OAH Distinguished Lecturer Profile

OAH Distinguished Lectureship program 40 years 1981-2021

Liette Gidlow

Portrait of Liette Gidlow
Image Credit: Mel Mills

Liette Gidlow is an expert on U.S. politics since the Civil War and focuses on voting rights, women's rights, and African American political activism. She is at work on her third book, "The Nineteenth Amendment and the Politics of Race," which uncovers connections between the woman suffrage amendment of 1920 and the Black freedom movements of the 1950s and 1960s. She is the author of The Big Vote (2007) which analyzed how massive, non-partisan voter turnout campaigns in the 1920s helped to establish new norms of "expert citizenship" and "consumer citizenship," and of Obama, Clinton, Palin (2012), an essay collection that explores the gendered and racial contexts of the historic 2008 presidential election. In 2019, Gidlow was the Mellon-Schlesinger Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, where her work for the Long Nineteenth Amendment Project helped mark the woman suffrage centennial. Her research has won the support of grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Mellon Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Education. In 2019 she was awarded Wayne State's Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching. She has presented scholarly and public talks on U.S. politics, woman suffrage, and race at Harvard University, the University of Florida, the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum, the Colorado Historical Society, and elsewhere. Her work has been noted in many media outlets including New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and the BBC.

Featured Lecture

OAH Lectures

In "Hastening the Homecoming," Gidlow explores some of the surprising ways that World War II disrupted the lives of diverse women in the U.S. Drawing upon letters written between the men on the front and their wives, girlfriends, and mothers left at home, Gidlow shows how the war both disrupted and reinforced ideas about the proper role of women in American society.
The Nineteenth Amendment is popularly celebrated for enfranchising half of all Americans overnight. But who actually gained the ability to vote after the woman suffrage amendment was ratified? In “Suffrage at 100,” Gidlow explores the “long history” of the Nineteenth Amendment, connecting it to the voting rights struggles of the 1960s and today.
The woman suffrage movement enjoyed support among southern African American women, but historical scholarship is strangely silent on whether or how they used the ballot after the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified. This talk explores the history of Black women's voting rights activism from 1920 to the current day and demonstrates how their efforts to vote -- some successful, some not -- transformed U.S. politics even before the 1965 Voting Rights Act brought new protections to southern Black voters.