Formidable American women and the fight for equality, 1920-2020

Elisabeth Griffith

eBook - 2022

The Nineteenth Amendment expanded American democracy by doubling the number of eligible voters, but it was an incomplete victory. It did not enfranchise all women nor even protect women who could vote. A century later, many of the issues in the Nineteenth Amendment still dominate public discourse: voting rights, racial violence, health care, working conditions, reproductive rights, and more. Formidable chronicles the efforts of white and Black women to advance sometimes competing causes. White w...omen wanted equal legal rights, political power, safeguards for working women and immigrants, and an end to confining social structures. Black women wanted to protect their communities from racial violence and discrimination. White women wanted to be equal to white men. Black women wanted the rights enjoyed by whites. Theirs was not only a women's movement. Dr. Elisabeth Griffith integrates the fight of both white and Black women to achieve equality in this sweeping and riveting narrative. Previously their parallel struggles for social justice have been presented separately, as white or Black topics, or else viewed through individuals, decades, or incidents, rather than from a longer view and a wider perspective. We also meet a cast of women thoughtout this generations-long fight. From feminists, civil rights activists, politicians, social justice advocates, working class women, mothers and homemakers, radicals and conservatives, to those who were offended by feminism, threatened by social change, or convinced of white supremacy. After winning in 1920, suffragists had a sense of optimism, declaring, "Now we can begin!" By 2020, a new generation knew they would have to begin again. By turns engaging and outraging, Formidable will propel readers to continue the fights of their foremothers to truly achieve equality for all.

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[United States] : Pegasus Books 2022.
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Elisabeth Griffith (author)
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Review by Booklist Review

Historian and women's-rights activist Griffith (In Her Own Right, 1984) provides an engrossing, extremely detailed survey of the rights women have both gained and lost from 1920 to 2020. This well-researched tome opens with the suffrage movement and runs through the civil-rights era to modern movements such as #MeToo. Women's rights are examined decade by decade through a myriad of lenses, including political movements, pop-culture representation, civil rights, war, economics, and health care. The formation of united fronts in pursuit of change is delved into, as is the fragmentation of movements as various avenues and causes are pursued, sometimes putting activists at odds. Women of all walks of life and of every race and culture--whether Black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, Jewish, lesbian, working class, or upper class--are examined and extolled in the long fight for women's rights in America. This is a perfect text for feminists, activists, and readers of history and sociology.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Historian Griffith (In Her Own Right) provides an informative survey of women's gains and setbacks since the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. Focusing on the "interwoven" struggles for equal rights and civil rights, Griffith's diverse roster of profile subjects includes antilynching crusader Ida B. Wells; legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, who coined the term intersectionality; early 20th-century Native American activist Zitkala-Ša; and Dolores Huerta, a schoolteacher of Mexican descent who turned to labor union activism in the 1960s. Griffith also traces the campaign for the Equal Rights Amendment from its launch in the 1920s to its defeat 50 years later by Republican operative Phyllis Schlafly, and the quest for reproductive rights, which flourished from the 1920s through the 1970s before experiencing a strong backlash after the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Scattered throughout are brisk portraits of pioneers including Black astronaut Mae Jemison, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, and Vice President Kamala Harris. Noting that women's achievements have been both hard-won and fragile, Griffith laments how racial, class, and political divisions have slowed the path to equality, but strikes an appealing note of optimism in the book's final pages. This is an impassioned and inspiring introduction to how far the women's movement has come, and where it still needs to go. Illus. (Aug.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Library Journal Review

The history of women's rights in the U.S. is messy, and historian Griffith's (In Her Own Right: The Life of Elizabeth Cady Stanton) book dives into the tangle of personalities, politics, and passions and surfaces with a great narrative. The author presents both the inspiring and ugly sides of the struggle for equality, including suffragettes who used racism to promote their cause, some in-fighting, and many disagreements on strategies. Excluded from white organizations, women of color formed their own. The fight for women's rights is presented as a swath of battles by people of different races, classes, and lived experiences, all with different goals reflecting the various needs of women. The book also presents those who stood and still stand opposed to issues like the Equal Rights Amendment and reproductive rights. The book wraps up with a comparison of major issues in 1920 and 2022. VERDICT This is a fantastic and enjoyable book tracing 100 years of work and struggle for women's equality. A great book for general readers and a must read for anyone interested in women's and American political history.--Susanne Caro

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Kirkus Book Review

A history of a century of change for American women. Griffith, the author of a biography of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, offers an encyclopedic overview of women's advocacy for issues they believed crucial to their lives. Beginning with the suffrage movement, different constituencies often saw those issues differently: Black and Jewish women, for example, feeling excluded by White, Protestant suffragists, formed their own organizations. Jewish women focused on ending immigration quotas; Black women, on anti-lynching laws. Passage of the 19th Amendment gave White women hope that by voting, they would gain power to achieve reforms such as workplace safety and child labor laws. Although Black women were enfranchised, too, their right to vote was not protected, leading to "panic" at the polls. Ending racial violence and discrimination became, for Black women, the most significant issue. Griffith follows women's lives decade by decade, identifying important figures in politics, social movements, popular culture, and the arts who inspired or incited change, from Ida Wells-Barnett to Hilary Clinton, Carrie Chapman Catt to Stacey Abrams. Throughout the century, Griffith notes a fragmentation of alliances. By the 1990s, she reveals, myriad organizations formed "around causes like childcare, domestic violence, economic inequality, environmental toxins, food deserts, health care, incarceration, labor conditions, maternal mortality, police accountability, and women with disabilities, among many other concerns. Groups formed around shared identities--lesbians, Latinas, librarians, women on welfare, women in physics, Native Americans, and so many others." Conservative women have supported the tea party, anti-abortion activism, and candidates such as Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann. From the 1913 suffrage parade to the #MeToo movement, divisiveness persists. Women's optimism about the power of the vote has been tempered by reality. "When you start at barely any and advance to more, the line on a graph tracking women's progress might suggest dramatic improvement," writes Griffith. "If you amortize those changes over a century, the pace is slower and the line is flatter." A hefty, thoroughly researched contribution to women's history. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.