Panelists celebrate 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage

podcastlogoFor the Journalism History podcast, the podcast team recorded a panel at the American Journalism Historians Association 2018 national convention in Salt Lake City.

This panel discusses research related to women’s suffrage, in anticipation of the 100th anniversary of women earning the right to vote. The panel was divided into multiple episodes, all of which are transcribed below.

Panelists included the following:

Episode 6: Linda Lumsden, “Historiography of Suffrage Media Research”

Episode 7: Teri Finneman, “The Press and the Anti-Suffrage Movement”

Episode 8: Amy Easton-Flake, “Literary Works in The Revolution and The Women’s Journal

Episode 9: Nancy Unger, “Belle La Follette’s Campaigns for Suffrage”

Episode 10: Brooke Kroeger, “Engaging the Public with Suffrage”

The featured photo by Alex Goren depicts (l-r) panel moderator Carolyn Kitch, Unger, Kroeger, Finneman, Lumsden, and Easton-Flake.

These episodes are sponsored by Texas Christian University Bob Schieffer College of Communication.

Episode 6: Linda Lumsden, “Historiography of Suffrage Media Research”


Teri Finneman: Welcome to Journalism History, a podcast that rips out the pages of your history books to re-examine the stories you thought you knew – and the ones you were never told. I’m your host, Teri Finneman, guiding you through our own drafts of history.

This episode is sponsored by the Texas Christian University Bob Schieffer College of Communication, where students learn to practice journalism with the persistence, civility and integrity embodied by legendary CBS News journalist Bob Schieffer.

The nation will celebrate the 100th anniversary of women having the right to vote in 2019 and 2020. Therefore, this is an excellent time to learn more about the role of the media during this social movement.

We’ve created five mini episodes featuring suffrage researchers who spoke at an American Journalism Historians conference. This is part 1.

In this episode, Linda Lumsden of the University of Arizona discusses a historiographic perspective on the state of suffrage and the media research.

Linda Lumsden: This is just going to be a taste of the long historiography of almost a half-century of suffrage research. I’m going to mention the pioneers, I’m going to give you a brief overview of basically of scholarship that’s occurred since 2000, and offer some suggestions on where we go from here. Two suffrage journalism historians have done historiographies of suffrage journalism only, suffrage press. This one is the first historiography of the broader suffrage and the media, so you’ll hear some new names. This essay is the first to trace the evolution of diverse scholarship on a wide range of media and their relation to the American suffrage movement.

I’ll begin by briefly tracing pioneers of suffrage press: Lynn Masel-Walters, 76, did the first study of the revolution, then she did Women’s Journal; Sherilyn Cox Bennion, who was here in the room, told the world about all sorts of newspapers in the West for the first time; Women’s Periodicals in the United States: Social and Political Issues edited by Kathleen L. Endres and Therese L. Lueck, which describes sixteen suffrage journals as well as three anti-suffrage periodicals; Linda Steiner’s groundbreaking cultural analysis, Martha Solomon also looked at the rhetoric of suffrage press; Lauren Kessler was the first person to look at mainstream press of suffrage, with the Portland Oregonian; Rodger Streitmatter has written about several of the suffrage periodicals in his various books; Elizabeth Burt did a lot with the anti-suffragists and she started introducing more theoretical aspects of it; Sidney Bland; Maurine H. Beasley, who’s also here in the room; and Manuela Thurner has talked about the anti-suffrage press.

Despite all these great works, we still await a sweeping analysis of suffrage print culture’s effect on American politics and the broader culture. There is no holistic analysis of the relationship between main stream media and the suffrage movement. There are books out there, including my own that devote a few pages to the role of the mainstream press and the suffrage movement. Rampant Women: Suffragists and the Right of Assembly (1994) looks at how they covered the parades and different events, Brooke Kroeger’s book last year about male supporters of suffrage looks a lot, here and there, of how the press covered the relationship between the suffragists and the mainstream media. So far, the most comprehensive look at mainstream media’s relationship to the suffrage movement is Genevieve G. McBride’s examination of how Wisconsin women marshalled the press in their fight for suffrage and other reforms. On Wisconsin Women: Working for their Rights from Settlement to Suffrage. That could be a model for others, so could Sara Egge’s work, she mines a very rich print culture of thousands of pamphlets, leaflets, and newspapers, etc. to show that the practical decisions that shaped the suffrage campaigns in the Midwest, where vast spaces and difficult travel conditions stymied face-to-face conversations. Her regional study of suffrage print culture offers a framework for a national study of the relationship between the main stream media and the suffrage movement. Another possible model is Alice Fahs’s lively look, Out on Assignment: Newspaper Women and the Making of Modern Public Space, which touches on suffrage.

New perspectives on old periodicals

Other scholars have embarked on new cultural studies that have offered original perspectives on old periodicals. Mary M. Carver looked at letters to the Woman’s Journal in the 1880s and 1890s and argues that they are precursors of Second Wave feminist consciousness-raising. Amber Roessner showed how scholars can unearth new insights about familiar individuals in her look at popular woman’s columnist “Jenny June” from the 19th century. Her article demonstrates how searchable, digitized collections can also advance research in suffrage and the media, because she used databases to trace more than sixty of Croly’s articles published over more than four decades.

Beyond journalism

Scholars in other disciplines have really done a lot to breath fresh air into studies of suffrage media. Political scientist Barbara A. Bardes and drama scholar Suzanne Gossett combined their expertise in Declarations of Independence: Women and Political Power in Nineteenth-Century American Fiction. One of my favorites is Victoria Olwell’s creative analysis of “typewriter fiction,” which was a thing in the 1910s, and how it affected the broader culture. More relevant, in 2011, there was a book called Treacherous Texts: U.S. Suffrage Literature, 1846–1946 edited by Mary Chapman–her name will come up again–and Angela Mills and they found “startling affinities between popular literature and propaganda.” in sixty texts.  

History of Woman Suffrage revisited

The oldest work of suffrage history has been fodder for twenty-first-century historians, beginning with Julie Des Jardens, who in 2003 illuminated the ideological clashes and personal antagonisms that biased The History of Woman Suffrage, which is really the beginning of a historiography of suffrage and the media, a six-volume work over 40 years that totaled more than 5,700 pages.. More recently, Lisa Tetrault incorporated public memory studies into her bold reassessment of the History, which she calls a “stunning act of historical imagination.”

