100 books like Give Us the Ballot

By Ari Berman,

Here are 100 books that Give Us the Ballot fans have personally recommended if you like Give Us the Ballot. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All

Jennifer Frost Author Of "Let Us Vote!" Youth Voting Rights and the 26th Amendment

From my list on voting rights in the United States.

Why am I passionate about this?

After growing up in California, earning a PhD in Wisconsin, and having a stint as an academic in Colorado, I now teach United States history in beautiful Aotearoa New Zealand. I write books on 20th century U.S. politics, social movements, and popular culture. Along the way, I have found important political content, interactions, and struggle in unlikely spots, from community organizing to Hollywood gossip. In all my work, I find Americans drawing upon the ideological and material resources available to them—whether radicalism, conservatism, and liberalism, or social movements and popular culture—to construct and contest the meanings of citizenship.  

Jennifer's book list on voting rights in the United States

Jennifer Frost Why did Jennifer love this book?

Painting a broad picture of African-American women’s political advocacy and activism, Martha S. Jones presents women fighting for a voice in our political system from the early days of the Republic through women’s suffrage to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Many of the women and their contributions to racial and gender equality were familiar to me. Others less so, including three generations of Jones’s own foremothers who worked for democratic participation in their day. Bringing home how very personal the political is, Jones finds Black women’s politics in parties, elections, government, and beyond. In churches and community institutions, in careers as teachers and journalists, they pursued an expansive vision of human rights and dignity.

It’s an informative, inspiring history, with hard-won gains contextualized with hard truths about our impaired democracy, and reminded me that the obligation to repair it belongs to us all.

By Martha S. Jones,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Vanguard as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“An elegant and expansive history” (New YorkTimes)of African American women’s pursuit of political power—and how it transformed America  
 
InVanguard, acclaimed historian Martha S. Jones offers a new history of African American women’s political lives in America. She recounts how they defied both racism and sexism to fight for the ballot, and how they wielded political power to secure the equality and dignity of all persons. From the earliest days of the republic to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and beyond, Jones excavates the lives and work ofBlackwomen—Maria Stewart, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Fannie Lou Hamer, and more—who…


Book cover of The Woman's Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote

Jennifer Schwed Author Of 19 The Musical: An American Suffrage Story

From my list on suffrage fights and voting rights.

Why am I passionate about this?

We are the creators, writers, lyricists, directors, and producers of the original musical, 19: The Musical. These are the best books we read on the topic of Alice Paul, suffrage, and the fight for the passage of the 19th Amendment. The amendment finally gave women the right to vote, but almost immediately, legislatures around the country began disenfranchising women of color by clawing voting rights back away from them. Researching the background for 19: The Musical was intense. These books were essential background for us to understand the historical landscape enough to write about it and, where necessary, combine events or create composite characters for our musical.

Jennifer's book list on suffrage fights and voting rights

Jennifer Schwed Why did Jennifer love this book?

This is a remarkable book about a remarkable chapter in the fight for women’s right to vote. The story of the suffrage fight throughout the Summer of 1920 in Tennessee is so incredible that it seems impossible.

And what is even more bonkers is how remarkably similar some of the issues and players are to those of today. We could have done an entire show based on what we learned in The Woman’s Hour!

By Elaine Weiss,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Woman's Hour as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Both a page-turning drama and an inspiration for every reader" -- Hillary Rodham Clinton

Soon to be a major television event, the nail-biting climax of one of the greatest political battles in American history: the ratification of the constitutional amendment that granted women the right to vote.

Nashville, August 1920. Thirty-five states have approved the Nineteenth Amendment, granting women the right to vote; one last state--Tennessee--is needed for women's voting rights to be the law of the land. The suffragists face vicious opposition from politicians, clergy, corporations, and racists who don't want black women voting. And then there are the…


Book cover of The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States

John G. Matsusaka Author Of Let the People Rule: How Direct Democracy Can Meet the Populist Challenge

From my list on understanding why American democracy is struggling.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an economist by training, who has researched and taught classes related to business, governance, and democracy for more than 30 years at the University of Southern California. My work is multidisciplinary, spanning economics, finance, law, and political science, with a grounding in empirical analysis. In addition to two books and numerous scholarly articles, I am a frequent op-ed contributor and media commentator on topics related to democracy. I also direct the Initiative and Referendum Institute, a nonpartisan education organization focused on direct democracy.

John's book list on understanding why American democracy is struggling

John G. Matsusaka Why did John love this book?

