- Uprising: How Women Used the US West to Win the Right to Vote by Tiffany Lewis
The first point to make about Tiffany Lewis's Uprising: How Women Used the US West to Win the Right to Vote is that it is not a book about suffrage in the West; Lewis intends to make this clear in the book title, but it is worth repeating. Instead, she makes the case that suffragists and anti-suffragists alike "used" woman suffrage already achieved in the American West to push for (or against) its passage east of the Mississippi River. In each of the book's five chapters as well as in the afterward, which can stand on its own, Lewis documents separate and distinct examples of this occurrence over a period of approximately thirty-five years, between about 1880 and 1915.
Lewis's research is impressive, as evidenced by the extensive notes section that closes the volume, numbering almost ninety pages. It includes numerous explanatory notes that are particularly important for those not familiar with the suffrage movement in America, as they aid in establishing its expansion and complexity throughout the years. Lewis's chapters move nicely from one to the next, although they almost feel like individual essays, and perhaps began as such; at the conclusion to each chapter, she revisits its particular theme and ties it to both preceding and proceeding chapters.
Uprising's five chapters focus, in order, on the work and influence of late-nineteenth-century Oregon suffragist Abigail Scott Duniway; the importance of imagery that suffrage maps provided; the arguments anti-suffragists made against the eastern expansion of woman suffrage; the work and influence of female elected officials from the West; and the 1915 transcontinental (from west to east) suffrage campaign carried out by Sara Bard Field and Frances Jolliffe. As readers move from one chapter to the next, they learn the ways in which suffrage—and anti-suffrage—advocates used aspects of the West to further their arguments. For eastern suffragists, the West, and particularly the states where women first gained the vote prior to 1900 (Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, and Utah), represented civilization, progress, and modernity; they pointed to the elections of Colorado State Sen. Helen Ring Robinson and Montana Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin as evidence. Eastern anti-suffragists, however, considered the populations of western states, and in particular towns such as Boise, Idaho, too small to be considered either urban or, by their definition, civilized. As Lewis reveals, "antis" also saw the American West as "wild and woolly," and concluded the right to vote had de-feminized Western women.
Some of Uprising's most compelling discussions involve the use of light and dark—a recurring theme that will resonate with readers. Lewis first introduces light and dark in her chapter on suffrage maps, revealing that suffragists employed this juxtaposition when making [End Page 111] their cases for votes for women in the East. They showed states with woman suffrage in place in light tones and those without suffrage as dark, illustrating arguments for progress versus a social problem—the absence of woman suffrage. Lewis uses the light and dark theme again when discussing suffrage parades and pageants, particularly those in the East in the late 1910s during the years leading to the Nineteenth Amendment. For those events, suffragists drew in both large audiences and attention to movement by donning light or dark clothing and costumes—the dark indicating the states of a barbaric and uninspired East, and the light representing the enlightenment delivered to the women in western states through the right to vote. Light was also intended to convey purity and femininity—another of Lewis's very interesting topics. To promote woman suffrage, eastern suffragists had to counter the opposing argument that claimed the right to vote de-feminized western women, and they succeeded, in part, through the representations of western women that appeared in the press. Robinson, for instance, was described as "very much a woman," and...