Ohio Humanities Women's Suffrage Series

Revisit the Virtual Women’s Suffrage Speakers Series

Each week from July 14-August 18, 2020, Ohio Humanities hosted a scholar to discuss the history of women’s suffrage and voting rights through the lens of race, politics, protest, and more. The series explored lesser known figures and stories, and allowed audiences to reflect on the significant anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment and the long, continuous struggle for voting rights. We hope you enjoy these recorded programs and continue to explore the history of the right to vote.

Breaking the Political Glass Ceiling: The Frustrating, Exhausting, Amazing, & Inspiring History of Women Running for Office 

Presented by Barbara Palmer on July 14, 2020.

Women have been running for public office in the United States for 150 years. However, it has only been since the 1970s that we have seen any significant progress in their numbers. In addition to sharing stories of some of the early trail-blazers who ran before the passage of the 19th Amendment, we will explore how historical barriers, such as incumbency and redistricting, have shaped the electoral success of female candidates. Did the 2016 and 2018 elections finally rewrite the rules?

Rebels in Corsets: The Embodied Rhetoric of the Women’s Suffrage Movement 

Presented by Susan Trollinger on July 21, 2020.

The story of the women’s suffrage movement is often told (even by US historians) as a peaceful transition by which white male politicians happily gave women the right to vote. This could not be further from the truth. The movement for women’s suffrage was a 72-year struggle that demanded a great deal from women emotionally, politically, and physically. This lecture looks at what it was like to be a woman in the 19th century with little power to change her circumstances because she did not have access to the ballot box, how it was that women became convinced in the 1840s that it was time to take on that struggle, and how they finally won it through rhetorical strategies that might not look radical to us now but then appeared so radical as to have been called “disgusting.”

Alice Paul, Nonviolent Protest, and the American Women’s Suffrage Movement

Presented by Leslie Goddard on July 28, 2020.

In the last seven years of the American women’s suffrage movement, Alice Paul led a determined band of activists in confrontational acts of nonviolent protest: demonstrations, picketing, burning President Wilson in effigy and other “outrageous performances.” Yet she is rarely mentioned as a pioneer in the use of nonviolent direct action. In this illustrated lecture, historian Leslie Goddard explores why Paul should be remembered as one of the earliest leaders of a successful campaign of civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance. And why the women’s suffrage movement should be remembered as one of the most remarkable nonviolent protest movements in history.

Our Proper Sphere: African American Suffragists

Presented by Ilene Evans on August 4, 2020.

This presentation examines the changing values expressed in the “Roaring” 20’s about women and their proper place in the world. The ideal of “True Womanhood” and the “Cult of Domesticity” were held up as a standard for the new world family of the Victorian Age. Coralie Franklin Cook—equal rights activist and leader during the women’s suffrage movement—and club women redefined the ideals of true womanhood on their own terms based on the connection of the family of all mankind and racial equality. Ilene will look at the work of Coralie Franklin Cook, African American sororities, African American Women’s Clubs, and local community action groups in which women took part, invigorating the conversation and efforts to be inclusive.

Helen Hamilton Gardener and the Secret History of Women’s Suffrage in America

Presented by Kimberly Hamlin on August 11, 2020.

This talk reveals the remarkable story of the “fallen woman” who became the “most potent factor” in Congressional passage of the 19th Amendment and the highest-ranking woman in federal government. After being outed in Ohio newspapers for having an affair with a married man, Alice Chenoweth moved to New York City, changed her name to Helen Hamilton Gardener, and became one of the century’s most famous reformers. In 1910, she settled in Washington, D.C. right next to the Speaker of the House. Next, she charmed her way into the Wilson White House and steered the 19 th Amendment through Congress. The year 2020 marks the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, and this presentation tells the larger story of the suffrage movement through the eyes of one of its most fascinating advocates.

Bending to the Color Line: The Fight For Women’s Suffrage in Ohio

Presented by Carol Lasser on August 18, 2020.

In the final years of the suffrage struggle, Ohio women’s efforts to gain the vote took place in a national movement that accepted the regional disenfranchisement of African Americans as part of a bargain to overcome Southern resistance.  Yet in Ohio, the opposition from organized liquor interests brought Black and white suffragists together. The story of these complex relationships helps us think about how race, region, and special interests shape alliances and access to the vote.