This post is written by Katie and Megan Woods, recent Northeastern graduates of the Masters of Arts in History with a Concentration in Public History program.
To commemorate the Centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, the NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks along with the DH Hub, the Digital Scholarship Group, and the National Parks of Boston hosted a “Suffrage Transcribe-a-thon” on January 28, 2020. Suffrage enthusiasts and eager transcribers joined forces to contribute to the Library of Congress’s transcription campaign: “Suffrage: Women Fight for the Vote.” This campaign includes documents from the collections of American suffragists.
To set the stage, Katie Woods, SCA Public Historian at the National Parks of Boston, provided historical background on the suffrage movement and highlighted Boston’s role in the movement. She explained that the Women’s Suffrage Movement, or the fight to give women the right to vote, was a decades-long, multi-generational struggle in which women of all generations, races, religions, and backgrounds participated. Additionally, she touched on the historical memory of the suffrage movement and how we often think of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton as two of the main representatives of the national movement. These women constructed a narrative that placed New York at the center of the suffrage story, overshadowing the role Boston played in the movement. However, Boston served as one of the hubs of the suffrage movement, which had its roots in the city’s anti-slavery community. Many of Boston’s key abolitionist figures, including Lucy Stone, had a clear vision for equality across race and sex, which differed from Stanton and Anthony’s.
The Library of Congress’s collection of documents in “Suffrage: Women Fight for the Vote” focuses on a select few national leaders of the suffrage movement:
Anna Dickinson, a noted orator on abolition and women’s rights who was the first woman to speak in front of Congress; Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, early national leaders and organizers of the movement; Carrie Chapman Catt, a later suffragist who led the national movement through ratification of the 19th Amendment; and Mary Church Terrell, a nationally recognized African American suffragist who advocated for African American women’s rights. Participants in the transcribe-a-thon could select who they wanted to learn about by diving into their documents.
Attendees chose between starting to transcribe a new document or editing a previously transcribed document through the Library of Congress’s easy-to-use transcription platform. On several occasions, individuals worked together to decipher 19th- and 20th-century handwriting and language. This transcribe-a-thon gave participants the opportunity to engage with primary source material, while assisting the Library of Congress in its efforts to make its collections more accessible.
If you are interested in learning more about Boston’s suffrage history, check out the National Parks of Boston’s suffrage web page, “Boston: A Suffrage Hub,” and follow the National Parks of Boston’s media platforms for updates on upcoming programs and digital suffrage content.
Lastly, special thanks to all of the sponsors of this event and everyone who helped make this event possible.