Women’s History Month 2021

This year’s theme, Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to be Silenced, continues last year’s centennial observation of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment.

Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to be Silenced 2021 logo

Considering all of the in-person events that were cancelled because of Covid shutdowns, this seems appropriate. My book on Dr. Mary Walker–who dedicated her life to women’s rights issues, including suffrage–published three months into the 2020 quarantine. I have yet to talk to a live audience about her remarkable experiences.

Continuing the conversation about women’s suffrage and the Nineteenth Amendment into 2021 is also a reflection of the unfinished, ongoing struggle for voting rights. It’s much too sweeping of a statement to claim that women won the right to vote in 1920. Some, mostly white women, did. But women of color still had to fight.

So, on this first day of Women’s History Month, I recommend two books that expand our understanding of the meaning of women’s suffrage. Read, think, and enjoy!

Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All Cover


Recasting the Vote: How Women of Color Transformed the Suffrage Movement Cover


For more information about Women’s History Month, visit:


Dr. Mary Walker Wednesdays

Getting ready to launch a new book can be a bit nerve-racking, even in the best of times. I don’t think it’s too dramatic to point out that these are not the best of times. I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy, and I am very grateful to all the health care professionals, grocery store workers, public safety officials, and anyone else involved in pulling us through this medical crisis.

Today is National Medal of Honor Day.

Image result for national medal of honor

Only one American woman, Dr. Mary Walker, the subject of my forthcoming book, has ever received this commendation. It was awarded in 1865 in recognition of the service she rendered in the Civil War. Each Wednesday in these weeks leading up to the book’s publication, I’ll post the first sentence from a chapter along with an image that reflects something that happens in the chapter. Hopefully, these snippets will intrigue you enough to want to read the book.

Chapter One: Getting to Washington

In the early fall of 1861, Dr. Mary Walker, a twenty-nine-year-old dedicated reformer and passionate supporter of the Union, went to Washington, DC.

(Washington, D.C. train station image from Washington Historical Society)


Scenes from Last Century’s Pandemic

In March 1918, Ethel Thomas of Potosi, Wisconsin, turned twenty-two. A college graduate, she worked as a high school teacher in nearby Lancaster.

Like millions of people worldwide, her life had been upended by the Great War that started in Europe in 1914, which the United States joined in 1917. Ethel’s future husband, Elmer Herold, joined the army, and was training with tank operators in preparation for deployment to the western front. During March 1918, soldiers in the United States began contracting influenza. Close quarters in training camps as well as subsequent troop movements helped spread the sickness.



Image result for american soldiers ww1

Although the spring outbreak was mild, causing few deaths, it had two unusual characteristics: the presence of bloody and fluid-filled lungs and the high number of otherwise healthy people in their twenties afflicted.

Elmer Herold contracted influenza at Camp Colt in September. It took a few days for the first cases to be diagnosed as flu, and by then it had already begun its astonishing spread through the military installation. Over two and a half weeks, the camp hospital treated 321 influenza cases and 106 of pneumonia. One hundred and fifty men died.

Elmer Herold sent a message to Ethel Thomas that he was getting over the flu, attributing his survival to “spirits of fermentis”–whiskey. No medicines existed at the time that could effectively counter the virus’s swift devastation. Elmer recovered at the end of September, even as another vicious wave hit. Boarding the troopship Leviathan, headed to Europe, he fainted and spent the duration of the ship quarantined in the ship’s infirmary. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, more on board got sick. Elmer survived.

In Lancaster, Wisconsin, Ethel Thomas began the school year as usual in early September, despite news that civilians had started dying of the flu in Philadelphia, New York City, and Washington, D.C. About midway through September, one of the first influenza-related deaths occurred in Lancaster. By October, it was clear that the sickness had infiltrated Wisconsin. When Dr. C. A. Harper, the state health officer, issued an advisory calling for the closing of all schools, churches, and theaters, the town of Lancaster obeyed. Ethel went home to Potosi for a short vacation to wait out the influenza cycle.

If you would like to know what happened to Ethel and Elmer, read more about them here:

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Reading Recommendations for Women’s History Month

If you want to celebrate Women’s History Month by reading more books by and about women, now is a good time to follow two of my favorite blogs.

Novelist Greer Macallister, author of the delicious Girl in Disguise , is running a #read99women series on her blog that stretches before and after this month. You’ll find all sorts of great book ideas there.


Historian and writer Pamela Toler has a month-long “Three Questions” event with a variety of women writers. (I happen to be featured today.) Pamela’s latest book, Women Warriors, is just out in paperback.

Women Warriors by Pamela D. Toler

And next week, I’ll be starting my own blog event, to pave the way for the launch of my next book, Dr. Mary Walker’s Civil War. Stay tuned!


Women’s History Month 2020

This year’s Women’s History Month theme marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

valiant women

It’s also known as the women’s suffrage amendment, but every time I describe it that way, I like to clarify that though the amendment was supposed to apply to women–as in all adult women–in reality, racial discrimination prevented most women of color from voting. Many early histories of the women’s suffrage movement sideline these racial issues, barely acknowledging the contributions, for example, of African American women in cultivating support for the amendment.

Historian Cathleen Cahill has a book coming out this fall called Recasting the Vote: How Women of Color Transformed the Suffrage Movement. According to the book description: “It is a collective biography of six suffragists–Yankton Dakota Sioux author and activist Gertrude Bonnin (Zitkala-Ša); Wisconsin Oneida writer Laura Cornelius Kellogg; Turtle Mountain Chippewa and French lawyer Marie Bottineau Baldwin; African American poet and clubwoman Carrie Williams Clifford; Mabel Ping Hau Lee, the first Chinese woman in the United States to earn her PhD ; and New Mexican Hispana politician and writer Nina Otero Warren–both before and after the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment.” This looks fascinating.

While you wait for Cahill’s book, consider picking up a copy of Rosalyn Terborg-Penn’s classic African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote, 1850-1920.

Image result for rosalyn terborg-penn african american women and the struggle to vote

You’ll meet lots of great women in this book, too, and won’t soon forget them.