"As a woman who went to school from the mid-1950s to the late 1970s, grade school to grad school, I knew little of the suffrage movement and the women behind it," Dodson writes. "Women received almost no mention in our history books, and women's studies courses were not in our college catalogs. Even as a feminist, voracious reader, and often reviewer of books in general and history in particular, I had rarely stumbled upon books about women's roles and contributions. When I embarked on the project to write this book, I was inspired by the upcoming centennial anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment - known as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment - which gave all women the right to vote. I had no idea how little I knew about Anthony and the other women of the movement, and I suspect that I am not alone."
Dodson's rich narrative spans our country's history, from even before Abigail Adams urged her husband, John, in vain to "remember the ladies" as the Founding Fathers declared independence and shaped our new nation. The centerpiece of the story is the seventy-year struggle that began before the Civil War and culminated in the Nineteenth Amendment. Dodson traces how the women's suffrage movement grew out of the mounting efforts to abolish slavery. With a core belief in equality and human rights, inspired by Quaker teachings, women such as Lucretia Mott and Susan B. Anthony led the struggle and spread the message through a series of conventions before the Civil War. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Anthony emerged as the primary leaders of the woman suffrage movement after the war. The book offers textured portraits of these and dozens of other women who were on the frontlines of the fight for women's rights.
"Remember the Ladies" explores the many obstacles encountered on the rough road to suffrage and places the movement in the context of the other social and political upheavals unfolding during the decades. Dodson recounts how women hoped, again in vain, that their considerable contributions to the war efforts during the Civil War and World War I would gain them the support they needed to win the vote. She looks at schisms within the movement that sometimes set back the cause, including the ideological conflict that arose between abolitionist and women's rights factions when black men who had been slaves gained the right to vote but women, both white and black, did not. Resentment only grew as a wave of uneducated immigrant men obtained the right to vote as naturalized citizens, while educated, native-born women did not. A new approach, shifting the efforts to secure the vote to the federal level rather than merely at the state level, would be a key development in securing the vote.