A Century of Remembering and Forgetting the Story of Women’s Suffrage
This study considers how suffrage was remembered and forgotten half a century later in coverage of the second wave of American feminism published by the midcentury’s leading newsmagazines, Time, Newsweek, and Life. In their initial reporting on “the woman problem,” these publications wondered why the achievement of suffrage had not satisfied women’s demands; as the movement gained momentum, however, they declared it not only newsworthy but unprecedented. Contrasting current feminism with the simpler, uncontestable goal of gaining the vote, this revised narrative (briefly) legitimized contemporary protesters while deradicalizing and even sentimentalizing suffragists. Yet in later decades when women ran for top political offices, newsmagazine journalism returned to a tone of surprise at each new “wave” of success. Thus, the longer-term news story of American women’s political activism remains one of a series of unconnected developments rather than one of continuous effort.
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