Tetrault’s most important critique of the old history is the editors’ “whitening” of the suffrage movement. Racism within the white-dominated suffrage movement has been a major themes in the twenty-first century scholarship. Jen McDaneld went back to the Revolution to analyze what she termed Stanton’s “racist rhetoric,” claiming black women appear only in as the “supreme victims of the atrocities of slavery,” a device to associate privileged white suffragists with subjugation. Teresa Zackodnik elaborates on racism in her thoughtful interrogation of the History’s representation of Sojourner Truth in Press, Platform, Pulpit: Black Feminist Publics in the Era of Reform. Author Zackodnick, an English professor in Saskatchewan, also analyzes the 1891 essay, “Woman versus the Indian” by Anna Julia Cooper, the radical black feminist, educator, leader of the black women’s club movement, and journalist. Cooper pioneered the concept of intersectionality a century before the term existed.

Black male suffragists, maybe not surprisingly, have gotten more attention than female black suffragists. As early as 1940, Benjamin Quarles wrote about Frederick Douglass’s role in the woman’s rights movement in The Journal of Negro History, pointing out that the inaugural issue of his North Star abolition newspaper in 1847 declared, “Right is of no sex.” Several scholars have discussed W.E.B. Du Bois’s vocal support for woman suffrage in the Crisis and others.

Full-fledged biographies of female black suffragist/journalists ae few and far between. The standard remains Jane Rhodes 1999 biography of Mary Ann Shadd Cary (1823-1893). She was the first African American woman in North America to edit and publish a newspaper, one of the first black female lawyers in the United States, and a suffrage advocate after the Civil War.

The most important black feminist to be retrieved is Frances Ellen Watkins Harper. Again, did many things, but also wrote about suffrage. Her work has been lost, I think, because she did so many things. That would a nice paper for somebody who wanted to research her journalism bas it regards to suffrage. In fact, again because of databases, a major work might be somebody to look at black press’s writings on suffrage, nothing has existed, but you could do it now. That would be a major contribution.


So, I’m going to jump right up to the British suffragist scholars who offer us a blueprint for how to do these important works that don’t look at small pieces of the suffrage press, but who really look at suffrage’s contribution to the larger culture, to introducing women into the public sphere. My favorite book is Mary Chapman’s recent work, Making Noise, Making News: Suffrage Print Culture and U.S. Modernism. Chapman finds the American Suffragette newspaper deployed noise—“‘loud’ fonts, hectoring editorial personae, noisy hurdy gurdy organs, and barking suffrage newsies”—in a way that marked them politically modern and aesthetically modernist.

To conclude, one of her chapters in there that I really liked, goes back to the history of women’s suffrage and it uses the very humble medium of the scrapbook to explain the importance of it.

She relies on historian Ellen Gruber Garvey’s fascinating analysis of the role that the humble medium of the scrapbook played in suffrage history in a chapter of Writing with Scissors: Scrapbooks. Garvey notes that the thirty-three scrapbooks Susan B. Anthony filled provided the foundation of the monumental History of Women’s Suffrage. She reframes the private, parlor-room pursuit as an extraordinary claim to act in the public sphere.

Future directions

I’ll leave it at that, and I’ll leave it to the younger scholars to take off on some of these things. Thank you.

Teri Finneman: Thanks for tuning in, and additional thanks to our sponsor, Texas Christian University. Until next time, I’m your host, Teri Finneman, signing off with the words of Edward R. Murrow: Good night and good luck.

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Episode 7: Teri Finneman, “The Press and the Anti-Suffrage Movement”


Teri Finneman: [00:00:09] Welcome to Journalism History, a podcast that rips out the pages of your history books to reexamine the stories you thought you knew … and the ones you were never told. I’m your host Teri Finneman, guiding you through our own drafts of history.

This episode is sponsored by the Texas Christian University Bob Schieffer College of Communication where students learn to practice journalism with the persistence, civility and integrity embodied by legendary CBS News journalist Bob Schieffer.

[00:00:39] The nation will celebrate the 100th anniversary of women having the right to vote in 2019 and 2020. But what many people don’t realize is there was a powerful countermovement that worked for decades to prevent women from getting the right to vote and that many of those protesters were actually women preventing the expansion of their own rights.

We’ve created five mini episodes featuring suffrage researchers who spoke at an American Journalism Historians conference. This is part two. In this episode, I’ll discuss the press and the anti-suffrage movement.

Teri Finneman: [00:01:14] Today I’m going to focus my talk on the anti-suffrage movement and focus in particular on the year 1917, which was a critical turning point for both the suffrage and anti-suffrage movements. I’m really interested in taking a look at how the press covered a countermovement that was on the verge of defeat. But before I talk about 1917, I want to back up and talk about the history of the anti-suffrage movement. So, we’re familiar with 1848 in Seneca Falls, which is considered really the launching point of the suffrage movement. But from 1848 until the 1890s, you really don’t see any kind of formal organization of the anti-suffrage movement because really, anti suffrage feelings were very widespread. So, they didn’t really find it to be relevant to have any kind of formal organization because nobody really took this very seriously on a broad scale. It wasn’t until the 1890s that you start to see these formal anti-suffrage organizations established, particularly in Massachusetts and New York, as the anti-suffragists were increasingly threatened by the range of progressive movements at the turn of the century.

[00:02:40] So, you start to see different kinds of propaganda and public relations materials, like pamphlets, letters to the editor, advertisements, start to come out promoting anti-suffrage messaging. So, one of the most popular messages, of course, and this appeared in 1894, was the argument that God himself created men and women separately and they need to say stay separate. Right, that there are different spheres for each of them. So, you have this pamphlet specifically saying the creator made man and woman to govern, but in totally different spheres and methods. So, you have this religious argument as to why women should not be allowed to vote. Then in 1895 in Massachusetts, you have another pamphlet arguing that “we submit that women’s suffrage will not promote the happiness or physical welfare of women,” that is, you know, it doesn’t help her social and moral elevation.

