Cover image for How the vote was won : woman suffrage in the western United States, 1868-1914
How the vote was won : woman suffrage in the western United States, 1868-1914
Mead, Rebecca J.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : New York University Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
x, 273 pages ; 24 cm
The context of the western woman suffrage movement -- Early western suffragists as organic intellectuals -- Reconstruction, woman suffrage, and territorial politics in the West -- Suffrage and populism in the Silver State of Colorado -- California, woman suffrage, and the critical election of 1896 -- Progressivism and woman suffrage in the Pacific Northwest -- The California Zephyr and the 1911 campaign -- The West and the modern suffrage movement.
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JK1896 .M43 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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By the end of 1914, almost every Western state and territory had enfranchised its female citizens in the greatest innovation in participatory democracy since Reconstruction. These Western successes stand in profound contrast to the East, where few women voted until after the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, and the South, where African-American men were systematically disenfranchised. How did the frontier West leap ahead of the rest of the nation in the enfranchisement of the majority of its citizens?

In this provocative new study, Rebecca J. Mead shows that Western suffrage came about as the result of the unsettled state of regional politics, the complex nature of Western race relations, broad alliances between suffragists and farmer-labor-progressive reformers, and sophisticated activism by Western women. She highlights suffrage racism and elitism as major problems for the movement, and places special emphasis on the political adaptability of Western suffragists whose improvisational tactics earned them progress.

A fascinating story, previously ignored, How the Vote was Won reintegrates this important region into national suffrage history and helps explain the ultimate success of this radical reform.

Author Notes

Rebecca J. Mead is Assistant Professor of History at Northern Michigan University.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

In this densely written and tightly argued work, Mead (Northern Michigan Univ.) presents answers to the often asked question of why woman suffrage was accomplished in the US West well before it was in the East. First to succeed were the Rocky Mountain states of Wyoming (1869), Utah (1870), Colorado (1893), and Idaho (1896), influenced by what the author calls "the frontier effect"--the need and respect for women's work, an oftentimes small legislature, and political experimentalism. The victory in Colorado, the first state to grant suffrage to women in a popular referendum, was not only due to well-organized suffragists, but to alliances with Populists and the Knights of Labor. The author hits her stride with campaigns that brought suffrage to all West Coast women (also Nevada, Wyoming, and Montana) between 1910 and 1914. A broad coalition of women cast suffrage as a Progressive direct democracy measure. Mead concludes that woman suffrage was a reform that progressed from West to East. National leaders gained new and winning techniques in Western campaigns. Western legislators were ready to support the 19th Amendment in Congress in 1919, and Western legislatures could be counted on to ratify the amendment in 1920. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. General and academic collections, most levels. P. W. Kaufman University of Southern Maine

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. vii
List of Acronymsp. ix
1 The Context of the Western Woman Suffrage Movementp. 1
2 Early Western Suffragists as Organic Intellectualsp. 17
3 Reconstruction, Woman Suffrage, and Territorial Politics in the Westp. 35
4 Suffrage and Populism in the Silver State of Coloradop. 53
5 California, Woman Suffrage, and the Critical Election of 1896p. 73
6 Woman Suffrage and Progressivism in the Pacific Northwestp. 97
7 The Western Zephyr and the 1911 California Campaignp. 119
8 The West and the Modern Suffrage Movementp. 151
Notesp. 175
Bibliographyp. 231
Indexp. 263
About the Authorp. 273