LWV gifts suffrage book to public libraries

Posted: Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Women securing the right to vote was the outcome of decades of struggle, and the Juneau League of Women Voters wants to make sure people have access to that piece of history.

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Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

The LWV has just donated a hard-to-find book on the subject to the Juneau Public Libraries. LWV President carolyn Brown and treasurer Cheryl Jebe presented the CBJ libraries with "Winning the Vote: The Triumph of the American Women Suffrage Movement" by Robert P. J. Cooney Jr., a book the Wall Street Journal ranked as one of the five best books about women earning the right to vote.

Brown said the league wanted the library to have the book so Juneau residents could have more resources in understanding the decades-long struggle for women to achieve voting rights.

"We bought the book and thought it was such a valuable tool and asset that we decided to make a gift to library," she said

The suffrage movement in the United States began in the 1840s and continued for more than 70 years, she said. Groups first tried to get a Constitutional amendment. When that didn't work, women had to work for voting rights state by state.

The tipping point came around 1920 when women got the right in enough states so Congress knew there were enough women voters to tip the election, she added.

"Winning the Vote" follows accounts of different generations of suffragists in their struggles, complete with photographs. The book's jacket describes how the author drew from manuscripts, subject files and photographic archives of private and public repositories. These include the Library of Congress, the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe and the Huntington and Bancroft Libraries in California.

Library director Barbara Berg was appreciative of the gift, saying the book was hard to come by. She said the libraries' usual suppliers had tried previously and couldn't find a copy.

Berg said the book is a valuable addition to the catalog. She said when she searched the records from all three branches, "women suffrage" only yielded 73 titles, "women's history" had 107 titles and "feminism" showed 1,623. She said these searches don't necessarily take into account the biographies of women who were in the suffrage movement nor items that cover these topics as a secondary issue.

Brown and Jebe said the book is valuable not only in terms of women's rights, but in advocacy for voting. Jebe said voting numbers in the U.S. can go down when people take it for granted.

"We don't want people to become complacent. Our voting numbers are so poor compared to other countries," she said.

Brown said the Juneau branch of LWV is Alaska's largest. She said they are active in CBJ campaigns, public forums, education and voter registration.

Brown invites both women and men interested in these issues to learn more or join at www.juneaulwv.org.

• Contact reporter Jonathan Grass at 523-2276 or at jonathan.grass@juneauempire.com.

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