Women’s History Month During A Centennial Year

As we mark Women’s History Month during this centennial year commemorating the 19th Amendment, I have been thinking about the women whose stories animate my new book, And Yet They Persisted: How American Women Won the Right to Vote.

People like Abigail Adams, who warned her husband in 1776 to “remember the ladies” in writing the new nation’s laws or risk a rebellion by women; like Lucy Stone, who saved her teacher’s salary to attend Oberlin College and in 1847 became the first paid lecturer for both abolition and women’s rights; like Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to testify before a congressional committee, this in 1871, and who inspired a movement of women trying to register to vote after telling the Judiciary Committee that the post-Civil War amendments meant to enfranchise African American men had inadvertently empowered women to vote; like Ida B. Wells, who defied the racist policies of white suffrage leaders by standing on the sidewalk at the 1913 suffrage parade in Washington D.C. until her Illinois delegation came into view and she joined in; like Vera Mae Pigee, whose beauty salon in Clarksdale, Mississippi became a site of “activist mothering” during the civil rights movement in 1964 to reclaim voting rights for black men and women.

Eight generations of women over two centuries and diverse backgrounds – who shared one trait in common, the only one needed to make social change: persistence.

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