Thursday, August 25, 2022
Book Review, Formidable: American Women and the Fight for Equality 1920-2020
Book Review, Formidable: American Women and the Fight for Equality, 1920-2020
This snapshot illustrates the merits of Elisabeth Griffith’s engaging, relevant and sweeping chronicle of women’s fight for equality in the United States — and by examining 100 years of history through a feminist lens, a pattern emerges: Each blow from the patriarchy is countered by a well-aimed and calculated retaliation from American women.
Books of true feminist history are rare. Rarer still are these histories intersectional; feminist history tends to be synonymous with white women’s history. Not this book. Griffith delivers a multiracial, inclusive timeline of the struggles and triumphs of both Black and white women in America. “Historically, the white press has not covered the activism of Black women,” she writes. (Her previous book centered on the life of Cady Stanton.) Despite difficult-to-find archival sources, Griffith says, “I’ve named as many women as possible.”
A profoundly illuminating tour de force, Griffith’s book begins with Susan B. Anthony and unfolds chronologically, sorted into chapters that track a “pink” timeline of history. “Fifty years ago, when women’s history was struggling for legitimacy in academia,” Griffith explains, “feminists divided American history into ‘blue’ and ‘pink’ timelines. Conference panels debated whether Zachary Taylor’s presidency was more relevant to women’s lives than the invention of the tin can, or whether Jacksonian democracy deserved a chapter when the suffrage campaign did not.”
“Formidable” is organized around major fights: voting rights, working conditions, education access, health care, racial violence, reproductive rights, race and gender discrimination, the wage gap, electoral office.