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Ask a Suffragist*

Wonderful Addition to the Canon of Feminist Literature

If you have an interest in women’s history or feminism, this book is a wonderful addition to others on the subject. It brings together the voices and stories of the suffragists who made forward strides for gender equality and ultimately triumphed in getting women the vote in the US in the early 20th century, though the stirrings of the movement began nearly a hundred years before. In this book, the author poses a set of questions that is as valid today as it was back in the early days of feminism, like how do we make our voices heard, what is men’s role in feminism, how do we balance family life with activism, and how do we break the glass ceiling. In some of my own reading and documentary watching, I’ve become familiar what did deeper stories of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, but some of the other women referenced in this book were less well-known to me; I enjoyed learning both about their perspectives on feminism and their lives.

For each question, the author begins with quotes and then an extended essay that draws upon the lives and the activism of the suffragists using a lot of their own words (and others about them), pulling from their public and private writing. I found many of these stories, like the courtship of Lucy Stone, the Bloomers, and the first National Woman’s Rights Convention, quite compelling. Like us, these women lived complex lives, and they struggled against a society that vilified them and tried to make them go away. While women’s lot has much improved, there is still so much that needs to be done for true equality, as the current fight for equal wages for equal work and for respectful treatment in the workplace and beyond will attest.

The author has done an incredible amount of research. There are just shy of a thousand citation notes! Using so much of the living record adds an immediacy to this work that makes it more than just essays on feminist questions. Instead, it brings us into the real lives and work of these path-breaking women. The author does include a timeline in the back, which is handy.

Whether you have an interest in feminism from a historical standpoint or from what it could mean to us today, you will most likely find much of interest in this well-researched and inspiring book.