Queering the Suffrage Archive: Building an Intersectional Suffrage History

Sunday, January 5, 2020: 8:50 AM
Gramercy West (New York Hilton)
Rachel Guberman, Schlesinger Library, Harvard University
For decades, the Schlesinger Library has played a central role in shaping the historiography of women's suffrage through the widespread use of its Women’s Rights Collection in manuscript, microfilm, and now digital form. The narrative of women's suffrage that emerged from these materials, while very rich, has been too narrowly focused on the role of elite, white, ostensibly straight women during the “century of struggle” between Seneca Falls and the passage of the nineteenth amendment. Recognizing that women's relationships with and involvement in the suffrage movement was far more diverse than this narrative suggests, particularly along axes of race, citizenship status, and sexuality among others, our Long 19th Amendment Project seeks to expand and make more intersectional our thinking and teaching on this history. In this paper, I will discuss some of the ways in which we are using digital collecting and scholarship to further this work. I will focus specifically on how we are bringing queer women and queer analytical perspectives into the study of women’s suffrage. As well as some of the real challenges to this undertaking. I will also highlight some of the exciting new directions that scholarship is taking as we bring more diverse archival material, data, and scholars into the conversation. My paper will complement the case studies of queer suffragists offered by other panelists by offering some bigger picture context for their important work.