Votes…for Women? Women’s Suffrage materials at the Museum and Special Collections

This year (2019) marks the 100-year anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote. American women voted at a national level for the first time in 1920.

This semester, the Middlebury College Museum of Art’s “Votes…for Women?” exhibit features several objects from Special Collections (including suffrage postcards and a cookbook!).

Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, With Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects by Mary Wollstonecraft. Boston, 1792.

Because exhibit cases only fit so much, we’re featuring some additional materials pertaining to women’s suffrage and women’s rights with this post!

We are particularly excited to have on our shelves this (left) first American edition of Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, With Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects published in 1792. Wollstonecraft argued that women should receive education beyond what was required for domestic life, and that all human beings deserve the same fundamental rights. This volume was number 642 of the Middlebury College Library’s original 10,000, and features a rather telling handwritten poem on its title page (presumably written by some member of the Middlebury College community): “O ye lords of ladies intellectual / Now tell me truly, have they not hen-peck’d you all.

Special Collections also holds a number of pamphlets produced by various organizations (women’s suffrage groups, political parties, etc.) during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Suffrage was often framed as means through which Prohibition might be achieved, as evidenced by this resolution in the minutes (right) of the eighth annual meeting of the Vermont Woman’s Suffrage Association in 1892: “Resolved, That we reaffirm our belief that the ballot in the hands of woman is the strongest weapon that can be hurled against the liquor traffic” (15).

Other works include (but are not limited to) suffrage cook books (below), anti-suffrage essays, sheet music, speeches, and other writings by men and women in favor of increasing women’s rights in society.

The Woman Suffrage Cook Book
The Woman Suffrage Cook Book by Hattie A. Burr. Boston, 1886.

Our favorite? The close-to-home diaries of Viola White, former curator of the Abernethy Library in Special Collections. Read these and you’ll learn that, while she doesn’t reveal whether or not she voted in the 1920 election, she is deeply disappointed that Harding has won.

Want to search on your own? Open Midcat, change “Middlebury College Libraries” to “Special Collections (Library 101)” in the drop-down menu, and enter your search terms.

Votes for Women by Sande Wascher-James, 2015.