At the most basic level, this is a history book that describes the evolution of voting rights in the United States. But it also yields a deeper lesson—that democracy is not a static thing; it is a continually evolving set of practices that each generation of Americans has updated. The book is ultimately encouraging about the potential of American democracy to renew itself and reminds us that democracy is something we choose, not something we are given. This is not a page-turner but for those who think that the struggle over voting rights is a modern development, the layers of detail will help form a more nuanced and richer picture.

By Alexander Keyssar,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Right to Vote as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Originally published in 2000, The Right to Vote was widely hailed as a magisterial account of the evolution of suffrage from the American Revolution to the end of the twentieth century. In this revised and updated edition, Keyssar carries the story forward, from the disputed presidential contest of 2000 through the 2008 campaign and the election of Barack Obama. The Right to Vote is a sweeping reinterpretation of American political history as well as a meditation on the meaning of democracy in contemporary American life.


Book cover of The Ideas of the Woman Suffrage Movement: 1890-1920

Jennifer Frost Author Of "Let Us Vote!" Youth Voting Rights and the 26th Amendment

From my list on voting rights in the United States.

Why am I passionate about this?

After growing up in California, earning a PhD in Wisconsin, and having a stint as an academic in Colorado, I now teach United States history in beautiful Aotearoa New Zealand. I write books on 20th century U.S. politics, social movements, and popular culture. Along the way, I have found important political content, interactions, and struggle in unlikely spots, from community organizing to Hollywood gossip. In all my work, I find Americans drawing upon the ideological and material resources available to them—whether radicalism, conservatism, and liberalism, or social movements and popular culture—to construct and contest the meanings of citizenship.  

Jennifer's book list on voting rights in the United States

Jennifer Frost Why did Jennifer love this book?

This book, published first in 1965 and then revised and reissued, was required reading when I was in graduate school. With this intellectual history of women’s suffrage, Kraditor sparked my interest in how ideas spur and shape political and social movements. Arguments, tactics, and strategies originate in the ideas of participants, and these ideas have consequences for how and what is eventually achieved. My favorite chapter explained the two kinds of arguments suffragists used. The argument from “justice” asserted women’s equal humanity with men, while the argument from “expediency” affirmed the benefits of extending women’s domestic caretaking into politics. 

My takeaway was that movements need multiple arguments to convince different constituencies to join and support their cause. Kraditor refused to whitewash the women’s suffrage movement and recounted how white, middle-class, native-born women also used ethnocentric and racist arguments to claim access to the ballot. 

By Aileen S. Kraditor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Ideas of the Woman Suffrage Movement as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What united and moved millions of women to seek a right that their society denied them? What were their beliefs about the nature of the home, marriage, sex, politics, religion, immigrants, blacks, labor, the state? In this book, Aileen S. Kraditor selects a group of suffragist leaders and investigates their thinking-the ideas, and tactics, with which they battled the ideas and institutions impeding what suffragists defined as progress toward the equality of the sexes. She also examines what the American public believed "suffragism" to mean and how the major events of the time affected the movement.


Book cover of Vanishing for the Vote: Suffrage, Citizenship and the Battle for the Census

Jad Adams Author Of Women and the Vote: A World History

From my list on how women rock the world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have specialised in writing about radicals and non-conformists who seem to me to be the most interesting people in the world. I like books about people doing challenging things and making a difference. I love travelling to obscure archives in other countries and finding the riches of personal papers in dusty old rooms curated by eccentric archivists who greet me like an old friend.

Jad's book list on how women rock the world

Jad Adams Why did Jad love this book?

It’s hard to find a new way into a well-known subject but Jill Liddington does it here with an entire book about just one day, census day 2 April 1911 when radical women disrupted the census by refusing to be enumerated by a state which gave them no rights. Overnight they filled dancehalls, private houses and camped on common land to evade the census takers. This is history as adventure story.

By Jill Liddington,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Vanishing for the Vote as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Vanishing for the vote recounts what happened on one night, Sunday 2 April, 1911, when the Liberal government demanded every household comply with its census requirements. Suffragette organisations urged women, all still voteless, to boycott this census.

Many did. Some wrote 'Votes for Women' boldly across their schedules. Others hid in darkened houses or, in the case of Emily Wilding Davison, in a cupboard within the Houses of Parliament.

Yet many did not. Even some suffragettes who might be expected to boycott decided to comply - and completed a perfectly accurate schedule. Why?

