This #SuffrageSyllabus explores the tangled history of gender and United States citizenship. It was created by a group of scholars working together with Harvard College students and Schlesinger Library staff as part of the Library’s Long 19th Amendment Project. We’ve organized the semester-long course of readings and assignments around turning points in the history of American voting rights and female citizenship, from 1776 to the present day. We hope teachers working in a wide variety of classrooms will adapt this content to enrich their teaching.
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By Lisa Tetrault
In 1776, the leaders of 13 of Britain’s American colonies launched a novel form of government: a republic, in which leaders would derive their authority from the consent of “the People,” exercised via the suffrage, or the vote. In the ensuing years, this founding idea, that the citizens of a republic could govern themselves, spread far beyond those the signers of the Declaration of Independence or those who ratified the U.S. constitution envisioned as “the People,” with all sorts of Americans, women included, insisting that they too could rule themselves.
By Manisha Sinha
The 1870 moment marked an important turning point in the history of women’s suffrage in the United States. With the passage of the 14th and 15th constitutional amendments that enfranchised adult black men, women’s suffragists divided into two groups: those who retained their commitment to abolitionist feminism and those who sought to fight for women’s rights by any means necessary, including an expedient repudiation of the abolitionist commitment to racial equality.
By Corinne T. Field
Was 1920 the turning point in American women’s political history, the moment when women won the right to vote? Or, was passage of the 19th Amendment one phase in an ongoing struggle that began before 1830 and continues today? How you answer this question depends in large part on where you look and whom you center in your sights.
By Durba Mitra
When American women achieved the vote in 1920 with the 19th Amendment, most of the people in the world were colonized with little to no access to political rights. American and European women’s movements had complex and often contradictory relationships to the imperial project.
By Liette Gidlow
Despite the ratification of the 19th Amendment, many women in the U.S. still could not vote. White primaries, erstwhile “literacy tests,” and threats of violence blocked hundreds of thousands of southern Black women from casting ballots.
By Katherine Turk
Two landmark events recast the trajectory of American citizenship in June 1982, and they pointed in opposite directions. The first, a major victory for social justice advocates, was led by some of the same figures and adopted the tactics of the Civil Rights Movement. The second revealed how gender equality had become a wedge that cleaved the nation’s culture and politics, portending a hostile future for the democratic movements born in the 1960s.
By Ciara Hervas, Patricia Liu, Fariba Mahmud, Jessica Morandi, and Toluwalope Moses
This year, 2020, marks a century since the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which expanded the American electorate to include women. The unfinished business of the 19th Amendment lies in addressing the many ways in which the United States continues to fall short of ensuring voting equality for all.