Susan Ware, "American Women's Suffrage: Voices from the Long Struggle for the Vote, 1776-1965" (Library of America, 2020)

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The ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which granted women the right to vote nationwide, was the culmination of a long and oftentimes contentious campaign that had its origins in the beginnings of the nation itself. In American Women’s Suffrage: Voices from the Long Struggle for the Vote, 1776-1965 (Library of America, 2020) Susan Ware provides readers with a sampling of the letters, articles, speeches, and other contemporary documents that reflect both the ideas of the movement and the arguments deployed against it. Her selections demonstrate how the battle of women’s suffrage was itself a part of a broader campaign for women’s rights in the early 19th century. Though it was galvanized by the activism of women from the abolitionist movement, the solidarity born of common oppression was shattered after the Civil War, when many suffragists expressed frustration with their exclusion from the voting rights being granted to Blacks. While a corps of dedicated activists continued their campaign into the 20th century, it was only in the 1910s that momentum shifted decisively in their direction. As Ware demonstrates, their success in gaining ratification in 1920 was less the conclusion of women’s efforts for political quality than it was the end of one stage and the beginning of a new effort to turn the newly-won franchise into political power – an effort that continues down to the present day.

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