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Treacherous Texts

U.S. Suffrage Literature, 1846û1946

Edited and with an introduction by Mary Chapman and Angela Mills

Publication Year: 2011

Treacherous Texts collects more than sixty literary texts written by smart, savvy writers who experimented with genre, aesthetics, humor, and sex appeal in an effort to persuade American readers to support woman suffrage. Although the suffrage campaign is often associated in popular memory with oratory, this anthology affirms that suffragists recognized early on that literature could also exert a power to move readers to imagine new roles for women in the public sphere. Uncovering startling affinities between popular literature and propaganda, Treacherous Texts samples a rich, decades-long tradition of suffrage literature created by writers from diverse racial, class, and regional backgrounds.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-viii

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pp. ix

An anthology like this relies on the generosity of many scholars, librarians, and institutions. We thank Cally Gurley, curator of the Maine Women Writers Collection; Karen V. Kukil, associate curator of Special Collections,William Allan Neilson Library, Smith College; Lorett Treese at the Bryn Mawr College Special Collections; Jennifer Krafchik at the Sewall-Belmont House; Barbara Bair, Library ...

Chronology of the U.S.Woman Suffrage Campaign

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pp. xi-xiv

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pp. 1-7

The story of the achievement of woman suffrage in the United States is a story worth telling, perhaps most significantly because what began as private conversations among women (and men) grew into one of the largest propaganda campaigns in the world: a campaign that culminated in the effective doubling of the number of eligible voters in one of the largest democracies in the world. By some estimates, ...

PA RT I: Declaring Sentiments, 1846–1891

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pp. 8-9

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pp. 10-17

The story of American women’s efforts to obtain the vote begins in the colonial period when individual women requested suffrage. In 1647, Margaret Brent requested a “place and voyce” in the assembly of colonial Maryland when she was appointed the governor’s executor and heir.1 More than a century later, Lydia Chapin Taft, a wealthy Massachusetts landowner’s widow, was permitted to vote at ...

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“Petition for Woman’s Rights” (1846)

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pp. 18-19

At New York State’s 1846 constitutional convention, a male delegate was charged with presenting this petition on behalf of six middle-aged women from Jefferson County. Though little is known of the memorialists or of the convention’s response, the petition’s existence recasts the “Declaration of Sentiments,”which was presented at the Seneca Falls Woman’s Rights convention two years later, ...

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“Declaration of Sentiments” (1848)

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pp. 20-23

Drafted by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “The Declaration of Sentiments” took as its frame “The Declaration of Independence,” asserting, in essence, that the nation imagined and instantiated by America’s most cherished text had not fully realized one of its noblest ideals: human equality. Yet this declaration, presented at the first U.S. woman’s rights convention, held in Seneca Falls, New York, in July ...

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Speech at Akron, Ohio,Woman’s Rights Convention (1851)

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pp. 24-25

Born Isabella Baumfree, a slave in New York State, Sojourner Truth recreated herself as a free adult, choosing a new cognomen and becoming a preacher, abolitionist, and woman’s rights advocate. The speech she gave at an Akron, Ohio, woman’s rights convention is one of the best-known, best-loved texts to have emerged from the early woman’s rights movement, but it is also one of the ...

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Christine, or, Woman’s Trials and Triumphs (1856)

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pp. 26-40

... chronicles the development of a talented suffrage orator, highlighting the personal price paid by many early advocates. The chapters excerpted here recount a significant “trial” in the heroine’s life, one that results less in “triumph” than in simple survival: incarcerated in an asylum through the machinations of her aunt, Julia Frothingham, and father, Farmer John Elliot, Christine presses the bounds of both her sanity and her ...

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“Independence” (1859) “Shall Women Vote?” (1860)

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pp. 41-42

... the autobiographical novella for which she is best known, attests, hardship drove Parton to writing: her first husband’s death, her family’s subsequent failure to support her and her daughters, and a disastrous second marriage and divorce compelled Parton to self-sufficiency. Under the pseudonym “Fanny Fern,” Parton contributed amusing, incisive pieces to newspapers. When she ...

