonquin Young Readers, 2018). Published as YA (young adult).
Writings by and about suffragists
Katherine H. Adams and Michael L. Keene, After the Vote Was Won: The Later Achievements of Fifteen Suffragists (McFarland, 2010)
Naomi Paxton, ed., The Methuen Drama Book of Suffrage Plays (Bloomsbury, 2013). An anthology of plays written about women’s suffrage between 1909 and 1913, including “How the Vote Was Won” and seven shorter works.
Susan Ware, Why They Marched: Untold Stories of the Women Who Fought for the Right to Vote (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2019)
Susan Ware, editor, American Women’s Suffrage: Voices from the Long Struggle for the Vote, 1776–1965 (Library of America, forthcoming: July 2020)
Alice Paul (1885–1977)
Tina Cassidy, Mr. President, How Long Must We Wait? Alice Paul, Woodrow Wilson, and the Fight for the Right to Vote (37 Ink, 2019)
Deborah Kops, Alice Paul and the Fight for Women’s Rights (Calkins Creek, 2017). Published as YA (Young Adult)
Mary Walton, A Woman’s Crusade: Alice Paul and the Battle for the Ballot (St. Martin’s, 2010)
J[ill]. D[iane]. Zahniser and Amelia Fry, Alice Paul: Claiming Power (Oxford University Press, 2014)
Carrie (Lane) Chapman Catt (1859–1947)
Jacqueline Van Voris, Carrie Chapman Catt: A Public Life (Feminist Press at the City University of New York, 1987).
Robert Booth Fowler, Carrie Chapman Catt: Feminist Politician (Northeastern University Press, 1986).
There has been some confusion over how we pick books and what the purpose of the group is. As an offshoot of the Women’s Committee of We Stand Together, our purpose is to inform ourselves about women’s issues and how to best effect change. Members of this group choose topics for discussion and then determine which books are available on each subject both in the CLAMS system and for purchase before choosing which books we will be reading and discussing.
In honor of the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in the US in 1920, we will take the next few months to learn the history of the women’s suffrage movement. Our first meeting of the centennial will be on Friday, January 3, at 5:15 p.m. at the West Tisbury library. Here is a short list of the books we recommend on this subject:
Our main selection is The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote, by Elaine Weiss, which traces 70 years of legal battles culminating in the passage of the 19th Amendment. There are many copies of this book in the CLAMS system (both in regular and large print format), and it is also available from local and online booksellers.
We also strongly recommend Why They Marched: Untold Stories of the Women Who Fought for the Right to Vote, by Susan Ware; and The Women’s Suffrage Movement, edited by Sally Roesch Wagner, with a foreword by Gloria Steinem, which presents two centuries of original historical texts with a focus on diversity and commentary by the editor. There are five copies of each of these in the CLAMS system, so reserve one now if you are interested.
Also recommended (but not as easily found) are Alice Paul: Claiming Power by J. D. Zahniser and Amelia Fry; Century of Struggle, by Eleanor Flexner and Ellen Fitzpatrick; and All Bound Up Together: The Woman Question in African-American Public Culture,1830–1900, by Martha S. Jones.
In view of the coming holidays and the fact that The Woman’s Hour is over 400 pages long, I would expect that we will not all be able to finish reading it by our next meeting, which is on January 3. But let’s start, and begin our discussion of the suffrage movement next month, and plan to continue in February.
Meanwhile wishing each of you and your loved ones a very happy holiday season, and a healthy and productive new year,
Here is a non-exhaustive list of books by women that approach issues of race and racism from a variety of perspectives. The ones with asterisks have been read and recommended by participants in the Feminist Reading Group, a project of the Women’s Committee of We Stand Together / Estamos Todos Juntos with the crucial support of the West Tisbury Free Public Library.
Note #1: I am thrilled that so many of the books published by feminist presses in the 1980s are still in print. Many are available as ebooks. These are the works that shaped my own thinking about feminism, race, sex, class, and all the rest of it.
Note #2: While looking up publishers, I found several new-to-me titles that are now on my to-read list.
Note #3: Needless to say, male writers have written excellent books exploring these issues. I particularly recommend anything by James Baldwin, Ta-Nehisi Coates (especially Between the World and Me), and Ibram X. Kendi (especially How to Be an Antiracist).
Please feel free to recommend titles that have been important to you. You can either leave a comment (if you don’t want your comment published on the site, let us know) or use the contact form at the end of this post.
