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Public Faces, Secret Lives: A Queer History of the Women's Suffrage Movement

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Restores queer suffragists to their rightful place in the history of the struggle for women’s right to vote The women’s suffrage movement, much like many other civil rights movements, has an important and often unrecognized queer history. In Public Faces, Secret Lives Wendy L. Rouse reveals that, contrary to popular belief, the suffrage movement included a variety of indivi Restores queer suffragists to their rightful place in the history of the struggle for women’s right to vote The women’s suffrage movement, much like many other civil rights movements, has an important and often unrecognized queer history. In Public Faces, Secret Lives Wendy L. Rouse reveals that, contrary to popular belief, the suffrage movement included a variety of individuals who represented a range of genders and sexualities. However, owing to the constant pressure to present a “respectable” public image, suffrage leaders publicly conformed to gendered views of ideal womanhood in order to make women’s suffrage more palatable to the public. Rouse argues that queer suffragists did take meaningful action to assert their identities and legacies by challenging traditional concepts of domesticity, family, space, and death in both subtly subversive and radically transformative ways. Queer suffragists also built lasting alliances and developed innovative strategies in order to protect their most intimate relationships, ones that were ultimately crucial to the success of the suffrage movement. Public Faces, Secret Lives is the first work to truly recenter queer figures in the women’s suffrage movement, highlighting their immense contributions as well as their numerous sacrifices.


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Restores queer suffragists to their rightful place in the history of the struggle for women’s right to vote The women’s suffrage movement, much like many other civil rights movements, has an important and often unrecognized queer history. In Public Faces, Secret Lives Wendy L. Rouse reveals that, contrary to popular belief, the suffrage movement included a variety of indivi Restores queer suffragists to their rightful place in the history of the struggle for women’s right to vote The women’s suffrage movement, much like many other civil rights movements, has an important and often unrecognized queer history. In Public Faces, Secret Lives Wendy L. Rouse reveals that, contrary to popular belief, the suffrage movement included a variety of individuals who represented a range of genders and sexualities. However, owing to the constant pressure to present a “respectable” public image, suffrage leaders publicly conformed to gendered views of ideal womanhood in order to make women’s suffrage more palatable to the public. Rouse argues that queer suffragists did take meaningful action to assert their identities and legacies by challenging traditional concepts of domesticity, family, space, and death in both subtly subversive and radically transformative ways. Queer suffragists also built lasting alliances and developed innovative strategies in order to protect their most intimate relationships, ones that were ultimately crucial to the success of the suffrage movement. Public Faces, Secret Lives is the first work to truly recenter queer figures in the women’s suffrage movement, highlighting their immense contributions as well as their numerous sacrifices.

47 review for Public Faces, Secret Lives: A Queer History of the Women's Suffrage Movement

  1. 4 out of 5

    M

    “Queer people always have and always will exist.” Reading this I saw how much has changed women were subjected to strict conduct and dress code standards. Women that had short hair, or wore pants were considered “mannish” and women who “dressed like a man” were subjected to assault and arrest just for dressing, or wearing their hair in a way that was confortable to them. Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, one of the women who did this, said “I don’t wear men’s clothes I wear my own clothes”. There was, unf “Queer people always have and always will exist.” Reading this I saw how much has changed women were subjected to strict conduct and dress code standards. Women that had short hair, or wore pants were considered “mannish” and women who “dressed like a man” were subjected to assault and arrest just for dressing, or wearing their hair in a way that was confortable to them. Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, one of the women who did this, said “I don’t wear men’s clothes I wear my own clothes”. There was, unfortunately, a lot that I saw that is still the same. A lot of the arguments used against suffragists, and language used by anti suffragists is exactly the language and arguments still used today. It showed that the fights we’re being forced to having are nothing new. This is a constant fight against puritanical thinking and laws that didn’t have a place in society then, and don’t now. This book also featured lesser known queer suffragists and their fight against not only anti suffragists, but against their own people in the suffragist movement who eventually started pandering to mainstream society and standards by excluding and completely pushing out anyone who didn’t conform to their narrow cishet white standards. This left behind queer, and POC suffragists who were even more marginalized and in need of protection and reform. The people featured in this book showed that you can pass all the legislation you want, ostracize, and hate, but you can’t stop people from existing. “By piecing together the remnants of their lives and their deaths, we resist the historical erasure of these stories of queer love.” Release date: May, 24 2022 *a copy of this book was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

  2. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra

    I read this courtesy of NetGalley. It comes out in May 2022. I have been known to joke that historical women were invented in the 1960s - before that, only Cleopatra, the Virgin Mary, Joan of Arc and Elizabeth I existed (obviously none outside of the European context). More recently I have added that queer people were invented in the 21st century. I was joking, but ... only because there's an element of truth. Straight white men rule history, amiright? This book, then, is a massively important a I read this courtesy of NetGalley. It comes out in May 2022. I have been known to joke that historical women were invented in the 1960s - before that, only Cleopatra, the Virgin Mary, Joan of Arc and Elizabeth I existed (obviously none outside of the European context). More recently I have added that queer people were invented in the 21st century. I was joking, but ... only because there's an element of truth. Straight white men rule history, amiright? This book, then, is a massively important addition to the history of the fight for suffrage. I should point out that although I have a fairly substantial library of suffrage books, they are all either Australian or British. My knowledge of the American experience is limited to the film Iron Angels, and the magnificent "Bad Romance" spoof video clip. I do not, therefore, know a lot about the private lives of the main characters like Susan B. Anthony, who aren't covered here in any detail because it's been done elsewhere. It's interesting therefore to get the focus on women who were, apparently, lesser lights - or who have become such as the history of the period has been presented. I'm also not an expert on queer history, so I don't know whether Rouse's particular definition is standard or expansive. Here, queer is outlined as "individuals who transgressed normative notions of gender and sexuality... suffragists who were not strictly heterosexual or cisgender" (p2). There's a nice point about how language changes and that words we might use to describe relationships today, for instance, may not have been available to or appropriate for people in the past. The chapters follow general themes, or categories, allowing Rouse to explore different ways in which queerness was expressed - and fought against, in some instances. For example, in the chapter "Mannish Women and Feminine Men", she examines how some suffragists fought against the derisive stereotype of 'mannish women' by insisting that suffragists perform femininity to a signifiant degree - to the detriment of gender non-conforming individuals and those women who advocated less restrictive dress. Other chapters include "Queering Domesticity" and "Queering Family" - so many of these women ended up setting up house together, and whether they were in physically romantic relationships can often not be conclusively determined, but they still spent their lives together! There's also "Queering Transatlantic Alliances", "Queering Space" and "Queering Death", so it covers the entire gamut of suffragist lives. There's a really nice intersectionalism at work here, too, with commentary on how "queer white suffragists... helped maintain a system of white supremacy by policing access to the vote" (p63), for example. There are definitely black and First Nations people mentioned in the book, but I suspect one problem of not being familiar with the American history here is that I didn't automatically recognise the name of any of the suffragists - let alone recognise whether they were white or not. Still, Rouse did point it out, and made note of the times when white suffragists, for instance, either tried to block black women from marching in demonstrations or told them to go to the back of the line. There's mention, too, of class - something that's often lacking in standard stories of the British fight for suffrage, if it focuses on Emmeline and Charitable Pankhurst and forgets Sylvia. I'm really glad this book exists. It's a really great look at the American fight for women's suffrage in general (as far as I can tell), as well as presenting a dimension that is much-needed across all history.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Diana Livesay

