Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Dr. Cynthia Prescott
The women's suffrage movement in Europe and the United States led to female enfranchisement in much of the West in the early twentieth century. Suffrage historiography, however, places too much emphasis on a middle-class history of urban white women's struggle to win the vote. This traditional scholarship not only lacks a thorough class-based analysis but also fails to examine ethnicity's role in the American women's suffrage movement as well as larger transnational connections.
Research on the construction of Norwegian ethnicity and its corresponding influence on Norwegian-American support of women's suffrage contributes to filling this historiographical gap. In addition, the influence Norwegian-language literature and Norwegian suffrage successes had on rural and urban Norwegian-American homemaking myths shows how ethnic construction compounded with gender and class to create a progressive political identity. Transatlantic suffrage relationships propagated this identity formation and in part created and reinforced Norwegian ethnicity.
My research investigates the extent to which ethnicity impacted the American women's suffrage movement and also draws attention to the differences between rural and urban Norwegian-American suffragists. The cases of rural Norwegian Americans living in Minnesota and North Dakota highlight that these men and women participated in progressive ethnic construction and implemented these ideals through their work in a Grand Forks Votes for Women Club. Urban Norwegian-American suffragists involved in the Minneapolis, Minnesota-based Scandinavian Woman's Suffrage Association demonstrate that urban ethnics joined a suffrage club at a greater rate than their rural counterparts and utilized ethnic stereotypes to lobby for women's suffrage on a local and national level. These findings illuminate the similarities and differences between rural, agricultural Norwegian Americans and urban, "citified" Norwegian Americans.
Traditional qualitative sources such as memoirs, newspaper articles, women's magazines and suffrage club records, provide insight into individual and group lives. This study also implements non-traditional qualitative source material such as literature and quantitative analysis to augment the traditional qualitative sources. Combining suffrage club membership records with the United States census data reveals the ethnic make-up, age, family and economic situations of suffrage club members. In urban Minneapolis, Minnesota and rural Grand Forks, North Dakota the creative and combined use of both qualitative and quantitative methodologies illustrates that a transatlantic exchange of progressive ideals contributed to Norwegian American ethnic construction, identity formation and participation in the women's suffrage movement.
Peterson, Anna M., "A Dash of Sufferage Spice: Rural and Urban Ethnicity Construction in the Transnational Women's Suffrage Movement" (2009). Theses and Dissertations. 2494.