[00:03:47] So, you start to see this argument that women are more moral, it’s not going to make them any happier. Why should we add this burden to them when it’s not going to help womanhood? Then you also start to see, of course, whenever you have arguments, some kind of ridiculous counterframing. So in 1896, you have an argument that what if it rains or snows or the baby is ill or one of the members of the family is an invalid? What’s going to happen then? Well, the men drive to the polls and back and then the women have to go separately.

[00:04:23] What if there aren’t enough horses? There simply are not enough horses for both men and women to go to the polls to vote. So, again, you have this kind of extreme reactions of people kind of grasping at straws, in this case, trying to argue that it would just be chaos and women should not be allowed to vote.

Another strategy is similar to the kinds of Facebook memes that we see today, where you pull in comments from prominent people, in this case, Thomas Jefferson and Daniel Webster, and you take quotes from them to create your advertisement to argue against your case why women should not be allowed to vote. So, this gives you some idea of the different strategies used in the 1890s in the early phase of the formally organized anti-suffrage movement.

So, by the time you get to Christmas 1916, the anti-suffragists are feeling really pretty good. The 1910s have often been referred to as the doldrums for the suffrage movement. They lacked much momentum. They didn’t gain a lot of rights in various states. They were working on a state-by-state movement at that time trying to get women the right to vote, didn’t have a lot of success. And so by Christmas 1916, you have Josephine Dodge, who was the leader of the anti-suffrage movement at that time, really feeling pretty good. There’s a quote of her in a newspaper article saying that suffrage is beaten, they will never get another state. At this point, the National Association Opposed to Women’s Suffrage had 25 state associations with 350,000 members. So, by the end of 1916 they’re feeling pretty good with their cause. But then 1917 rolls around, and 1917 was really a critical turning point for women’s suffrage. And here are some of the key historical factors that happen that year.

[00:06:25] One of them was that Jeannette Rankin, a Republican from Montana, became the first woman elected to Congress. So that made a tremendous dent in the argument that women were not qualified enough or capable enough of being involved in national politics when you see the glass ceiling broken as far as women in Congress. Another huge, huge moment in 1917 was the state of New York agreeing to grant women the right to vote. This had been really a stronghold for the anti-suffrage movement, a major Eastern state. The importance of this cannot be overstated.

And then, another critical, critical thing that happened in 1917 was the United States entering World War I. With men going to serve abroad, you had a lot of women stepping up to fill jobs at home, showing once again, that women could handle “men’s work,” and we’ll come back to this war theme later. So, another critical point in 1917 is you also have really strong leadership at the suffrage movement level. You have Carrie Chapman Catt and Alice Paul who had very different approaches to getting women the right to vote. Carrie Chapman Catt appreciated more of a moderate approach, while Alice Paul aimed for more of a radical approach. Both of their approaches working at the same time were very, very effective for moving women’s suffrage along.

So, let’s talk a little bit more about social movements. So, social movements are voluntary collectives that people support in order to effect change in society.

[00:08:19] They are seeking media attention, public awareness, and policy and societal change, whereas countermovements are conscious, collective, organized attempts to resist or reverse social change. They tend to emerge when social movements show progress, when they see social movements as a perceived threat, and when they start to gain political allies. So, the goal of a countermovement is to undermine and neutralize a social movement and its progress.

In general, there tends to be a lot more focus on the social movement itself, instead of the countermovement, which is why I was interested in taking a look at the countermovement. So, countermovements tend to be very narrow in scope and really more so reactive opposition instead of being proactive. They tend to be very negative. They dig up societal myths to try to keep up the status quo and they’re very much about status preservation. So, in the case of the anti-suffrage movement, you really see women fighting against the extension of their own rights. So, the goal of my research is to increase understanding of press portrayals of countermovements, to study nonfeminist perspectives in more depth, to analyze local and regional papers and I ended up looking at almost 400 articles from 36 states and Washington D.C. as part of my project. I was really taking a look at what arguments used by the anti-suffragists did the press focus on its coverage of the countermovement in 1917 and then what arguments did the suffragists use to discredit their opponents.

So, what I ended up finding is that World War I was really, really dominant in the coverage. There was a lot of emotional and fear raising tactics used by the anti-suffragists who argued that there needed to be a focus on patriotism and that the women’s suffragists were very, very selfish for wanting their own rights when we needed to put the country above our individual needs at this time.

[00:10:40] So, they accused the suffragists of being very anti-patriotic and used that as an insult and used the war, again, for fear raising. They really emphasized how much of a burden it would be for women to have to vote and you really see this emphasis in press coverage on what the national leaders of the anti-suffrage movement thought. Even though these were local and regional newspapers, you did not see them going out and interviewing local and regional people about why they were part of the anti-suffrage movement, why they supported it. Instead, stories focused on quoting these national leaders. And so you really see the absence of any kind of complexity as far as race, class, religion, education, conservatism versus progressivism, and again, this absence of local and regional beliefs.

[00:11:40] And so one of the issues that the anti-suffragists had is that they were very contradictory. So, they accused the suffragists of being very selfish and lobbying during wartime when they shouldn’t be, but then the anti-suffragists were also lobbying during war time to criticize the suffragists. So, they were very hypocritical to criticize their opponent for one thing while they were doing the same thing.

They had this theme of America first, which should sound familiar to us today. This was a common theme 100 years ago already, with the anti-suffragists saying, we really need to put America first, not our individual needs. They accused suffragists of being pro-German, Socialists, and pacifists, again, trying to play on fear mongering during this time. They referred to women having the right to vote as being a menace with evil effects. So, again, you have these very scary words that they’re using. They referred to suffragists as enemies of the people, again, language we’re seeing still today. They accuse them of being very disloyal. There was a quote by one of their leaders saying, ‘we must arouse every real American man and woman to this menace of this triple alliance: socialism, suffragism, and pacifism.’ So, this is something that people needed to be afraid of, women having the right to vote.

[00:13:10] Shifting to the theme about a burden and how much a burden it would be for women to have the right to vote, there were quotes in newspapers saying, this would be to double the time, the energy, and largely increase the money used in elections. This would be a needless economic waste. The extra burden during wartime would be a grave menace to the country. Anti-suffragists argue about states’ rights, and we still have discussions about states’ rights today, that states should be able to decide this, not the federal government. And overall you just see, again, a lot of very emotional arguments.

