"Nashville, August 1920. Thirty-five states have ratified the Nineteenth Amendment, twelve have rejected or refused to vote, and one last state is needed. It all comes down to Tennessee, the moment of truth for the suffragists, after a seven-decade crusade. The opposing forces include politicians with careers at stake, liquor companies, railroad magnates, and a lot of racists who don't want black women voting. And then there are the "Antis"--women who oppose their own enfranchisement, fearing suffrage will bring about the moral collapse of the nation. They all converge in a boiling hot summer for a vicious face-off replete with dirty tricks, betrayals and bribes, bigotry, Jack Daniel's, and the Bible. Following a handful of remarkable women who led their respective forces into battle, along with appearances by Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, Frederick Douglass, and Eleanor Roosevelt, The Woman's Hour is an inspiring story of activists winning their own freedom in one of the last campaigns forged in the shadow of the Civil War, and the beginning of the great twentieth-century battles for civil rights"--
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“Carrie Catt was dismayed, but not deeply shocked, to find that, once again the freedom of American women might fall victim to the egos and ambitions of powerful men.”
Whilst Weiss provides a useful precis of the suffragist movement in the US from Seneca Falls onwards the focus of her attention here is the push to get the 19th Amendment ratified by a final 36th state. Tennessee was that state and as such much of the action plays out in Nashville although there are also some scenes in Washington and Ohio as she explores the backdrop of the upcoming Presidential election and the impact it had.
Weiss covers a huge amount of ground and provides great pen portrait of all the major players. And there are many players introduced. Both Carrie Catt’s National American Woman Suffrage Association (the more traditional political movement) and Alice Paul’s Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage and the National Woman's Party (the more radical group) were on the ground in Nashville as well as any number of female and male “Anti’s”. At first I found it a little challenging to keep up with all of the names and details but am glad I stuck with it as by the end these extra insights into the players was crucial in both understanding what happened and highlighting the final, painful dash to the finishing line. The details provided about many of the members of the Tennessee legislature were also helpful in understanding the double dealing and side changing that occurred as the voting got underway.
However whilst a fantastic read and insight into both the broader movements and the minutia of what it took for American women to gain the vote I am mostly left with some strong lessons from history:
1) The confidence both sides of the debate had with embracing racism to achieve their aims. Many of the white suffragettes were more than willing to ignore their African-American counterparts if it got the job done, going so far as to advise black suffragist groups and campaigners to stay away. On the Anti side, the claims were even more overtly racist calling on the still painful memories of the Civil War and the rise of the KKK to campaign against anything that ‘risked’ an increase in African American voting rights.
2) The number of women in the Anti parties. Their reasons did not resonate with me but provide a useful insight into todays conservatives who vociferously support legislation that blocks and limits women’s rights.
3) The influence of the media and special interests – in this case the railroads and liquor industries (no mean feat in an allegedly dry state like Tennessee). Money, power and influence of these groups spilled across events with legislators changing sides throughout debates as pressure was applied.
I think there is more to get form this one and imagine I will re-read again at some point in the future.
A book I truly believe every women should read. They will come away with a deep appreciation to the effort and pain that went into our having the right to vote. Yes, there are many names within, hard to keep track of, but you will come to know the key motivators quite well. These women were indefatigable in their fight, many were jailed, force fed and made to endure other indignities. Some were I'll, with underlying conditions, and yet on they fought.
I was surprised by the amount of women who were anti suffragettes, found their reasons interesting, even somewhat credible, looking back on it from today. But, it is clear the right to vote is a privilege and one hard earned, and should not be neglected with mundane excuses. According to the other since the eighties, more women than men have excercisd this right, and I can only hope that this continues and multiplies.
I learned so much history from this book, and at times, such as when Katt goes to the White House to thank President Wilson for his support, and finds after his stroke, a wreck of a man, I actually got teary eyed. Despite this being non fiction, I found this to be a very emotional book. What an admirable struggle, the rights for women, which still today, has a way to go.
Before reading this book, I had no idea of the huge number of women and men promoted and spoke for both sides. There were so many that it was overwhelming to keep track of them. I have learned so much and now want to read and learn even more. I have made a list of the people who I want to learn more about. This book is an important re-counting of the fight for the vote and fight to further women's rights.
I received a finished received copy of this book from the Publisher as a win from FirstReads but that in no way made a difference in my thoughts or feelings in this review.
It's also, ultimately, a downer because there's an awful lot of déjà vu all over again here. Split from within by opposing factions, tangled in the
It also proves the truth of a remark attributed to Otto von Bismarck: “If you like laws and sausages, you should never watch either one being made.”
This book is a thorough examination of a single episode in the seven decades-long history of the US women’s suffrage movement. While it does provide biographical information about the founders of the movement, such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, it is more focused on those present during the Tennessee debate, such as Carrie Catts and Sue White. I think the author does a good job of evoking the time period and the book includes numerous historical photos. It helped me gain an even deeper appreciation of the right to vote.
I think the thing that stands out with this book is the fact it doesn't ignore the elephant in the room. Race became an issue for the white women. It's upsetting to learn the the white women were puppets to the Confederates. They thought if women could vote, that meant blacks could vote too, they couldn't have that. They went out of there way to make sure blacks couldn't vote. Wasn't until years later black women had the same rights. That is why it's important to know the difference between women's rights and black women's rights.
One critique I do have about the writing is I feel the author put her own opinions in at some points that weren't needed. It's not the best non-fiction book I've read, but she made it interesting and somewhat easy to read.
Also, this book helped me understand about voting rights and how this country still isn't fully there yet. Take a look at this election, we have some moron that clearly wants to make sure he wins again. Sorry to get political, but this year I've gone there and this book helped me find some sanity. At least some people care about the history of voting rights.