The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote
By Elaine Weiss
I just finished this enthralling book which tells in detail of the last six weeks of the journey to ratification of the 19th Amendment, set in the thirty-sixth state to consider it, Tennessee. (If it did not pass in Tennessee it would have had to begin the process all over again.) When I first heard about the book I wondered how the author could possibly take an entire book to tell the story of the last six weeks of the ratification process, as compelling and important as that time was.
I soon found out. The author does tell the story of the amendment’s journey and final triumph in Tennessee, but along the way she brings to life other facets of the journey – the life story of Carrie Chapman Catt, whose devotion to the suffrage movement spanned decades; the battle over the 14th and 15th Amendments which granted all “male citizens,” including black men, the right to vote over all women; the blatant racist backlash by angry suffrage leaders that followed; the desperation of National Woman’s Party leader Alice Paul, who didn’t even have enough money to buy train fare to Nashville to join in the fight.
We are also introduced to a richly portrayed cast of characters – crafty corporate lobbyists, wary politicians, determined “Antis” who sincerely believed that allowing women to vote would bring about the “moral collapse of the nation,” and a devoted band of suffragists who spent many years of their lives fighting for political equality.
The author gathers the threads of all these stories and skillfully weaves them into a tapestry of triumph, complete with a page-turning, nail-biting finish. The book’s dust jacket tells it perfectly. “The Woman’s Hour has all the color and drama of a great political novel, but Weiss also shows how the core themes of American history – race, class, money, gender, states’ rights, power and democracy – all came into play in Nashville.”
A great read for anyone – but especially for those interested in the ever-fascinating story of the ratification of the 19th Amendment.