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“Woman and the Ballot” (1870)

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pp. 43-46

Then, in 1866 he joined Stanton and Anthony in founding the American Equal Rights Association. Their relationship was challenged, however, by the white women’s racism and dissolved when Douglass supported the Fifteenth Amendment,which enfranchised African American men but not women.As “Woman and the Ballot” indicates, however, Douglass remained committed to woman suffrage despite his ...

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“Aunt Chloe’s Politics” (1871) “John and Jacob—A Dialogue on Woman’s Rights” (1885)

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pp. 47-50

Her interest in suffrage increased when she traveled throughout the South after the Civil War and spoke to black women who had recently been emancipated but were still disenfranchised. At a time when the Fifteenth Amendment antagonized many white suffragists,Harper supported voting rights based on moral and educational qualifications, without regard to gender or race. In 1896, she helped found the ...

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My Wife and I; or, Harry Henderson’s History (1871)

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pp. 51-61

... Stowe was a prolific writer of fiction, sketches, and essays, and her interest in the reform movements of her era was wide-ranging.Her complex relationship with woman’s rights, in particular, is reflected in part in the familial debate that surrounded her. Stowe’s older sister Catharine Beecher was a self-styled authority on domestic economy and a defender of women’s domestic roles; in 1871 she published an antisuffrage treatise, ...

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“Cupid and Chow-Chow” (1872)

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pp. 62-73

Influenced by her parents, she supported various reform causes and was particularly interested in abolition and woman’s rights. Alcott’s conception of woman’s rights was grounded in a “conviction that sexual equality is not the cause of a political faction but a tenet of common sense.”27 For this reason, perhaps, Alcott participated little in activist organizations dedicated to woman’s rights ...

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“Trotty’s Lecture Bureau” (1877)

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pp. 74-77

... broaches the issue in a form seemingly ill-suited to political material: children’s fiction. The tale’s playful tenor, however, may have allowed Phelps a venue for tongue-in-cheek commentary. Focusing on a young boy’s imperfect parroting of his elders’ perspectives on woman’s sufferings and suffrage (interspersed with French grammar), the story parodically engages both the formulaic postures of public polemic and the heated rhetoric ...

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“How I went to ’lection” (1877)

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pp. 77-85

Much of Holley’s prolific career was defined by her character Samantha: a plain-speaking, rustic woman whose common-sense logic humorously challenges patriarchal culture and its gender hierarchy. Holley’s “Samantha” books employ distinctive dialect, humor, and satire, drawing upon the figure of the country philosopher. In “How I Went to ’lection,” Samantha’s homely speech and apparent ...

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Fettered for Life, or, Lord and Master (1874) “A Divided Republic: An Allegory of the Future” (1885)

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pp. 86-99

Blake scandalized her upper-class New York social circle when, in 1870, she began lecturing in support of woman suffrage. From 1855 to 1869 Blake had channeled her ambition into work as a war correspondent and fiction writer, but she found in campaigning for suffrage an ideal outlet for her talents as a speaker, organizer, and writer. Positioned on the radical end of the movement’s spectrum, Blake ...

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“Another Chapter of ‘The Bostonians’” (1887)

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pp. 100-107

Christian and feminist, Whitehead was an active, sometimes radical reformer. In addition to participating in New Jersey’s suffrage agitation and championing dress reform, she contributed regularly to Lucifer the Light Bearer, a free love periodical that openly discussed sexuality, reproduction, and contraception, thereby flouting the Comstock Laws. In this excerpt from a twenty-seven-page ...

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Wynema: A Child of the Forest (1891)

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pp. 108-111

Born to a white mother and part-Muscogee father, Callahan enjoyed the privileges of her family’s wealth and prominence within their Native American community, including an excellent education. Her father was active in politics, serving in several tribal roles and acting as the representative of the Muscogee and Seminole peoples in the Confederate Congress. In 1891, Callahan published ...

PA RT I I: Searching for Sisterhood: Two Case Studies of Transnational Feminism, 1907–1914

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pp. 112-113

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pp. 114-118

The U.S. suffrage movement has been transnational from the beginning. Until recently, however, its history has been represented as a “profoundly, even foundationally, national story.”1 By focusing on the progress of either the federal campaign for a constitutional amendment or the state referendum campaigns, some scholars have lost sight of the complex interactions between the many campaigns taking ...

