SOCIAL SCIENCES

Gilded Suffragists: The New York Socialites Who Fought for Women's Right To Vote

New York Univ. Sept. 2017. 240p. notes. index. ISBN 9781479837069. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781479818280. HIST
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After the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention inaugurated the women's suffrage crusade, the movement soon languished until the turn of the century when wealthy Gilded Age women adopted it and sent the cause's popularity soaring. Neuman (Lights, Camera, War) chronicles the engagement of New York elites in the movement from the 1890s until the 20th Amendment's passage, pointing out that these influential women's names (such as Alva Vanderbilt Belmont and Florence Jaffray Harriman) were written out of the histories by some of the movements' founding mothers because of resentment, even though their work greatly influenced the passage of New York's bill in 1917, and the national amendment in 1920. These wealthy and notable women used their style, status, and influence to make suffrage activism prestigious, fashionable, acceptable, and less threatening to men. During this revolutionary period, they espoused suffrage, as well as other progressive issues, defying tradition and etiquette; often alienating themselves from members of their own class and families.
VERDICT This slim, flowing account of women, whose financial contributions, celebrity, style, and innovative strategies revitalized a cause and changed history, will be welcomed by all readers.

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