And so with the suffragists, there was really a contrast in their press coverage because it focused a lot on reasoned arguments and facts instead of playing into this emotional type of game. And they pointed out how the anti-suffragists were very contradictory and irrational. So, they pointed out that suffrage received far more votes than the Socialist candidate for mayor in New York. So, they basically fact check that, ‘you can’t accuse us of Socialism because suffrage received way more votes than the Socialist candidates did, so it’s not just Socialism that’s behind this.’ They argued that states needed to ratify changes to the Constitution and individual states would get their say. So, that was their way of countering the states’ rights argument and then they would make comments about how, well, we are working so well together with the anti-suffragists during war time, women are doing their part. So, they use a little bit of reverse psychology here as well to point out, you know, women can do things. Women are making a tremendous contribution during the war effort and so they are quite capable of being able to vote.

[00:15:01] Another very interesting strategy is that the papers quoted local and regional suffrage supporters. So, they interviewed national anti-suffrage leaders, but local and regional suffrage supporters, which is very interesting. And we all know that people like to read about local people in the press, so this was a very fascinating discovery.

[00:15:27] So overall, my themes were that the press tended to use more episodic versus thematic framing, which is very common, of course, in our history, where the press was mostly focused on concrete events rather than putting issues into a broader context. They didn’t present both sides in a story. There was a lack of verification of these issues, and countermovements in this specific point did focus on a very negative type of rhetoric. So, these are things to think about as we cover social movements today. You know, what kind of coverage are we giving to the social movement, to the countermovement, are we providing both sides? Are we getting into a deeper context of what this issue is all about, or are we focused more so on the shallow coverage? Thank you.

Teri Finneman: [00:16:23] Thanks for tuning in. And additional thanks to our sponsor, Texas Christian University. Until next time, I’m your host, Teri Finneman signing off with the words of Edward R. Murrow: Good night and good luck.

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Episode 8: Amy Easton-Flake, “Literary Works in The Revolution and The Women’s Journal


Teri Finneman: Welcome to Journalism History, a podcast that rips out the pages of your history books to re-examine the stories you thought you knew – and the ones you were never told. I’m your host, Teri Finneman, guiding you through our own drafts of history.

This episode is sponsored by the Texas Christian University Bob Schieffer College of Communication, where students learn to practice journalism with the persistence, civility, and integrity embodied by legendary CBS News journalist Bob Schieffer.

In this episode, Amy Easton-Flake of Brigham Young University discusses literary works in The Revolution and The Woman’s Journal, newspapers that suffragists started themselves to promote their cause. We’ve created five mini episodes featuring suffrage researchers who spoke at an American Journalism Historians conference. This is part 3.

Amy Easton-Flake: My work focuses on the fiction and poetry in The Revolution and the Women’s Journal. Elizabeth Cady Stanton believed in the transformative power of fiction: “the wrongs of society,” she said, “can be more deeply impressed on a large class of readers in the form of fiction than by essays, sermons, or the facts of fiction.”[i] Consequently, it should come as no surprise that in the Revolution, the journal that she edited for the National Woman Suffrage Association between 1868 and 1870, novels, short stories, and poems account for 15 to 20 percent of each issue. Likewise, short stories and poems held a substantial, but largely forgotten, place in the Woman’s Journal, which was the American Woman Suffrage Association’s, edited by Lucy Stone and later her daughter Alice Stone Blackwell between 1870 and 1917. Though suffrage historians have long overlooked poetry and fiction, [ii] recent scholarship by Mary Chapman, Elizabeth Gray, and Leslie Petty, illustrate that literary works effectively complemented more polemical genres by appealing to emotion, personalizing political conflict, vividly depicting problems and solutions, dramatizing the wrongs women have experienced, and fostering sympathetic identification.[iii]

Looking specifically at the works in the Revolution and the Woman’s Journal, I contend that literary works illuminate the different perspectives, audiences, and missions of the two organizations; articulate and advocate their respective view of new womanhood and what changes were most needed to advance women; extend the empathetic impact of journalistic reporting through dramatizing the wrongs women experience; and ultimately, show how the two group’s disparate views on divorce and the reforms most needed to improve women’s position within marriage were crucial in defeating the call for union in the Spring of 1870.

To offer context for my argument, I begin with some brief background on the two organizations and the journals each founded. The Fifteenth Amendment, proposed by Congress in February 1869 to enfranchise black men, ripped the woman’s rights movement in two. When the Equal Rights Association (ERA), which had been founded in 1866 to promote both racial and gender equality, voted to support the Fifteenth Amendment in May 1869—thus prioritizing black male suffrage over woman suffrage—Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony withdrew from the organization. They formed the NWSA in May 1869. Six months later, in November, Lucy Stone and Henry Brown Blackwell, who continued to hold fast to the ERA’s founding principles, officially organized the AWSA.[iv] Each group pursued differing organizational models and strategies: the NWSA’s leadership was made up primarily of women and focused on obtaining the vote through national action, either a reinterpretation of existing Constitutional amendments to allow female enfranchisement or the passage of new amendments to that end; the AWSA leadership was composed of men and women and concentrated on obtaining the vote through state amendments.

The two groups diverged as well over issues and arguments.[v] The NWSA made divisive topics like divorce, double standards of sexuality, prostitution, forced motherhood, economic vulnerability, and legal oppression part of their platform. The AWSA billed itself as a more conservative alternative to the NWSA and always kept suffrage as the defining issue. In providing a space for suffrage leaders to frame their goals, critique existing conditions, promote their ideas for change, and communicate and manage their differences from one another, these journals were integral to the formation of their respective organizations.

When the Revolution was under Cady Stanton and Anthony’s sole control, it addressed the many issues facing women, such as double standards of sexuality, forced maternity, economic vulnerability, labor and education inequities, marriage and property laws, spousal abuse, infanticide, prostitution, women’s oppression in the home, and the suffrage struggle itself. The journal’s tone was aggressive: authors condemned men and society for their mistreatment of women and called for women’s rights on all fronts. The journal’s readership was predominantly middle-class, although Cady Stanton and Anthony sought to serve and attract working women by reporting on the meetings of the Working Women’s Association, establishing a column entitled working women, keeping their subscription price low, and consistently advocating for the rights and needs of working women.

