Rampant Women

Suffragists and the Right of Assembly

  • Author(s): Lumsden, Linda J.
  • Series:
  • Imprint: Univ Tennessee Press
  • Publication Date: 0000-00-00
  • Status: Active
  • Available in Paper: Price $28.00 | Buy Now

In Rampant Women, Linda J. Lumsden offers an in-depth look at the intersection between the woman suffrage movement and the constitutional right to assemble peaceably. Beginning in 1908, women activists took to the streets in a variety of public gatherings and protests in a bold attempt to win the right to vote. Lumsden shows how outdoor pageants, conventions, petition drives, soapbox speaking at open-air meetings, the use of symbolic expression, and picketing—all manifestations of the right of assembly—played an instrumental role in the woman suffrage movement. Without these innovative forms of protest, Lumsden argues, women might not be voting today.

Tracing the strengths and weaknesses of American women’s struggle for freedom of expression prior to the twentieth century, Lumsden shows how the suffragists’ new tactics—such as parades and soapbox speaking—forged solidarity among women and legitimized the movement. When they spoke, marched, and picketed, suffragists not only challenged legal restrictions regarding public assemblies, they defied traditional ideas about how women should behave. Lumsden also examines the legal and social origins of the right to assembly and contends that women’s exercise of their First Amendment rights helped prod the legal establishment to ensure protection for gatherings by political dissidents as well.

The right of assembly provided the foundation for every step of the fifty-year struggle for woman suffrage. As Lumsden demonstrates, these assemblies helped change the nation’s concept of democracy and helped women move from the private domestic sphere into the public, political sphere. An exciting exploration of a turning point in American history, Rampant Women is a unique chronicle of how freedom of expression effected peaceful social change.

The Author: Linda J. Lumsden is assistant professor of journalism at Western Kentucky University. She is the author of Adirondack Craftspeople.

“Lumsden has given us a lively book that offers a fresh perspective on the suffrage movement in the United States. She is the first scholar to examine suffragists’ use of the right of assembly and to place the movement within the larger context of civil liberties. Gracefully written and filled with vivid descriptions of suffrage pageants, parades, and demonstrations, Rampant Women is an excellent addition to the literature on women’s struggle for the right to vote.”—Anastatia Sims, Georgia Southern University

“This work breaks scholarly ground in the area of freedom of expression for women. It concentrates on a vital First Amendment aspect of the suffrage campaign previously ignored by scholars.”—Maurine H. Beasley, University of Maryland