Annual Meeting Preview: “Inclusions and Exclusions: Race, Region and Women's Enfranchisement”

This session takes place on Friday, April 5, at the 2019 OAH Annual Meeting in Philadelphia and is solicited by the National Collaborative for Women's Historic Sites and endorsed by the OAH Committee on National Park Service Collaboration, the Immigration and Ethnic History Society, Western History Association, and the Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (SHGAPE)

Chair: Nancy Hewitt, National Collaborative for Women's Historic Sites

• Vicki L. Ruiz, University of California Irvine
• Janice Sumler-Edmond, Huston-Tillotson University
Cathleen Cahill, Penn State University
• Judy Wu, University of California, Irvine
• Lisa Kathleen Graddy, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution

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Inclusions and Exclusions: Race, Region and Women's Enfranchisement

Gender, sexual, religious, and racial politics are front and center in the U.S. right now: The 2016 Presidential election, the #MeToo Movement and #Blacklivesmatter, the Kavanagh Supreme Court confirmation hearings, the transgender military ban, the Muslim travel ban, the detention and family separation of asylum seekers, and the unprecedented 2018 election of women of racially and religiously diverse backgrounds as well as sexual and gender non-normative candidates - all combine to reveal an ongoing war regarding who belongs in the U.S. and who should have full rights of political citizenship.

The upcoming centenary of the Nineteenth Amendment offers an opportunity to rethink current developments in the context of the long struggle for women’s and civil rights. Speakers will highlight American Indian, African American, Asian American, and Hispana/Latina activists from various regions of the country who campaigned for suffrage before and after 1920; participated in legal battles and mass movements for first-class citizenship; and claimed their place in political parties and offices. These short presentations will open up a discussion with the audience.

Janice Sumler Edmond will discuss late nineteenth-century African American women litigants, revealing how they used the judicial system to redress racial discrimination and to enlarge the parameters of their newfound citizenship rights. She will examine the nexus between African American legal activists and suffragists, including Ida B. Wells Barnett who was active in both arenas. Sumler Edmond will explore the degree to which civil rights lawsuits and woman suffrage work advanced or hindered the African American crusade for first-class citizenship.

Vicki L. Ruiz will explore the careers of two remarkable New Mexican political leaders Adelina Otero Warren and Concha Ortiz y Pino. In 1918, before women could vote in New Mexico, Warren was elected superintendent for public schools in Santa Fe County. In 1920, working with the Congressional Union, she helped ensure New Mexico’s ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment and two years later, she became the first Spanish-speaking woman to run for Congress. In 1936 Concha Ortiz y Pino, at the age of twenty-six became the first to win a seat in a state legislature, serving as majority whip in her last term. Both women were life-long political players who advocated for women’s issues and bilingual education.

Cathleen Cahill will examine the political activism of Laura Cornelius Kellogg (Wisconsin Oneida) and Gertrude Bonnin/Zitkala-Sa (Yankton Sioux) to explore how Indigenous feminist visions converged with the mainstream suffrage movement. In 1920, roughly one-third of all Native adults were legal wards of the United States. Without tribal sovereignty or full U.S. citizenship they were severely dispossessed of rights or protections. Vocal critics of Indian policy, both women seized the political opportunities opened by ratification. They appealed to newly-enfranchised white women through speeches and publications, calling for the end of wardship and offered their own visions of self-determination and sovereignty.

Judy Tzu-Chun Wu will focus on Patsy Takemoto Mink, the first woman of color U.S. Congresswoman, the namesake for Title IX, and a U.S. Presidential candidate in 1972. Mink arrived in Washington, D.C. in 1965 as a third generation Japanese American from Hawai‘i. As a racialized woman who grew up in the Hawaiian plantation system, Mink brought with her a radical understanding of political

liberalism that led her to oppose the Viet Nam War, advocate environmental protections, and support feminist policies. Mink’s political career sheds light on intersecting forms of gendered exclusion as well as the long complex history of demanding inclusion in U.S. society and the U.S. State.

Lisa Kathleen Graddy will discuss the National Museum of American History’s new exhibition, Creating Icons: How We Remember Woman Suffrage, and the use of long standing collections to reinterpret the struggles for women’s votes and rights. The planned exhibition will invite audiences to explore how we celebrate and what we remember. It will also raise questions about what (and who) has been forgotten or silenced over time and how those exclusions help create cracks and fissures in the women’s movement that continue to impact our politics and activism.

These five short presentations will, we are sure, inspire a wide-ranging discussion, moderated by Nancy Hewitt. We are particularly interested in how to ensure that the 2020 Centenary of the Nineteenth Amendment recognizes the distinct experiences of women of different races and regions as well as the issues, strategies, forms of activism and successes they shared.


Nancy Hewitt, National Collaborative for Women's Historic Sites

Posted: March 27, 2019
Tagged: Conference, Previews