The relationship between the histories of woman suffrage and U.S. politics suffered from a reluctance on the part of both fields to include the other until recently. Political historians refrained from in-depth discussions of the eighty-year movement to gain the vote for women until the new political history expanded the definition of political actors and activities. Women's historians (with a few notable exceptions) discussed the suffrage movement as a type of voluntarist reform activity, rather than contextualizing it within political institutions and systems. Ellen Carol DuBois's study of suffrage through the passage of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments departed significantly from earlier research by placing suffrage squarely within nineteenth-century politics. A few years later, Paula Baker's article on the "domestication of politics" provided an interpretative framework that located women and men as actors within respective gendered political cultures. The four books reviewed here illustrate the value of this expanded definition of politics. Each work goes beyond narrative description to explore the ways in which organized women engaged in the political life of their communities. Three specifically focus on suffrage, while the fourth places the vote within a broader context of African-American social politics. All four books provide new perspectives that enable scholars to address questions central to the histories of both politics and women. For instance, how the achievement of women's right to vote reshaped U.S. politics; or what correlation might exist between the expansion of citizenship rights and a decline in voter participation. Studies of voting rights campaigns can explore far more than patterns of voting behavior because they reveal the cultural and political dimensions of American life.
African American Studies | History | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | United States History | Women's History | Women's Studies
Copyright Johns Hopkins University Press. Used with permission.
Bigger than a Ballot Box.
Journal of Women's History, 11(1),