DAWN Canada/Réseau d’action des femmes handicappées du Canada (DAWNC/RAFHC)

Founded in 1985, DAWNC/RAFHC is the leading Canadian activist group for and by women with disabilities. It has been in the forefront of raising consciousness about the special needs of women with a wide range of physical and mental disabilities and reminds Canadians that everyone is only temporarily abled since, at the very least, age determines much capacity. It has worked hard to identify the special dangers of violence, suicide, and poverty for women with disabilities, noting their persisting over-representation. Like many feminist advocacy groups, its work has been undermined by neo-liberal governments since the late 1980s.

Brownlee, Douglas A. 2006. “Partner Violence Against Women with Disabilities.” Violence Against Women. December. 12:9. 805-822..

“DAWN-RAFHC Canada”. http://www.dawncanada.net/ENG/ENGnational.htm

Driedger, Diane. 1998. The Last Civil Rights Movement: Disabled Peoples’ International (NY: St. Martin’s Press.

Driedger, Diane and Michelle Owen. 2008. Dissonant Disabilities: Women with Chronic Illnesses Explore their Lives. Toronto: Canadian Scholars Press and Women’s Press.

Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. 2005. “Feminist Disability Studies.” Signs. 30:2. 1557-87.

“Shameless: the Art of Disability.” 2006. Bonnie Klein Director. National Film Board of Canada.

Anti-Suffrage Movements in the USA South

The serious opposition to [woman suffrage] has been financed by the Whiskey Interests and the Cotton Mill owners of New England and the South. The former feared the suppression of the whiskey traffic and the latter the suppression of the exploitation of child labor, and of the competition of insufficiently paid labor of women in their mills. –Chief Justice Walter Clark to Henry Watterson, 1919.i

While the cause helped unify diverse groups with different agendas in the United States (US), as in Britain and Canada, suffrage roused great controversy and opposition. Peaking at a time of considerable ferment in the meanings and configurations of race, gender, and class in the US, advocates themselves split over white supremacy, the role of the state, and property ownership. The American South proved a special battlefield. Even as they demanded an end to discrimination against women, some leading suffragists promoted suffrage as a means of preserving white supremacy and systematic discrimination against people of color (Wheeler 1993). Such prejudices linked them, ironically enough, to their opponents. Southern antis, supported by saloon protective leagues and many industrialists, likewise positioned themselves as the champions of White Rule. For them, however, suffragists associated with equal rights campaigns threatened that dominance.

Although American anti-suffragism was composed mainly of women, and somewhat reminiscent of “domestic feminism”— in its emphasis on women’s special nature, although not its extension into the public sphere—the movement was supported by conservative political and economic interest groups. In the South, this coalition combined the forces of big agriculture, big business, and the Democratic Party, all of whom saw enfranchised women as the enemy. What united planters, textile men, railroad magnates, machine bosses, and liquor lawyers in their opposition to suffrage? Simply put, in historian Elna Green’s words, they feared that “suffragists would make good on their promises to vote in various reform measures, and, in effect, change their world” (1997: 52).

Factory workers in Florida by US National Archives.

Specific motivations varied. Textile interests, whose factories relied heavily on the cheap labor of women and children, opposed women suffrage for fear of “the power of women’s votes in preventing the exploitation of child labor, in requiring ‘equal pay for equal service,’ irrespective of sex” (as cited in Green 1997: 52). Big business feared that female voters would pass minimum-wage and maximum-hours laws for women workers, establish health and safety standards for factory workers, and abolish child labor. The railways feared a full-scale assault on a business widely regarded as one of the most corrupt in American society. Career politicians, grown wealthy by government contracts and political contacts, perceived a threat to their incomes when suffragists promised to ‘house-clean’ assemblies. In Green’s words, “the Black Belt aristocrats and their associates had spent the better part of a generation reassembling their former political hegemony [after the Civil War] and were not about to let millions of untested voters destroy that accomplishment” (1997: 55). In sum, because their wealth and political power were doubly dependent upon the political subordination of women and of people of color, antisuffragists in the southern states had a special stake in upholding and reinforcing the status quo. Despite the racism of some southern suffragists, their opponents remained convinced that enfranchising women promised the beginning of the end to entrenched power over both women and Black Americans, not to mention the poor more generally.

Further Reading:

E. C. DuBois (1999). Feminism and Suffrage: The Emergence of an Independent Women’s Movement in America, 1848-1869. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

E. C. Green (1997). Southern Strategies: Southern Women and the Woman Suffrage Question. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press.

M. S. Wheeler (1993). New Women of the New South: The Leaders of the Woman Suffrage Movement in the Southern States. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

A. S. Kraditor (1965). The Ideas of the Woman Suffrage Movement: 1890 to 1920. New York: W. Norton & Company.

A. F. Scott (1970). The Southern Lady: From Pedestal to Politics, 1830-1930. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press.

E C. DuBois (1997). Harriet Stanton Blatch and the Winning of Woman Suffrage. Yale University Press.

