To honor the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, Jeremi brings on Dr. Lisa Tetrault to discuss the untold history and the memory of the intersectional struggle for women’s suffrage that continues in the form of voter disenfranchisement today.
To set the scene, Zachary reads his poem entitled, “The Pained Footsteps.”
Dr. Lisa Tetrault is an associate professor of history at Carnegie Mellon University. She specializes in the history of gender, race, and American democracy—with an emphasis on memory and social movements. She is the author of the prize-winning book, The Myth of Seneca Falls: Memory and the Women’s Suffrage Movement, 1848-1898. A frequent commentator on the suffrage centennial, Tetrault also serves as an historical consultant for Nineteenth Amendment projects launched by the National Constitution, the Woodrow Wilson House, the Schlesinger Library, and Ancestry.com, as well as the documentary, “The Vote” ( PBS’s American Experience). The recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Radcliffe Institute, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Library of Congress, she is currently at work on a genealogy of the Nineteenth Amendment.
- Dr. Lisa TetraultAssociate Professor of History at Carnegie Mellon University
- Jeremi SuriProfessor of History at the University of Texas at Austin
[0:00:05 Narration] This Is Democracy, a podcast that explores the interracial inter generational and intersectional unheard voices living in the world’s most influential democracy.
[0:00:13 Jeremi Suri] Welcome to our new episode of This Is Democracy. This week marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. The 36 states to ratify the amendment at the time was Tennessee on August 18th, 1920. And we’re marking that 1/100 anniversary not just of the amendment but of a movement one of the most important and ongoing social movements in American history. The women’s movement broadly defined. And ah, we have with us today one of the foremost experts, professors, teachers and just one of the most wonderful people who actually writes about and talks about all of these issues. Ah, Professor Lisa Tetrault, she’s an associate professor of history at Carnegie Mellon University. She was a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin Madison, where I had the good fortune to get to know her a little bit. She specializes in the history of gender race in American democracy with an emphasis on memory and social movements. She’s the author of a fantastic prize winning book, The Myth of Seneca Falls, memory and the women’s suffrage movement 1848 to 1898. We will talk about the myth of Seneca Falls today. Ah, and Lisa. I’m sure many of you have seen her and heard her. She’s a frequent commentator on suffrage and a variety of issues related to that. She’s a historical consultant for the 19th Amendment projects launched by the National Constitution Center, the Woodrow Wilson House in the Slazenger Library. And she’s been involved with ancestry dot com, PBS, Public Broadcasting and in the American experience at the Smithsonian Institution and various other organizations where fortunate at least, it was able to take time out of her busy schedule this week of big anniversaries to talk to us. Thank you, Lisa, for joining us today.
[0:02:06 Lisa Tetrault] It’s my pleasure to be with you. I’m a big admirer of the podcast.
[0:02:10 Jeremi Suri] Well, we’re lucky to have you on. And before we turn to our discussion with Lisa, we have, of course, Zachary’s scene setting poem Zachary. What is the title of your poem?
[0:02:20 Zachary Suri] The Pained Footsteps
[0:02:23 Jeremi Suri] Let’s hear it.
[0:02:23 Zachary Suri] Old streets are like old houses. There are so many of them in this country, yet I know that so many are counting their victories now, so many of them remembering the movements of today in the women of yesterday. I’d like to think that the streets are sisters in arms that they to relish the giant white banners pulled by horses over there paving stones, the women converging on musty convention halls over there, soon to be warm paths, and the picketing freedom fighters who chanted, demanded and tasted victory on the cobblestones and asphalt layers of old streets. I’d like to think that Pennsylvania Avenue still remembers Alice Paul. I’d like to think that Fifth Avenue still smiles at the memory of Shirley Chisholm. I’d like to think that Congress Avenue still remembers my footprints that day when I marched with my sister and mother to the state capital. I’d like to think that deep down the old bones of the continent are cheering, screaming for justice as they suffer the pain footsteps of those still without suffrage. I’d like to think that Houston still remembers Gloria Steinem. I’d like to think that Wilmington is just beginning to enshrine Kamala Harris within its grey cells that the chair I sat in in Poughkeepsie as we washed the convention four years ago, still remembers Hillary Clinton, and I’d like to think that City Hall can still see my sister smile. The day my mother was sworn in, I’d like to think that both of us will never forget standing in the voting booth with my father as the button was pressed over our mother’s name.
