The Agitators: Three Friends Who Fought for Abolition and Women's Rights

by Dorothy Wickenden

Hardcover, 2021




Scribner (2021), 400 pages


Chronicles the revolutionary activities of Harriet Tubman, Frances Seward, and Martha Wright--friends and neighbors in Auburn, New York--discussing their vital roles in the Underground Railroad, abolition, and the early women's rights movement.

User reviews

LibraryThing member greeniezona
I spied this on the shelves at Deadtime Stories and immediately knew this would be perfect for my buddy-read project with my dad and he agreed -- especially after our project on reading the Civil War left us hungry for more women's stories, and more Tubman in particular.

I really did enjoy this
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book, but at the same time, given the title and the cover, I expected a lot more about Harriet Tubman, and a lot more on the friendships between these women. At times it felt like a biography of two white women who happened to know Harriet Tubman. Why was there not more of Tubman? Is there more scare information? Or did Wickenden expect us to already be familiar? And for long stretches on each woman's life I would almost forget that they knew each other and be surprised when one of them showed up in another's story.

Also, there are way too many people with the same names or similar names and it got confusing. I would have appreciated the occasional reminder of which person we were talking about.

All that aside though, I found this to be a truly impressive work. I especially appreciated the depiction of the very intentional ways that those in power sundered the women's suffrage moment from the abolition movement after the war -- creating an environment for those suffragettes whose abolition work was more rooted in pity than empathy/solidarity to lean into their white supremacist tendencies.

This also drove home just how much of history/life is relationship -- the people you are surrounded with, those you influence and those who influence you.

An excellent and accessible piece of the American story.
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Chautauqua Prize (Shortlist — 2022)
BookTube Prize (Octofinalist — Nonfiction — 2022)


Original language

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