Suffrage at 100: Women in American Politics since 1920 (Johns Hopkins UP, 2020) is a wonderful and sweeping exploration of the way that women and their access to the ballot have contributed to politics and life in the United States for the past century. Editors Stacie Taranto, professor of history at Ramapo College in New Jersey, and Leandra Zarnow, professor of history at the University of Houston, have compiled a broad and deep group of contributing authors, all of whom have written chapters that examine women, politics, power, activism, and citizenship in the United States. This is an intersectional history of American feminism and an analysis of women in politics and as citizens. The book is split into three sections, that follow the historical contours of social movements and political engagement, starting with the period before the 19th Amendment but spanning the period of suffrage through post-World War II America. The next section of the book pays close attention to the wave of advocacy and activism from the 1960s through the 1980s. The final section of the book focuses on more contemporary history and politics, examining the period that straddles the new century, from the 1990s up to the Trump era. By centering biography in many of these chapters, the authors and editors explore political history through those who actively participated in politics.
Taranto and Zarnow have assembled a book that looks at where women have been, in terms of achieving voting power, to where women have moved, as citizens and in elected and appointed office, in terms of acquiring and using political power. The full sweep of the book weaves together women’s history and political history, moving away from thinking about politics through the lens of constitutionally regulated election cycles, especially presidential election cycles, and instead focuses on engagement with politics, activism, and policy change. The editors set up the framework for the broader analysis and research in the book, examining the ways that citizenship and power are gendered male in the United States, and how this constructed perspective and expectation has impacted women, especially as they were granted more of the rights of citizenship. These constraints also affected different women in different ways, benefiting white women, while excluding black women, Asian women, and others until later in the century. At the same time, the role and impact of republican motherhood is also examined within the pages of Suffrage at 100. In this anniversary year, Suffrage at 100: Women in American Politics since 1920 is a great companion to Christina Wolbrecht and J. Kevin Corder’s A Century of Votes for Women: American Elections since Suffrage (Cambridge University Press, 2020), which concentrates specifically on the role that women have played as voters in American elections over the past century. Suffrage at 100 takes the same sweep of time, with a similar focus on women, but in this case, the thrust is biographical, in examining particular women who engaged in politics over the course of the last century, and historical, centering women as political actors within the scope of social and political history.
Lilly J. Goren is professor of political science at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI. She is co-editor of the award winning book, Women and the White House: Gender, Popular Culture, and Presidential Politics (University Press of Kentucky, 2012), as well as co-editor of Mad Men and Politics: Nostalgia and the Remaking of Modern America (Bloomsbury Academic, 2015).
Lilly J. Goren is professor of political science at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI.