Date of Degree

6-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

History

Advisor(s)

Kathleen D. McCarthy

Subject Categories

United States History | Women's Studies

Abstract

This dissertation examines suffragists' changing relationship to America's largest metropolis from 1870 to 1917. It analyzes how advocates of the ballot perceived women's place in the city, how they mobilized the diverse groups of women that Gotham attracted, and how they interacted with the city's private, commercial, and public spaces. The study demonstrates that while suffragists benefitted from Gotham's resources--its restaurants and hotels, its busy streets and feminized retail districts, its national publishing houses and nascent film industry--many activists also viewed the metropolis as an arena for violence and vice that endangered respectable women. Initially, these concerns prevented them from mobilizing the city's resources. In order to win the vote in New York State in 1917, suffrage advocates had to move from being intimidated by the metropolis to harnessing it for their ends.

While other scholars have detailed the importance of changing arguments and new leadership in the woman's rights campaign, this dissertation documents how the physical environment, urban social networks, and changing visions of the city shaped a major segment of the suffrage movement. In the process, it ties women's political protest to urbanization and the urban experience, exploring the interaction between these phenomena across five decades and demonstrating that New York City was more than simply a stage on which women's activities took place. It was an integral player in the drama.

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