A Simple Justice
Kentucky Women Fight for the Vote
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
When the Declaration of Independence was signed by a group of wealthy white men in 1776, poor white men, African Americans, and women quickly discovered that the unalienable rights it promised were not truly for all. The Nineteenth Amendment eventually gave women the right to vote in 1920, but the change was not welcomed by people of all genders in politically and religiously conservative Kentucky. As a result, the suffrage movement in the Commonwealth involved a tangled web of stakeholders, entrenched interest groups, unyielding constitutional barriers, and activists with competing strategies.
In A Simple Justice, Melanie Beals Goan offers a new and deeper understanding of the women's suffrage movement in Kentucky by following the people who labored long and hard to see the battle won. Women's suffrage was not simply a question of whether women could and should vote; it carried more serious implications for white supremacy and for the balance of federal and state powers -- especially in a border state. Shocking racial hostility surfaced even as activists attempted to make America more equitable.
Goan looks beyond iconic women such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton to reveal figures whose names have been lost to history. Laura Clay and Madeline McDowell Breckinridge led the Kentucky movement, but they did not do it alone. This timely study introduces readers to individuals across the Bluegrass State who did their part to move the nation closer to achieving its founding ideals.
"Melanie Beals Goan has produced a very fine history of the women's suffrage movement in Kentucky from the state's school suffrage campaign in the 1830s through the achievement of the federal amendment in 1920. Insightful and accessible, A Simple Justice includes both intriguing descriptions of key figures and incisive analysis of racial tensions." -- Anya Jabour, author of Sophonisba Breckinridge: Championing Women's Activism in Modern America
"Melanie Goan's pioneering, accessible, and engaging account of Kentucky suffrage is meticulously researched. She unearthed a mix of traditional and progressive women whose relentless pursuit of the vote overcame personal and societal obstacles including those exacerbated by racism and discrimination, controversy and ridicule. Though the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920, Goan's final sentence is a charge still relevant today: to identify injustice, to resist apathy, and to correct it." -- Genie Potter, former director of Kentucky Commission on Women and author/editor of Kentucky Women
"Finally, the little-known true story of how Kentucky women won the vote is written! Not only is it extremely entertaining it also inspires readers to continue to fight for equality for women today." -- Marsha Weinstein, former executive director for the Kentucky Commission on Women
"This book is literally years in the making. For a century, the story of women's struggle to earn the franchise in Kentucky has awaited a comprehensive and objective telling. In Melanie Beals Goan the movement finally has found its chronicler. A Simple Justice is indispensable reading." -- Thomas H. Appleton Jr., Foundation Professor of History at Eastern Kentucky University and coeditor of Kentucky Women: Their Lives and Times
"A fast-paced, compelling story about women who persisted year after year to secure their right to vote. Goan shows us a world where religious conviction, regional discord, reform movements, racism, and many other forces shaped and reshaped Kentucky's citizen-activists. And while these savvy women helped steer a national conversation on political equality, they disagreed mightily about how to reach their goals. In Goan's sure hands, this isn't just a Kentucky story; it's an American story." -- Melissa McEuen, coeditor of Kentucky Women: Their Lives and Times
" A Simple Justice: Kentucky Women Fight for the Vote is a welcome contribution to the literature on the women's suffrage movement in Kentucky and in the United States. Thoroughly researched and very readable, it is a study of the growth of suffrage sentiment and organizations in a state crucial to the development of a southern suffrage movement and the success of the Nineteenth Amendment. Goan includes new material on well-known Kentucky suffragists -- the 'Big Three' comprised of Josephine Henry, Laura Clay, and Madeline McDowell Breckinridge -- and on lesser-known women in the suffrage struggle including African American women." -- Marjorie Spruill, author of Divided We Stand: The Battle Over Women's Rights and Family Values That Polarized American Politics