[0:03:56 Jeremi Suri] Well, Zachary, I’m glad you ah, test to the fact that I voted for Mom when she ran for office. That’s very important. What is your poem about Zachary?
[0:04:05 Zachary Suri] Well, my poem is really about, ah, the enduring importance of the women’s movement and how it’s it’s It’s been intergenerational and how important it is that we can continue to struggle for women’s rights today.
[0:04:17 Jeremi Suri] Well, that’s such a great place for us to to start. Lisa, where do you start this story when when you teach this subject when you talk about this subject?
[0:04:28 Lisa Tetrault] Well it depends on which store you’re talking about. Um, the thing that I’ve been emphasizing over the centennial is that it’s so many different stories, Um, and that we’ve had in part of what the myth of Seneca Falls is about, is trying to narrow this toe one story the 18 48 to 1920 story and it is so many other stories. And so I’ve been trying to emphasize that we have to just take in the full complexity of the story, and I do that when I teach as well. So where I began off in various and where we end, um, often varies as well based on the interests and the winds of other particular political climate of the moment we’re in. But so I think one of the best place to start is with the amendment itself, at least Centennial Story. Um, there are lots of stories here, but the centennial story. I think we spend far too little time actually looking at the amendment, and what has been most surprising to me and to the audiences I’ve been speaking with, ah, has been the women did not win the right to vote. What happened was that the amendment said you may not discriminate in voting on the basis of sex, so a lot of people think what the amendment did was allow women into the right to vote existing in the Constitution. There is no right to vote in the Constitution and that stuns people. So the 19th member didn’t let women into the right to vote in the Constitution. It was only the second time in US history that citizens had ever used the Constitution to regulate the states who are actually the ones who create an appoint voters. And what it said to the states is, you cannot use the word mail in your voter qualification clauses. Um, and so what it did was strike down an obstacle. And for some women, that was the one obstacle remaining for other women. That obstacle had been struck down prior in many cases decades prior by their own individual state, who already voluntarily relinquished that word. And then, finally, it was necessary for all women to get that word struck. But it wasn’t sufficient for many women. Plenty of other state obstacles still stood in their way so they couldn’t vote. So in many ways, that shifts our sense of this both as a beginning and an end. It is neither a beginning to women’s voting, nor is it an end of women’s pursuit of voting.
[0:06:40 Jeremi Suri] That’s such a helpful way to think about this, and you’ve captured that complexity in actually a very accessible way. I guess we should start with this question about the right to vote. Many people presume that the Constitution includes the right to vote. We have to begin with the absence of that. Correct?
[0:06:59 Lisa Tetrault] Exactly. And I think we have to begin with the absence of that because everyone’s so convinced they know what happened. And so then it’s just a matter of flushing out what happened when in fact, our very conception of what happened is in fact, flawed. And
[0:07:12 Jeremi Suri] so, before 1920 how did determinations of who would have a right to vote? How were those determinations made? And and what can we say about that? For that period?
