Ellen Goodman freely admits she wasn’t terribly well-versed in the history of women’s suffrage when she set out on her latest project.
“If you’d put down the list of suffragettes I knew, it would’ve ended with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton,” says Gooodman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist who broke more than a few barriers early in her career. “Having done the research and interviewing and the thinking with Lynn Sherr, the story is so incredible and so dramatic and the story of the persistence of this diverse and engaged group of women who pursued the right to vote over three generations until they finally, finally pushed their way, it’s remarkable.”
Goodman and Sherr, of ABC News, are the powerhouses behind She Votes!, a new podcast marking the 100th anniversary of women getting the right to vote.
“People say 100 years ago, they gave women the right to vote — they didn’t give women anything,” she says. “They lobbied. They pushed. They campaigned. They went to jail. They were beaten. They were force fed. They struggled for an extremely simple right, the right of full citizenship, which had been denied for so long.”
Goodman and Sherr intended to visit historically significant locations as they produced the series, including Rochester and Seneca Falls, New York, and Tennessee, which became the final state needed to ratify the constitutional amendment in 1920, but the coronavirus pandemic disrupted their travels.
They learned a great deal along the way, including the troubling parallels between the fight for voting rights a century ago and today.
“We really are still addressing the power and who will share it,” Goodman says. “When we think about whether this election will be hacked, whether there will be voter suppression in this election, it’s all about the attempt to maintain power and not to share it. It was true at the beginning of the suffrage movement. It was true in the Jim Crow era, when Black people had the right to vote but they couldn’t exercise it because the state put so many barriers deliberately in order to maintain white supremacy.”
Editor’s note: Goodman recounts how Anthony was arrested for attempting to vote for Ulysses S. Grant for president and how, at the time of this recording, she remained a convicted felon who still wouldn’t be able to vote in some states. On Aug. 18, the anniversary of Tennessee voting to pass the amendment, President Donald Trump announced he was going to pardon Anthony for the crime of voting while female, but this move has been criticized by many leaders and organizations, including Kathy Hochul, New York’s lieutenant governor, and the National Susan B. Anthony House and Museum.
It’s All Journalism host Michael O’Connell talks to Ellen Goodman about She Votes!, the new podcast she’s produced with Lynn Sherr of ABC News, exploring the women’s suffrage movement and the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.