    https://www.deviantquill.com/post/pub... An eye-opening historical volume focusing on a mostly neglected side of the suffrage movement. Literature is abundant when it comes to this politically empowered group of women, however, queer suffragists, the heart of the suffrage movement, were ridiculed and left in a dark corner of history. Femininity was important to the leaders of the movement, as they were hoping it would increase their chances to reach their political goals. The book gives us a good https://www.deviantquill.com/post/pub... An eye-opening historical volume focusing on a mostly neglected side of the suffrage movement. Literature is abundant when it comes to this politically empowered group of women, however, queer suffragists, the heart of the suffrage movement, were ridiculed and left in a dark corner of history. Femininity was important to the leaders of the movement, as they were hoping it would increase their chances to reach their political goals. The book gives us a good picture at the difference between feminism and femininity, between traditional and non-conforming. The queer suffragists included a variety of personalities, with different sexual orientations and lifestyles and the author offers us a wonderful glimpse into the past lives of some of these women and the communities they created. Looking at this volume as a whole, it's not just a comprehensive social study on women in the Progressive Era, but a model to look at when analyzing the queer movement in our current times. It's a push towards acceptance and creating a positive collective identity. Wendy L. Rouse's extensive research that brought to light the lives of these wonderful women is a breath of fresh air for the recent historical literature releases.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lindsey

    Thank you to NetGalley and NYU Press for providing me an e-arc of this book in exchange for an honest review This is a much-needed book and I'm so glad to have read it! Queer people have been erased from so much of history and in this book Rouse uses primary sources such as letters and newspaper articles to prove that queer people not only existed during the suffrage era (late 1800s-early 1900s) but were instrumental in the movement. Rouse points out that some of their erasure was done at the time Thank you to NetGalley and NYU Press for providing me an e-arc of this book in exchange for an honest review This is a much-needed book and I'm so glad to have read it! Queer people have been erased from so much of history and in this book Rouse uses primary sources such as letters and newspaper articles to prove that queer people not only existed during the suffrage era (late 1800s-early 1900s) but were instrumental in the movement. Rouse points out that some of their erasure was done at the time by other suffragists who, in order to make the concept of female suffrage more palatable to a mainstream audience, played up the image of suffragists being straight, cis housewives. Later, as queer people continued to be marginalized, many of the suffragists talked about in this book were forgotten (or their queerness was) and many even destroyed the evidence of their queer relationships. As I said, I'm very glad to have read this book and to learn about the role that queer people played in the women's suffrage movement. The only thing keeping it from being a five star review is that it reads more like a scholarly paper than I would like. However, the content still made it a very enjoyable read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    AnnieM

    This important hidden part of women's history is long overdue! In this meticulously researched history about the women's movement - specifically the Women's Suffrage Movement in the late 1800's/early 1900's, Rouse effectively uncovers and re-centers the narrative around the stories of women who were marginalized within the movement due to their queerness, and gender non-confirming behavior. I couldn't help but make many parallels to the Women's Movement of the 1970's where many of the public fac This important hidden part of women's history is long overdue! In this meticulously researched history about the women's movement - specifically the Women's Suffrage Movement in the late 1800's/early 1900's, Rouse effectively uncovers and re-centers the narrative around the stories of women who were marginalized within the movement due to their queerness, and gender non-confirming behavior. I couldn't help but make many parallels to the Women's Movement of the 1970's where many of the public faces of that movement also wanted to present "politics of respectability." Women who were part of these movements were labeled "man-haters." Which brings me to today's women's movement -- the recent Women's Marches also came into criticism for suppressing and silencing other voices, particularly those of BIPOC individuals. What I so appreciated about this book is that it gives visibility and power back to the incredible women in history who were willing to take risks and live their true lives, even though the costs could be severe. Thank you to the author for shining a light on this critical part of our history.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mariah