In keeping with the AWSA’s billing of itself as a more conservative alternative to the NWSA, the Woman’s Journal’s clear focus was on suffrage campaigns in individual states, pending suffrage legislation, AWSA proceedings, and suffrage developments in Europe. Directed at an audience of well-educated, socially involved women, the journal maintained a decidedly middle-class bias. Rarely commenting on the difficulties facing female factory workers and domestics, it presented suffrage as the gateway to middle-class reforms, such as higher education for women, greater access to the professions, and equal property rights. Stone and her associates sought to show how suffrage could support middle-class female genteel norms; they promoted equality and expanded roles for women within fundamentally conventional settings and avoided current controversies over divorce, adultery, infanticide, and the abhorrent conditions of many working women, which were a staple of the Revolution.[vi]

As time is limited, I will focus the second half of my remarks on the poetry found in these respective journals. .In July 1869, Cady Stanton set out a standard for the fifty plus poems, eleven short stories, and one and a half novels that would account for 15 to 20 percent of each issue until she stepped down as editor. She wrote, “we do not desire that The Revolution should in any sense become what is called a literary paper. To us, as with Ruskin, the three fine arts are how to feed, and clothe, and house the poor. There are plenty of papers to tell people what they like to hear, where our correspondents can indulge their artistic tastes; in our paper we desire that all articles shall have a clear, direct, humanitarian hand.”[vii] Stated simply, Cady Stanton expected the poems and the fiction published in her journal to be polemical first, entertaining second.

For the first few months, much of the Revolution’s literary works upheld this creed. Alice Cary and Phoebe Cary—sisters committed to obtaining woman’s rights and well known for their writings—respectively wrote the Revolution’s first two poems, which questioned the current status of women in society and attacked the absurdity of men’s hypocrisy. Phoebe Cary’s poem “Was He Hen-Pecked” features a husband and wife arguing over women voting and women’s rights; with palpable irony, it displays how men often gave lip service to women’s abilities and rights but stifled them through their actions. The husband offers quintessential platitudes but states he wants her for “mine alone.” He then continues,

You have your rights, tis very true,

But then we should define them!

We would not peck you cruelly,

We would not buy and sell you;

And you, in turn, should think, and be,

And do, just what we tell you![viii]

The idea that husbands enslaved their wives appears consistently in the Revolution, particularly in editorials that describe the state of marriage in nineteenth-century America as “slavery on one side and tyranny on the other.”[ix] Poetry and fiction contribute to this motif by expressing these sentiments through the voice of the perpetrators rather than the victims—a rhetorical choice that makes them more jarring and inflammatory. Other oft-expressed ideas that repeatedly received poetic utterance in the Revolution include the exoneration of “fallen women,” vast gendered inequalities in the marriage relationship, and ideal love.

Upon first consideration, the many well-known poems on ideal love by famous authors such as Elizabeth Barrett Browning, William Shakespeare, and Alfred Lord Tennyson that are re-published in the Revolution appear to be at odds with the polemical pieces calling for women’s rights or attacking inequities in the marriage state. However, looking at these poems in the context of the journal reveals that they actually offered an important contribution to the NWSA’s call for a revolution in contemporary opinion on marriage, divorce, and love because they show love as it should be.

In the longer version of my paper, I explain how the NWSA’s call for divorce as well as the respective reforms the two groups called for in the domestic state are actually the separating side issues that keep the two groups apart when there is call for union in 1870. Thus, the juxtaposed poems of ideal love with the harsh reality of the marriage relationship played an important polemical role within the Revolution.

Turning to the Woman’s Journal, it quickly becomes apparent that literature was not expected, as it was in the Revolution, to have a “clear, direct, humanitarian hand.” Much of the poetry and short stories lack any connection to women’s rights or the wrongs done to women. Analysis of the 50 short stories and 160 poems that appear in the first fifty volumes from January 1870 to January 1871 readily indicates its different audience and focus. Of the 160 poems, only 8 (a mere 5 percent) deal with women’s rights, wrongs, or advancing in some way women’s place beyond that of wife and mother.[x] The other 150 plus poems mirror the poetry found throughout nineteenth-century women’s and literary periodicals with themes of love, death, children, nature, and religion.

This fact does not discount this poetry, but rather adds support to the argument that the AWSA used the Woman’s Journal to show women how supporting suffrage could be part of an acceptable, middle-class persona.[xi] As Stone wrote, women could embrace the vote while still being “a genuine woman, gentle, tender, refined, and quiet.”[xii] As an example of this, the ideal woman presented on the front page of the first two issues via two poems (fittingly for this journal, one written by a man and one by a woman) is one that fits very comfortably in nineteenth-century sentimental poetry. According to this poetry, the ideal woman

Finds duties dear and labor sweet as rest,

And for itself knows neither care nor fear. . . .

Her heart was gentle as her face was fair,

With grace and love and pity dwelling there.[xiii]

The ideal woman presented in poem after poem is still the selfless, benevolent individual who finds strength in God and buoys all those around her:

She bravely defying the stormiest weather—

Herself sweetest sunshine—my glorious saint!

Never a care have I born alone.”[xiv]

By including poetry that celebrated the feminine ideals widely embraced in nineteenth-century America, Stone implicitly but repeatedly argued that the AWSA’s aims and goals were not revolutionary but in fact compatible with middle-class sensibilities. The decision to not overtly politicize the poetry corner also underlines that the Woman’s Journal existed in a competitive market. Much more can of course be said of both the poetry and the fiction in the respective journals and how they reflect and further the journals’ aims as well as bring into focus the defining separating issues, but hopefully this has given you a taste of what exists. Thank you for listening.

Teri Finneman: Thanks for tuning in, and additional thanks to our sponsor, Texas Christian University. Until next time, I’m your host, Teri Finneman, signing off with the words of Edward R. Murrow: Good night and good luck.

[i] Elizabeth Cady Stanton, preface to Pray You Sir, Whose Daughter?, ed. Helen H. Gardener (Boston: Arena, 1892), 1.

