Woman Suffrage and Women's Rights

Woman Suffrage and Women's Rights

Woman Suffrage and Women's Rights

Woman Suffrage and Women's Rights


In recent decades, the woman suffrage movement has taken on new significance for women's history. Ellen Carol DuBois has been a central figure in spurring renewed interest in woman suffrage and in realigning the debates which surround it.

This volume gathers DuBois' most influential articles on woman suffrage and includes two new essays. The collection traces the trajectory of the suffrage story against the backdrop of changing attitudes to politics, citizenship and gender, and the resultant tensions over such issues as slavery and abolitionism, sexuality and religion, and class and politics. Connecting the essays is DuBois' belief in the continuing importance of political and reform movements as an object of historical inquiry and a force in shaping gender.

The book, which includes a highly original reconceptualization of women's rights from Mary Wollstonecraft to contemporary abortion and gay rights activists and a historiographical overview of suffrage scholarship, provides an excellent overview of the movement, including international as well as U. S. suffragism, in the context of women's broader concerns for social and political justice.


From the beginning, my decision to focus my scholarship on woman suffrage ran against the grain of the developing field of women's history. In 1969, the year I selected my dissertation topic, women's history was only an aspiration, albeit a widespread one. Feminism was still a word that even those of us who would go on to revive it were uncomfortable using. In graduate history programs all over the country, young women like myself were realizing that the history of women in the United States was an enormous unexplored territory, rich with compelling analytical questions. Our interest in women's history was more a product of our political activism than our career aspirations. In buildings other than the ones where we took our graduate seminars, on evenings when we were not reading in preparation for our qualifying exams, we were writing feminist manifestos, attending meetings, calling demonstrations, and forming women's liberation organizations.

I was a graduate student at Northwestern, at the same time helping form the Chicago Women's Liberation Union. Determined to unify our political and scholarly selves (and protected by a robust economy from too-great anxieties about our future careers), my generation wanted to contribute to a historical practice that would be useful, that would not only document social change but help realize it. Meanwhile, a few miles down the road, the signal 1960s organization Students for a Democratic Society was so committed to stopping the war in Vietnam by any means necessary that it was in the process of destroying its own existence. I have often wondered about the preoccupation of men of my generation with fighting either in or against the war and what role this . . .

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