Looking beyond the national leadership of the suffrage movement, an acclaimed historian gives voice to the thousands of women from different backgrounds, races, and religions whose local passion and protest resounded throughout the land.
For too long the history of how American women won the right to vote has been told as the visionary adventures of a few iconic leaders, all white and native-born, who spearheaded a national movement. In this essential reconsideration, Susan Ware uncovers a much broader and more diverse history waiting to be told. Why They Marched is the inspiring story of the dedicated women—and occasionally men—who carried the banner in communities across the nation, out of the spotlight, protesting, petitioning, and demonstrating for the right to become full citizens.
Ware structures her account around nineteen individual women—Mary Church Terrell, a multilingual African American woman; Rose Schneiderman, a labor activist building cross-class coalitions on New York’s Lower East Side; Claiborne Catlin, who toured the Massachusetts countryside on horseback to drum up support for the cause; Mary Johnston, an aristocratic novelist bucking the Southern ruling elite; Emmeline W. Wells, a Mormon woman in a polygamous marriage determined to make her voice heard; and others—who helped harness a groundswell of popular support. Each suffragist is paired with an object or artifact from the campaign. The dramatic and often joyous experiences of these women help us to understand the many different meanings of the right to vote, and to appreciate the involvement of these advocates in a movement that changed lives forever.
Ware’s moving personal narratives provide a surprisingly comprehensive account of one of the most significant and wide-ranging moments of political mobilization in all of American history.