Another successful themed book club afternoon in the “books”. I was eager to host this August to take full advantage of celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment’s ratification. Today’s celebration falls between last week’s August 18th – the day Tennessee became the 36th state to vote in favor which at the time provided the necessary majority, and this Wednesday, August 26th, the date the Amendment was formally adopted into the Constitution.
Although we had a smaller turn-out of the group, we still managed to have a good time enjoying the 1920’s styled luncheon of tea sandwiches and salads along with the always in demand for summer book club – Pat’s sangria. Who knew the second favorite of the day would be the watermelon salad? (Recipe below).
Everyone donned a sash and a placard as well to complete the theme and to lead into our discussion of the two choices I selected: The Woman’s Hour by Elaine Weiss and Madame Presidentess by Nicole Evelina.
The Woman’s Hour is a well-researched, non-fiction account of the details ahead of the final days in Tennessee one hundred years ago. About half the group read this selection and we spent a good amount of time discussing the various factions within the suffrage movement, as well as the “Antis”. Our conclusion focused on the fact that while women like Lucy Stone, Susan B. Anthony and Lucretia Mott may have started the movement back in 1848 with the Seneca Falls Convention, it was the final days of work by Alice Paul and Carrie Catt who carried the vote over the finish line. Paul and Catt are definitely lesser known or publicized names compared to Stone, Anthony and Mott – and deserve more recognition. For more on The Woman’s Hour and the virtual author talk I attended with Elaine Weiss, check out my prior post: Authors on (Virtual) Tour.
Madame Presidentess came recommended to me via a Facebook group when I put out a call for suggestions of a historical fiction about the suffrage movement. There really isn’t a lot written on the topic, but I was happy to select this title so we could learn about another unknown woman in history – Victoria Claflin Woodhull – the first woman to run for president in the United States. Never heard of her? Me neither! But boy was she something else!! A spit fire of a woman who came nothing with a colorful past of scam-artist parents, brothel living, friends who were prostitutes, and an alcoholic, philandering husband. She ended up opening the first woman-owned brokerage firm on Wall Street, served as a financial advisor to Cornelius Vanderbilt, and yes, had her name on the ballot for the 1872 election for her own created party, the Equal Rights Party. A woman way ahead of her times, she was a marvel. Read it for yourself to find out more about how and why her platform unraveled, as well as the obstacles she faced from day one.
As I finished working on Eliza’s story these last few months, with the new ending occurring in 1920, I realized I added in more suffrage movement moments and influences. I’m glad I did. Here are a few of those excerpts which I included on the back side of the placards for today’s luncheon.
I hope a few of them will inspire you to reflect on the past struggles and triumphs, since now, here we are. One hundred years later facing an election which includes an African-American / Asian-American woman on the ballot for Vice President with one of the major parties. Only time will tell if ten weeks from now, history will be made. But nothing can happen either way unless each and every one of us exercise the right granted to us by all the women who paraded down streets, forced their voices to be heard, were beaten and jailed, where shunned and ridiculed by not only men, but many other women as well. For them, we must continue their march… and VOTE!
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