    Suffragette history has always been full of queer women in all aspects and stages of its evolution. However, these people were not always treated well or respected even among the very movement that they were working with. The author organized this book into several different sections and talked about how being a queer person affected so many parts of the activism and life that these people were trying to lead. The different aspects of life that the author discussed in regards to being queer incl Suffragette history has always been full of queer women in all aspects and stages of its evolution. However, these people were not always treated well or respected even among the very movement that they were working with. The author organized this book into several different sections and talked about how being a queer person affected so many parts of the activism and life that these people were trying to lead. The different aspects of life that the author discussed in regards to being queer included how they presented themselves to the public, how they decided to live, how they participated in the suffragette movement and how they mourned and also prepared for their death. This book is really interesting and shows just how important queer people were to the suffragette movement in every part of its evolution even when they were not appreciated or recognized by the movement at large.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Felecia

    Thanks to Netgalley and NYU Press for the opportunity to read and review this title. Wendy Rouse writes a detailed, well-researched history of the Suffragist movement in the US and the role of queer people in the movement. This is not a dry history. The author brings these women to life, sharing their lives, their loves, and their losses. This is an inclusive volume, detailing the experiences of women of color and indigenous women. The battle within the Suffragist movement over maintaining femin Thanks to Netgalley and NYU Press for the opportunity to read and review this title. Wendy Rouse writes a detailed, well-researched history of the Suffragist movement in the US and the role of queer people in the movement. This is not a dry history. The author brings these women to life, sharing their lives, their loves, and their losses. This is an inclusive volume, detailing the experiences of women of color and indigenous women. The battle within the Suffragist movement over maintaining feminine respectability, pushing out non-white women, and the erasure from history of the loving relationships of many of these women is documented. I greatly respect the author's effort to shed light on this history and update history with the truth of the movement. The opinions expressed are mine alone and are freely given.

  8. 4 out of 5

    E W

    Rouse’s Public Faces, Secret Lives is exactly as advertised in the subtitle: it is a thorough, well-researched, and informative overview of the active and central role lesbians and other queer persons played in the women’s suffrage movement. In some cases, Rouse brings attention to lesser-known individuals; in others, she highlights relationships among well-known figures that have not always been clear in histories of women’s suffrage. The book is published by an academic press and thus perhaps Rouse’s Public Faces, Secret Lives is exactly as advertised in the subtitle: it is a thorough, well-researched, and informative overview of the active and central role lesbians and other queer persons played in the women’s suffrage movement. In some cases, Rouse brings attention to lesser-known individuals; in others, she highlights relationships among well-known figures that have not always been clear in histories of women’s suffrage. The book is published by an academic press and thus perhaps tends toward academic jargon, and occasionally tries too hard to establish the exact nature of the relationship between certain women via archival material such as correspondence or other writings (there are a lot of heartfelt poems!), but it is a valuable and interesting contribution to a more complete account of the suffrage movement.

  9. 4 out of 5

    AJ

    Please note: I won this book in a GoodReads giveaway I found this book informative and interesting to read. I liked how the final chapter brought everything discussed together and showed how similar patterns of forced conformity to a middle class and white world view are often forced on groups seeking equity in their treatment. This marginalizes and harms people who need the most help and erases their contributions to history. My only critique to this text is that it reads a bit dry and slow at t Please note: I won this book in a GoodReads giveaway I found this book informative and interesting to read. I liked how the final chapter brought everything discussed together and showed how similar patterns of forced conformity to a middle class and white world view are often forced on groups seeking equity in their treatment. This marginalizes and harms people who need the most help and erases their contributions to history. My only critique to this text is that it reads a bit dry and slow at times. It is likely the author’s intent to use this book as part of an academic lesson plan. But as a general reader, I needed to take breaks from the density of the material being presented. Still, I’m very happy I had a chance to read a copy of the book and feel I have learned a lot from the experience. Queer history has long been erased or overlooked and I’m glad Rouse has published this.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey Rae

