PANEL, VIDEO, PODCAST: Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage and the work of the San Francisco journalist, suffragist, and fiction writer Miriam Michelson

The Newseum celebrated the work of journalist, feminist, and novelist Miriam Michelson with a sold-out  panel June 25, 2019 that featured the author of a collection of Michelson’s work, Lori Harrison-Kahan, a professor at Boston College, with Anna Palmer, Playbook co-author and Women Rule Editorial Director, POLITICO; Shawna Thomas, Washington D.C. bureau chief, VICE News, and Michelson’s great-great niece, the journalist Joan Michelson as moderator. The latter day Michelson is a writer for Forbes and host of the podcast “Green Connections Radio” which also featured the book in the podcast linked here and below. Harrison-Kahan’s collection of Michelson’s writings is called The Superwoman and Other Writings by Miriam Michelson. Here is a brief biography of Michelson from the Jewish Women’s Archive.

Her 1905 book, The Yellow Journalist, which first appeared serially in the Saturday Evening Post, includes an installment titled “The Milpitas Maiden” (The Saturday Evening Post, Vol. 177, Iss. 52, June 24, 1905, pp.3-5,16), in which Michelson’s protagonist covers a suffrage convention. Michelson based the story on her experiences as a San Francisco Call reporter covering the 1895 Woman’s Congress of the Pacific Coast. The episode follows the series’s journalist-heroine Rhoda Massey as she competes with male reporters for a big convention scoop. Rhoda, a seasoned reporter for the San Francisco News, triumphs, thanks to her alliance with another “lady journalist,” a rookie reporter for the small-town Milpitas Mercury.

For further information on Michelson, read this interview with Harrison-Kahan on the New York Public Library blog and this piece for on how the seeds of the #MeToo movement were sown a century ago. See also Harrison-Kahan’s article on Michelson and Elizabeth Jordan, “The Girl Reporter in Fact and Fiction: Miriam Michelson’s New Women and Periodical Culture in the Progressive Era,” which appeared in the academic journal Legacy (Vol. 34, No. 2 2017, pp.321-338), and can be found in JStor at this stable link.

Madame Presidentess: A Novel About Victoria Woodhull

Madame Presidentess is a work of historical fiction about Victoria Woodhull, the suffrage activist and first woman to run for president—in 1872.

Here’s a summary of the novel about Woodhull:

Forty-eight years before women were granted the right to vote, one woman dared to run for President of the United States, yet her name has been virtually written out of the history books.

Rising from the shame of an abusive childhood, Victoria Woodhull, the daughter of a con-man and a religious zealot, vows to follow her destiny, one the spirits say will lead her out of poverty to “become ruler of her people.”

But the road to glory is far from easy. A nightmarish marriage teaches Victoria that women are stronger and deserve far more credit than society gives. Eschewing the conventions of her day, she strikes out on her own to improve herself and the lot of American women.

Over the next several years, she sets into motion plans that shatter the old boys club of Wall Street and defile even the sanctity of the halls of Congress. But it’s not just her ambition that threatens men of wealth and privilege; when she announces her candidacy for President in the 1872 election, they realize she may well usurp the power they’ve so long fought to protect.

Those who support her laud “Notorious Victoria” as a gifted spiritualist medium and healer, a talented financial mind, a fresh voice in the suffrage movement, and the radical idealist needed to move the nation forward. But those who dislike her see a dangerous force who is too willing to speak out when women are expected to be quiet. Ultimately, “Mrs. Satan’s” radical views on women’s rights, equality of the sexes, free love and the role of politics in private affairs collide with her tumultuous personal life to endanger all she has built and change how she is viewed by future generations.

This is the story of one woman who was ahead of her time – a woman who would make waves even in the 21st century – but who dared to speak out and challenge the conventions of post-Civil War America, setting a precedent that is still followed by female politicians today.

Buy the book here.

Humanities New York Resource Guide: NYS Women’s Suffrage Centennial

This 31-page document (click the button below to download it as a PDF) contains myriad useful resources for those interested in teaching—or learning—about the 100th anniversary of women getting the vote in New York State. It may also be of use to those already familiar with the topic, as it offers an admirably condensed overview of the various events that both public and private organizations will be staging over the course of 2017 in celebration of the centennial (see the document’s “Centennial Calendars of Events” section starting on p. 6).

The guide’s Educator Resources section contains a range of teaching materials, variously aimed at elementary school, junior high, high school, and even undergraduate students. These include:

The guide also contains a wealth of resources in addition to those meant just for teachers, including lists of books and films pertaining to suffrage and women’s rights, conversation starters, tips on how to host a speaker or a traveling exhibition, and research support. 

From the guide, a description of the organization that put the project together:

Humanities New York is bringing the people, places and ideas of the women’s suffrage movement to life. As of May 2017, Humanities New York has invested over $344K in Centennial-themed activities that explore the diversity of individuals and ideas that contributed to this grassroots movement. In particular, Humanities New York has supported projects that connect contemporary concerns (civil rights, gender diversity, equality, and civic engagement) to the history of women’s suffrage.