— Susanna J. Sturgis
Akasha (Gloria T.) Hull, Patricia Bell Scott, and Barbara Smith, eds., (All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men) But Some of Us Are Brave: Black Women’s Studies (1982; Feminist Press at CUNY, 2015)
Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens: Womanist Prose (1983; Mariner Books, 2004)
Angela Davis, Women, Race, and Class (1981; Vintage, 2011)
Audre Lorde, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (Persephone Press, 1982; reprinted by Crossing Press)
*Austin Channing Brown, I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness (Convergent, 2018)
Barbara Smith, ed., Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology (Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press,1983; Rutgers University Press, 2000)
bell hooks, Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism (South End Press, 1981; Routledge, 2015)
bell hooks, Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center (South End Press, 1984; Pluto Press, 2000)
bell hooks, Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black (South End Press, 1989; Routledge, 2015)
Beverly Guy-Sheftall, editor, Words of Fire: An Anthology of African-American Feminist Thought (The New Press, 1995)
Carol Anderson, White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide (Bloomsbury, 2016)
Charlene Carruthers, Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements (Beacon, 2018)
Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa, editors, This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (originally published by Persephone Press in 1981, reprinted by Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, 4th ed. now available from SUNY Press, 2015)
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions (Anchor, 2017)
*Debby Irvine, Waking Up White: And Finding Myself in the Story of Race (Elephant Room Press, 2014)
Donna Brazile,Yolanda Caraway, Leah Daughtry, and Minyon Moore, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Politics (St. Martin’s, 2018)
Elly Bulkin, Minnie Bruce Pratt, and Barbara Smith, Yours in Struggle: Three Feminist Perspectives on Anti-Semitism and Racism (Long Haul Press, 1984; Firebrand Books, 1988)
Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands / La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987; Aunt Lute Books, 2012)
Gloria Anzaldúa, editor, Making Face, Making Soul; Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Women of Color (Aunt Lute, 1990)
Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861; Dover, 2001)
*Ijeoma Oluo, So You Want to Talk About Race (Seal Press, 2018)
Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration (Random House, 2010)
Keyanga-Yamahtta Taylor, How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective (Haymarket, 2017)
Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969; Ballantine, 2009). This was followed by six subsequent books of memoir: Gather Together in My Name (1974), Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas (1976), The Heart of a Woman (1981), All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986), A Song Flung Up to Heaven (2002), and Mom & Me & Mom (2013).
Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (The New Press, 2012)
Michelle Cliff, The Land of Look-Behind (Firebrand Books, 1985)
Michelle Obama, Becoming (Crown, 2018)
Morgan Jerkins, This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America (Convergent, 2018)
Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought (Routledge, 2008)
Paula Giddings, When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America (1984; HarperPerennial, 2002)
*Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism (Beacon Press, 2018)
Ruth Frankenbert, White Women, Race Matters: The Social Construction of Whiteness (University of Minnesota Press, 1993)
Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers, They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South (Yale University Press, 2019)
Toni Cade [Bambara], ed., The Black Woman: An Anthology (Mentor, 1970)
Toni Morrison — anything, but consider starting with her first two novels, The Bluest Eye and Sula
Vicki L. Ruiz with Ellen Carol Dubois, eds., Unequal Sisters: A Multicultural Reader in U.S. Women’s History, 4th ed. (1990; Routledge, 2008)
Zora Neale Hurston, I Love Myself When I Am Laughing — and Then Again When I Am Looking Mean and Impressive, edited by Alice Walker (1979; Feminist Press, 1993)
Suggestions for additional readings? Please use the comments to make your suggestions. The reply form has generated nothing but spam. 😦
For the November 1 meeting the first book we will be discussing is Ibram X. Kendi’s How to be an Antiracist. By the historian and author of Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, Kendi’s new book offers specific suggestions and strategies for how to start to fix this scourge of American daily life.
The second book is Jen Deaderick’s She the People: A Graphic History of Uprisings, Breakdowns, Setbacks, Revolts, and Enduring Hope on the Unfinished Road to Women’s Equality. This is an illustrated, accurate, and sometimes tongue-in-cheeky overview of U.S. women’s history since 1776. As the publisher notes, the book “highlight[s] changes in the legal status of women alongside the significant cultural and social influences of the time, so women’s history is revealed as an integral part of U.S. history, and not a tangential sideline.”
Both books are available through the CLAMS regional library network (there are only a few copies of She the People, however). They can be bought through online retailers or local bookstores.
We will continue to meet in the program room at the West Tisbury Public Library at 5:15 on the first Friday of every month. If you get to the library after they close at 5 p.m., come around to the porch in back on the right side and knock on the program room door. Refreshments will be served, and you are welcome to bring something to share.
Future meetings will continue to explore feminist topics through a variety of suggested readings so that you can choose which books interest you. Feel free to leave your suggestions here in the comments section or use the handy comment form.