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The book you are about to read tells the story of one of the great social movements in American history. The struggle for women's voting rights was one of the longest, most successful, and in some respects most radical challenges ever posed to the American system of electoral politics...It is difficult to imagine now a time when women were largely removed by custom, practice, and law from the formal political rights and responsibilities that supported and sustained the nation's young democracy...For sheer drama the suffrage movement has few equals in modern American political history.
--From the Preface by Ellen Fitzpatrick
Foreword by Ellen Fitzpatrick
1. The Position 0f American Women up to 1800
2. Early Steps toward Equal Education
3. The Beginnings of Organization among Women
4. The Beginnings of Reform
5. The Seneca Falls Convention, 1848
6. From Seneca Falls to the Civil War
7. The Civil War
8. The Intellectual Progress of Women, 1860-1875
9. Women in the Trade Unions, 1860-1875
10. The Emergence of a Suffrage Movement
11. First Victories in the West
12. Breaking Ground for Suffrage
13. The Growth of Women's Organizations
14. Women in the Knights of Labor and the Early A.F. of L.
15. The Reform Era and Woman's Rights
16. The Unification of the Suffrage Movement
17. Entering the Twentieth Century
18. Into the Mainstream of Organized Labor
19. The Suffrage Movement Comes of Age, 1906-1913
20. New Life in the Federal Amendment, 1914-1916
21. TheTurn oftheTide, 1916-1918
22. Who Opposed Woman Suffrage?
23. A Hard-Won Victory, 1918-1920
Posted May 5, 2000
Scholarly suffrage history of all stripes begins with a woman who herself had no academic historical training, Eleanor Flexner. With neither financial nor institutional support, although with the encouragement of historians Arthur Mann and Oscar Handlin, she completed her masterly manuscript Century of Struggle: The Woman's Rights Movement in the United States. In 1959, Harvard published it. Prior to its publication, readers had only works written or compiled by participants and observers, such as the six-volume The History of Woman Suffrageedited over the years by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and other suffragists. Such volumes were useful but limited. With forty years under the bridge since women had gotten the vote, the time had been ripe for a treatment that was scholarly, thorough, and disinterested. Flexner writes a narrative history of the women's suffrage movement, focusing particularly on women suffragists themselves. The book synthesizes biographical, organizational, intellectual, political, economic, and social elements into one overarching story. It focuses on the major organizations and its leaders: the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), its predecessors, and its presidents Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Anna Howard Shaw, and Carrie Chapman Catt. But Flexner's volume is very inclusive, detailing the histories and biographies of other suffrage organizations and activists. In order to construct such a broad history, Flexner delves into The History of Woman Suffrage; organizational archives including publications, meeting proceedings, and records; published and private papers of suffragists; the Congressional Record and other public documents; news media accounts; and the records and publications of temperance and labor groups. Impressive and surprising to contemporary readers is Flexner's continual inclusion of black suffragists in her tale. They are not the central focus of the story, but they are an important aspect of it. Flexner details not only the bigotry with which they had to contend from white suffragists and society at large, but she also positions them as participants and leaders in their own right. Flexner is also very sensitive to labor and class issues. She includes two chapters on organized labor and working-class women's rights activists, emphasizing the interrelation and importance of economic and social power to political and voting strength. But unlike some of her later critics, Flexner does not privilege the former or disparage the power that the ballot conferred. Surveys such as Flexner's are by necessity more narrative than argumentative. Flexner's book is predicated on a belief in the importance of the suffrage movement and the benefit its victory won for American women. It is well written, dramatic, and well researched¿especially impressive given the disorganized and scattered state of the sources in the 1950s.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.