Women Suffragists picketing the White House, February 1917. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Since March 2015 the online journal and database, Women and Social Movements in the United States (WASM), has been engaged in successive efforts to create an Online Biographical Dictionary of the Woman Suffrage movement in the United States. The project began with the submission by Alice Paul biographer, Jill D. Zahniser, of a database of 224 women who picketed the White House in 1917-1919, many of whom were arrested and jailed for their attempt to exercise their free-speech rights. Zahniser prepared six exemplary bio sketches, 28 activists already had bio sketches in the reference work, Notable American Women, and we at WASM put out calls to crowdsource the remaining sketches. Over time we identified more NWP activists, so that the total group now numbers almost 400.

As that first effort gathered steam we realized that biographical sketches would nicely complement a project we’d been pursuing for a number of years, our collection of writings by and about Black Women Suffragists. We have now identified 175 women and are soliciting bio sketches for the 100 or so who do not have bio sketches in major reference works. We expect the group to grow further as the research proceeds and would appreciate anyone who might contact us with new names to include in this part of our work.

For the third component of our suffragist work, we found  detailed state suffrage reports for the period 1900-1920 in the History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6 (1922), published by the National American Woman Suffrage Association. That source provides more than 2,500 names of grassroots activists affiliated with NAWSA. In these efforts proceed, we expect to identify additional suffragists deserving inclusion in the project.  This growth is balanced by some overlap across the groups, and the fact that perhaps 200 activists already have excellent bio sketches in existing reference works. Thus we are looking for volunteers to research and write bio sketches for 2,800+ suffragists between now and the centennial of the adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment in August 2020. Contributors will receive author credit as the work is published online.

In some states the response of historians has been strong and we have a state coordinator taking charge of the assignment of activists to volunteers. In other states, we have had more difficulty generating interest and participation. If you would like to be a state coordinator, do get in touch and we would be glad to welcome you to our volunteer project staff. If you teach and would like to assign bio sketches to some of your students as a formal part of one or more of your courses, we would be glad to accommodate and supply you enough names for this kind of assignment. Finally, if you would like as an individual to write one or two bio sketches and thus contribute to the construction of this new reference tool, we would be glad to hear from you. Or if you can think of other ways you might contribute to the project, please do get in touch. WASM co-editor Tom Dublin is coordinating the work of the project and can either share activists’ names with you or will put you in touch with a state coordinator who can do so. As of the writing of this notice we have perhaps 300 bio sketches in hand of the 2800+ we will eventually need.  So you can see, there is plenty of opportunity for prospective contributors.  Please email tdublin@binghamton.edu to indicate your interest and we’ll try to respond promptly.

Like this blog and want to learn more about women’s history? Visit the official blog for the Women’s History Affinity Group at AASLH.