[0:07:23 Speaker 2] They were made the same way they were made after 1920 which is that the states had the right to determine who gets to vote and who doesn’t. In other words, they dropped long lists of criteria. You have to meet in 18 70 on the group of citizens pressing on the U. S. Congress and the Congress itself, uh, decided to use the Constitution for the very first time to regulate the states and say you may not do this practice in your voter disenfranchisement or what we could call your voter eligibility, which was really voter disenfranchisement. Um, and it said you may not use the word race that was the 15th Amendment, and that was in the aftermath of emancipation. This amendment that so called gave black men the right to vote. Really? What did it say? States may not use the word white in their constitutions for determining voters, and that was the first time that it happened. And then, um, and then the states continue to be in charge of these things on. Many states voluntarily dropped the word mail as we move across. By the time the 19th Amendment passes Congress, the entire West is voting. Women are voting on the same terms as mountain and even in some eastern states. New York dropped the word mail in 1917. That did not mean all women voted, though, because a lot of those women were then subject to new voter qualification clauses that the states had thrown up starting in the 18 nineties, which were meant to disenfranchise those black men and other men of color literacy tests, poll taxes, things that didn’t explicitly mention race and thereby adhered to the spirit of the 15th Amendment but grossly violated its or least adhered, I should say to the letter of the amendment, but grossly violated its spirit. So, um, we’re still in that same thing today. We have two more constitutional amendments after the 19th that regulate the states in terms of what they can and can’t do in terms of eliminating voters. They cannot use poll taxes amendment that gets added to the Constitution in the 19 sixties. And then finally, of course, the one lowering the voting age to 18. And then there’s a few other federal laws that say to the States You may not discriminate on these bases. Umm, but umm, those came about largely with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And what happened with the Voting Rights Act is not just just say you can’t use literacy tests, you know you have to stop racist, you know, registration patterns and things like that. It also said we, the federal government, are gonna come back really for the first time since reconstruction on 100 years earlier and regulate your practices and make sure you aren’t actually adhering to giving people access to voting to states that were discriminatory. Um and then the Supreme Court gutted that in 2013 and took that away in a Shelby County v. Holder decision saying that discrimination was, in fact, a thing of the past. Therefore, this law was no longer needed. And, you know, I wish I lived in the fantasy world of that majority decision. But what we’ve seen is that the States have now thrown up all kinds of new obstacles. You know, closing early voting, shutting down polling places, creating voter I d laws, Gerry, meandering through the, you know, disenfranchisement of formerly incarcerated people for life. You know all of these types of things. So what we’ve seen again is that the states air now busily throwing up new disenfranchisement practices, just skirting all of the things that passed social movements have managed to render invalid.
[0:10:45 Zachary Suri] We have this myth of of the women’s movement starting and in many ways also ending with with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in stuffy rooms in the late 19th century, how does that line up with reality? And why has that narrative become the sort of prevalent story of the women’s movement?
[0:11:03 Lisa Tetrault] Yes, so let’s see if I can distill this into a short version. Um, one is Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton Work together? Um, Elizabeth Cady Stanton was the one at Seneca Falls. Susan B. Anthony was not. But when Sue that Susan B. Anthony died, her obituaries would say she began the movement of Seneca Falls in 18 48. Um, that story doesn’t exist. There is a women’s rights convention in 18 48 Seneca Falls. It’s sort of the debut of Stanton’s activism. She won’t meet Anthony until three years later in 18 51 at which point they will become the closest of friends and allies and comrades in arms and will become one of the most famous feminist friendships of the 19th century. They’ll die in the early 19 hundreds before the amendment passes, and after the American Civil War, they will devote basically their entire lives. Anthony is now kind of free of child rearing or excuse me. Stanton is now free of child rearing, their somewhat conflated to me, those two and ah, and then Anthony never has Children, and they’ll dedicate really all of the decades of they’re post Civil War lives to that to activism. And, you know, social movements are messy. We like to remember social movements and kind of particularly women politicians as sainted and venerated and lovely and harmonious and, you know, Kumbaya. It was not like that. There were a lot of people who didn’t like Stanton Anthony. There were a lot of people who thought they were real liability to the cause. Lucy Stone being primary among them. Um, and they standing. Anthony got in lots of hot water after the American Civil War. They did a lot of really horrible things. They jeopardized the movement in some people’s eyes, and so they were in trouble. Their leadership, you know, which was still fledgling, was was embattled and one of the things they end up doing for complicated reasons that I spell out in the book as they start, um, using history to justify their position in the present. And I think this is not unique to them. It’s something I think we all do. History really is about how we make sense of ourselves in the present, and they start telling a story of Seneca Falls, and at this point, nobody’s ever heard of this thing right there, like Seneca Falls. Where you talking about? Um, and they have to come to teach people this story. And part of the reason they teach it is to say we began the movement. Therefore, we are the movement. Therefore, all the choices were making in the present in this very fraught Civil War era are in fact, the right choices. And you should follow us. Um, and they do a bunch of other things. But really, the story of Seneca Falls is very different than the event of Seneca Falls. And what I try to do is write a history of this story and how the story itself became a political actor. Um, and I think we need to ask ourselves today what kind of moral lessons air we imparting in what kind of politics air we participating in every time we re tell that story because it’s not a neutral story. Um, so
[0:13:46 Jeremi Suri] No, that’s I mean, very well said. And it’s a point that that’s been made, I think, by you and others in recent weeks. Very well. It’s It’s a story that seems to be largely a white women’s story in the way it’s traditionally told.