[ii] For example, Lana F. Rakow and Cheris Kramarae’s edited source volume of the Revolution reflects well its major themes but does not include a single poem, story, or novel excerpt. Lana Rakow and Cheris Kramarae, eds., The Revolution in Words: Righting Women 1868–1871 (New York: Routledge, 1990). Likewise no scholarship on the Woman’s Journal looks at its poetry or short stories.

[iii] See Mary Chapman, Making Noise, Making News: Suffrage Print Culture and U.S. Modernism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014); Mary Chapman and Angela Mills, Treacherous Texts: U.S. Suffrage Literature, 1846–1946 (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2011); Leslie Petty, Romancing the Vote: Feminist Activism in American Fiction, 1870–1929, (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2006); Elizabeth Gray, “Poetry and Politics in The Women’s Penny Paper/Woman’s Herald, 1888–1893,” Victorian Periodicals Review 45, no. 2 (Summer 2012): 134–57.

[iv] For more, see Ellen Carol DuBois, Feminism and Suffrage: The Emergence of an Independent Women’s Movement in America, 1848–1869 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1978), 162–202.

[v] For more, see DuBois, Feminism and Suffrage, 168–202; Lisa Tetrault, The Myth of Seneca Falls: Memory and the Women’s Suffrage Movement, 1848–1898 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2014): 27–35.

[vi] For good overviews, see Huxman, “Woman’s Journal, 1870–1890,” 87–109; Masel-Walters, “Burning Cloud,” 103–110.

[vii] Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “The Third Volume,” Revolution 3, no. 26 (July 1869), 401.

[viii] Phebe Cary, “Was He Hen-Pecked?” Revolution 4, no. 2 (July 1869), 18.

[ix] “The Husband of To-Day,” Revolution 4, no. 1 (July 1869), 3.

[x] This percentage remains fairly constant throughout the nineteenth century.

[xi] Steiner, “Evolving Rhetorical Strategies,” 191–92.

[xii] Lucy Stone, “Letters,” Woman’s Journal 2, no. 30 (July 1871), 236.

[xiii] F. B. Sanborn, “Anathemata,” Woman’s Journal 1, no. 1 (January 1870), 1.

[xiv] Nelly Mackay Hutchinson, “My Saint,” Woman’s Journal 1, no. 1 (January 1870), 1.

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Episode 9: Nancy Unger, “Belle La Follette’s Campaigns for Suffrage”


Teri Finneman: Welcome to Journalism History, a podcast that rips out the pages of your history books to re-examine the stories you thought you knew – and the ones you were never told. I’m your host, Teri Finneman, guiding you through our own drafts of history.

This episode is sponsored by the Texas Christian University Bob Schieffer College of Communication, where students learn to practice journalism with the persistence, civility, and integrity embodied by legendary CBS News journalist Bob Schieffer.

In this episode, Nancy Unger of Santa Clara University discusses a Wisconsin suffragist once called “the most consistent supporter of equal rights of all the women of her time” but whose legacy is often overshadowed by her husband’s.

We’ve created five mini episodes featuring suffrage researchers who spoke at an American Journalism Historians conference. This is part 4.

Nancy Unger: I’m Nancy Unger, and this is Legacies of Belle La Follette’s Big Tent Campaigns for women’s suffrage. When I wrote this biography of Belle La Follette, I had a hard time reconciling what I so admired about her with what I found to be really a frustrating blind spot concerning her approach to promoting women’s suffrage. My article is an effort to wrestle with that blind spot and its legacy.

On April 26, 1913, Belle Case La Follette testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Women’s Suffrage. She had long argued that women merited the vote based on their service as “public housekeepers.”[1] “One fundamental reason for equal suffrage is that it will arouse homemakers of today to a realization that they can only do their part—the part their mothers and grandmothers did—for the home when they use the ballot to secure these standards of cleanliness and healthfulness for the municipal home which were established in earlier times for the isolated home.” Yet, La Follette also cited more democratic reasons, asking, are not women people? Testifying that “home, society, and government are best when men and women keep together intellectually and spiritually, where they have the widest range of common interests, where they share with each other the solutions to their common problems.” She called women’s suffrage “a simple matter of common sense.”[2]

This combination of arguments to promote women’s suffrage created an inclusive and big tent that would attract a diverse group of supporters in the first two decades of the twentieth century. People who believed that women were inherently maternal and more moral than men found one set of arguments compelling, while feminists who rejected all claims of women’s moral superiority reacted favorably to the other set.[3] For all its wide appeal, however, this uneasy combination also fostered debate over women’s essential nature and hindered their rights activism for decades to come.

So who was Belle La Follette? Suffragist and leading feminist Alice Paul hailed her as “the most consistent supporter of equal rights of all the women of her time.”[4] Nevertheless, she is far less known than her husband, “Fighting Bob” La Follette, a congressman, governor, and U.S. senator.[5] Note the subtle plug here for my book.  She does have her own unique claims to fame, however.  She was, for example, the first woman to graduate from the University of Wisconsin law school. (Picture of graduating class shown) See if you can pick her out. As one of my colleagues points out, she seems to be the only member of the class to have received a diploma. She channeled the bulk of her political energies into her work as a public speaker and journalist to become a key player in the campaigns for woman suffrage, also a key player in the campaigns for civil rights for African Americans, fearlessly advocating what was WAY too big a tent for most white Americans, and promoting world peace and disarmament. Upon her death in 1931, the New York Times hailed her as “probably the least known yet most influential of all the American women who have had to do with public affairs.”[6]

According to scholar Sara Egge, suffragists in the Midwest “recognized the power of paper as an inexpensive means to reach isolated rural voters [and]…planned their political campaigns around small papers with big messages.”[7] La Follette’s Magazine, founded in 1909 and penned primarily by members of the family, was just such a publication. The magazine, published today as The Progressive, offered a mix of homey features, farm news, recipes, fiction, and humor, but was mainly a forum for progressive political views. The sixteen-page weekly’s circulation in its early years was relatively modest, ranging from 30,000 to 40,000. It garnered a faithful readership, however, especially the Home and Education feature by Belle La Follette. Exasperated with male editors’ certainty that women only wanted to read about fashion and home making, La Follette threw down the gauntlet: “Let’s fool these men publishers and put our time in on the world’s events.”[8] Hailing La Follette as “a pioneer in the establishment of a new sort of women’s page,” Cincinnati Enquirer journalist Selene Armstrong Harmon declared, “One of the cleverest and most readable pages in the country is edited by Belle Case La Follette…. She was probably the first editor of a woman’s department to go on a strike against the conventional formulas for hair dye and accepted recipes for beauty…. La Follette is always independent and fearless in her expression of opinion.”[9]

