"The Pleasures of Age": Old Women and Political Power in the U.S. Woman Suffrage Movement
Presented by Professor Corinne T. Field, Department of Women, Gender & Sexuality, University of Virginia in collaboration with the Cambridge Women's Commission as part of Cambridge's 19th Amendment Event Series
On the occasion of her seventieth birthday in 1885, suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton delivered a speech on "The Pleasures of Age" in which she declared that "fifty not fifteen is the heyday of woman's life." Sojourner Truth, touring the country in the 1870s, turned her embodied performance of old age into a political claim for financial reparations owed formerly enslaved people. By the 1890s, white suffragists hailed Susan B. Anthony as the "grand old woman of America" and compared her favorably to presidents Lincoln and Washington. In this talk, Professor Corinne will explain why woman suffragists in the nineteenth century demanded respect and security for older women as an essential dimension of political empowerment and why these hopes remain largely unrealized over a century later.
Corinne Field is an Associate Professor of Women, Gender & Sexuality at the University of Virginia. She is currently completing a monograph entitled Grand Old Women and Modern Girls: Age, Race, and Power in the US Women's Rights Movement, 1870 to 1920 and co-editing with LaKisha Simmons an interdisciplinary anthology on the global history of black girlhood. She is the author of The Struggle for Equal Adulthood: Gender, Race, Age, and the Fight for Citizenship in Antebellum America and co-editor with Nicholas Syrett of Age in America: Colonial Era to the Present. In 2018-2019, she was the Mellon-Schlesinger Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University.
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