The traditional narrative of the women’s suffrage movement has presented a “respectable” version of suffrage history primarily focused on the prominent role of elite, cisgender, heterosexual white women in fighting for the vote. Scholars are currently challenging that narrative. The story of California suffragists Gail Laughlin and Dr. Mary Austin Sperry “queers” our understanding of suffrage history by revealing the ways that suffragists transgressed normative boundaries of gender and sexuality not only in their norm-defying gender expressions, but in their non-heteronormative domestic arrangements.
Gender, Sexuality, and Love between Women in California’s Suffrage Campaign
Wendy Rouse is an associate professor of history at San Jose State University whose scholarly research focuses on the history of women and children in the United States during the Progressive Era. Her most recent book, Her Own Hero: The Origins of the Women’s Self Defense Movement (2017), examines the political and physical empowerment of women through the practice of boxing and jiu-jitsu in the early twentieth century. She is presently working on a manuscript project called “Queering the History of the Women’s Suffrage Movement.” Professor Rouse thanks Paula Lichtenberg and David Duffield for their research assistance on aspects of this project.She can be contacted at Wendy.Rouse@sjsu.edu or on Twitter @WendyLRouse.
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Wendy Rouse; Gender, Sexuality, and Love between Women in California’s Suffrage Campaign. California History 24 December 2020; 97 (4): 144–150. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/ch.2020.97.4.144
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