In countless columns, La Follette argued for women’s suffrage on the basis of women’s essential nature. Many suffrage leaders urged that women be enfranchised because they were “naturally” more moral and selfless than men, and more dedicated to the greater good. That is, women deserved the vote because of their sex, not despite it.[10] According to this view, a woman’s roles as homemaker and mother were her greatest political credentials. La Follette agreed, declaring, “Politics is merely public housekeeping.”[11]

Yet, La Follette also voiced decidedly egalitarian sentiments in her demands for suffrage. She declared in 1912, “Men and women are equally and mutually concerned in government and it is only when they equally understand and are responsible that we shall secure a well-balanced democracy.”[12]

The 1908 landmark case, Muller v. Oregon, had already revealed the dangers of gains that had been won for women laundry workers on the basis of their differences from men. The court asserted plainly that women are not equal to men but, like children, are physically weaker and incapable of protecting their own rights and therefore must rely upon the state to look out for them.[13] Yet, La Follette scoffed at concerns about conceding women’s inferiority to gain protective legislation.

The passage of the 19th Amendment did not resolve the questions concerning inherent and perceived differences between men and women, but La Follette steadfastly refused to conflate “protection” with “privilege” or “different” with “inferior.” She believed that one could work to remedy problems that plagued women specifically without conceding their inequality. She faced, however, a growing consensus that women could have equal rights or protective legislation, but not both.

In La Follette’s big tent, feminist assertions and essentialist constructions of womanhood included mutually exclusive arguments that frequently divided women and hindered their progress. Women who were confident that it was their maternal, feminine nature that qualified them to vote pursued very different agendas than women who believed in women’s political, economic, and social equality with men. La Follette had triumphantly reported that, as promised, equal suffrage was helping to bring equal pay for equal work.[14] However, over the course of the next 100 years, many women were “protected” right out of their jobs by legislation and labor practices designed to shield women—such as an arbitrary maximum lifting weight far lower than men’s.

Using some of the essentialist arguments proffered by suffrage campaigners including La Follette, many educational opportunities and professions remained essentially closed to women. Until the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974, banks could refuse to issue a credit card to an unmarried woman—and could require that a married woman’s husband cosign. Only the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 ended the practice of firing women when they became pregnant. Marital rape was not recognized until the 1970s, and not criminalized in all states until 1993. Equal pay for equal work has yet to be achieved.

The feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s showed that the two forces that La Follette had gathered together under a big tent had become diametrically opposed. Not only did women repeatedly come into conflict during efforts to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, but their differences continue to plague women’s unity to the present day in skirmishes carried out on a number of political, social, and cultural battlefields.

Although the wide-ranging arguments used by Belle La Follette and others helped to make the 19th Amendment a reality, they also reinforced lasting cultural, political, economic, ideological, and social differences between the sexes and among women. This polarization is particularly damaging because it has allowed some of the most powerful and constructive elements of La Follette’s message to be lost: her insistence that difference is not synonymous with inferiority (especially concerning reproduction and other factors based in physiology), and her support for the sisterhood of all women across race, class, and geographic borders. Thank you.

Teri Finneman: Thanks for tuning in, and additional thanks to our sponsor, Texas Christian University. Until next time, I’m your host, Teri Finneman, signing off with the words of Edward R. Murrow: Good night and good luck.

[1] Belle Case La Follette (hereafter BCL), “Women as Public Housekeepers,” La Follette’s Magazine (hereafter LM) 2, no. 42, 22 Oct. 1910, 10.

[2] La Follette reprinted her testimony in the La Follette’s Magazine as “A Question of Democracy,” LM 5, no. 19, 10 May 1913, 6.

[3] Although variations on the term “feminist” (feministic, feminist, feminists) appear in La Follette’s Magazine as early as 1911, La Follette never provided her own definition of the term.

[4] Dee Ann Montgomery, “An Intellectual Profile of Belle La Follette,” (Ph.D diss, Indiana University, 1975), 225.

[5] See Nancy C. Unger, Fighting Bob La Follette 2nd ed. (Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2008).

[6] “Wisconsin’s Matriarch,” New York Times, 20 Aug. 1931, 15.

[7] Sara Egge, “‘Strewn Knee Deep in Literature’” Agricultural History 88, no. 4 (Fall 2014): 591.

[8] BCL, “Foolishness,” LM 3, no. 44, 4 Nov. 1911, 10-11.

[9] Selene Armstrong Harmon, “A New Sort of Women’s Page,” reprinted in LM 6, no. 24, 13 June 1914, 6-7.

[10] Cott, 29.

[11] BCL, “Why the Homemaker Should Vote for La Follette,” 17 Oct., 1924, La Follette Family Papers, Library of Congress (hereafter LFP), D-42.

[12] BCL, “Roosevelt’s Speech on Suffrage,” LM 4, no. 33, 7 Aug. 1912, 10.

[13] See Nancy Woloch, Muller v. Oregon (Boston: Bedford, 1996).

[14] The Woman’s Bulletin, “Some of the Results of Two Years of Equal Suffrage in California,” LM 6, no. 10, 7 March 1914, 6.

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Episode 10: Brooke Kroeger, “Engaging the Public with Suffrage”


Teri Finneman: [00:00:09] Welcome to Journalism History, a podcast that rips out the pages of your history books to reexamine the stories you thought you knew … and the ones you were never told. I’m your host, Teri Finneman, guiding you through our own drafts of history.

This episode is sponsored by the Texas Christian University Bob Schieffer College of Communication where students learn to practice journalism with the persistence, civility, and integrity embodied by legendary CBS News journalist Bob Schieffer.

[00:00:39] We’ve created five mini episodes featuring suffrage researchers who spoke at an American Journalism Historians conference. This is Part 5. To learn more about the suffrage movement, a website called was created to provide primary source materials, links to essays and other new historical work, and information about the centennial. In this episode, Brooke Kroeger of New York University discusses this website and the effort to reach a broader audience throughout the suffrage anniversary.