Interactions between U.S. and British Campaigns

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pp. 119

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Votes for Women (1907)

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pp. 120-132

... blending Victorian parlor drama and documentary theatre, particularly in the dynamic open-air scene excerpted here, which enacts the “discourse of interruption” that literary scholar Jane Marcus says characterizes suffragist expression.12 In this excerpt, Vida Levering gives her first speech to a crowd that includes the young heiress Jean, her aunt Lady John, and Jean’s fiancé Geoffrey Stonor, ...

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“The March of the Women” (1911)

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pp. 133-134

This WSPU anthem,with music by composer Smyth and “workable doggerel”by actress Hamilton (the author of How the Vote Was Won, a British suffrage play frequently performed in the United States) was a popular rallying cry for both British and U.S. suffragists. It premiered at a 1911 rally at London’s Albert Hall and, legend has it, was sung by suffragists in Britain’s Holloway Prison; Smyth ...

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“The Diary of a Newsy” (1911)

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pp. 135-137

Susan B. Anthony’s second cousin was one of many Americans who went to the United Kingdom both to contribute to and to learn from the example of the British suffrage campaign. In London in 1911, Jessie Anthony kept a diary about her experiences selling the WSPU organ Votes for Women.13 This excerpt demonstrates her anxiety over selling papers on the street and her sense of humor about ...

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Julia France and Her Times (1912)

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pp. 138-147

In 1909, popular novelist Gertrude Atherton overcame her reluctance to support suffrage and began using her fame to promote California’s suffrage campaign; she wrote articles, gave interviews, and, agreed to write a suffrage play. To research her text, Atherton spent three months studying the British militant suffrage movement; on her return to the United States, she created the character ...

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“How it Feels to be Forcibly Fed” (1914)

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pp. 148-151

Although best known for her experimental novel Nightwood, Barnes began her career writing “stunt-girl” journalism, placing herself in extreme situations and describing “how it felt.”Following the well-publicized forcible feeding of hunger-striking British suffragists, Djuna Barnes published in the sensational New York World this impressionistic account of her own empathetic staged forcible feeding ...

Interactions between U.S. and Chinese Campaigns

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pp. 152

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“The Inferior Woman” (1910)

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pp. 153-162

Chinese-American author Sui Sin Far experienced first-hand the deeply ambivalent relationship between discourses of U.S. suffrage and Chinese modernization during the Progressive Era. Between 1896 and her death in 1914, Sui Sin Far published fiction, essays, and journalism that focused on diasporic Chinese women’s collisions with Western feminism, their efforts to preserve their culture amid ...

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“The Oppression of Women” (1915) “In All Earnestness, I speak to all my sisters” (1915)

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pp. 163-164

These vernacular poems, published in an anthology of San Francisco Chinatown poetry, demonstrate how invested in notions of women’s equality Chinese immigrants to the United States were in the years after the successful California suffrage referendum. Both poems praise the new ideas about gender,which both the East and the West were entertaining. ...

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“Catching Up with China” Banner (1912)

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pp. 165-166

In March 1912, U.S. newspapers reported that suffrage had been granted to Chinese women. Although this news was not entirely inaccurate—women had been enfranchised only in Guangdong Province, and they were disenfranchised soon afterward when the postrevolutionary government took hold—the news both irritated and encouraged U.S. suffragists who had believed that they were ...

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“Heathen Chinee” Cartoon (1912)

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pp. 167

In August 1912, The Woman’s Journal reprinted a cartoon from the Cleveland Plain Dealer that telescoped white U.S. suffragists’ complex feelings about Chinese women’s progress. The drawing depicts U.S. women wearing hobble skirts and tiny incapacitating shoes while they observe a Chinese woman take large steps in oversized boots that poke out from under her traditional gown; on ...

PART I I I: Making Woman New! 1897–1920

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pp. 168-169

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pp. 170-176

In 1897, the future looked promising for the cause of woman suffrage. Almost everything demanded nearly fifty years earlier in the “Declaration of Sentiments”—a woman’s right to personal freedom, to education, to earn a living and claim her wages, to own property, to make contracts, to obtain divorce, and to retain custody of children—had been achieved in the intervening years. The sole ...

