New Research on Women's Suffrage at the Centennial

Solicited by the Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (SHGAPE).

Endorsed by the Women and Social Movements in the U.S., 1600–2000 

Saturday, April 4, 2020, 1:00 PM - 2:30 PM

Type: Roundtable Discussion

Tags: Politics; Race; Women's History


This roundtable highlights new research on woman suffrage, focusing on race, science, and sex, and it contextualizes women voting in the large context of early 20th-century debates about citizenship. Panelists will briefly describe their research—to be published in a 2020 special issue of the Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era—and facilitate a broad conversation about how historians might approach the centennial in their classrooms, research, and public events. While acknowledging 1920 as an important moment, this roundtable will also destabilize it, emphasizing that for women of color continuity reigned after 1920 rather than change and stressing new questions about race, gender, and citizenship.

Session Participants

Chair: Crystal N. Feimster, Yale University
Crystal Feimster, (Ph.D., Princeton University, 2000), is a tenured Associate Professor of African American Studies, History and American Studies at Yale University. Feimster’s academic focus is racial and sexual violence; currently, she is completing a project on rape during the American Civil War. Her book, Southern Horrors: Women and the Politics of Rape and Lynching, focuses on two women journalists, Ida B. Wells, who campaigned against lynching, and Rebecca Latimer Felton, who urged white men to prove their manhood by lynching black men accused of raping white women.

Panelist: Rachel Michelle Gunter, Collin College
I have a Ph.D. in U.S. history from Texas A&M University (2017). I am a Professor of History at Collin College (the main campus, Spring Creek) in Plano, TX.
I study the woman suffrage movement in Texas from 1917 to 1923 focusing on how the successes and failures of the movement affected the voting rights of other groups including legal resident aliens, Mexican and German immigrants, servicemen, WWI veterans, Mexican Americans and black Texans. As part of this research I also look into changes to the voting system including the beginning of absentee balloting in the U.S. and the run-off primary in Texas.
Recent Publications:
“‘Without Us, It Is Ferguson with a Plurality,’ Woman Suffrage and Anti-Ferguson Politics” in Impeached: The Removal of Texas Governor James E. Ferguson, A Centennial Examination, edited by Jessica Brannon-Wranosky and Bruce A. Glasrud. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, 2017.
Biographical Sketch of Ms. Cora A. Weeks, Online Biographical Dictionary of the Woman Suffrage Movement in the United State in Women and Social Movements in the United StatesDatabase, edited by Jill Zahniser, 2018.

Panelist: Kimberly A. Hamlin, Miami University of Ohio
Kimberly Hamlin, PhD is associate professor of American Studies and History at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Thanks to a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Public Scholar Award, she is currently on research leave completing her second book, a biography of Helen Hamilton Gardener who served as the suffragists’ lead negotiator in Washington, D.C., was the highest-ranking woman in federal government, and donated her brain to science to prove the intellectual equality of women. For this project, Hamlin also received the 2017 Carrie Chapman Catt Award for Research on Women in Politics. Hamlin’s first book, From Eve to Evolution: Darwin, Science, and Women’s Rights in Gilded Age America (University of Chicago Press, 2014) analyzes the U.S. reception of Darwin through the lens of gender. Her research on Darwin and gender earned the 2014 Margaret Rossiter Prize from the History of Science Society and the 2012 Emerging Scholar Award from the Nineteenth Century Studies Society. Hamlin wrote the chapter on “Gender” for the Wiley-Blackwell Companion to the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (2017). Hamlin has held research fellowships at the Huntington Library, the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at Harvard, the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College, Duke University, and the Countway Library on the History of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Hamlin has also written on the origins of Girl Scouting in America and the Miss America Pageant. A member of the Ohio Humanities Council Speaker’s Bureau, Hamlin regularly lectures about women’s history and has contributed to many public women’s history projects, including serving as historical consultant on the PBS documentary “Troop 1500: Girl Scouts Beyond Bars.” Her public history outreach is now focused on the upcoming centennial of women’s suffrage in 2020. A regular guest on local and national public radio shows, Hamlin also contributes to the Washington Post’s Made by History column and to the online magazine Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective.

Panelist: Sunu Kodumthara, Southwestern Oklahoma State University
Sunu Kodumthara is an Associate Professor of History at Southwestern Oklahoma State University, where she has taught since January 2010. She graduated with her PhD in American History from the University of Oklahoma in 2011, and is currently editing her manuscript, “Anti-Suffragists and the Dilemma of the American West.” Sunu currently teaches courses ranging from American History To/Since 1877 and the History of Oklahoma to 20th Century America and Women in American History. She has served on the boards for the Western Association of Women Historians, as well as the Coordinating Council of Women Historians. In addition to her teaching load, Sunu has served as a board member for the Oklahoma Humanities Council since 2017.

Panelist: Kara Swanson, Northeastern University
Biography: Kara W. Swanson, Professor of Law and Affiliate Professor of History at Northeastern University, earned a B.S. in molecular biophysics and biochemistry (Yale University), followed by a master’s degree in biochemistry and a J.D. (University of California – Berkeley). She is a registered patent attorney and practiced law before earning a Ph.D. in the History of Science (Harvard University) and serving as the Berger-Howe Legal History Fellow at Harvard Law School. Her scholarship focuses on the historical intersections among law, science, medicine and technology, concentrating on the United States patent system, the regulation of reproduction and the body, and issues of gender and sexuality. Professor Swanson's research has been supported by the Mellon Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation. Her scholarship has earned multiple awards, including honors from the History of Science Society, the Society for the History of Technology, the Association of American Law Schools, and the Iowa Historical Society. In 2015, she received one of Northeastern’s most prestigious prizes, the Robert D. Klein University Lectureship, awarded to a member of the faculty who has obtained distinction in his or her field of study. Professor Swanson publishes in peer-reviewed journals (such as Isis, Technology & Culture, Women’s Studies Quarterly, and Social Studies of Science) as well as law reviews, including Yale Journal of Law & Feminism, Florida State Law Review and Wisconsin Law Review. Her first book, Banking on the Body: The Market in Blood, Milk and Sperm in Modern America (Harvard University Press, 2014), is a medicolegal history of property in the human body, as understood through the twentieth century history of bankable body products. Her current book-in-progress is tentatively titled Inventing Citizens: Race, Gender, and the United States Patent System.

Panelist: Lauren MacIvor Thompson, Perimeter College at Georgia State University