Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

History of Woman Suffrage, a chronological narrative with documents, comprises six volumes averaging one thousand pages apiece. The broad purpose of this massive work was to lend intellectual and moral support to feminists, and their male allies, in their struggles between 1881 and 1920 to extend the franchise to women. Universal white manhood suffrage had all but been accomplished by the mid-1840’s, an area in which Americans then led the world. In 1870, as a part of post-Civil War Reconstruction, ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment prohibited denial of the vote because of race, color, or previous condition of servitude; thus the franchise was extended to African American males, including those who had been freed from slavery by the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865.

The great discontinuity in such extensions of the franchise in the extension of democracy was the general preclusion of voting by women. Despite the fact that in some localities a few women had participated in voting during Colonial days and a few subsequently enjoyed voting rights during the first half of the nineteenth century, though still only locally, these were insignificant exceptions to the prevailing practices of a male-dominated society. Whatever the opinions the majority of women may have held regarding the value of the franchise to them during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries—and these are unknown—many thousands of educated and articulate women certainly considered their denial of the vote a rank injustice. Abigail Adams had reminded her husband, John, of that fact...

(The entire section is 644 words.)