Her Hat Was in the Ring: Women, History, Politics, and Digital Humanities in the Twenty-First Century

Sunday, January 4, 2015: 9:40 AM
Concourse A (New York Hilton)
Wendy E. Chmielewski, Swarthmore College Peace Collection
Tracing over 4,000 U.S. women who campaigned for local, state, and federal political office from the middle of the nineteenth century to universal suffrage rights for women with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment has only become possible with digital resources in the 21st century.  Although resources for this project have existed for the last century, they are scattered in state archives, libraries, and historical societies.  Digitization of these resources, readily available, and freely access over the World Wide Web has made this project possible.  In addition, digital tools-such as a custom-designed database, web presentation, and aggregation of data tools, allow information and interpretation of the resources to be manipulated by any user of the currently available web site Her Hat Was in the Ring www.herhatwasinthering.org.  Building this project has required hundreds of hours and will require many more to complete. 

But why trace these women?  Current scholarship contends that women did not begin to run for political office until after 1920 and full suffrage.  Full and equal suffrage has been viewed as the most important aspect of the civil rights movement for women’s full citizenship and participation in U.S. democracy.  However, this project has uncovered the thousands of women, with their many male and female supporters, who campaigned for political office as soon as they were legally allowed to participate in their region or state.  Over 40 states had women in office by 1920, with women serving in over 60 different offices, representing more than a dozen political parties.  This challenges our notions of the history of female citizenship in fundamental ways, and one that was based on regional challenges to a national norm, rather than prescribed by one watershed event in 1920.

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