Thursday, July 7, 2011

Women & Rights: Two New Reviews

H-Net has recently posted two reviews pertaining to women and rights.

The first, published on H-SAWH, covers Alison M. Parker, Articulating Rights: Nineteenth-Century American Women on Race, Reform, and the State (Northern Illinois University Press, 2010). Reviewer Holly Kent (The College of New Jersey) describes Parker's monograph as "a useful, insightful contribution" to the "rich literature" on "[w]omen’s involvement in politics and activism in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries."  The book focuses on how six female thinkers -- Frances Wright, Sarah Grimké, Angelina Grimké Weld, Frances Watkins Harper, Frances Willard, and Mary Church Terrell -- "felt the power of the state should (and should not) be used as an instrument for moral transformation and the public good, and how ideas about gender difference shaped women’s rhetoric and activism."

Here's more from Kent:
In one of the richest veins in Parker’s work, she deconstructs the ways in which ideas about race shaped these six thinkers’ ideologies and activist practices.  Grimké and Grimké Weld insisted throughout their lives that the personal was political and made interracial socializing and friendships a core part of their broader commitment to promoting racial equality.  Wright and Willard, by contrast, combined their often radical commitment to securing increased rights for white women with a distinct disregard for the rights of African American women.  Wright’s radical utopian community, Nashoba, for example, firmly rejected the rights of husbands over their wives but relatively uncritically accepted the rights of slaveowners over their slaves.  And while Willard lobbied fiercely for laws to protect white girls and women from sexual exploitation, she largely disregarded African American colleagues’ calls for her organization, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), to speak out against lynching and sexual violence against African American women.  Much like Wright did not trust freedpeople to govern themselves without white supervision and control at Nashoba, within the WCTU, Willard “rarely included black women in her vision of politically active citizens” (p. 176).
The full review is here.

The second review, commissioned by H-SHGAPE, covers Jennifer M. Ross-Nazzal, Winning the West for Women: The Life of Suffragist Emma Smith DeVoe (University of Washington Press, 2011). Reviewer Jason McCollom (University of Arkansas) offers this concise summary:
The author claims that DeVoe's career demonstrates how local and state suffrage organizations in the West related to the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) and how these organizations raised and spent money, as well as showing how suffragists actually accomplished the hard work of long-distance travel, persuasion, and politicking. DeVoe's career clearly proves that the women's suffrage movement was far from monolithic, as she butted heads with other leaders over tactics and money. The author also does not shy away from discussing the controversies surrounding DeVoe's approach and her sometimes ego-driven personality.
McCollom offers a few "modest critiques" but is ultimately persuaded that scholars have overlooked "Emma Smith DeVoe's important role in the women's suffrage struggles of the West" and "that western women did in fact play a crucial role in winning passage of the Nineteenth Amendment." The full review is here.

Hat tip: H-Law