Publication date is today for my new book, And Yet They Persisted: How American Women Won the Right to Vote.
Most suffrage histories begin in 1848, when Elizabeth Cady Stanton first called for women to have the vote at the Seneca Falls women’s rights convention. And they end in 1920, when Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the 19th Amendment. And Yet They Persisted begins during the revolutionary era — when Abigail Adams admonished her husband to “Remember the Ladies” or risk their rebellion from male-made laws — and it ends during the civil rights era, when sharecropper Fannie Lou Hamer helped spark a grassroots movement to throw off the Jim Crow laws that prevented blacks from voting. For two centuries, over eight generations, these women fought for the right to vote. They won because they convinced male lawmakers it was in their political interests to enfranchise women, and more, that involvement by women in the political process would not, as many feared, harden women, emasculate men or harm the family. No one gave them the vote, they fought for it, and won.
I hope you will buy this book for your daughters, for your mothers, for all the men who root for them and all the admirers who know nothing about them. As we are on the cusp of 2020, the centennial of the 19th Amendment, I hope you will share the book too with all those who think history is irrelevant, who worry that the constitution is outdated, who wonder if moderation or militancy in the cause of social change is the more successful approach.
Mostly I hope you marvel at the persistence of women who fought for the right to speak in public, to attend college, to own property, to stand as equals in marriage, child raising and inheritance. Even before they were voters, they influenced public debate by their petitions to Congress — against Andrew Jackson’s policy to remove Native Americans from their homelands and against the slavery whose cruelties were ripping the country toward civil war. And despite so many losing campaigns in the states to enfranchise women, they never gave up. Whatever cause or passion is close to your heart, I hope you never do either.
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