USA Suffrage Literature

From the early 1850s, when an organized national women’s rights movement emerged, to 1920, when the 19th Amendment enfranchising women was ratified, U.S. women writers from a variety of racial, ethnic, and class backgrounds published hundreds of short stories, novels, poems, plays, essays and conversion narratives in support of woman suffrage. In an essay entitled “The Truth of Fiction, and Its Charms”, published in the first issue of the very first American journal devoted to women’s rights, The Una (1853), for example, an anonymous editor argued that popular fiction was a valuable rhetorical form for the emergent movement. “[Fiction] brings the truth of nature—the probable, the possible and the ideal—in their broadest range and utmost capabilities into the service of a favorite principle, and demonstrates its force and beauty, and practicability, in circumstantial details, which like a panorama, presents an image so like an experience that we realize it for all the purposes of knowledge, hope and resolution” (qtd. Petty 4). In 1892, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the President of the newly formed National American Woman Suffrage Association, reiterated this appreciation of literature’s ability to move people to embrace a “favorite principle: “I have long waited … for some woman to arise to do for her sex what Mrs. Stowe did for the black race in ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin,’ a book that did more to rouse the national conscience than all the glowing appeals and constitutional arguments that agitated our people during half a century” (Stanton, Pray, Sir, vi-vii). Many suffrage supporters responded to Stanton’s call, particularly in the final two decades of the campaign.

An astonishing number of canonical and popular US writers voiced their support of woman suffrage through literary works. “Fanny Fern”, for example, wrote pro-suffrage essays such as “Independence” and “Shall Women Vote?”. Harriet Beecher Stowe published serialized fiction such as My Wife and I and fictional dialogues such as the Chimney Corner  that expressed moderate support for suffrage. Louisa May Alcott and Elizabeth Stuart Phelps authored suffrage literature for children. Twentieth-century authors Gertrude Atherton, Mary Johnston, Zona Gale, Edna Ferber, and Mary Austin all wrote novels that describe aspects of American suffrage in moving detail. Early twentieth-century poets–Frances Harper, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Marianne Moore, and Edna St. Vincent Millay to name just a few–wrote poetry in support of suffrage or in praise of suffragist leaders. Modernist. Even avant-gardist Gertrude Stein considered the suffrage theme when she wrote an opera libretto memorializing Susan B. Anthony, The Mother of Us All twenty-five years after the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. In addition to these more canonical figures, many popular writers–sensation novelist Lillie Devereux Blake, satirical poet Alice Duer Miller, and Western writer Abigail Scott Duniway–also made significant contributions to the suffrage literary tradition.

Examples from this extensive archive of literary works about suffrage appear in my Treacherous Texts: US Suffrage Literature 1846-1946 , an anthology designed to showcase creative interventions in the suffrage campaign, which are often overshadowed by oratory and other discursive forms. These creative works—fiction, poetry, drama, and autobiography as well as cartoons, banner slogans and song lyrics–should remind us of the importance of literature to political battles both in the past and today.

Resources and Further Reading

Alcott, Louisa May. “Cupid and Chow Chow,” in Aunt Jo’s Scrap Bag, vol. 3. Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1880. 5–40.

Atherton, Gertude. Julia France and Her Times. New York: Macmillan, 1912.

Blake, Lillie D. Fettered for Life or Lord and Master. New York: Sheldon & Co., 1874.

—-. “A Divided Republic: An Allegory of the Future,” in A Daring Experiment and Other Stories. New York: Lovell, Coryell, 1892:  346–60.

Duniway,Abigail Scott. Edna and John [1876]. Reprint, Pullman: Washington State University Press, 2000.

Ferber, Edna. Fanny Herself. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1917.

Fern, Fanny. Ruth Hall and Other Writings. Ed. Joyce Warren. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1986.

Fordham, Mary Weston “Atlanta Exposition Ode.” In She Wields a Pen: American Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century. Edited by Janet Gray. Iowa: University of Iowa Press, 1997. 270–271.

Gale, Zona. “Friday.” Century Magazine 88, no. 4 (August 1914): 521–24.

—–. Friendship Village. New York: Macmillan, 1908.

—–. Mothers to Men. New York: Macmillan, 1911.

—–. Peace in Friendship Village. New York: Macmillan, 1919.

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. In This Our World. [1899]. New York: Arno Press, 1974.

Harper, Frances W. “The Deliverance.” In Sketches of Southern Life. Philadelphia: Ferguson Bros. & Co., 1893. 6–16.

—–. “Aunt Chloe’s Politics,” In Sketches of Southern Life (1871), in A Brighter Coming Day: A Frances Ellen Watkins Harper Reader, ed. Frances Smith Foster .New York: Feminist Press, 1990. 204–205.

Johnston, Mary. Hagar. [1913]. Richmond: University Press of Virginia, 1994.

Jonas, Rosalie. “Brother Baptis”, The Crisis. September 1912: 247.

Millay, Edna St. Vincent. “Upon this marble bust that is not I,” in The Buck in the Snow (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1928), 66.

Miller, Alice Duer. Are Women People? A Book of Rhymes for Suffrage Times. New York: George H. Doran and Co., 1915.

Phelps, Elizabeth Stuart. “Trotty’s Lecture Bureau (Not a Trotty Story, but a Trotty Scrap. Told for Trotty’s Friends.),” St. Nicholas Magazine 4, no. 7 (May 1877): 454–55.

Stein, Gertrude. The Mother of Us All. in Last Operas and Plays, ed. Carl Van Vechten (1949; Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977).

Stowe, Harriet Beecher. My Wife and I: or Henry Henderson’s History. 1871.

—–. Uncle Tom’s Cabin [1852]. New York: Penguin, 1986.

“The Truth of Fiction, and Its Charms”, The Una vol. 1 no. 1. 1853.

Zink-Sawyer, Beverly Ann. From Preachers to Suffragists: Woman’s Rights and Religious Conviction in The Lives of Three Nineteenth-century Clergywomen. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1989.