Graphic Novel Trilogy: Suffrajitsu: Mrs. Pankhurst’s Amazons

Suffrajitsu: Mrs. Pankhurst’s Amazons comprises three suffrage-themed graphic novels, set in World War I-era Britain, that blend historical fiction with martial arts. Primarily distributed as e-books, the series was written by Tony Wolf and illustrated by Joao Vieira. This excerpt comes from Suffrajitsu‘s website:

The year is 1914, and with Europe on the brink of war, the leaders of the radical women’s rights movement are fugitives from the law. Their last line of defence is the elite secret society of “Amazons”; women trained in the martial art of Bartitsu and sworn to protect their leaders from arrest and assault. The stakes dramatically rise when the Amazons are thrust into a deadly game of cat and mouse against an aristocratic, Utopian cult.

Though the secret society featured in the trilogy is fictitious, Wolf was inspired by an actual group of suffragette bodyguards.

You can purchase the Suffrajitsu trilogy in e-book format via You can also buy Suffrajitsu—both as individual issues and as a series—from comiXology.

For a more extensive account of some British suffragists’ use of militant tactics, see Andrew Rosen’s Rise Up, Women!: The Militant Campaign of the Women’s Social and Political Union, 1903-1914.

A Broadside: Mission Statement of the National Men’s League for Woman Suffrage of 1912

Here is a broadside of the mission statement of the National Men’s League for Woman Suffrage, an organization of thousands of influential men across thirty five states from 1909-1919. It is attributed to the League’s president, James Lees Laidlaw, a New York financier, scion of Laidlaw & Company, and member of the board of directors of what became Standard & Poor’s. He was also, not coincidentally, the husband of Harriet Burton Laidlaw, one of the major figures of the last decade of the suffrage movement in New York State. The only known copy of the statement was found in a column by playwright George Middleton, reprinted in the May 17, 1912 issue of the St. John’s Globe, New Brunswick, CA. Middleton was the “suffrage husband” of actress and suffragist Fola LaFollette.

Here is a post about the mission statement for the Good Men Project by Brooke Kroeger, author of The Suffragents: How Women Used Men to Get the Vote. Both the broadside and the Middleton column are appended below.

Novel: The Bostonians by Henry James

Henry James’ The Bostonians was originally published as a serial in Century magazine (Vol. 30, 31, 1885-1886), starting in February 1885. Much of the magazine is digitized so the serial can be accessed in part via Google at this link for Volume 29 (search “The Bostonians” or “Henry James”) and in Volume 30. (W.D. Howells’ The Rise of Silas Lapham ran concurrently in the Century. Howells was not only pro-suffrage but eventually a vice president of the Men’s League for Woman Suffrage of the State of New York.)

Macmillan published the novel as a book the following year and there have been numerous subsequent reprints. The Internet Archive has digitized the original, which you can read free of charge. James also wrote a version as a play.

From the cover copy and blurb of the 2003 Modern Library edition (free, via Amazon, for Kindle Unlimited subscribers):

This brilliant satire of the women’s rights movement in America is the story of the ravishing inspirational speaker Verena Tarrant and the bitter struggle between two distant cousins who seek to control her. Will the privileged Boston feminist Olive Chancellor succeed in turning her beloved ward into a celebrated activist and lifetime companion? Or will Basil Ransom, a conservative southern lawyer, steal Verena’s heart and remove her from the limelight?

From the introduction to the Modern Library edition of 2003:

The Bostonians has a vigor and blithe wit found nowhere else in James. It is about idealism in a democracy that is still recovering from a civil war bitterly fought for social ideals . . . [written] with a ferocious, precise, detailed—and wildly comic—realism.

For further reference, see also, “The Bostonians, the ‘Woman Question,’ and Henry James: A Critical Analysis of the Characterization of Basil Ransom” by Kyle Lascurettes for The St. Lawrence Review.

This page of the commercial newspaper archive provides a link to many of the contemporaneous books reviews of The Bostonians. Your local or school library may have access.

The Sturdy Oak: A Composite Novel of American Politics by Fourteen American Authors

This unusual work was first serialized by Collier’s Magazine in 1916 and then as a novel by Henry Holt & Company in 1917. Fourteen prominent authors each contributed a chapter, working without payment an donating donated the proceeds of the book’s sales to the women’s suffrage movement. This was in advance of the November 1917 referendum vote in New York that granted the vote to the women of the state. The authors include some of the best known and most popular writers of the day: Samuel Merwin, Harry Leon Wilson, Fannie Hurst, Dorothy Canfield, Kathleen Norris, Henry Kitchell Webster, Anne O’Hagan, Mary Heaton Vorse, Alice Duer Miller, Ethel Watts Mumford, Marjorie Benton Cooke, William Allen White, Mary Austin, and Leroy Scott.

The novel was first serialized in Collier’s Magazine in and then published as a book by Henry Holt & Company, both in 1917.

As the book’s preface tells it, although The Sturdy Oak was written to support the cause of women’s suffrage, “the novel itself is first of all a very human story of American life today. It neither unduly nor unfairly emphasizes the question of equal suffrage, and it should appeal to all lovers of good fiction.”

At this link, Google has digitized issues of the magazine and the entire novel in weekly serialization can be read in Collier’s,  Vol. 59, Part I for 1917. The chapters begin with illustrations in the September 22, 1917 issue and proceed weekly thereafter, two per week for seven weeks. Norman Hapgood and Mark Sullivan, both suffrage supporters, comprised the magazine’s editorial leadership.

You can access the novel, including a Kindle version, for free here, via Project Gutenberg.

You can also listen to and download free audio recordings of The Sturdy Oak here, via LibriVox.