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“Women Do Not Want It” (1897) “The Anti-Suffragists” (1898) “The Socialist and the Suffragist” (1911)

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pp. 177-181

Writer, sociologist, and publisher of a reform magazine The Forerunner, Gilman was a social critic who challenged conventional thought about women’s needs and place in society. Perceiving women’s political and social subjugation from a wide perspective, Gilman’s writings addressed an array of issues, including educational deficits, economic inequities, reproductive burdens, intellectual and ...

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“The Australian Ballot System” (1898)

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pp. 182-185

Ervin published a series of stories including “The Australian Ballot System” in The Chicago Chronicle before collecting them in As Told by The Typewriter Girl. Although self-supporting, skilled, and efficient, the “typewriter girl” represented in the period’s fiction was subordinated across several hierarchies: in terms of gender, enfranchisement,and originality.12 Wearing men’s clothes,however, enables ...

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Portia Politics (1911–1912)

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pp. 186-189

Bailey’s illustrated poem serialized in The Woman Voter dramatizes how boredom and cross-class friendship inspired wealthy women to contribute to the modern campaign. Bailey’s character Portia is inspired as much by society suffragist Portia Willis as by Shakespeare’s heroine and other curious, eloquent women, from Eve to Bluebeard’s wife. ...

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“Disfranchisement” from Mother Goose as a Suffragette (1912) “Taffy” from Mother Goose as a Suffragette (1912)

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pp. 190-192

These illustrated parodies of Mother Goose rhymes were initially published in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle and then issued in booklet form by the New York Woman Suffrage Party. Like Miller’s rhymes (see page 235), these poems put radical messages in familiar containers by humorously drawing attention to both the unfairness of placing women in the same category as convicts and ...

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“Women March” (1912)

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pp. 193-199

Hopkins was the quintessential “New Woman”: audacious, educated, and self-supporting, she disdained “all established institutions.” Hopkins studied at Wellesley College and at Columbia where she earned an M.A. before entering New York activist circles.13 As a journalist and essayist, she published polemical pieces in both mainstream and special-interest journals on labor reform, dress ...

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“The Arrest of Suffrage” (1912)

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pp. 200-205

Whitehead immigrated to California from England in 1895 and began activist work soon after her arrival. In 1908, she was elected president of the Woman’s Socialist Union of California (WSUC). Though the practice was discouraged by socialist leaders, the WSUC cooperated with nonsocialist groups advocating women’s rights and won substantial support for suffrage in California’s successful 1911 referendum ...

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“Brother Baptis’ on Woman Suffrage” (1912)

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pp. 206

Jonas was an African American poet who contributed dialect verse to mainstream progressive journals like McClure’s as well as the African American magazine The Crisis, which devoted several issues (September 1912, August 1915, and November 1917) to suffrage. The August 1915 “Votes for Women”number staged a symposium with contributions by many prominent African American feminists ...

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“Mirandy on ‘Why Women Can’t Vote’” (1912)

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pp. 207-210

Obliged by her husband’s illness to support herself, Gilmer established a career as a writer under the pseudonym Dorothy Dix.Known in part for her “sob-sister” coverage of sensational murder trials, Gilmer’s reputation was made primarily as an advice columnist. At her height, she was the best-paid newspaper writer in the United States and boasted more than sixty million readers worldwide.14 This ...

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Hagar (1913)

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pp. 211-219

Critically acclaimed and best-selling author of more than twenty novels (mostly historical romances of the Colonial South), Johnston was also a prominent suffragist. With writer Ellen Glasgow, she founded Virginia’s Equal Suffrage League in 1909; throughout the 1910s, she marched in parades, contributed to publications like The Woman’s Journal, and addressed state legislatures and ...

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“The Parade: A Suffrage Playlet in One Act and an After-Act” (1913)

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pp. 220-224

Dawson followed a family tradition by entering the publishing world.Her earliest work appeared in the Des Moines Leader, but she built a twenty-year career as a literary critic with the New York Globe.15 While in New York, she served on the publicity subcommittee of the Votes for Women Empire State Committee and contributed “The Parade” to The Woman Voter—the official journal of the New ...

