Splitting Suffrage: 1869 and the Narrative Forms of Race and Gender in U.S. Feminism Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • McDaneld, Jen
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of English and Comparative Literature
  • American feminism, like American literature, has a canon: an iconic set of texts, events, movements, and figures that are so well known that the mere mention of a name or a date carries with it an entire history. This dissertation takes one such moment--the 1869 split within the U.S. suffrage movement over the Fifteenth Amendment and the granting of voting rights to black men ahead of women--as a site for the literary-critical analysis of the narrative practices that undergird this process of canonization. Despite the sustained attention to suffrage in the fields of American and feminist history, literary scholars have shown little critical interest in the movement. This project addresses this absence from two angles: first, by attending to the historiography of suffrage as a literary object in itself; and second, by rehistoricizing the canonical suffrage story through a variety of literary, journalistic, and polemical texts. By investigating the story of the suffrage split across a variety of genres and historical periods, including nineteenth-century periodicals and novels, twentieth-century historiography, and twenty-first-century popular feminist work, I demonstrate that split-narratives obscure the dynamic and shifting relationship between race and gender across historical eras and instead calcify a timeless antagonism between them. Ultimately, I argue that my readings of suffrage stories reanimate understandings of race and gender in American feminism and open up new textual terrain for American literary studies.
Date of publication
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  • In Copyright
  • Thrailkill, Jane
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Graduation year
  • 2013

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