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In recent years, historical studies have revealed the multifaceted move-ments that constituted woman’s rights campaigns in the nineteenth andearly twentieth century. Yet one narrative continues to dominate under-standings of the period. First crafted in the late1800s by advocates ofwomen’s suffrage and embraced in the late1960s by feminists who createdthemselves as the “second wave,” this narrative highlights voting rightsas the singular goal and purpose of the “first wave.” Women’s seeminglyuniversal exclusion from the right to vote before1920served as the linchpinof this tale, and the Seneca Falls Woman’s Rights Convention of1848—wherewomen first collectively demanded the right to vote—and the ratification ofthe Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in1920—grantingwoman suffrage—were its touchstones. Despite vibrant scholarship since theturn of this century, the Seneca Falls–to-suffrage story continues to framepopular histories, political discourse, documentary films, and synthetic stud-ies of U.S. feminism and women’s history.Reimagining the story is no simple task. Woman’s rights pioneers firstidentified1848and1920as the critical turning points in women’s struggle toachieve sex equality. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, coau-thors of the multi-volumeHistory of Woman Suffrage, were brilliant strategistswho recognized the importance of documenting their version of events—including the Seneca Falls–to–suffrage story—and did so in compelling fash-ion. In the1960s and1970s, the story of a seventy-two-year battle thatsucceeded in advancing women’s rights through federal intervention res-onated with feminists seeking a favorable Supreme Court ruling on abortionFrom Seneca Falls to Suffrage?Reimagining a “Master” Narrativein U.S. Women’s HistoryNANCY A. HEWITT151bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb
and a constitutional amendment guaranteeing equal rights for women.Journalists covering the movement reinforced activists’ assumptions, distin-guishing this “Second Feminist Wave” from “the first,” which “ebbed afterthe glorious victory of suffrage.”1Women’s historians, beginning withEleanor Flexner in her1959classicCentury of Struggle, also highlighted thecentrality of suffrage to the early woman’s rights movement.

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Term
Fall
Professor
patriciadelrey
Tags
The Land, Speak, Seneca

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