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“The Woman with Empty Hands: The Evolution of a Suffragette” (1913)

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pp. 225-230

Carter was a muckraking journalist, novelist, and children’s author as well as the writer of an undergraduate thesis on Darwin’s rhetoric. Her anonymous “conversion narrative”—it’s unclear whether it is fiction or autobiography— tells the moving story of the “evolution” of a southern elite woman from wife and mother to “suffragette” after the deaths of her husband and son. ...

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“How it Feels to be the Husband of a Suffragette” (1914)

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pp. 231-234

Written anonymously, probably by Arthur Brown, husband of suffragist leader Gertrude Foster Brown,“How It Feels to be the Husband of a Suffragette”invokes the confessional form that Barnes uses in “How It Feels to be Forcibly Fed” (see page 148) to convince his male readers to support their wives’ and lovers’ commitment to suffrage. The narrator begins by addressing those who insulted the ...

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“Our Own Twelve Anti-Suffragist Reasons” (1914) “Representation” (1914) “The Revolt of Mother” (1915) “A Consistent Anti to Her Son” (1915)

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pp. 235-238

Poet laureate of the suffrage cause, Miller published more than three hundred poems in a weekly suffrage poetry newspaper column at the height of New York State’s suffrage referendum campaign (1914–1917). Her “Are Women People?” column was inspired by contradictions between America’s foundational rhetoric of democracy and the government’s policy of disenfranchising women; more ...

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“A Plea for Suffrage” (1915)

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pp. 239-240

Modernist poet Marianne Moore majored in history, economics, and politics. While at Bryn Mawr (1905–1909) and during Pennsylvania’s 1915 suffrage referendum campaign, Moore attended suffrage lectures, distributed leaflets, and marched in suffrage parades. She also wrote propaganda. This pseudonymously signed “Letter to the Editor,” published in a Carlisle, Pennsylvania, newspaper, ...

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“The President’s Valentine” (1916)

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pp. 241-242

On February 14, 1916 (Susan B. Anthony’s birthday), National Woman’s Party members distributed more than one thousand original valentines to legislators and reproduced several of them in The Suffragist.Colorfully illustrated and cleverly designed, these witty valentines “courted” congressional support for a federal suffrage amendment.According to the instigator of the valentine campaign, ...

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Fanny Herself (1917)

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pp. 243-253

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for So Big (1924),Ferber was a popular as well as critically acclaimed novelist; several of her novels were made into hit musicals and movies, including Show Boat, Cimarron, and Giant. Her semi-autobiographical Fanny Herself recounts the story of a midwestern Jewish girl who makes good in the schmatte business as a buyer working for Michael Fenger of the ...

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The Sturdy Oak, chapter 7 (1917)

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pp. 254-262

Serialized in Collier’s and published in book form, The Sturdy Oak was authored by fourteen popular writers, each of whom contributed a chapter, and edited by Elizabeth Jordan as a fundraiser for the 1917 New York State referendum campaign. The novel follows the romance plot of many suffrage narratives; Genevieve becomes sympathetic to the cause and then moves her political candidate ...

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For Rent—One Pedestal (1917)

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pp. 263-269

Daughter of NAWSA leader Nettie Shuler, Marjorie Shuler came to suffrage campaigning late but enthusiastic. From 1917, she served as publicity director for NAWSA. Her novel, For Rent—One Pedestal, was published during the 1917 New York State referendum campaign. Modeled after popular epistolary novels such as Jean Webster’s Daddy-Long-Legs, it collects the letters of Delight Dennison to ...

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“President Wilson says ‘Godspeed to the Cause’” Cartoon (1917) “Come to Mother” Cartoon (1917)

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pp. 270-272

Invited by Alice Paul to contribute to the NWP’s weekly The Suffragist, Allender, like other suffrage cartoonists, added rhetorical punch to suffrage papers’ efforts to sway public opinion. A trained artist, Allender helped counter the standard stuff of antisuffragist visual art, which figured suffragists as mannish and monstrous—soured spinsters and howling harridans—and women, generally, as ...

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“President Wilson’s War Message” Banner (1917)

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pp. 273-274

... from the NWP picketed the White House beginning in early 1917 after President Wilson refused to declare himself in favor of the proposed suffrage amendment. Although their earliest banners—which featured questions such as “Mr. President, what will you do for woman suffrage?”—attracted modest attention, later banners that quoted Wilson and other antisuffragist legislators caused a public outcry, particularly when the United States entered ...

