By Angela P. Dodson. Center Street, 2017. 448 pages. $26/hardcover; $15.99/paperback; $9.99/eBook.Buy from QuakerBooks
The upcoming 2020 centennial of women’s suffrage in the United States is producing a number of publications and events relating to the topic. The current political landscape has further bolstered interest in documenting those who persevered and found a place in national politics. This book is an example of this trend. There are other books that bring more narrative focus to particular elements in the quest for women’s suffrage, or treat the topic in a more scholarly fashion. Dodson presents an accessible resource for readers wanting inspiration and an overview beyond the basics and touchpoints of Seneca Falls in 1848 and the final push to ratify the amendment in 1920.
Dodson took the book’s title from a letter that Abigail Adams wrote to her husband, John Adams, in 1776; in it, she writes:
I long to hear that you have declared an independency—and by the way in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If perticuliar care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebelion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.
The book is self-described as an almanac. The chapters are very brief and can be read sequentially, or they can be dipped into by readers who wish to concentrate on particular topics. Appendices of “Firsts” with timeline details are provided at the end of the book: lists of women serving in Congress and as governors from 1917 to 2017 and brief biographies of key women congressional leaders. Listing this information connects the quest for suffrage to women’s continuing involvement in electoral politics. Unsurprisingly, Quakers Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, and Alice Paul are featured, as is a chapter titled “The Radical Quakers.” However, the Quaker-specific facts include a misleading statement about Pennsylvania’s “founding” by William Penn: describing the colony as “a haven of religious freedom for Quakers and other [persecuted] sects.” Although Pennsylvania offered more religious tolerance than other colonies due to Penn’s ownership of it, the author seems unaware that it was granted to Penn by the king of England in repayment of a debt owed to his father. There are, in addition, some oversimplifications that will be jarring to those already familiar with the history.