[0:13:57 Lisa Tetrault] Yup, and that’s part of the problem with it. Yes, it’s traditionally white women’s story. It elevates the vote as the kind of most important of all reforms, when many women were arguing for a very differently situated women’s rights agenda. And it doesn’t at all capture the history of women of color. Who wouldn’t identify with this meeting necessarily so or yeah, So there’s all kinds of things that it does that I think are are deeply problematic.
[0:14:24 Jeremi Suri] So, one of the things that often gets missed is Well, it seems to me is who were the key opponents who was standing in the way? Because it does seem, in retrospect, that everyone wants to embrace. What you’ve described is a kind of mythical movement, and everyone wants to be a mythical supporter of it. How do we understand the opposition?
[0:14:42 Lisa Tetrault] The opposition, um, is not unlike the opposition that we often hear today to sort of, you know, a say, gay marriage or interracial marriage, or and that is that it will. It will topple the family and thereby topple civilization. And the idea goes here, at least in this case, that, um, men and women are biologically different creatures, right? They are there, two branches of the human race and they are meant therefore to inhabit this world differently. Women are meant to inhabit it. Their particular biological role is to kind of be home. Be nurturing. Be passive, Be supportive. Ah, and men’s is to be, you know, uh, to exercise their brain and their ambition and their rough and tumble, you know, Constitution out in the public world. And the idea was, if you enfranchised women, the opponents would say, and many of these opponents were women. You you upset the gender relation of the world, thereby upsetting the family. And there were all these cartoons of men stuck with babies and wearing skirts and kind of women out in the public being domineering and looking very masculine and thereby, if you upset gender norms, you upset the family and thereby, you know, civilization itself will come crashing down. So, you know, and we hear this argument again and again and again and again. If you do this, it defies God’s wishes. And God meant for the family to be this way. And we can’t defile the family because if we do, civilization will come crashing down. And part of what happens is that over the time that this press for the Federal Amendment unfolds, women start voting and more and more and more and more states. And lo and behold, the world does not fall office access, you know, I mean, it continues to go around, and the family seems all right and the nation seems all right, you know? I mean, with, you know, huge problems. But so, um, so eventually voting women themselves give lie to this. This’d idea. But we hear the same thing. You know, around the Equal Rights Amendment, right? This was Phyllis Schlafly’s argument as well.
[0:16:37 Jeremi Suri] Absolutely. Why, then, in 1919 I mean, you’ve painted a very compelling picture of many strands coming together. Many different pushes and pull factors. Um, certainly. 1919 was not a time when you had a favorable federal government in Woodrow Wilson. So why did it happen at this time?
[0:16:58 Lisa Tetrault] I think the reasons air so many that the ones all spew out probably won’t even begin to sufficiently answer the question. But World War, which is ongoing in this, you know, the last chapters of This is huge and the women’s movement is yet split again. After, uh, after ST Anthony died, um, and Lucy Stone dies, and it’s split between Carrie Chapman Catt and Alice Paul. Carrie Chapman Cats Idea is with the National American Woman Suffrage Association, which people pronounces Nassau, um, that NASA should, you know, curry the favor of politicians win over their affections, went over there, support um, and support the war. Alice Paul’s is. Let’s take it to him. I don’t care about whether or not they like me. I want to make them uncomfortable until they concede my point. She’s the more militant kind of out in the streets, you know, rabble rousing. Um, you know Carrie Chapman Cats convinced that this is going to jeopardize the cause. So when the war breaks out, carry champ Carrie Chapman. Catt gets the huge Nossa organization to throw its support into the war, and Woodrow Wilson will say in letters and in his speeches. Women’s war support means that they are full citizens who are defending this nation and therefore, you know, are deserve it of its of its most secret right, which, as we’ve said, is a fiction. But and then Alice, Paul and other people will use World War has a way to embarrass the nation on an international stage. Civil rights activists will do the same. Here we are, you know, defending the world, defending democracy, you know, in World War One, and we’re not even granting it here at home. So they’ll start reading Woodrow Wilson speeches, defending democracy and point out the hypocrisy of them when it comes to American women and throw them into trash barrels in front of the White House. And they’ll even unfurl a banner calling him Kaiser Wilson. So? So there’s a way in which both sides of the movement leverage the war to win over Woodrow Wilson. Support on DSO. Woodrow Wilson will come out and support women’s suffrage. And then there are a variety