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Anna Howard Shaw: The Work of Women Suffrage (Women In American History) by Trisha Franzen: A Book Review

Anna Howard Shaw: The Work of Women Suffrage (Women in American History)
Author: Trisha Franzen
Genre: Nonfiction, History, Biography
Publisher: University of Illinois Press
Release Date: March 15th 2014
Pages: 304
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: With this first scholarly biography of Anna Howard Shaw (1847-1919), Trisha Franzen sheds new light on an important woman suffrage leader who has too often been overlooked and misunderstood.

     An immigrant from a poor family, Shaw grew up in an economic reality that encouraged the adoption of non-traditional gender roles. Challenging traditional gender boundaries throughout her life, she put herself through college, worked as an ordained minister and a doctor, and built a tightly-knit family with her secretary and longtime companion Lucy E. Anthony.


     Drawing on unprecedented research, Franzen shows how these circumstances and choices both impacted Shaw's role in the woman suffrage movement and set her apart from her native-born, middle- and upper-class colleagues. Franzen also rehabilitates Shaw's years as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, arguing that Shaw's much-belittled tenure actually marked a renaissance of both NAWSA and the suffrage movement as a whole. 


     Anna Howard Shaw: The Work of Woman Suffrage presents a clear and compelling portrait of a woman whose significance has too long been misinterpreted and misunderstood.

    
     My Review: Anna Howard Shaw is famous for being the leader of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Yet, she is merely glanced over by historians for her famous predecessors: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Carrie Chapman Catt. Indeed, when I was helping a high school student learn about the American women temperance and suffrage movement, I noticed that Anna Howard Shaw was not even mentioned in his American history textbook. However, Trisha Franzen has written the first scholarly biography of Anna Howard Shaw. In this biography, she depicts Anna’s accomplishments and challenges and shows a remarkable woman that contributed  great changes to the women’s suffrage movement.

     Anna Shaw is actually an English immigrant, who at four years-old moved with her family to the U.S. They first settled in Lawrence, Massachusetts where she formed a friendship with a prostitute, which was uncommon at that time because they were considered unsuitable for proper society. When she was twelve, her father moved his family out west to Michigan and became a farmer. Because her father had no experience or knowledge of farming, Anna’s father left the farming duties entirely up to his children. She must have thought, "Gee, thanks, Dad!" Because Anna was farming alongside her brothers, Anna believed that women and men were equal. She believed that women could do any job as capable as a man. She then became a schoolteacher, and later aspired to become a minister. Anna struggled to become a minister because it was almost entirely a male profession. However, she did succeed and she also got a medical degree. She soon worked for the women’s temperance and suffrage movements, where she eventually became the protege of Susan B. Anthony, and then later became president of the NAWSA.


     The author also mentions Shaw’s personal life, including her relationships with women, most in particular Lucy Anthony, Susan B. Anthony’s niece. Because of this, Shaw believed in alternative families. She also believed that the suffrage movement was for all women of different races. The author also focused on the challenges Shaw faced with her presidency. One of the challenges was the famous militant women marches and protests headed by Alice Paul, whom Shaw disagreed with.


     Overall, this was a great biography of Anna Howard Shaw. This author writes in an engaging tone that makes it general reader accessible. She not only discusses her personal and professional life, but also addresses some of the misconceptions that historians have criticized her for. This biography proves that Anna Howard Shaw needs to have historians’ attentions and her name in the textbooks. It is the never ending work of women like Anna Howard Shaw that have helped give us American women our rights as U.S. citizens. I believe that Trisha Franzen has paved the road for historians to see this remarkable woman in a different perspective.


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars



Comments

  1. I really do not know anything about the American suffrage movement, so this could be an interesting book from the point of view of broadening one's perspective. Great review, Lauralee.

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