Vanishing for the vote explores the 'battle…


Book cover of Winning the Vote: The Triumph of the American Woman Suffrage Movement

Anne B. Gass Author Of We Demand: The Suffrage Road Trip

From my list on the amazing fight for women’s voting rights.

Why am I passionate about this?

My great-grandmother was a suffrage leader in Maine from roughly 1914-1920, and is the subject of my first book, Voting Down the Rose: Florence Brooks Whitehouse and Maine’s Fight for Woman Suffrage. Florence helped found and led the Maine branch of the Congressional Union, working closely with the indomitable Alice Paul. In 2015 I retraced the original route of an epic cross-country trip for suffrage; this led to my novel, We Demand: The Suffrage Road Trip. I did extensive research for both books and have become passionate about women’s rights history. I speak frequently on suffrage to students, historical societies, libraries, book clubs, and other groups.

Anne's book list on the amazing fight for women’s voting rights

Anne B. Gass Why did Anne love this book?

When I began researching suffrage history I was captivated by the images I found, including illustrations the suffragists created. Yet most books written about the suffrage movement are nonfiction narratives, with only a handful of images. The suffragists were brilliant at using images to skewer the anti-suffragists’ ridiculous statements about how women voting would ruin families and society.

A graphic designer by trade, Cooney upended that model by gathering together a vast array of photographs, cartoons, and other images depicting both pro-and anti-suffrage sentiment. It’s a great gift to us, and to future generations, to have all of these images gathered together in one book. I love being able to match the names to the photos of these amazing women.

By Robert P. J. Cooney Jr.,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Winning the Vote as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winning the Vote captures the color and excitement of a central, inspiring but nearly forgotten chapter in American history. This beautifully designed hardback presents the American woman suffrage movement clearly and chronologically with emphasis on the fascinating personalities and turbulent political campaigns of the early 20th century. Nearly 1,000 photographs, posters, leaflets and portraits illustrate this fascinating account of the expansion of American democracy. Large format images and a fast paced text highlight key developments between 1848 and 1920 including over 52 state electoral campaigns and the final, controversial drive for the 19th amendment. Winning the Vote shows how women…


Book cover of African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote, 1850-1920

Anne B. Gass Author Of We Demand: The Suffrage Road Trip

From my list on the amazing fight for women’s voting rights.

Why am I passionate about this?

My great-grandmother was a suffrage leader in Maine from roughly 1914-1920, and is the subject of my first book, Voting Down the Rose: Florence Brooks Whitehouse and Maine’s Fight for Woman Suffrage. Florence helped found and led the Maine branch of the Congressional Union, working closely with the indomitable Alice Paul. In 2015 I retraced the original route of an epic cross-country trip for suffrage; this led to my novel, We Demand: The Suffrage Road Trip. I did extensive research for both books and have become passionate about women’s rights history. I speak frequently on suffrage to students, historical societies, libraries, book clubs, and other groups.

Anne's book list on the amazing fight for women’s voting rights

Anne B. Gass Why did Anne love this book?

Until relatively recently the American suffrage movement was told only from the White perspective; Black women’s contributions were minimized -  when they received any mention at all. Terborg-Penn’s groundbreaking work challenged that viewpoint through her extensive original research that revealed the stories of Black women activists who worked for suffrage within their own clubs when they were discouraged from joining the mainstream white organizations. 

This book is a bit dry and academic but is well worth a read because it brings to light amazing women such as Mary Church Terrell or Frances Ellen Watkins Harper who fought both racism and sexism in their efforts to win voting rights for all American women.

By Rosalyn Terborg-Penn,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote, 1850-1920 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Rarely has a short book accomplished so much as Terborg-Penn's seminal work. With the utmost attention to detail Terborg-Penn examines the contributions of black suffragist stalwarts . . . It undoubtedly will become the definitive work on African American women's involvement in the mainstream woman suffrage movement and specifically on black women's struggle for the vote." -Choice

" . . . this is a well-written overview of a crucial aspect of African American history that would be ideal for the college classroom." -Journal of American History

" . . . not only a major contribution to suffrage history . .…


Book cover of Alice Paul: Claiming Power

Jennifer Schwed Author Of 19 The Musical: An American Suffrage Story

From my list on suffrage fights and voting rights.

Why am I passionate about this?

We are the creators, writers, lyricists, directors, and producers of the original musical, 19: The Musical. These are the best books we read on the topic of Alice Paul, suffrage, and the fight for the passage of the 19th Amendment. The amendment finally gave women the right to vote, but almost immediately, legislatures around the country began disenfranchising women of color by clawing voting rights back away from them. Researching the background for 19: The Musical was intense. These books were essential background for us to understand the historical landscape enough to write about it and, where necessary, combine events or create composite characters for our musical.