of other things going on, including that women are voting already in pretty massive numbers. So in many ways, the 19th Amendment is only confirming what’s already happened. In large part, there are only eight states when the 19th amendment is ratified that where women are not voting in some fashion. In many of those other states, women had partial suffrage where they were allowed to vote in certain types of elections, but not on the same terms as men. So that’s going on. And I think there’s another really key piece that we don’t talk about sufficiently. And that is that. It has also become palatable, I think, to pass the 19th Amendment because so many states have put in racialized restrictions over the 18 nineties in the 19 tens eso that many white politicians know that if they take the word mail out, they will only be largely enfranchising. Although I’m not exclusively white women, and I think we don’t talk enough about the ways in which the simultaneous history of disenfranchisement going on at the same time leads to, I think the ratification of the 19th Amendment so we can’t isolate gender is a variable in many ways, and there are lots of other reasons why it goes through. But but those would be my top four
[0:20:06 Jeremi Suri] And, that really captures I think some of the central dynamics that you and others have written about this tension between ah, gender and race, is that something that continues after 1919?
[0:20:18 Lisa Tetrault] Oh, yeah, Um, yeah, I mean, it continues straight up until today as Zachary’s poem so eloquently illustrated. So uh, yes, it absolutely continues its rife throughout the movement, and one of the things that people like Martha Jones and others who are coming out with terrific books right around now are saying is we have made a mistake toe only look for women of color’s activism inside white suffrage organizations. You know, where are the women of color that is hugely important to locate them and see what their voices and their agendas are? But there’s been a lot of work now. Toe also trace women of color’s organizing on their own terms, which shows up in places where you know white suffragists are not organizing so that activism is going on. And those organizations and those women in the wake of 1920 will come to the flagship suffrage organization, saying many of us, not all of us. But many of us still can’t vote because of these other restrictions. And those white suffrage organizations, the leader’s ship of the both NASA and the National Woman’s Party, will say, We don’t care. I mean, literally, they will say, we don’t care. Our fight is over. We’ve won our fight. Um, and your problems are your problems. That’s a race issue, you know, as if women only live with race issues and not which, under issues as well. You know, we’ve finished the gender fight, which goes to show the degree to which they’re they’re envisioning gender white here. And so they will. They will abandon the suffrage movement and and let these women’s or go off and, you know, fight in league with black men and Lynn lead with other men of color who are having their votes stolen as well. And they will continue to push and be really important in the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which is in some ways the culmination of the story of women of color.
[0:22:05 Jeremi Suri] It’s striking to me because what you just described also resonates with the ways in which we’ve rewritten in the last 10 to 20 years the history of the civil rights movement, right, which is now you know, in many ways built around the work of African American women and other women of color in various communities. To what extent are the women who are not included in the traditional women’s rights organizations. To what extent are they instrumental in what we come to call the civil rights movement?
[0:22:34 Lisa Tetrault] Deeply. Always. Yes. And I think you know, plenty of scholars have underlined this point again and again and again and again that women are consistently present in civil rights organizing, not only just consistently present but essential on overlooked.
[0:22:53 Jeremi Suri] And so you see that the 19th Amendment, then, as as a civil rights amendment or how do you frame it? It’s obviously not an amendment that creates a right to vote that still doesn’t exist. Deduced. Would you put it in the context of a broader civil rights struggle? How would you frame it? In that sense,
[0:23:10 Lisa Tetrault] I would frame it as the kind of narrow ways in which white women’s organizing has often just organized around whiteness. And so to me, it’s very much the kind of, uh, narrowness of feminism that forgets to think that the issues of white women are not the issues of all women, because really, it just goes after the word mail, right? Only white women can really isolate that variable goes after the word male, and then when other women come to them and say, You know, we’re still not voting. They say our fight is done so to me that the fight for the vote is, um you know, interesting and laudable any central and helps all women in many way, because ever all women need the word male removed. But I would say that the activists themselves I wouldn’t put this is part of a civil rights story. If anything, I think it’s hostile to a civil rights story.