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“Telling the Truth at the White House” (1917)

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pp. 275-279

This play—a very early example of documentary theatre—represents the legal charade effected when NWP members were arrested for “obstructing traffic” while picketing the White House and carrying banners that quoted President Wilson’s hypocritical rhetoric. Jakobi, who led the Twenty-fifth Assembly District of the New York City Woman Suffrage Party and spent thirty days in ...

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“We Worried Woody Wood” (1917)

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pp. 280-281

Singing suffrage songs written to familiar tunes and parodying familiar lyrics was an easy way of getting large audiences to voice suffragist beliefs together. Although NWP pickets jailed for carrying banners that quoted President “Woody” Wilson were separated by cell walls and not permitted to converse, they articulated a shared experience by singing this wry song, sung to the tune ...

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“Prison Notes, Smuggled to Friends from the District Jail” (1917)

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pp. 282-283

A Polish immigrant,Winslow worked in the textile industry from age eleven and contracted tuberculosis in her late teens. Eventually she worked as a trade union organizer, NWP speaker, and actress.When imprisoned for picketing the White House, Winslow and Alice Paul refused to eat or do work; they argued that suffragists should be considered political prisoners.Winslow’s notes about her ...

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“Switchboard Suffrage” (1920)

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pp. 284-288

After completing a philosophy degree at Cornell, where she had written for the university newspaper,Haskell became a suffrage leader and orator in New York’s Empire State campaign. In the same year the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, she published Banner Bearers, a collection of vignettes intended to preserve an insider’s sense of suffragism’s impact, particularly on suffragists themselves: ...

PA RT I V: Carrying the Suffrage Torch, 1920–1946

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pp. 289

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pp. 290-293

When the state of Tennessee ratified the Nineteenth Amendment by the narrowest of margins on August 18, 1920, the decades-long struggle for woman suffrage seemed over, history made. As many as twenty-six million U.S. women were eligible to vote. Assessing the scope of the suffrage movement’s accomplishment, constitutional historian Akhil Reed Amar affirms, “[i]n terms of sheer numbers, ...

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Jailed For Freedom (1920)

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pp. 294-297

A Nebraska native and Oberlin College graduate, Stevens was a NAWSA organizer, a cofounder of the Congressional Union, and, finally, a front-line fighter with the NWP. Jailed for Freedom provides a first-hand account of the “organized, militant political action” that finally made the woman suffrage amendment a reality. In this excerpt, Stevens reveals in unvarnished prose how ...

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“Upon this marble bust that is not I” (1923)

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pp. 298-299

Millay exemplified the spirit of the bohemian New Woman: well-educated, socially independent, and fiercely individualistic. Achieving literary success at a young age, she was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry; she also enjoyed a career as playwright and actress with Greenwich Village’s Provincetown Players.Writing under a pseudonym,Millay published numerous ...

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“The Suffrage Torch: Memories of a Militant” (1929)

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pp. 300-305

A modern art collector, feminist, and philanthropist, Havemeyer joined the suffrage movement after her sugar-magnate husband’s death in 1907.With Alice Paul she helped found the NWP. In 1919, she was imprisoned at Occoquan Workhouse for five days for burning an effigy of President Wilson in front of the White House.Havemeyer was a witty and dynamic speaker who popularized two ...

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The Mother of Us All (1946)

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pp. 306-310

Stein’s opera presents the story of Susan B. Anthony’s efforts to “speak as loudly as [she] can” as representative of the efforts of all women to change the world in which they live. A revered nineteenth-century Quaker suffrage orator seems an unlikely subject for an experimental Jewish-American expatriate writer like Stein. Yet Stein’s late modernist project—to find a new literary voice through ...


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pp. 311-320

Selected Bibliography of U.S. Suffrage Literature

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pp. 321-324


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pp. 325-334

About The Authors

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E-ISBN-13: 9780813550756
E-ISBN-10: 0813550750
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813549590
Print-ISBN-10: 0813549590

Page Count: 336
Illustrations: 10 photographs
Publication Year: 2011