speaking June 29, Garrison NY – Hidden Life of Suffrage Scrapbooks

Last minute announcement – Humanities NY and the Desmond-Fish Library in Garrison, NY have asked me to fill in tonight, June 29, 6:30 in the library’s suffrage series. Come hear my talk Scrapbooks and the Hidden Life of Suffrage:

Anti-suffragists’ scrapbooks reveal some of their tricks.

How did suffragists manage all the different arguments and strands of information to create a powerful and effective movement that spanned decades? They used scrapbooks: a form of distributed, decentralized information storage and history writing. In their scrapbooks, suffragists collected the history of their movement, strategized about public speaking, and explained their work to their families. Scrapbooks played a key role in transmitting tactics and stories. Susan B. Anthony fought to place her 13 volume scrapbook in the Library of Congress. Alice Dunbar Nelson clipping collection reveal her shaping her specifically African American vision of what women’s suffrage would do for the black community. Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s scrapbook became a multi-generation collaboration. Lillie Devereux Blake used her clippings in her speeches against domestic violence, and taught her readers how to use scrapbooks.
In the 1910s, as the suffrage movement sped toward ratification, it became increasingly professionalized and ran its own clipping services. Scrapbooks supported its growing public relations campaigns. Anti-suffragists used the same materials, though the scrapbook of a dedicated anti-suffragist PR woman shows her busy inventing facts to get her stories noticed.
These scrapbooks open a window into the lives of the thousands of ordinary women who became suffragists. They let us see how these earlier generations of campaigners and supporters used the press, while they reveal an intimate side of well known suffragists.

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Evanston history in scrapbooks

Could this photo of Frances Willard show her making scrapbooks?

Could this photo of Frances Willard show her making scrapbooks? (Frances Willard House Museum)

As I was putting together my talk for the Northwestern University exhibit on scrapbooks coming up Wednesday, November 13, 4 pm, I realized that two of the women whose scrapbooks I’d written about had lived in Evanston. Women’s rights activist, writer, and speaker Elizabeth Boynton Harbert,and Women’s Christian Temperance Union leader Frances Willard were both great makers and users of strategic scrapbooks,  so of course I’ll talk about them. I’m hoping to get in to see the Frances Willard House, but so far haven’t heard back from the volunteers there.  I’ll be speaking as well on Nov 14, at 12:30 — a somewhat different talk.

In honor of US Women’s Suffrage Anniversary, Aug 26: Slate article on Susan B. Anthony’s Scrapbooks

August 26 marks the anniversary of the day in 1920 when the 19th Amendment became law, and women  in the US could finally vote.

Could Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton  be working on scrapbooks in this picture?

Could Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton be working on scrapbooks in this picture?

Susan B. Anthony didn’t live to see the day she worked so hard for. Her scrapbooks are among the many scrapbooks by women’s rights activists that show how they learned to pay attention to, critique and use the press in the fight for women’s rights. Here’s my post in the wonderful Vault column that Rebecca Onion runs at Slate, discussing how Susan B. used her scrapbooks — and of course there’s more on it in Writing with Scissors, along with analysis of Alice Dunbar Nelson’s suffrage scrapbooks, Lillie Devereux Blake’s, Elizabeth Boynton Harbert’s, and many more.

Susan B. Anthony’s scrapbooks