Brooke Kroeger: [00:01:11] Thank you all for coming. I’m Brooke Kroeger and what I’d like to do is take you through several things, process how this project came to be. Its genesis was a lot earlier than you might think. And just to tell you how it happened, but also, to ask you to think of it in a contentless way. It’s the sort of thing that you could do with any subject matter. We just happened to do it with this, seizing on a moment. And so as you hear me take you through this, think about how you could apply it to the research that you do with just a few helpers along the way. So, it really started a year or so before Oklahoma City 2015, when I presented a research in progress about the men in the suffrage movement. What follows was a little bit self-serving, I have to acknowledge, I became very, very interested in the forthcoming Centennial knowing that it was either two years out for New York or four to five years out for the national celebration and started to think about ways that you could, through the media and the things that we were interested in, make this larger subject.

[00:02:30] I knew that the 2017 JJCHC was coming up because I’d been asked by this body to be one of the organizers along with the wonderful Nick Hirshon, and I know the space very well because it’s our space at NYU. I knew that in addition to having papers and panels, the usual format, we had these wonderful little dens. Our graduate program is divided into 10 very separate programs of 20 students, so with 15 students it would be 30 because the programs are two years long, have their own little space where we like to think of it as you know the 10 Maserati’s in the marble floored garage and they all have a space of their own within the two floors that we occupy at 20 Cooper Square.

[00:03:18] Well, I took the idea to Ford Risley, and I really didn’t understand this till yesterday when I made this slide, but I said, ‘Ford, could the [American Journalism] journal do something about suffrage?’ and he did not hesitate a nanosecond and said, ‘Absolutely, we can do that.’ He said, ‘This is what it’s going to take,’ and he laid out exactly the path to get there, saying it was going to take two years. Wire service reporter that I am, I’m just going ‘oh, ok, two years,’ but he was exactly on the money. What I did not realize in his response, besides the fact that he had the authority to do it and the money, because that apparently exists within our Taylor and Francis franchise, that Ford had been the guest editor in 2009 for the Abraham Lincoln special issue. So, he knew a great deal about how this could be done and would be done and seemed to embrace it quite immediately.

[00:04:15] So, he and I started to throw around names to who we could put together for a committee and a publishing date of Spring 2019, which was our goal. To do that we have to be ready by January and it looks like we’re on track. These are the dens, (showing picture) as you can see this is the GloJo den, my program, global and joint program studies, which is half in journalism and half in nine different area studies programs, Latin American Studies, Africana Studies, et cetera. And we are the only one with an espresso machine and a refrigerator, and that’s where we met. It was one of these “Ten in the Dens” and I noticed that Pamela [Walck] and crew this year are reinstituting this [at JJCHC] and they didn’t do it last year. But I urge you, put together a group of colleagues and start to think about the kinds of projects you could develop and you can be in the GloJo den, I could arrange that. This is our group (showing picture). All of these people were present, with the exception of Ford, and we met and put together the idea and the plan and the chronology of how we were going to do this. The other thing that seemed important to us, beyond just creating the Journal, was a way to make the Journal a public force. How to emphasize the public intellectual dimension of the work we do, which is of course behind paywalls most of the time.

[00:05:31] And so we thought we’d create some sort of a database or something that would give us a way to promote the journal. From that, we of course publicized the call for papers. Willie Tubbs was great. He put it out on every possible listserv. NYU put out a press release. [The AEJMC History Division newsletter] Clio did a piece. I mean, we really worked it as much as we could at that early stage.

[00:05:55] The New York centennial was 2017, so of course the New York Humanities Council had about something like three million dollars in funding for state related operations and because we were located at NYU and NYU could sponsor it, we did a proposal and we got a five thousand dollar grant. With that, we also got other important support both from NYU, which has helped us a lot with money, NYU journalism hosts the site, and you know, just keeps it maintained in that sense, and of course American Journalism, Temple, and Maryland have been great cheerleaders. This is the site, (showing webpage) I’m sure you’ve all been on it. I don’t know if you’ve spent any time on it, but it’s loaded mostly at this point by Alex Kane, one of my former students.

[00:06:45] I love the irony of having Alex be the one to do this. So, he does Q and A’s with new authors of new books. We put it together in a way where every entry tells you where you can get free resources if it’s possible, where you go if you can’t, a little context about what’s being offered, in all the places there is ancillary material. The other thing that’s I think fantastic about it is that it has one of the best filtering browsing systems you’ve ever seen, because there are a zillion categories: postcards, pro suffrage, anti-suffrage, you know. You just plug in what you need and when you hit that submit button to apply the filters, what you want really comes up as opposed to the usual mess we see. So, it’s a really well-designed site, thank you Garrett Gardner. And just to show you the data usage, this is since we launched, (shows data) which was three months after that meeting on June 10th, 2017 till the end of September.

[00:07:43] This is just a picture of our usage. It’s about 62 active users a day, which is kind of stunning when you think that only states are really on the suffrage bandwagon at this point. And as many as 1,500 per month, at least in this period, that would be an average. So that’s pretty much right. Ok. So, then we put out the call to papers as I said, about 25 to 27 proposals came in. We only could include five for space. So, that was a painful process of elimination.

[00:08:19] We met again, our group, at the 2017 Chicago AEJMC. We went through, these were full dress, five-page proposals, not just abstracts, so a lot of work had gone into them, and chose the five that we thought would work well for us. And those are our authors (shows picture) and of course that’s a fake version of our Spring 2019 and what we hope it’s going to look like (shows picture of mock issue). And so what you’re seeing now was the original conception of the database that of course has become this 2,000 item juggernaut. So, all of that happened. And then in the midst of all this creation, came an idea from Linda Steiner and Carolyn Kitsch to think about, should there be a book about suffrage in the media. And so quite apart from this project, another project developed and University of Illinois Press is going to publish it. So, that’s our story.

Teri Finneman: [00:09:19] Thanks for tuning in and additional thanks to our sponsor Texas Christian University. Until next time, I’m your host, Teri Finneman, signing off with the words of Edward R. Murrow: Good Night and Good Luck.

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