A Voice of Their Own: The Woman Suffrage Press, 1840-1910

By Martha M. Solomon | Go to book overview

2
The Role of Newspapers in the Nineteenth-Century Woman's Movement

E. Claire Jerry

If the proverb that "the pen is mightier than the sword" be true, woman's skill and force in using this mightier weapon must soon change the destinies of the world.1 -- History of Woman Suffrage, Volume I, 1886

When the editors of the first volume of the History of Woman Suffrage made this prediction, they were hopeful of a rapid change in woman's status. The change did not come as quickly as these women had desired, but the "pens" of woman's rights publishers certainly played a part in the development of the woman's rights movement and influenced its eventual achievements.

Overall, the role of "in-house" newspapers in social movements is unclear, because their contributions to movement leadership, membership, and organization rarely have been explored. The existence of such "special interest" newspapers is particularly significant for groups and movements that are denied access to and coverage in general circulation media. The peculiar circumstances of women and the movement for woman's rights in the nineteenth-century United States make newspapers and journals from this movement especially interesting. Most American women were often geographically isolated, of limited income, and legally dead. Therefore, traditional means of movement involvement, such as attending conventions and lectures, were unavailable to vast numbers of this movement's potential membership. However, this movement eventually achieved a large following and national prominence, aided in no small part by woman's rights publishing. This essay will trace the

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