    I love history but as a queer woman it is typically difficult to find well research, through accounts of our stories. I have read a few books that taught me my history, such as Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers and The Girls, but they are few and far between. This book gives an in-depth profile of the queer women who were the backbone of the fight for suffrage, particularly women of color who are so often overlooked in history. This book also looks at the way feminists worked hard to retain "feminin I love history but as a queer woman it is typically difficult to find well research, through accounts of our stories. I have read a few books that taught me my history, such as Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers and The Girls, but they are few and far between. This book gives an in-depth profile of the queer women who were the backbone of the fight for suffrage, particularly women of color who are so often overlooked in history. This book also looks at the way feminists worked hard to retain "feminine appeal" which led to separating themselves from the queer gender conforming individuals who were instrumental in pushing the movement forward. I feel like this will be a book I go back to and reference for a long time.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jocelyn

    A new book focused on the roles that LGBTQ+ people played in the women's rights movement starting with some more known people like Dr. Mary Edwards Walker and delving into the lesser known members of the queer movement. This is a slightly academic treatment of the subject, but it is one of the first books about the topic so that is to be expected. Definitely adds to the scholarship of the suffrage movement that is needed in 2022. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a review, but A new book focused on the roles that LGBTQ+ people played in the women's rights movement starting with some more known people like Dr. Mary Edwards Walker and delving into the lesser known members of the queer movement. This is a slightly academic treatment of the subject, but it is one of the first books about the topic so that is to be expected. Definitely adds to the scholarship of the suffrage movement that is needed in 2022. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a review, but all opinions are my own.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Reshma V

    Thanks for netgalley and the publisher for giving an advance copy of this book. This book talks about hidden history of queer sufferagist . It was really great book. The book chapters follows a theme and categories which makes it easier to understand. This book not only commented about white queer folks but also POC queers folks too and the difference of struggles and benefits of each races. I had a great time reading this. Author is well researched on this topic. This book well definitely suita Thanks for netgalley and the publisher for giving an advance copy of this book. This book talks about hidden history of queer sufferagist . It was really great book. The book chapters follows a theme and categories which makes it easier to understand. This book not only commented about white queer folks but also POC queers folks too and the difference of struggles and benefits of each races. I had a great time reading this. Author is well researched on this topic. This book well definitely suitable for beginners read for queer history

  13. 5 out of 5

    Marty Webb

    I was given a copy of this book from Netgalley. This book is a great book that covers an couple of often overlooked people in the woman's suffrage movement. Specifically there are profiles of queer and queer women of color profiled in the book. As a gay man I know much more about the male gay rights movement so I think I might have added an extra star because I think its extra important to tell these stories before they are lost to us forever. I was given a copy of this book from Netgalley. This book is a great book that covers an couple of often overlooked people in the woman's suffrage movement. Specifically there are profiles of queer and queer women of color profiled in the book. As a gay man I know much more about the male gay rights movement so I think I might have added an extra star because I think its extra important to tell these stories before they are lost to us forever.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ron Frampton

    A book about women suffrage and the queer women that were part of it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Many Lives

  16. 4 out of 5

    Joyce

  17. 5 out of 5

    Hazel

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tony Tessa

  19. 4 out of 5

    Denise Sudbeck

  20. 4 out of 5

    Grace

  21. 5 out of 5

    Eileen Eliasson

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sylvia Tan

  23. 5 out of 5

    Alexandra

  24. 5 out of 5

    JUPG3

  25. 4 out of 5

    Katie

  26. 5 out of 5

    Wendy Rouse

  27. 4 out of 5

    Est

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

  29. 5 out of 5

    emmy

  30. 4 out of 5

    Noah A

  31. 5 out of 5

    a

  32. 5 out of 5

    Creolecat

  33. 4 out of 5

    Meri Dwyer

  34. 5 out of 5

    Louis Muñoz

  35. 4 out of 5

    Eve

  36. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

  37. 5 out of 5

    Gena

  38. 5 out of 5

    cara

  39. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

  40. 4 out of 5

    Jill Heller

  41. 4 out of 5

    Andreea

  42. 5 out of 5

    Jed Sorokin-Altmann

  43. 5 out of 5

    Colleen

  44. 4 out of 5

    Breanna

  45. 4 out of 5

    An

  46. 5 out of 5

    Sumana

  47. 4 out of 5

    Bri

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