At Clio Visualizing History, view an online companion exhibit to Why They Marched, “Nineteen Objects from the 19th Amendment Campaign,” curated by Susan Ware. Ware writes: “Material culture provides a perfect portal to capture women’s suffrage experiences. History is not just made up of written documents and texts; objects and artifacts play key roles as well, especially in the creation of personal and group identities. This insight is particularly relevant for a social movement like suffrage, which came to embrace popular culture and public spectacle as a primary strategy to win support for its cause.”
“Lively and delightful…zooms in on the faces in the crowd to help us understand both the depth and the diversity of the women’s suffrage movement. Some women went to jail. Others climbed mountains. Visual artists, dancers, and journalists all played a part… Far from perfect, they used their own abilities, defects, and opportunities to build a movement that still resonates today.”—Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, author of Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History
“An intimate account of the unheralded activism that won women the right to vote, and an opportunity to celebrate a truly diverse cohort of first-wave feminist changemakers.”—Ms.
“Demonstrates the steady advance of women’s suffrage while also complicating the standard portrait of it.”—The New Yorker
For far too long, the history of how American women won the right to vote has been told as the tale of a few iconic leaders, all white and native-born. But Susan Ware uncovered a much broader and more diverse story waiting to be told. Why They Marched is a tribute to the many women who worked tirelessly in communities across the nation, out of the spotlight, protesting, petitioning, and insisting on their right to full citizenship.
Ware tells her story through the lives of nineteen activists, most of whom have long been overlooked. We meet Mary Church Terrell, a multilingual African American woman; Rose Schneiderman, a labor activist building 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. We also see the many places where the suffrage movement unfolded—in church parlors, meeting rooms, and the halls of Congress, but also on college campuses and even at the top of Mount Rainier. Few corners of the United States were untouched by suffrage activism.
Ware’s deeply moving stories provide a fresh account of one of the most significant moments of political mobilization in American history. The dramatic, often joyous experiences of these women resonate powerfully today, as a new generation of young women demands to be heard.