Jennifer's book list on suffrage fights and voting rights

Jennifer Schwed Why did Jennifer love this book?

This book is so good that other authors and academics often reference it. It provided us with great background and insight into Alice Paul and how/why she was able to accomplish what she did.

It does a great job of fleshing out the person behind the movement, which helped us humanize Alice in our musical.  

By J.D. Zahniser, Amelia Fry,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Alice Paul as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Alice Paul redirected the course of American political history. Raised by Quaker parents in Moorestown, New Jersey, she would become a passionate and outspoken leader of the woman suffrage movement. In 1913, she reinvigorated the American campaign for a constitutional suffrage amendment and, in the next seven years, dominated that campaign and drove it to victory with bold, controversial action-wedding courage with resourcefulness and self-mastery.

This riveting account of Paul's early years and suffrage activism offers fresh insight into her private persona and public image, examining for the first time the sources of Paul's ambition and the growth of her…


Book cover of Indian Suffragettes: Female Identities and Transnational Networks

Mona L. Siegel Author Of Peace on Our Terms: The Global Battle for Women's Rights After the First World War

From my list on feminism is a century-old global phenomenon.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was at university in the 1980s, I thought I wanted to become the ambassador to France. Then one of my roommates made me promise to take a women’s studies class—any class—before I graduated. I opted for “The History of Women’s Peace Movements.” Descending into historical archives for the first time, I held in my hands crumbling, 100-year-old letters of World War I-era feminists who audaciously insisted that for a peaceful world to flourish, women must participate in its construction. My life changed course. I became a professor and a historian, and I have been following the trail of feminist, internationalist, social justice pioneers ever since.  

Mona's book list on feminism is a century-old global phenomenon

Mona L. Siegel Why did Mona love this book?

All authors regretfully leave some things out of their books. If I had written a seventh chapter to mine, it would have focused on Indian feminists like Sarojini Naidu and Herabai and Mithan Tata who conducted a full-throttled campaign for the British Parliament to endorse women’s political rights in the 1919 Government of India Act. Fortunately, Mukherjee’s book tells this story in compelling detail. Based on research into previously ignored sources, this book follows Indian feminists’ battles as they pressed for women’s suffrage, initially within the constraints of the British empire and later, as anticolonial battles intensified, side-by-side with Gandhi and other nationalists fighting for Indian self-determination.

By Sumita Mukherjee,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Indian Suffragettes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Popular depictions of campaigns for women's suffrage in films and literature have invariably focused on Western suffrage movements. The fact that Indian women built up a vibrant suffrage movement in the twentieth century has been largely neglected. The Indian 'suffragettes' were not only actively involved in campaigns within the Indian subcontinent, they also travelled to Britain, America, Europe, and elsewhere, taking part in transnational discourses on feminism,
democracy, and suffrage. Indian Suffragettes focuses on the different geographical spaces in which Indian women were operating. Covering the period from the 1910s until 1950, it shows how Indian women campaigning for suffrage…


Book cover of A Guid Cause: The Women's Suffrage Movement in Scotland

Marsali Taylor Author Of Women's Suffrage in Shetland

From my list on real women who refused to know their place.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m Marsali Taylor, a retired teacher of English, French and Drama. I’ve always been interested in women’s history—not queens and countesses, but what life was like for ordinary people like me. A chance to research women’s suffrage in the Scottish National Library got me started reading these women’s stories in their own words—and what stories they were, from the first women graduates to the war workers. Women’s Suffrage in Shetland took two years of fascinating research, and I hope it’s the foundation for more work by other researchers, both here in Shetland and in other communities whose women fought for the vote.

Marsali's book list on real women who refused to know their place

Marsali Taylor Why did Marsali love this book?

This was the first book I read on women’s suffrage, and it was a revelation. I’d had a hazy impression of cartwheel-hatted women in London chaining themselves to railings as a protest. Huge marches, campaigners travelling round the country, ink in pillar boxes and acid on golf greens, forcible feeding and vigils outside prisons defiantly singing Scots wha hae (can’t be arrested for singing the national anthem!), census refusal—the courage and determination of my countrywomen left me breathless with admiration.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in suffrage movements, the Civil Rights Movement, and women?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about suffrage movements, the Civil Rights Movement, and women.

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