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Stu Levitan welcomes NY Times best-selling author Jennifer Chiaverini, here to discuss her latest novel of historical fiction, The Women’s March, about the historic 1913 Woman Suffrage Procession. It is just out from the good people at William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins. Although Jennifer technically lives in Middleton, she identifies as a Madison author, so that’s good enough for Stu.
On March 3, 1913, the National American Woman Suffrage Association held the first large political protest march in the history of Washington DC. Its purpose was to press its demand for a constitutional amendment to enfranchise women. March organizer Alice Paul chose the date and location very well – down Pennsylvania Avenue, the day before the inauguration of Woodrow Wilson – the last president to be elected before universal suffrage.
And what a march it was to be, with floats and chariots and thousands of women in color-coded outfits, all led by a herald on a white horse, culminating in a tableau of historical allegory at the Treasury Building. Among the several thousand women there that day, the legendary Black journalist and activist Ida B Wells-Barnett and a militant suffragist librarian named Maud Malone.
Alas, things did not work out as planned, as hecklers and hooligans broke through the inadequate security to abuse, even assault the women. But the arc of the moral universe does bend towards justice, albeit slowly at times, and the constitutional amendment they demanded in 1913 was finally passed by Congress in 1919 ratified by the states in 1920. Wisconsin, by the way, has pride of place as the first state to file its ratification vote with the Secretary of State.
How Alice Paul, Ida B Wells-Barnett and Maud Malone came to be on Pennsylvania Avenue that day – the battles they fought, the choices they made – is what occupies Jennifer Chiaverini in this moving and insightful account of an event which has perhaps faded in memory but not in importance.
It is a story Jennifer Chiaverini is exceptionally well-qualified to tell, as a very successful author of historical fiction. In addition to the 20 novels in the Elm Creek Quilts series, set mainly in the Civil War era, she has written historical novels starring the martyred UW student-turned Nazi resistance fighter Mildred Fish Harnack, Lord Byron’s brilliant daughter Ada Byron King, Mary Todd Lincoln, Julia Grant and others. It is a real pleasure to welcome to Madison BookBeat Jennifer Chiaverini.