[0:24:01 Jeremi Suri] And so I think that’s a great spot for us to talk about the present. Then if, if you’re willing, what lessons then at this anniversary moment, which, for whatever reasons, draws our attention, often inaccurately, to these milestones in our history, What are the lessons you think we should take away? Especially, You know, in a moment when many people feel that our rights are under attack,
[0:24:25 Lisa Tetrault] They are under attack. They don’t feel that that is factual, that they are under attack. We are in the midst of one of the largest campaigns of voter suppression or voter disenfranchisement since before the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and I think what we have to remember is the right to vote has still not been one, which is what’s partly. What’s making this on voter disenfranchisement campaign in the States possible, Um, and also that the 19th Amendment left state governance over voting in place, and so states can dream up all kinds of new ways to disenfranchise. And that’s exactly what they’re doing right now. And for me, the anniversary has been a chance for us to both dispel the myth that Americans have the right to vote, which I think Lowe’s us into a sense of complacency and also a sense of kind of my obeah around the disenfranchisement that’s taking place right now and secondly, to give us a chance to realize that fight is ongoing, that it’s not finished. I think the 1920 story wants is very much to put this in the past when it is alive and well in the present and so also gauge the health of our current democracy and ask ourselves, is citizens we’ve been handed a past. What do we intend to do with it now
[0:25:37 Jeremi Suri] And a question I get a lot, and I’m sure you get as well is for those who believe everything you said and I think it’s what you’re saying is incredibly powerful and in many ways obvious. It’s in plain sight. Um, what is it that social movements today? What is it that our students and those who are listening to us, who care about black lives matter and care about voting rights and are out there and you are protesting in front of the postmaster general’s home? What are the lessons? They should take away positive and negative in the formation of their movement today
[0:26:10 Lisa Tetrault] That voting alone has never been sufficient, that we absolutely must have social movements and voting together. And in fact, it is social movements that have expanded and turn this country into a democracy, which is something the founders never intended. Social protest has created this country into a democracy, and social protest is the only thing that will preserve it as a democracy.
[0:26:34 Zachary Suri] On that note, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in recent decades in in women voting. But how come that hasn’t translated in the same way to equal representation in political office? We still see, particularly in Congress and certainly in the presidency and vice presidency, A total lack of representation of women?
[0:26:56 Lisa Tetrault] Yeah, I mean, sexism and racism are alive and well. Um and so I think the idea that, um, a woman is capable of governance, I think is still something that many Americans are deeply skeptical about.
[0:27:12 Jeremi Suri] And do you see the selection of Kamala Harris as a vice presidential candidate? Do you see that as as a milestone. And how can we use that, whether one likes her or not? How can one use that to advance a more inclusive vision of participation in our democracy?
[0:27:32 Lisa Tetrault] Oh, it is unquestionably a milestone. Um, I mean, it is It’s incredible, um, and it is something to celebrate in all kinds of ways, regardless of how you might feel about her. But I might also point out that we hold female politicians to a standard that we do not hold white male kind of aging politicians to They must be perfect. They must be, You know, um, they must be all these things that we don’t demand of our white male politicians. And so I am deeply skeptical of a interrogation of her that is not equally visited upon an interrogation of, you know, aging white male politicians. So I’m not saying we shouldn’t interrogate. And I’m also saying I’m not sure why a woman has to be the perfect candidate. Particularly work woman of color. Um, and I was listening to Britney Cooper the other day, was very rightly saying, like you don’t get into mainstream politics and make your way up to the vice presidency. If you are not somehow playing the game, you don’t come in with purity, right? That you would never get to that spot if you did, Um, and let’s get some access and representation at the table, and then let’s see what we can do with it. Um, So I tend to take a more pragmatic view and say, um, you know, she is certainly, ah, more progressive candidate than, um, that many of the white men who’ve run for office. So
[0:28:59 Jeremi Suri] right, right, well, and and your point hits home to me because, ah, Alison, my wife is you know, is is on the City Council here in Austin elected office, and I just notice on, I should have seen this before, but I didn’t. But I noticed now watching her on a day to day basis, how she’s held to a different standard and it’s a much more critical standard. And it comes from for men and women. And absolutely, it’s striking from everything from just interpersonal interactions to policy debates to every single issue.
