14 books directly related to Women's suffrage 📚

All 14 Women's suffrage books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

Eighty Years and More: Reminiscences 1815-1897

By Elizabeth Cady Stanton,

Book cover of Eighty Years and More: Reminiscences 1815-1897

Why this book?

I am recommending this autobiography of the great nineteenth-century feminist intellectual and activist. Eighty Years and More is one of the great autobiographies in American history, up there with that of Frederick Douglass and Henry Adams. Stanton told the account of her early years, her path to becoming a reformer, and the epic battles in which she fought for women’s rights in an engaging writing style that still speaks to women today. Readers who only know of Stanton through the controversies over her racism and elitism will be well served by learning about the many, path-breaking facets of her life and career. Postscript: go online to read Stanton’s great late-life speech, The Solitude of Self.

One Woman Against War: The Jeannette Rankin Story

By Kevin S. Giles,

Book cover of One Woman Against War: The Jeannette Rankin Story

Why this book?

Jeannette Rankin is so well known for being the first woman elected to the US Congress, and for voting against American entry into both world wars, that her vital role in achieving women’s suffrage goes unappreciated. In this full biography, Giles engagingly recounts her tireless work across the nation as a suffrage campaigner, as well as her introduction, as a member of the House of Representatives, of the Susan B. Anthony amendment that would guarantee women the vote. There are many biographies of Rankin—this one is especially balanced and lively.

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

By Robert P. J. Cooney Jr.,

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

Why 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.

The Ideas of the Woman Suffrage Movement: 1890-1920

By Aileen S. Kraditor,

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

Why 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. 

Suffrage: Women's Long Battle for the Vote

By Ellen Carol DuBois,

Book cover of Suffrage: Women's Long Battle for the Vote

Why this book?

Written to coincide with the hundredth anniversary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, this lively, exciting book provides a fresh and comprehensive history of the fight for women’s suffrage. DuBois is a leading scholar who presents her expertise in prose that appeals to scholars and general readers alike. There are lots of books on the long history of women’s suffrage—this is the best.

Recasting the Vote: How Women of Color Transformed the Suffrage Movement

By Cathleen D. Cahill,

Book cover of Recasting the Vote: How Women of Color Transformed the Suffrage Movement

Why this book?

Recasting the Vote retells the familiar story of the movement for women’s suffrage with a new cast of characters and an expanded set of goals. Focusing on Indigenous, African American, Hispanic, and Asian American activists, Cathleen Cahill places the fight for women’s voting rights within the context of BIPOC communities’ struggles for self-determination. For these women, the battle for women’s suffrage was connected to protests against lynching and segregation and demands for tribal self-government and freedom of religion, among other issues. By highlighting the work of Marie Louise Bottineau Baldwin, Gertrude Simmons Bonnin (Zitkala-Sa), Laura Cornelius Kellogg, Carrie Williams Clifford, Mabel Ping-Hua Lee, and Adelina Nina Luna Otero-Warren, Recasting the Vote demonstrates that the fight for the Nineteenth Amendment was neither the beginning nor the end of women of color’s struggle for equal citizenship.

The Power and Passion of M. Carey Thomas

By Helen Horowitz,

Book cover of The Power and Passion of M. Carey Thomas

Why this book?

M. Carey Thomas is an excellent example of the generation of “new women”: a cohort of mostly well-to-do white women who pursued higher education and professional careers at the turn of the century. Thomas, thwarted in her ambitions by gender discrimination in the United States, traveled to Europe to pursue higher education and became one of the first American women to earn a Ph.D., in 1882. She subsequently became the president of a women’s college, Bryn Mawr College. Thomas also was a dedicated feminist, advocating for both women’s suffrage and an equal rights amendment. The Power and Passion of M. Carey Thomas exemplifies feminist biography by placing her career in the context of her personal life. Helen Horowitz highlights her long-term romantic relationship with philanthropist Mary Elizabeth Garrett, who used her fortune to promote Thomas’s career and to advance educational opportunities for women.

