Book Review: Ask a Suffragist
“…the very qualities that make art powerful make it inherently risky. Art is vulnerable. When Julia Ward Howe started publishing her work, she revealed both her hidden virtues and her ugliest biases. Art is subjective. Each person will interpret its symbols differently, building new layers of meaning that do not always match the intent of the artist.” – Ask a Suffragist, p 120
The artistry and intelligence of the Ask a Suffragist: Stories and Wisdom from America’s First Feminists cannot be debated; the book is simply brilliant. Not only is it brilliant, the content, style and research make it a “triple threat” in the world of books. The content is an important contribution to global history. Ms. Young Bennett’s emphasis is on the American women’s movement, but she includes imperative information on the companion anti-slavery / abolitionist movement, as well as important women who influenced the American suffragist movement from outside of the United States. This makes the book an important contribution to global women’s history as it shows that the progression of women knows no national boundaries.
The writing style is abundant with quotes from the women and men who were a part of the early American suffragette movement. This gift makes the writing feel personal and intimate. Testimonies and doubts of God and religion are discussed frankly, recovery from childbirth, economic survival, love stories and even the sometimes self-doubt of the women is shared through their public and private writings. These sentiments are relayed in such a manner that if felt as if I were reading personal emails from friends and family; I was completely enthralled, anxious to know what would happen next. Because of this feeling of intimacy, I was able to relate to these women as friends. I was anxious for them to succeed—succeed in raising their families, finding love, and being given a voice in their own lives.
In addition to the compelling content is the comprehensive research. Ms. Young Bennett’s generous citations make this a great resource for readers and students in and out of The Academy. Quite frankly, I think this book would be a brilliant addition to high school and university curriculum in anti-slavery and feminist history, and would serve a global audience keen on learning about the early American suffragist leaders. The term research sometimes implies a complicated thing to read. But this book reads as if it were a well-written novel. It is as engaging as it is smart…a book that was truly a struggle to put down!
In short, this book is well worth its purchase price. Each reader may come to their own conclusion in the early start of the women’s movement and come to their own conclusion, making this a work of literary art. The crafts(wo)manship in which this is written compliments the intellectual content, making this a treasured investment for the soul. I plan to read this to my daughters next for family bedtime reading—it is that beautiful and important, and I want to share this with them. You will want to share it with your family as well. Hardcover copies of the book, including a large-print edition may be purchased directly from the Ask a Suffragist website, or via Amazon here. KindleUnlimited advertises that the audio book is available for free for subscribers—an investment well worthy for commuters and family road trips.
The next book in the series is Activists Who Built a Movement. I cannot wait to read this next addition!