[0:29:27 Lisa Tetrault] Yeah, you know, And there are There are studies done of like who gets interrupted most on the U. S. Supreme Court. And it’s it’s the women justices and they’re interrupted mostly by the other male justices. Right. So, you know, even you know that it is alive and well the sense that women are held to a different standard and that they shouldn’t speak as much. And they shouldn’t take up as much space, and they shouldn’t, you know. So
[0:29:51 Jeremi Suri] So the question I wanted to close on Lisa and I’ve been thinking about this since we’ve planned out this this podcast episode. What are the sources of hope today? I find that when I talk to students and other young people, um, they really want to be hopeful. They’re not as knowledgeable as they will be after they listen to you and read, read your work, but but they share a hope for a more inclusive future, and I think there’s a lot of goodwill out there What are the sources of hope today? And are you hopeful?
[0:30:23 Lisa Tetrault] I am hopeful. Um, I don’t I’ve conceded defeat if I give up hope. Um, and I refus to do that. And what’s hopeful to me is both the past that people have overcome and changed really dire situations in our country through this process of combination of voting and social protest and also young people, I have to say being a teacher in a college classroom has saved my sanity. Um, they are young people. I find to be just incredibly just inspiring. And just recently, my 10 year old daughter, we were in a city park and there were signs up on the bathroom that said you had to use your gender assigned at birth. And my 10 year old daughter was enraged by this, and she went and got taper and paper and tape and covered it all up. And, ah, you know, I mean, just to think that young people insist on a world that has the kind of diversity, um, and the kind of variety that we embrace and that we have firm, um Which I think so much of the campaign of voter suppression is about denying and erasing. I just feel like the numbers are against them and they can’t. They can’t win. So
[0:31:36 Jeremi Suri] which is why they try to suppress the vote, right? You don’t do that. You don’t have the numbers
[0:31:41 Lisa Tetrault] Right, exactly. And you know, all evidence would suggest that higher turnout in Nome or demographic diversity, you know, leads to, you know, more voter turnout for Democrats. And so, you know, Barack Obama had one of the most robust get out the vote campaigns, you know, in U. S history in the 20th century, and it it really diversified the electorate and brought in so many folks who were not voting prior who come from different demographics. And that scared the hell out of the Republicans. And they’re trying to shut that down. Which is why we have this campaign of voter suppression right now.
[0:32:17 Jeremi Suri] Right, and I think one of the most useful ways to to turn this anniversary into ah, moment of progress is just read. You said to have these conversations and to remember that that there is hope because so much has been overcome in the past and it could be overcome today also?
[0:32:34 Lisa Tetrault] Yep. Absolutely.
[0:32:36 Jeremi Suri] Zachary, does this inspire young people? Do you think that, um, we can see the 19th Amendment as as inspiration for an opening toward a more inclusive society today? Does that move young people like you?
[0:32:48 Zachary Suri] Well, I can’t speak to the experience of of young women on girls my age, but I definitely think that what this re examining of the history of the 19th Amendment and the women’s movement shows us is that that change takes a really long time, but that we can actually make enormous progress if we keep working. And we keep fighting for different causes. But also that changes messy and that it really does take a long time. So I think we need to be wary of people who offer quick solutions but at the same time keep up the fight and keep trying to achieve the sort of maybe unattainable dream, but of equality for everyone and and suffrage for everyone.
[0:33:29 Jeremi Suri] Very well, said Zachary. That celebration is, in many ways a call to arms, isn’t it? Lisa, Thank you so much for taking the time. Especially when you’re in such demand right now. Thank you for taking the time to share your wisdom on the past and the present and future. It’s it’s great having you on.
[0:33:44 Lisa Tetrault] It’s been wonderful to be with you both.
[0:33:46 Jeremi Suri] And Zachary, Thank you for your poem and most of all, thank you to our listeners for joining us for this episode of This Is Democracy.
[0:34:01 Narration] This podcast is produced by the Liberal Arts Development Studio and the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas at Austin. Music in this episode was written and recorded by Harrison Lemke. You confined his music. Harrison Lemke dot com Subscribe and stay tuned for a new episode every Thursday featuring new perspectives on democracy