Suffragette Sally

By Gertrude Colmore,

Book cover of Suffragette Sally

Why this book?

This amazing account of the Edwardian struggle for women's suffrage was published in 1911, in the thick of it. While doing research for Sally Heathcote Suffragette, I discovered a review of it in Votes for Women, the official paper of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU). It weaves the stories of three fictional women into what were then very recent events in suffrage history, bringing them to life. The Sally in the title, like my Sally, is a maid-of-all-work A coincidence? Yes, but not really surprising. Domestic service was the most likely form of employment for a woman of no means before the First World War; Sally (from Sarah) was a common name then and it alliterates well with ‘suffragette’.

Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye's Suffrage Diary

By Elizabeth Crawford,

Book cover of Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye's Suffrage Diary

Why this book?

If you're looking for a meticulous account of the day-to-day life and work of a women's suffrage campaigner, this is the book to turn to. I was intrigued by the diarist's accounts of well-known historical events, such as the funeral procession for Emily Wilding Davison, which she participated in, even though she herself was a constitutional suffragist rather than a militant suffragette. The diaries are edited by a leading researcher and archivist in the field and full of explanatory notes that contextualise the daily entries.

The Woman's Bible: A Classic Feminist Perspective

By Elizabeth Cady Stanton,

Book cover of The Woman's Bible: A Classic Feminist Perspective

Why this book?

Written in 1899, this is still the book to read. It contains thorough and thoughtful commentary on the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy (part one) and Joshua to Revelation (part two). 369 pages in all. It includes the original text to be commented upon, so there is no need to go out and buy a Bible. And it is, in a word, mind-blowing. (And it will depress the hell out of you to see where we still are 123 years later.)

Free Thinker: Sex, Suffrage, and the Extraordinary Life of Helen Hamilton Gardener

By Kimberly A. Hamlin,

Book cover of Free Thinker: Sex, Suffrage, and the Extraordinary Life of Helen Hamilton Gardener

Why this book?

Helen Hamilton Gardener secured crucial support from leading politicians in Washington, DC for the 19th Amendment’s ratification. Despite her significance, few know the story of her exciting and controversial life. Fortunately, Kimberly Hamlin tells Gardener’s dramatic story in her book Free Thinker. Born Alice Chenoweth in 1853, she had to leave her job as a teacher in Ohio after an affair with a married school commissioner in 1876. She adopted the name Helen Hamilton Gardener and a range of modern ideas: women’s rights, opposition to the sexual double standard, and freethought. Gardener eventually became the highest-ranking female official in the federal government by the time of her death in 1925. Free Thinker provides a fascinating glimpse into the behind-the-scenes politics that led to the 19th Amendment’s ratification.

Something Worth Doing: A Novel of an Early Suffragist

By Jane Kirkpatrick,

Book cover of Something Worth Doing: A Novel of an Early Suffragist

Why this book?

Jane Kirkpatrick, a New York Times bestselling writer of over 35 books, specializes in fictionalizing true stories of prominent women in history who are often unknown to today’s readers. Something Worth Doing, a historical novel, brings to life the story of Abigail Scott Duniway, an early suffragist and pioneer in the 19th century Pacific Northwest. As a married woman and mother of eight living children, Kirkpatrick weaves together Dunn's challenges as a newspaper publisher, primary breadwinner, and national speaker fighting for the rights of women and the vote. 

Kirkpatrick, a psychologist, illustrates the universal pulls between career and family in a male-dominated sphere. One of my favorite genres is historical fiction and Kirkpatrick backs her novels with significant historical research.  

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

By Rosalyn Terborg-Penn,

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

Why 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.

Sarah Canary

By Karen Joy Fowler,

Book cover of Sarah Canary

Why this book?

In Karen Joy Fowler’s Sarah Canary, we get glimpses of the American railway being built, one painful railroad tie at a time, hewn from the raw landscape at a cost of human misery and lives. This novel is funny, poignant, and serves up a full course of rich, historical story that never lets you go, whether giving insights into the tough realities faced by the suffragist movement or the grim mistreatment of Chinese workers as they built the western railways.