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Never A Fight of Woman Against Man: What Textbooks Don’t Say about Women’s Suffrage

Joe C. Miller. "Never A Fight of Woman Against Man: What Textbooks Don’t Say about Women’s Suffrage." The History Teacher, Vol. 48, No. 3, May 2015. (pp.437-482).

Era: Post-Suffrage Era | Media: Academic Paper, Book-Academic

In this article for The History Teacher, an academic journal about history education published by the Society for History Education, Joe Miller aims to debunk a misconception that is widespread, particularly among students who consume history textbooks: that a battle of the sexes was a key political dynamic of women’s struggle for enfranchisement.

In fact, Miller shows, the divide was less between sexes than between political opponents. He notes that there were men who supported suffrage, and women who opposed it. Women’s opposition to suffrage—often based on the notion that partisan politics would not advance women’s status; hostility to black women getting the vote; the increase in the cost of elections that would result; and the belief that women could influence politicians without the vote—was not uncommon.

However, Miller writes, the fact that some prominent women opposed women’s suffrage is not well-covered in history textbooks, some of which portray the suffrage movement as one which pitted men and women against each other.

Miller closes by suggesting how history textbooks could correct the narrative, arguing that they should emphasize three points:

(1) that suffrage was never desired by a majority of women before 1920; (2) that more women were organized against suffrage than in favor of it until 1916; and (3) that for many years, men were on the whole more progressive on the issue than women were.

You can read the whole article here, free of charge.

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