The United States of America is almost 250 years old, but American women won the right to vote less than a hundred years ago.

And when the controversial nineteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution - the one granting suffrage to women - was finally ratified in 1920, it passed by a mere one-vote margin.

The amendment only succeeded because a group of women had been relentlessly demanding the right to vote for more than seventy years. The leaders of the suffrage movement were fearless in the face of ridicule, arrest, imprisonment, and even torture. Many of them devoted themselves to a cause knowing they wouldn't live to cast a ballot. This is their story.


In a relatively short number of pages, Zimet manages to tell seventy years of history relating to the women's suffrage movement.  A topic like this one could be very dry and boring but in Zimet's hands it turns out to be a fascinating and frustrating tale.  The focus is of course on the key players in the movement, but a number of radical women of the time are highlighted throughout the book including: Anne Hutchinson, Abigail Adams, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Sojourner Truth.  I appreciated how their efforts contributed to the work that was done later by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, and those who followed them.  The movement wasn't successful because of the efforts of any one woman, but those individuals who were leaders are followed especially closely.  I also appreciated the fact that different perspectives were included in the story and that the flaws of those involved were not glossed over.  This is history-telling at it's finest and a compelling tale of the determination and courage of those who fought for a right that many never lived to see.  It reminds me of the importance of using that right to make a difference. 


For nearly 150 years, American women did not have the right to vote. On August 18, 1920, they won that right, when the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified at last. To achieve that victory, some of the fiercest, most passionate women in history marched, protested, and sometimes even broke the law—for more than eight decades.

From Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who founded the suffrage movement at the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, to Sojourner Truth and her famous “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech, to Alice Paul, arrested and force-fed in prison, this is the story of the American women’s suffrage movement and the private lives that fueled its leaders’ dedication. Votes for Women! explores suffragists’ often powerful, sometimes difficult relationship with the intersecting temperance and abolition campaigns, and includes an unflinching look at some of the uglier moments in women’s fight for the vote.

By turns illuminating, harrowing, and empowering, Votes for Women! paints a vibrant picture of the women whose tireless battle still inspires political, human rights, and social justice activism.


Conkling has written a compelling narrative around the experiences of the major leaders of the women's suffrage movement.  Both those who helped start the movement and those who saw the final victory are included.  Conflict from without and within hampered the movement from the beginning, but the determination and courage of those who believed so firmly lead to the movement's survival.  Conkling includes lots of interesting stories, quotes, and details about both the people involved and the main events that either helped move the cause forward or lead to serious setbacks.  The strengths and weaknesses of the leaders are explored as well.  This book should be required reading for all young women when they gain the right to vote.  There is not way they could ever take the right to vote for granted again after reading this account of the sacrifices and suffering that lead to the final passing of the 19th Amendment.


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