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Recorded Sound Section--Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division

arrow graphicSounds of the Suffrage Movement






Sounds of the Suffrage Movement
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Suffrage campaign days in New Jersey. New York Herald Tribune, photoprint. [Between 1914 and 1920(?)]. Prints and Photographs. LC-USZ6-271.

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Sound recording technology and radio broadcasting matured during the twentieth century, developing during the time in American history when women were experiencing major social, political, and cultural changes. Radio programs and sound recordings in the division offer numerous approaches for examining these changes. For example, the women's suffrage movement comes alive in the medium of recorded sound through interpretation, dramatization, documentation, and commentary. In the 1910s, woman's suffrage was a topic of ridicule in the humorous talks and songs popular on 78-rpm recordings. In “Since My Margaret Became a Suffragette” (Victor 17145), the singer Maurice Burkhardt complained that his Margaret “wears the pants that kill romance.” “Schultz on Women's Suffrage” (Victor 16294) featured Frank Kennedy's comical predictions of a future when women would be elected to office. He grumbled that a female street cleaning department would sprinkle the streets with cologne and decorate the ashcans with ribbons.

On the other hand, songs that express the exhilaration and determination of the movement are available today on modern compilation recordings such as Songs of the Suffragettes (1958, Folkways FH5281), performed by Elizabeth Knight and Hurrah for Woman Suffrage (1995 copyright deposit, RYF 3942), performed by the Homespun Singers. The suffragists' words are given voice by some of our most expressive actors on Caedmon's Great American Women's Speeches (1973, Caedmon TC 2067).

Radio is also a rich source of information on women's suffrage. For example, Women in the Making of America (1939), a 1930s NBC radio series devoted to dramatizing the cultural and social contributions that women have made throughout the history of the United States, featured programs on many important suffragists, including Lucy Stone (1818-1893), Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910), Angelina Grimké (1805-1879), and Lucretia Mott (1793-1880). Ninety-one-year-old Mabel Vernon (1884?-1975), a suffragist who worked with the National Woman's Party, was interviewed on a 1974 Pacifica Radio broadcast (RYA 4044). The venerable suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt (1859-1947) appeared several times on the radio to advocate peace and disarmament. In a 1944 broadcast (RWA 6399 B2) of her eighty-fifth birthday celebration, she shared the microphone with Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) and Helen Hayes (1900-1993).

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