When considering the women’s suffrage movement, most Americans think of iconic national figures like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. However, the fight for the right to vote was by no means monolithic. In fact, much of the work was done on a state and local level by women whose names don’t make the pages of high school history textbooks. As I’m sure you all know, the Kentucky Woman Suffrage Project has done amazing work to uncover and catalog the history of these women across the state. This year, Dr. Melanie Beals Goan is releasing a book detailing the history of the women’s suffrage movement in Kentucky. Titled A Simple Justice: Kentucky Women Fight for the Vote, the historical monograph explores the beginnings, struggles, and successes of the campaign for the vote.
Dr. Goan goes beyond the national suffrage movement to dive deep into not only the major characters in the Kentucky movement, but also previously forgotten figures in places like Middlesboro, Maysville, Ashland, and Owensboro, plus many more. Centering on the Kentucky Equal Rights Association (KERA), Dr. Goan paints a full and lifelike picture of the fight for the right to vote in the state. She explores the historical backdrop upon which the movement began, the origins of KERA, and the many conflicts leading up to the passage of the 19th Amendment. Despite its thoroughness, Dr. Goan’s book is by no means dry. With the fits and starts of progress that plagued the movement, the back-and-forth between Laura Clay and Madeline McDowell Breckinridge over the future of KERA, and conflict dividing suffragists who supported a national amendment and those who fought for states’ rights in the matter, A Simple Justice is as gripping as any work of fiction.
A Simple Justice is an impressive history of an often-overlooked movement. It is a great read for historians, those interested in suffrage history, and those who simply like a compelling story. The University Press of Kentucky will publish A Simple Justice this fall, but you can preorder it at https://www.amazon.com/dp/0813180171/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_drQVEbBW25KJ9.