By Barbara Sherf
Angela P. Dodson is not one to walk away from a challenge. In fact, that is how her book, “Remember the Ladies: Celebrating Those Who Fought For Freedom at the Ballot Box,” came about.
When her husband, Michael Days, vice president of Philadelphia Media Network, was finishing his book titled “Obama’s Legacy: What He Accomplished as President,” she was challenged by his editor to write about women suffragists. The topic seemed timely with a woman running for president and 2017 marking the centenary of the turning point in the long struggle that led to the 1920 ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, granting women the right to vote. So she jumped in.
“It all happened very suddenly. I really had six months to write the book and then another six months of editing and putting it together,” said Dodson from her Trenton home. Dodson’s career set the stage for the compilation. Among the many hats she wears are those of CEO of Editorsoncall LLC, contributing editor for Diverse Issues in Higher Education, former senior editor for The New York Times and former executive editor of Black Issues Book Review.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism at Marshall University and a master’s degree in journalism and public affairs from American University, but in all of that schooling, she felt she hadn’t been properly informed about the women’s suffrage movement. “As a woman who went to school from the mid-1950s to the late ‘70s, grade school to grad school, I knew little of the suffrage movement and the women behind it, and I suspect that I am not alone,” she said, noting that many of the women suffragists leaders were Quakers.
In an effort to share some of what she uncovered, Dodson will be speaking before the Adult Education Class at the Chestnut Hill Quaker Meeting, 20 E. Mermaid Lane, on Wednesday, Oct. 25, 7:30 p.m.
“The Quakers were more likely to see each other as equals. Quaker women had been educated largely with men most of their lives and were used to speaking in their assemblies,” she said, noting that Lucretia Mott, a Quaker minister, was a draw at the historic 1848 Seneca Falls convention because she was a major instigator. In fact, Mott and Susan B. Anthony eventually left their Quaker Meetings because the groups were not radical enough on the question of abolition.
Dodson’s narrative spans our country’s history, from even before Abigail Adams urged her husband John to “remember the ladies” as the Founding Fathers declared independence in 1776. Dodson traces how the women’s suffrage movement grew out of the mounting efforts to abolish slavery, and she recounts how women hoped in vain that their considerable contributions to the war efforts during the Civil War and World War I would gain them the support they needed to win the vote.
After divides with the abolitionists and a splintering within the suffrage movement, women finally secured the right to vote on Aug. 11, 1920. Dodson notes that women now exercise their rights at the polling places in larger numbers; however, she was disappointed with the 2016 presidential election.
“Although Hillary Clinton won the popular vote for president in 2016, women as a whole did not rally to put her in the White House and make her the first woman to be president. Almost twice as many black women voted for Hillary as white women. If there is a women’s agenda we can agree on, it seems to me at some point that we as women would want to act in concert to get these things done.”
Dodson and Day perhaps took on the ultimate challenge 25 years ago when they adopted four brothers ranging in age from 4 to 9. “We said we wanted a boy and were approved by the state. Then we saw these four boys and how unified they were. That same day we were driving around, and I saw them profiled in the paper. I saw that as a sign. But when we called, nobody knew anything about them. As journalists we had an inclination to pursue it and eventually adopted them and have no regrets.”
There is too much history to share in one article, but when asked about one thing that stood out for her in the research, it was the suffragists’ involvement in the abolition of slavery. “It surprised me that the suffrage story couldn’t be separated from the race story. Many of the suffragists were also abolitionists and involved with the Underground Railroad. There are many examples of what it was like to be hiding slaves from the suffragists who mentioned it in their letters.”
“Remember The Ladies” is illustrated with photos, line art, posters, ads, political buttons and press clippings. A series of appendices document women’s ongoing political engagement and achievements in the U.S. The book is available on Amazon and bookstores and will be available at the Oct. 25 program.
For more information: 215-247-3553.