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Review of Votes for Women!: American Suffragists and 
the Battle for the Ballot

Votes for Women!: American Suffragists and the Battle for the Ballot
by Winifred Conkling
Middle School, High School    Algonquin    310 pp.    g
2/18    978-1-61620-734-2    $18.95

This is a fascinating account of the bumpy road to women’s suffrage in the U.S., beginning in earnest with the Women’s Rights Convention in 1848 and culminating with the ratifying of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution in 1920. In addition to covering major events, roadblocks, and advances, Conkling’s chronological narrative provides ample context for contemporary readers to fully appreciate the societal pressures nineteenth-century (white) women faced as they worked to organize and speak out for change at a time when “it was considered scandalous for women to speak in public.” More than half the book focuses on the lives and work of social reformers and close friends Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Stanton had to juggle her advocacy work with the demands of motherhood; Anthony, unmarried with fewer family commitments, had to earn a living while fighting for equality. Conkling pays particular attention to how the paths of abolitionists and suffragists crossed and diverged along the way. Before the Civil War, many staunchly anti-slavery women didn’t support women’s rights; later in the century, white suffragists often disagreed about inclusion of 
African American women. The book’s coverage of the movement’s “second wave of suffragists,” who picked up the baton after Stanton’s and Anthony’s deaths, is more diffuse but no less compelling, with increasingly radical protests and fierce push-back. Well-chosen black-and-white archival reproductions and photographs ably support the text, which makes excellent use of primary sources, including excerpts from letters and writings to bring key personalities to life. An extensive bibliography, lists of websites and places to visit, and a timeline that spans Mary Wollstonecraft’s birth in 1759 to Alice Paul’s death in 1977 are appended. Index not seen.

From the March/April 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Kitty Flynn

Kitty Flynn is consulting editor for The Horn Book, Inc.

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