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The Fight for the Vote


The first part chronicles the long, complex—and sometimes tortuous—campaign to secure women's right to vote. The chronological narrative covers:

  • Chapter 1: In the Beginning; 1637-1840. A prehistory that places the beginning of the women’s rights movement in the context of early revolutionary women such as Anne Hutchinson and Mary Dyer.​

  • Chapter 2: “Let Facts Be Submitted to a Candid World”; 1840-1848. The Seneca Falls Convention, as well as the follow-up in Rochester, two weeks later. Highlights include the growing relationships among the movement’s earliest leaders and contentious news coverage of the conventions.

  • Chapter 3: “The Spirit of a Snake” and the Spirit of Success; 1848-1860. The aftermath of the Seneca Falls Convention, including leaders that emerged from it. Highlights include Sojourner Truth’s electrifying appearance at the Ohio women’s rights convention in 1850 and the increase in key media support from such progressives as Horace Greeley.

  • Chapter 4: The Battle Cry of Freedom; 1860-1876. The development of women’s fight for political rights against the backdrop of the abolitionist movement and the Civil War, and the growing controversies among various factions of the movement. Other highlights include the role of new activists such as Ernestine Rose and Rev. Olympia Brown.

  • Chapter 5: The Hour Not Yet; 1870s-1888. The fracturing of the movement into two separate associations, as well as coalitions with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, labor organizations, political parties, and women’s rights groups outside the United States. Other highlights include coverage of mavericks Victoria Woodhull and Belva Lockwood, and state suffrage campaigns, such as those in Arkansas and Texas.

  • Chapter 6: The Century Turns, The Movement Turns; 1880s-1912. The reconciliation of the two suffrage organizations into the National American Woman Suffrage Association, the growth of the women’s club movement, and the wave of state-by-state suffrage successes beginning with Wyoming. Other highlights include African American activism, such as Margaret Murray Washington and Ida B. Wells-Barnett, and the growing strength of the anti-suffrage movement.

  • Chapter 7: The Longest Labor Ends; 1912-1920. The final push for a national amendment, with a detailed narrative of protests, marches, and lobbying as a new generation of leaders, especially Carrie Chapman Catt, who pushed forward in a shrewd political state-by-state strategy, and Alice Paul, whose Congressional Union (later the National Woman’s Party, or NWP) followed a radical British style of high-profile activism.


Throughout, Weatherford emphasizes the connections of the women's movement, which rested on profound moral convictions, to the other great nineteenth-century reform movements of abolitionism, temperance, and more, as well as its shortcomings, such as racist sentiments and behavior typical of the times—a sad irony, given the affiliation of the movement early on with abolitionist leaders and groups. She recounts the inspiring triumphs as well as the heartbreaking setbacks of the movement and tells the human stories behind the political tug and pull that lasted over seven decades.


Progress and Challenges in the Following Century


Part Two covers post-1920 waves of feminism in topical chapters on key subjects relevant today, including:

  • Chapter 8: Carrying On: Early Ambitions and Small Victories. Weatherford explores legal challenges to voting rights, reforms on citizenship, and an early model for supporting maternal health.

  • Chapter 9: Reproductive Rights. Highlights include pre-1920 background on sex education for women; Mary Ware Dennett’s and Margaret Sanger’s early efforts on women’s health and birth control; the Supreme Court cases of Griswold, Eisenstadt, and Roe in the 1960s and 1970s; and challenges to Roe today.

  • Chapter 10: Becoming Full Citizens offers an analysis of important changes in laws regarding age of consent and jury duty including the fact that some states barred women from juries as late as the 1960s, which had a huge impact on rape cases. 

  • Chapter 11: The Equal Rights Amendment, and all it implies—including such issues as women’s legal rights in marriage and employment discrimination—from the early efforts of Alice Paul and her National Women’s Party beginning in 1920s to the current status of the ERA.

  • Chapter 12: Taking Power tracks significant women in history through their gains in Congress, state houses, and the judiciary, with a nod to issues surrounding sexual harassment that are shaping our current cultural and political landscape so powerfully.  

  • Chapter 13: "We Shall Overcome" covering minority women's fight for equal participation across waves of feminism, echoing back to the refusal of white suffragists to grant African Americans a seat at the table during the women's suffrage movement and exploring the progress of black women's achievements since then. 

Across these chapters, Weatherford traces key themes in the women's suffrage movement to the later women’s rights movement. For example, the tug and pull between more radical and centrist strategies and the resistance of women themselves to their own empowerment shaped the waves of feminism in the century that followed 1920.  For example, Margaret Sanger’s advocacy for women’s sexual health and birth control in the early twentieth century often alienated less radical feminists; and a fervent antifeminism, led by Phyllis Schlafly, resulted in the ERA’s defeat in the late 1970s.


By tracing key issues following the Nineteenth Amendment, Victory for the Vote highlights the relevance of the long struggle. Weatherford shows how the fight for the vote—seven decades long, full of twists and turns, missteps and winning strategies—was only the beginning: post-suffrage leaders picked up the mantle and carried the fight for women’s empowerment into all avenues of U.S. society. In connecting the fight for suffrage to the women’s rights movement that followed, Victory for the Vote is a sweeping narrative celebrating the perseverance and creative struggle needed to make change.

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