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Stanford and the Fight for Women's Suffrage


The historical juncture of the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the women’s suffrage amendment, the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and the turbulent presidential election calls for a thoughtful exploration of the suffrage campaign and its relationship to other social justice movements in U.S. history. Recent scholarship highlights the ways that race and class influenced the fight for, and the effects of, enfranchisement. This panel, moderated by Stanford history professor Estelle B. Freedman, explores the contours and the complexity of the woman suffrage campaign. Nancy Tate surveys the long arc of U.S. suffrage activism, including in California and at Stanford. Kemi A. Oyewole discusses the role of Black women's clubs in the movement, and Joan Marie Johnson locates Jane Stanford within a circle of wealthy white women donors to the suffrage movement.

Estelle B. Freedman is the Edgar E. Robinson Professor in U.S. History at Stanford University and co-founder of the Program in Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Her books include No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women; The Essential Feminist Reader; Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America (with John D'Emilio); and Redefining Rape: Sexual Violence in the Era of Suffrage and Segregation. Prof. Freedman is currently analyzing changing narratives of sexual assault, abuse, and harassment in women’s oral history narratives from the 20th century U.S.

Nancy Tate has served as the co-chair of the 2020 Women’s Vote Centennial Initiative since 2015, an information sharing collaborative focused on commemorating the 100th anniversary of women winning the constitutional right to vote. From 2000 to 2015, she served as the executive director of the League of Women Voters of the United States, the only successor to the women’s suffrage movement. Ms. Tate has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Stanford University and a master’s degree in public administration from The George Washington University. She is an elected member of the National Academy of Public Administration.

Kemi A. Oyewole is a PhD student in education and organization studies at the Stanford Graduate School of Education. She is also affiliated with the Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis. She graduated from Spelman College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics and mathematics and earned a Master of Education degree from the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Ms. Oyewole has been awarded the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, a Truman Scholarship, and the Stanford Alumni Association Community Impact Award.

Joan Marie Johnson taught women’s history at Northeastern Illinois University for 12 years and was the co-founder and co-director of the Newberry Seminar on Women and Gender at the Newberry Library in Chicago. Her books include Funding Feminism: Monied Women, Philanthropy, and the Women’s Movement, 1870-1967 and Southern Women at the Seven Sister Colleges: Feminist Values and Social Activism, 1875-1915. She is also the co-editor of the three-volume series, South Carolina Women: Their Lives and Times. Dr. Johnson received her bachelor’s degree from Duke University and her doctorate in history from UCLA.

This program is organized by the Stanford Historical Society and co-sponsored by the American Studies Program, the Department of History, and the Program in Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.

Historical resources on women's suffrage in the United States