About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for "The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote"

Good afternoon, and welcome to the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and I’m pleased that you could be with us today, whether you are here in the theater or joining us through YouTube. Elaine Weiss is with us to tell us about her new book, The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote.

Before we hear from our speaker, I’d like to tell you about two other programs coming up soon.

On Tuesday, April 3, at noon, Louis Galambos will be here to talk about his new biography, Eisenhower: Becoming the Leader of the Free World. Professor Galambos examines President Eisenhower’s career and leadership in the postwar world. A book signing follows the program.

The next evening, Wednesday, April 4, at 7 p.m., we will host a discussion on “Vietnam—The Combat Artist Program.” Our partner for the evening is the National Museum of the Marine Corps.

To learn more about these and all of our public programs and exhibits, consult our monthly Calendar of Events online at Archives.gov. Check our website or sign up at the table outside the theater to get email updates. You’ll also find information about other National Archives programs and activities.

Another way to get more involved with the National Archives is to become a member of the National Archives Foundation. The Foundation supports the work of the agency, especially its education and outreach programs. Pick up your application for membership in the lobby or become a member online at archivesfoundation.org.

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Our recent exhibit “Amending America,” which closed last September, examined how the Constitution has been amended and demonstrated how high the bar is set to get a proposal ratified. Of more than 11,000 proposed amendments, only 27 have become part of the United States Constitution.

To us in the 21st century, it can seem unthinkable that the 19th Amendment, which guarantees women the right to vote, was in danger of becoming one of the thousands of failed amendments.

But the fight to ratify the 19th Amendment came down to a do-or-die moment in the summer of 1920.

In her review for the Christian Science Monitor, Marjorie Kehe wrote, “Weiss wonderfully describes the drama in the Tennessee statehouse that day: crowds packed into the visitors’ gallery, the Suffs draped in saffron, and the Antis wearing red flowers.”

And Jean Zimmerman, reviewing the book for NPR, wrote, “Weiss brings a lucid, lively, journalistic tone to the story. Perhaps her greatest contribution is documenting the intricate, contentious element of racism that almost crippled the struggle.”

The story of the fight for the 19th Amendment reminds us that the events of history are not inevitable. The records we care for at the National Archives contain the stories of our nation and its people, and we’ve learned to never be surprised by surprises.

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Elaine Weiss is an award-winning journalist and writer. She has worked as a Washington correspondent, congressional aide and speechwriter, magazine editor, and university journalism instructor. Her magazine feature writing has been recognized with prizes from the Society of Professional Journalists, and her by-line has appeared in The Atlantic, Harper’s, New York Times, Boston Globe, Philadelphia Inquirer, as well as reports and documentaries for National Public Radio and Voice of America. She has been a frequent correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor. Her long-form writing garnered a Pushcart Prize “Editor’s Choice” award, and she is a proud MacDowell Colony Fellow. Her first book, Fruits of Victory: The Woman’s Land Army in the Great War was excerpted in Smithsonian Magazine online and featured on C-SPAN and public radio stations nationwide.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Elaine Weiss.