July 31, 2017
University Press 2017
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The Suffragents: How Women Used Men to Get the Vote
SUNY Press (Sep 1, 2017)
Softcover $24.95 (372pp)
By SUSAN WAGGONER
Kroeger provides a nearly minute-by-minute account of organized men’s participation in the fight for women’s suffrage.
Brooke Kroeger’s massively researched history, The Suffragents: How Women Used Men to Get the Vote, chronicles the now-forgotten support that men lent the movement.
Though the subtitle implies manipulation or trickery, neither was the case. Although many men did not endorse the women’s suffrage, some saw women’s rights as human rights and formed the Men’s League for Woman Suffrage. They endured disapproval and heckling to defend, argue for, and march alongside the women of the movement.
The Suffragents is the product of formidable research. It’s a fresh contribution in which the big picture is composed of a vast mosaic of forgotten facts, such as TellaSuff Day, a telephone campaign to call men at home and, according to the New-York Tribune, use “all the arts and wiles of feminine voice culture” to present their case.
Such anecdotes are drawn from a wide array of sources, including correspondence, diaries, memorandums, memoirs, newspaper columns, and even weather reports. Direct quotes abound, resulting in a nearly minute-by-minute account of organized men’s participation, from the first decade of the twentieth century through 1920, when the vote was won.
Supplemental materials are excellent. The “Notes” section runs to almost one hundred pages long and meticulously cites every source quoted, referenced, or used for background. The substantial bibliography is also a valuable resource.
Of special merit are numerous illustrations, chosen well and skillfully used to recreate an atmosphere of anxiety, dissent, urgency, and optimism. Pictures drawn from newspapers and other ephemera are remarkably sharp and clear, making the subjects seem contemporary. The volume of magazine covers wholly given to the subject underscores how dominant it was in the country’s mainstream.
Long sentences turn many corners, though, and contain too many subjects at times. Packed paragraphs require careful reading.
The Suffragents adds an original and welcome new dimension to the field of women’s studies.