Voting Matters: Gender, Citizenship, and the Long 19th Amendment

“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

What did these words mean in 1920, when states ratified the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution? What do citizenship, voting, and sex mean in America today? On the occasion of the 19th Amendment’s centennial, the Radcliffe Institute will offer an online conference, spread across six sessions aired between August and December, that brings together scholars from multiple disciplines, alongside activists, teachers, and students, to consider the long history of gender and citizenship in the United States. Speakers will connect the history of the 19th Amendment to a series of signal turning points in American public life and will analyze how the tangled history of gender and voting continues to shape our political landscape today.

The sessions of the conference represent the culmination of the Schlesinger Library’s Long 19th Amendment Project, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute, and Harvard University. The conference considers the long history of women’s activism for the franchise in the broader context of constituting and reconstructing the polity of the United States, from the mid-19th century to the present, in order to better fulfill the Constitution’s promise of a republic governed by We, the People.

The program is organized around key moments in US history that have shifted (or may shift) the meanings of citizenship, voting, and sex:

  • 1848, when Black church women demanded a public voice and women suffragists asserted their right to vote
  • 1870, when the 15th Amendment dictated that race could not be used as a barrier to voting and women of color rallied to empower their communities
  • 1920, when a diverse range of women’s suffragists expanded the boundaries of the American electorate even as legislators enacted new barriers, from literacy tests to immigration restriction
  • 1965, when the Voting Rights and the Immigration and Nationality Acts were the culmination of years of activism to overcome such barriers
  • ca. 1982, the year a long-sought Equal Rights Amendment died short of ratification, and the mobilization of new voting blocs, including conservative women, gay activists, and Latinx constituencies, was reshaping American democracy
  • 2020, which, like 2018, has brought a new surge of women running for office, as well as new state-level restrictions on who can vote

Sessions:

Free and open to the public. Registration is required.

Origin Stories: Keynote Address (1848)

Equality Day, August 26, 2020
4 PM
VIEW VIDEO

Martha S. Jones, Society of Black Alumni Presidential Professor and professor of history, Johns Hopkins University

Moderated by Lisa Tetrault, associate professor of history, Carnegie Mellon University

 

Reconstructing the Polity (1870)

September 17, 2020
4 PM
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Amanda Cobb-Greetham (Chickasaw), professor of Native American studies and director of the Native Nations Center, University of Oklahoma

Brittney Cooper, associate professor of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and cofounder, Crunk Feminist Collective

Beth Lew-Williams, associate professor of history and Philip and Beulah Rollins Bicentennial Preceptor, Princeton University

Moderated by Manisha Sinha RI ’20, James L. and Shirley A. Draper Chair in American History, University of Connecticut

 

On Account of Sex (1920)

October 1, 2020
4 PM
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Cathleen Cahill, associate professor of history, Pennsylvania State University

Sarah Haley, associate professor of gender studies and African American studies and director of the Black Feminism Initiative at the Center for the Study of Women, UCLA

Mae M. Ngai, Lung Family Professor of Asian American Studies and professor of history, Columbia University

Reva Siegel, Nicholas deB. Katzenbach Professor of Law, Yale Law School

Christina Hoff Sommers, resident scholar, American Enterprise Institute 

Dawn Langan Teele, Janice and Julian Bers Assistant Professor in the Social Sciences, University of Pennsylvania

Moderated by Corinne T. Field RI ’19, associate professor of women, gender, and sexuality, University of Virginia

 

On Account of Race (1965)

October 15, 2020
4 PM
VIEW VIDEO

Natalia Molina, professor of American studies and ethnicity, University of Southern California

Myrna Pérez, director, Voting Rights & Elections Program, Brennan Center for Justice

Nicholas Stephanopoulos, professor of law, Harvard Law School

Introduced by Liette Gidlow RI ’20, associate professor of history, Wayne State University

Moderated by Tomiko Brown-Nagin RI ’17, dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Daniel P.S. Paul Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School, professor of history in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and chair of the Presidential Committee on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery, Harvard University

 

New Blocs, New Maps, New Power (ca. 1982)

October 22, 2020
4 PM
We plan to post the recording on our website one week after the event.

Geraldo L. Cadava, associate professor of history, Northwestern University

Moon Duchin RI ’19, associate professor of mathematics and director of Science, Technology, and Society, Tufts University

Michelle Nickerson, associate professor of history, Loyola University Chicago

Olivia Perez-Cubas, communications director, Winning for Women, and vice president, Bullpen Strategy Group

Timothy Stewart-Winter, associate professor of history, American studies, and women’s and gender studies, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey

Moderated by Lisa McGirr, professor of history, Harvard University

 

2020 Visions

December 3, 2020
4 PM
To view this event online, individuals will need to register via Zoom.

Moon Duchin RI ’19, associate professor of mathematics and director of Science, Technology, and Society, Tufts University

Karin Agness Lips, founder and president, Network of enlightened Women

Mae M. Ngai, Lung Family Professor of Asian American Studies and professor of history, Columbia University

Olivia Perez-Cubas, communications director, Winning for Women, and vice president, Bullpen Strategy Group

Nse Ufot, executive director, New Georgia Project

Moderated by Leah Wright Rigueur, Harry Truman Associate Professor of History, Brandeis University