Kimberly A. Hamlin is a cultural historian specializing in women, gender, sex, science, and politics. A recent recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Public Scholar Award, Hamlin regularly contributes to the Washington Post and other media outlets, and she lectures widely on topics related to women and gender. Her latest book, Free Thinker: Sex, Suffrage, and the Extraordinary Life of Helen Hamilton Gardener (2020), reveals the remarkable story of the “fallen woman” who changed her name, reinvented herself, and became the “most potent factor” in Congressional passage of the 19th Amendment as well as the highest-ranking woman in federal government. Hamlin is actively involved in local and national suffrage centennial activities including guest editing, together with Professors Cathleen Cahill and Crystal Feimster, a special suffrage centennial issue of the Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. Hamlin’s previous book, From Eve to Evolution: Darwin, Science, and Women’s Rights in Gilded Age America (2014), analyzes the U.S. reception of Darwin in terms of gender and provides the first full-length study of women’s responses to evolutionary theory. Hamlin has received the Carrie Chapman Catt Prize for Research on Women and Politics, the Margaret Rossiter Prize for Research on Women/Gender and Science (from the History of Science Society), and the Emerging Scholar Award from the Nineteenth Century Studies Association, in addition to research fellowships from the New England Regional Fellowship Consortium, the Huntington Library, the Sophia Smith Collection, and others. Hamlin has also published on the origins of the Miss America Pageant, the Girl Scouts, bearded ladies, women running for president, the Equal Rights Amendment, and contributed to various PBS documentaries. Since 2007, she has taught History and American Studies at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the 15th Amendment and the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. This talk focuses on the political and legislative history of the 19th amendment to argue that we must understand women’s suffrage in the context of the Civil War and Reconstruction. First introduced in Congress in 1878 as a corrective to the 15th Amendment (which outlawed race as a reason to bar citizens from voting), what became the 19th Amendment was understood by suffrage allies and their opponents in terms of the 15th from its very inception. Similarly, when Congressmen debated the 19th Amendment in 1918-1919 the overriding objection was race—they did not want to enfranchise black women in the South or prompt the federal government to enforce the 15th Amendment. When the 19th Amendment did pass in June 1919, it was not because Congressmen and white suffrage leaders thought it would enfranchise women of color – it was because they knew it would not.