The Suffrage Centennial
Guest Editors: Cathleen Cahill, Crystal Feimster, and Kimberly Hamlin
In 2020 the nation will observe the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, one of the most significant civil rights milestones in U.S. history and the culmination of nearly 100 years of activism. The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era will mark this centennial with a special issue co-edited by Cathleen Cahill (Penn State University), Crystal Feimster (Yale University), and Kimberly Hamlin (Miami University). National anniversaries are moments for citizens to remember the past and meditate on how history can guide us in our present and our future. But commemorating events also reinforces a collective memory about which past and whose past the nation values. The existing history of the woman suffrage movement has focused primarily on white women’s participation, and this special issue seeks to expand this limited history. Just as women’s experiences today are shaped by the intersections of identities such as race and class, so were those in the past. This centennial offers us a propitious moment to reassess the fight for woman suffrage that disrupts the narrative that has long tended to run from Seneca Falls to 1920 leaving everything else in the shadows.
We seek proposals that follow recent scholarship on African American feminism, historical memory, and transnational politics that have begun to illuminate the vast number of previously untold suffrage stories. Such scholarship has revealed that notions of gender, sexuality, suffrage, and citizenship rights were often central and sometimes peripheral to multiple political debates and movements. This special issue will reconsider the 19th Amendment in the broader political landscapes in which women lobbied for the vote. This was also a moment of fraught citizenship, how did that inform demands for or efforts to limit franchise? How was the fight for women’s suffrage affected as the United States expanded its empire and influence globally? While acknowledging 1920 as an important moment, this special issue will also destabilize it, emphasizing that for women of color, continuity reigned rather than change. We are calling for papers that might consider how race, region, or religion intersected with gender in the suffrage question. How did notions of femininity and masculinity inform and constrain activists’ tactics and success? Where did activists come together and where did they part ways? How does the growing scholarship on sexuality, the body, or disability reshape our understanding of women’s political strategies? How does the robust scholarship on women’s diverse political strategies of the last several decades reshape our understanding of suffrage activism? What happens when we look beyond the national leaders to better understand local and lesser-known women? We would also welcome contributions on male suffrage allies and on anti-suffrage activists or Progressive Era conservatism.