Book Spotlight: March 2012
February 29, 2012
Sisters: The Lives of America's Suffragists. Jean H. Baker. New York: Hill and Wang, 2005.
Historian Jean H. Bakercombines the life stories of Lucy Stone, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frances Willard, and Alice Paul into a compelling collective history titled Sisters: The Lives of America's Suffragists. Their private lives and public achievements are explored with great care and attention to detail, and as a result, readers will find much to learn from all the women's accomplishments.
Readers will be surprised to find that the modern suffrage movement had its genesis in the 1840s and that their struggle included much hardship, including arrest, and being force-fed in prisons. Women were also the first organized group to picket the White House for a political cause.
Included in the book are brief but important references to Virginia Minor, who sued the local St. Louis registrar in 1872 for failing to allow her the right to register to vote. The case later went to the U.S. Supreme Court. The author states the Minor v. Happersett case was a ruling as important to women's rights as the Dred Scott decision was to those of African Americans, because, in her words, "Voting was decoupled from citizenship."
Even though the struggle was a long one, the movement accomplished even more than their main goal of suffrage. By the time women had the right to vote in this country, their victory had also encompassed the most fundamental rights of citizenship: the right to control wages, hold property, to contract, to sue, and to testify in court.
Ultimately Baker makes sure her readers appreciate the intense devotion and hard work behind the famous names of the movement.